If ever there were a metaphor for my experiences with writing, it would probably be gardening.
My mom was always the one who cared for the plants. She taught me to plant impatients, press pansies, pamper roses, and pluck the citrus from our trees. When we bought our house, I decided to follow her lead. Instead of flowers, though, I wanted a vegetable garden–the sort she started growing when we moved to the semi-rural lands I came to love most.
My first attempt in the back corner was valiant but ultimately failed when the single ripe tomato was eaten by a bug instead of me. The second last year was hardly better. Two sweet tomatoes, but nothing more.
This year, I have decided to put everything into it. We built a raised bed in a new spot, added the best garden soil, and I may have gone a little overboard with the additional cucumbers, squash, and herbs. Will I succeed this time? I don’t know. But I’m determined to reap at least two tomatoes this year. And, if nothing else, I’ll gain more experience that I can use in next season’s garden.
My writing success has been similar. My biggest achievements are winning an obscure essay contest in high school and being chosen to read a poem in college (though I think that the other boy who was chosen and I may have been the only ones to apply since there were more people there to see me than the event itself). The rest of my writing career is a collection of unfinished works and rejection letters (which is a worthy achievement in itself).
But even though I have little to show for my years of writing in terms of published works and awards, I have the same thing that I accumulate with every unsuccessful garden: experience. Keep the ideas that work, toss the ones that don’t, try new things. One day, I’ll get it right.
Then it will be like Thomas Edison said: “We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb.” Or plant a garden. Or write a novel.