Under Pressure

Just picked up a pressure canner yesterday and used it to can some spaghetti sauce this morning.  The canner marks the last big ticket gardening item I’ll have to buy for some time. I feel like I have crossed over some invisible threshold from consumer to homesteader.  I suppose once I have a year’s supply of food preserved I’ll be a prepper, but that day is still a long way off.  For now I’m learning all the skills my mother forgot once she left her Arkansas farm for the promise of high paying jobs in the city.

Anyhow, the sauce turned out fine and it’ll sit on the shelf for a few months until needed.  There are still a hundred pounds of green tomatoes on the vines that’ll become salsa and tomato sauce, enough to last me until next summer.  So that vision I had six years ago (of not paying 3 bucks a pound for tomatoes) when I started this venture is now paying off.  Along with preserving tomatoes I’ve become expert at pickling cucumbers – both the dill and the bread and butter types, as well as peppers.  Heck, peppers grow themselves.

I still have dozens of other veggies that I can’t get right.  Potatoes are tiny, peas shriveled up and  only three carrots made it to maturity.   The weather didn’t help this year, no fruit came up except the blueberries and strawberries, and those were eaten in short order, nothing left to preserve.  But I’m very hopeful for next year, I’m more confident.

I’m not as confident in my writing.  I know I’ve improved significantly over the years.  I’ve worked on a specific style of writing and attempted to ‘find my voice’.  Like the garden, I know I’m getting there, but I’m not there yet.  Yet, that damn clock is ticking and I’m not getting any younger.

Two years ago I made a promise to myself to take this writing seriously.  To get better, to get published, to finish the novel I’ve coddled for five years.  I stopped playing Civilization and took those hours of playtime to write.  I stopped watching a dozen TV shows, stopped Facebooking, stopped Minecrafting, stopped YouTubing and used that time to write, to get better, to get published.

I gave myself until the end of this year to show some results.  Now that three months remain until my personal deadline hits, I’m feeling the pressure.  If I didn’t have a hundred pounds of tomatoes on the vine and a dozen jars of pickles and peppers on the shelf I would have given up on this gardening kick.  But I have tangible results, so I will keep on.  If my writing doesn’t yield any fruit after devoting so much time to it, do I throw in the towel?

The good news is that I’ve become more consistent in my writing.  I write everyday now, not when I feel like it or when I’m inspired.  I never felt like weeding the cucumbers or watering the sunflowers.  I never felt inspired to turn the compost heap or cut back the blackberry brambles.  I did those things because they had to be done.  Writers write because they have to.  If they don’t write on a consistent basis they shouldn’t call themselves writers any more than someone with just an herb box deserves to call themselves a gardener.

In the pressure canner, once everything was in place, the water boiling, the jars placed just right, the lid secured; it only took fifteen minutes to process the sauce.  A lot can be done under pressure given the right conditions.

If your writing isn’t fruitful and you’ve spent years talking about a book or a story you’ve never started, isn’t it time to add a little pressure?  Whatever your current project is, a poem, an epic or trying to get a seedless watermelon to grow larger than a softball, give yourself a cutoff date.  If you can’t finish it by then, or at least come close, then move on.  Consider your identity, as a gardener or a writer, always under pressure.


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