Today, Cathy and I put our garden down for the winter. We harvested our turnips, picked the last of the lettuce, and told our plot we hoped to see it in the spring. It was a good year for the garden. From spring lettuce and radishes, to bush beans and tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers, and on to the cool weather crops, our raised bed certainly has produced well.
Now, it’s time to let it rest. I’ve turned the soil, and it won’t be long before the winter cold will freeze the ground. Snow will come, and the winds will blow, and our thoughts won’t be of the garden at all, at least not until we make the turn to spring, and one fine day we’ll smell the earth thawing, and we’ll know it won’t be long before we’re planting once again. We know that what we hope may not come to be, but that doesn’t stop us because we know with diligence and the right conditions, we might just hit it big.
Such is the case with our writing. Instead of freshly worked soil, we face the blank page, and we begin to make our marks. So much can go wrong, but we should remember that so much can go right. We give our best efforts, and then whatever will be will be. Sometimes we must put a manuscript away, or at worst, let it go altogether. Take heart. There’s always the next thing we want to write, and we turn to it with hope. We must never lose hope.
It’s so easy to surrender to despair. Rejections from editors and agents are the cut worms and bean beetles in the writer’s garden. Those who tell us no are the rain that won’t come and the floods that do. They’re the unrelenting sun and the killing freeze.
Take heart. So much of the publishing process is out of our control. The sad truth is good works go unpublished all the time because of factors that have nothing to do with the writing itself. Just like we can’t change the weather, we have no choice but to accept the vagaries of the publishing industry. All we can do is stick to our work. We can be steady in our habits, forgiving of our shortcomings, grateful for our strengths, clear sighted about our next steps, modest about our successes, and merciful when disappointment comes. The world beats us up enough. There’s no reason for us to join in the pummeling. Nothing to be done but to come back to the page, to do the thing we love, and to do our best to maintain our optimism, knowing someday there may be a bright day. Someday, everything may be in our favor, and we’ll enjoy the fruits (and, yes, the vegetables, too!) of our labor. And if that bright day never comes? We’ll still have the writing process itself, that creative process we’ve always loved. Never let anyone take that love. Hold it, practice it, nurture it, protect it. Never let anyone destroy the pleasure you take from the act of writing. Some may try to destroy that joy, but you’re the only one who can let that happen. You’re the one who gets to say, “No, you can’t have it.”