By Carol Traulsen
You’ve planted the seeds, the root structure is stable, the plant has sprouted, and despite some problems and pests, the plant has become strong under your care and protection. Now it’s beginning to bear fruit. Isn’t it exciting? I know I’m always pleasantly surprised when plants take root, and then I’m ecstatic when something bears fruit. I can hardly wait to reap the rewards, but I know I must be patient. The fruit isn’t ripe yet. This is the time to plan. What will I do with the fruit? How will make it shine? How will I celebrate the harvest? In the meantime, you must continue to water, protect, and tend the fruit until they are completely ripe and ready to be harvested. Receive the little gifts in the mean time. A pepper here, a bunch of chives there, an apple or three. It may not be enough to prepare a feast but it’s certainly worthy of celebration and enjoyment. Remind yourself that there will more where that came from.
So it goes with writing. There are the small gifts along the way that we must celebrate. On my journey to become published I have written for local newspapers and local literary journals. I had my own regular column in a local newspaper when I lived in eastern Washington. Then I wrote a few articles for a local literary journal. I felt like I was really coming up in the world. It was nice when my husband told me that he had co-workers who looked forward to reading my work. As it does, life and work got in the way and I wasn’t able to keep up with getting things in print. I became distracted and got derailed.
Some time later, I decided to learn new things, take my writing career seriously and change my life. I found an audience for my work in a couple of places. One job was reviewing apps for phones, and while it was interesting, it wasn’t right for me. I longed to spread my wings and try something else. Another website had a decidedly girl power edge to it but it seemed a little young and not quite the right niche for me. I also secretly toiled away on a couple of manuscripts. It would be easy to stop and to fall back into old habits, or to be satisfied with the meager results I have so far, but there’s more to be done. It’s working, but I can’t stop reaching.
Still I was making progress. That alone was cause for celebration. We mustn’t forget to congratulate ourselves for the little victories we experience along the way. Losing old habits and picking up new skills is a challenge. Changing your life happens in baby steps. It’s easy to get discouraged when it doesn’t happen all at once. Acknowledging our progress is important. It gives us the confidence and positive attitude we need to move on and take on the next chapter. For me the ultimate goal, the next chapter, is a published book. There’s been progress on that front and more will be revealed later.
In the garden I’ve taken the things I’ve harvested so far and created a salad. The bits and bobs create a fantastic flavor together. It keeps the integrity of the plants while celebrating the ingredients. I wish I could be that wise about culling the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired and finding a way to combine, use and celebrate them as well. It would make the journey predictable. I don’t always know what I’ll use. But I find I’ve collected more knowledge, more stories and more characters and ideas that I’ll find a way to use later. Just as I can plan on making salsa, tomato sauce, and soup with the ingredients that I’ll harvest from the garden, I can plan on using what I’ve learned in my writing.
And there will be times when the lesson will be unclear. We have to trust the process. You may not be able to use your knowledge or new skills right away. But keep your eyes and your mind open. You may have to search for a way to use what you’ve learned. I know I’ve been pleasantly surprised. It doesn’t always come packaged the way I think it should.
I have plans for the bulk of my harvest. I have to make sure when it happens that I’m ready, otherwise the fruits of my labor rot on the vine and I have no one but myself to blame. I’ve researched ways to use each one of the vegetables. The peas and beans can be used in everything from salads to casseroles, cooked or raw, in soups and stews frozen or fresh. I’ll use the zucchini in salads, quick breads and muffins. The tomatoes will be made in to everything from pasta sauce to soup and salsa. There’s more but you get the idea. I didn’t start out knowing what to do with any of it. I had to learn.
I still don’t know what to do with some of the things I’ve learned in my life. I have harvested these little pearls of wisdom, strung them together and am waiting to use them. Just as I’m waiting for the harvest in my garden. There’s more to come.