Thursday, 5 July 2012

Uh-oh, writing metaphor alert

Phew, what a relief to be myself again!  This double social networking identity thing is going to take some getting used to.  I have spent all week logging in and out of my two Facebook accounts and trying to think of something suitably sober to say as Pamela Hartshorne before skipping back to Jessica Hart and posting photos of my lunch.  To make matters worse, I keep losing my Pamela Hartshorne self between my page and my profile – I hate to think what that is a metaphor for! 

I was thinking of metaphors last weekend, in fact, when I was in Wiltshire helping my occasional other half create a cottage garden.  I thought I was going down to turn over the earth in some ready prepared flower bed and plant a border.  I should have known better. 

This is the garden before we started: 

There’s a plant hanging over the fence from next door, and a climbing rose I planted years ago that has somehow managed to survive against the odds, but apart from that, nothing but some claggy, stony earth – and an idea of what a beautiful garden this could be with some grass, some structure, some plants, a patio (not to mention  somewhere to hide those &$£!$& bins!)  

John set about taking down the trampoline, clearing out the garage and preparing the patio, while I dug out the beds.  It was really hard going, but it had to be done, a bit like writing a Shitty First Draft.  Once the basic shape of each bed was there, I went over them again, digging out more weeds, getting rid of the stones, adding in bonemeal and compost, and – after two more days of hard labour – eventually putting in some plants in the pouring rain.

So this is the garden on Monday evening when we had, er, not finished at all:

After (in case you can't tell the difference!)

We had had grand plans of getting the patio finished, the fence repainted and the turf laid too, although quite how we thought we would accomplish all of this in two and a half days I don’t know! 

I know it looks like a spot-the-difference test, but we’d laid a lot more groundwork than you can see here.  The grass, the patio and everything else still need to be done, but the plants are in and growing and if the sun ever shines again this summer (please, God, let it be sunny soon!), we’ll see how they do.

I should have known that making a garden, like writing a book, can’t be rushed. Having an idea is all very well, but starting a garden or a story from scratch takes a lot of hard work.  Once the initial labour is done, you can add in all the food/compost or dialogue/character/tension/pace but even that isn’t the end of the process.  You still need to plant it/bring it all together, but when you do get to that stage, there are few things more satisfying.

At the end of every day I was filthy and exhausted, but I love making something from nothing, and even though the garden still has a long way to go, I can see how it will be and imagine sitting on that patio of a summer evening with the garden blooming around me.  

And that’s sort of the stage I’m at with my current book too.  I can imagine it finished.  Perhaps I’m still at the stage of digging out the borders, but I know it can be done.  Now, where’s my spade …


  1. LOL I love that you thought big and were going to try and do it in two and half days, like the people on the TV do with a team of fifty. It sounds like it's going to look incredible once you're finished.

    Happy writing!

    1. Hhmmnn, maybe we WERE a bit ambitious. Also known as foolhardy. Or even stupid!

  2. I love a project like that and I CAN see the difference. Have to say when my writing is going poorly going off and creating something altogether different helps enormously. I'm sure John's garden will look gorgeous soon.