I’ve had a vegetable garden ever since moving into my current house. It was something I’d looked forward to for years—years spent in apartments without space or good balcony exposure or in our Florida home, where our available soil was basically sand with some dirt mixed in. Thus, when we moved to a large suburban house with a nice, light-soaked backyard, I couldn’t wait to get started.
That first year was pretty simple: one eight-by-four raised bed and a few containers for herbs and patio tomatoes. That summer included record heat (until the next summer shattered that new record), but we got quite a few tomatoes, basil and one perfect orange bell pepper in our first year.
The next year, our garden grew by two beds and two rain barrels. The year after that, we added raspberries and blueberries. And our container garden grew mostly because I couldn’t stop myself from buying nearly every single type of herb that caught my eye (three types of mint, three types of basil, two types of rosemary, etc.). Then we replaced the raspberries with blackberries, because apparently raspberries hate me (I went through six “unkillable” plants). This year, we did heavy adding yet again, putting in a bed for a Niagara grape vine and replacing our sad-looking blueberries with a raised bed of more locally appropriate elderberries.
So, what’s the point of me walking you through my vegetable garden virtually? Well, it has to do with writing, I promise.
About a year ago, I heard a very apropos quote, which I’m going to paraphrase here: Once you finish writing a book, you haven’t “learned” to write any old book, you’ve learned to write the one you just wrote.
Some manuscripts seem to write themselves. Others just seem to constantly be a struggle—in concept, writing, revision, etc. Every book is different, even if they have the same general starting point.
Just like a vegetable garden.
Some years, we get too much rain, other years, not enough. Some years, the bugs are out in force. Other years, they find someone else’s garden to much on. Some years, there are so many tomatoes, you’re giving them away. Other years, drought causes blossom end rot to zombify perfectly good, nearly done tomatoes. But every year we have the same basic elements—water, sun, soil, seeds and transplants.
Just like manuscripts, though, each go at the garden seems to turn out just a little bit different—nothing duplicated, no experience perfectly matching up with the knowledge you need the next go around.
Currently, I’m revising a manuscript that has given me fits and starts the whole way through. I love the concept and the characters, but for some reason, it’s been a struggle. Which is to say, it’s nothing like the last manuscript, which basically shot out of my fingertips fully formed.
And though this one is taking a little more time and effort to get just perfect, I’m fairly certain eventually it’ll be just as ripe and wonderful, and maybe taste even better that last year’s fruit. Not that this experience will help me with the next one.