The seed catalogs have come out and this morning my wife and I were picking out our choices for the garden this year.  In the past, we received two or three catalogs, now we get more than a dozen and scour through them like kids picking out presents for Christmas.

It’s also the time to go through our old seed packs and toss out the empties and the ones that didn’t perform or we didn’t like.  Its kinda sad to see those old packs that held so much promise being cast aside for newer, younger, sexier seeds.  I want to take them all, save them for a warm spring day and scatter them in an empty field somewhere to give them a chance.  But I can’t worry about every unsown seed any more than I can worry about every story idea.

I sometimes get the germ of a story, or I’ll get a great prompt that calls out for something…grand in scope if not in length.  I belong to a flash writing group that puts a prompt up one day and the stories have to be posted within five days.  Five days!  I can barely get an idea for a character in five days let alone a full story.  But I manage and sometimes turn out some pretty good flashes along the way.

What this taught me was the concept of taking the seed of an idea and nurturing it.  I’d have to give it enough attention (time) and care (brainstorming) to live.  If something sprouted, I fed it scenes and plotlines.  I put it under the light to see if it had holes in it.

But sometimes an idea, like a seed, simply needs time to germinate.  But if a seed doesn’t sprout in a few weeks I don’t keep waiting.  In plant again.

I’ve got a lot of story ideas, some that go back for years.  If I keep hanging on to seeds that don’t grow, I may not give the ones that will grow the attention and care they deserve.  So while I’m tossing real seeds into the trash, I’m casting the old ideas out of my mind.

And you know, those ideas make for great story prompts.


Small Potatoes

This last season I watched with anticipation at my potato plants I had growing in containers.  I tried growing them in straw one year and got a good crop of used straw out of the deal.  I tried them directly in the ground and left them too long – out of laziness – and got mush.  My best results were the left over seedlings I tossed in the compost heap.  I got some great tubers from that endeavor and the field mice can attest to their deliciousness as they ate a good portion of them.

So this past year I bought some cheap containers and set them up with grade-A seed potatoes.  The plants flourished. As they grew I heaped more soil on top of them expecting a bumper crop by fall.  But when fall came around all I got were the seed potatoes grown a little bigger and a few more seedlings for next year.

You see, I had so many different things growing, so many beds to weed and water that I left the potatoes to fend for themselves.  Sure I got plenty of peppers, I always get peppers.  I’m good at peppers.  But I suck at spuds.

In my writing, I started off as a novelist.  I love telling long epic stories.  But like most of us, I wasn’t that good at it.  I took a year off to learn how to write Flash fiction, stories under 1000 words.  I got good at writing flash, but I’m still a novelist at heart.  I have a big whooping yarn to tell.

When I went back to writing the book, I wrote each chapter like it was Flash.  Short descriptions, precise dialogue and more concepts were left between the lines than on the page.  So naturally, my epic fantasy Alpha reader kept telling me the chapters were lacking substance (suck Goblin balls).

I realized I was writing my novel like I was growing my potatoes.  I was spending so much time concentrating on the scenes, the plot, the worldbuild, that I left the character to fend for himself.  My hero, who started off as small potatoes, is now medium potatoes.  I can safely say that this draft officially sucks.  I want to scrap the rest of the draft and start over.  Badly.

If I had dug up my potatoes before the end of the season, I would have any seed potatoes for next year.  If I scrap the novel five chapters from the end and start again, I may be giving up some valuable lessons about my ending.

So, even though I currently suck at growing tubers and epic fantasy, I know where I suck at them.  Spring is only a dozen weeks off.  Plenty of time to prepare the ground for another draft and another season.

To Blog or not to Blog

To Blog or not to Blog

How many times have you opened a blog only to find an excuse?  You know, one of those ‘I don’t have anything to say’, ‘here’s a repost from my buddy’ or some silly emoticon winking ‘have a nice day’.  I see them all too often and I can tell from the opening paragraph that nothing worth reading is going to be read.

I can’t stand those posts.

I told myself I’d never post a meaningless blog and if I didn’t have anything to say, I’d just keep quiet.

Sooo, I’ve been pretty quiet lately.  But it got me to thinking about spring planting in the garden.  Just because I can grow something doesn’t mean I should actually grow it.  I’m sure I could grow the hell out of some brussel sprouts but do I really need the gas pains?

And growing corn, is it worth the time and effort of planting, watering, weeding, fighting off the crows to harvest 12 ears of corn when I can get 10 ears of corn for a dollar at Kroger?

But then again, gardening isn’t just about saving money.  My corn might cost three bucks an ear by the time I harvest them, but I know exactly what I’m eating.  There is also that visceral joy one feels when you bite into something from your back yard.

And just because I don’t mind eating a spotty apple doesn’t mean anyone else would.  The mere act of writing a blog doesn’t mean someone has to read it.  It needs to serve a purpose, just like every character and every scene should mean something to the story.  Otherwise it’s just filler, and in the garden, all the filler ends up buried or in the compost pile.

In 2013, I have promised not to post crap.  That means I may not post much this year.  But what I do put up should be worth a look.

Thanks for reading.