Garden Therapy for My Creative Process

My newly planted square foot vegetable gardenWelcome Scribbit readers to my garden where I chose a winner for May’s Write-Away Contest. I read and reread the entries from this vantage point in between planting the broccoli (or is it cabbage) plants that appeared on the doorstep of our church, the tomatoes I started from seed in March and a second helping of peas. I loved the creative approaches to the topic of spring.

Spring tenuously appears here in Minnesota somewhere toward the end of April, and we’re not really safe from winter frost until after Memorial Day. My neighbor jokes to people around town that she knows someone (me) who moved north to Minnesota at the end of March and asked, “When can I plant?”

The way she tells it I would have had my annuals in before the first of April. I know better than that, but I am an impatient gardener when I see any hint of spring in the air. I just want to get my hands in the dirt after the work to endure winter.

I cheered when spring arrived a few weeks early this year. I didn’t get my hopes up for transplanting my seedlings until I got the OK on Sunday from one of my favorite resident gardeners, a Minnesota native in his 80’s. He promised me not to blame him if a late frost comes but assured me that he had everything in the ground already and the tomatoes were going in this week. Now, so do I.

I love the start of a new season; it stimulates every sense. That’s how I am about my writing, too. The beginning is the time when creativity bursts with excitement and the thrill of a new project takes shape. The part I’m not so good at is keeping that energy throughout all the steps of the creative process. I’ve recently read Demystifying the Creative Process at Productive Flourishing via Essential Prose where he lists fours steps to creativity: Preparation, Incubation, Illumination, Implementation.

It’s during the implementation stage of any creative endeavor, but especially my writing, when I need the soil between my fingers, the heat of the sun and the smell of nature to remind me that if I keep going, my creative work will ultimately produce the fruits of my labors, just like my garden does.

The blooms on my lilac bushes have openedAs a beginning gardener I started with annuals that blossomed and bloomed beautifully in just weeks with regular water, fertilizer and sun. But then I wanted a more complex challenge, and I added perennials, flowering shrubs and bulbs.

I worked at that in two gardens and now I’m on my third. It’s four years old—four years of preparation, incubation, illumination and implementation.

In my garden and my writing the stages of preparation through illumination motivate me through the process but implementation takes me a lot longer. In gardening that stage may never be finished, but I’m beginning to see the beauty of that work.

Similarly, as a beginning writer I liked the immediacy of  writing journal entries and blog posts. But as I grow, I’ve expanded my skills to include articles and essays. Now, I’m working on a book-length work. While the first three steps of the creative process for my book took a little longer than they would for my shorter works, the implementation is much, much longer. And that can sometimes feel like winter.

This year’s early spring meant more to me than getting am early start on planting my vegetables and flowers. Spring brought garden therapy for my impatient spirit. Blossoms will eventually open on this creative work as well. Sometimes it’s not something new we need, just a fresh look at the same goals.


  1. Patricia
    May 22, 2009

    You picked great winning entries! I am envious of your garden…between the clay in Alabama and my brown thumb, our gardening attempts have been pretty unsuccessful. Good luck with your writing.

  2. Mark Persons
    May 22, 2009


    We (Paula and I) love your blog posting about planting in the spring. Yes, spring comes a little later in Brainerd than in St. Louis, but we are a hearty bunch and appreciate the Minnesota weather.

  3. Gilitf Frank
    May 22, 2009

    Hope you have a much warmer summer than you did winter. I grew up in Manitoba, north of Minnesota and so i can relate to getting excited about spring after such a long winter.

    Also, thanks for dropping by my blog and reading my post.

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