I was struck today by two great sayings that I always use to remind myself that I need to stay focused on my goal: namely, to finish writing my novel and get it published.
The first saying is: “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment”; the second: “nature abhors a vacuum”.
The two came together today when my husband and I started tackling our back garden, which had taken on a jungly life of its own after the rain and sunshine of the last couple of months.
He brandished his power tools to make short work of the grass and the hedges, while I agreed to tussle with the weeds by hand. Sadly, the only green fingers I’ve ever had are those temporarily provided by my gardening gloves, but I was determined to clear the area where our daughter’s slide and swing are, at the bottom of the garden.
As I soon discovered, my flimsy gloves were no match for the twisty-turny determination of unwanted garden foliage. And while it is often said that a weed is just a flower in the wrong place, with my limited knowledge of weeds and/or flowers, I didn’t want to uproot something that was in exactly the right place. So when I pricked my finger (yes, through my gloves) on a sharp thorn that I presumed could only come from a rose, I started searching for petals or something pretty at the other end of it. But the stem stretched for metres and metres: it was beanstalk-sized, prickly, thorny and unforgiving. If I had climbed up it I’m sure it could have reached the top of our house. And this thing had grown so aggressively long and strong in a few short weeks. My husband shouted across to me: “There’s a blackberry here.” Embarassingly – and which shows what a city girl I normally am – I assumed that my techie husband was referring to a mobile phone BlackBerry. But then I saw he was pointing to a blackberry bush (rooted legitimately in our garden) that was still bearing blackberry fruit. So it appears that the bramble bush had shared its seeds with other parts of the garden, and was allegedly trying to assume dominance over its weaker weedly cousins. This is apparently typical behaviour of a bramble, and so I was perfectly justified in wanting to rip its jaggediness out by its roots.
Which brings me to my point (about the ‘discipline’ and ‘vacuum’, from the quotes). I was sitting on my ‘sunset seat’ (an old wooden bench in the corner of the garden that still gets the sun at 6pm), the trees were rustling their petticoats, the sun’s golden light was buttering the leaves, the birds were chattering like maraccas, and the blunt grass smelt fresh.
Without the discipline of attention and careful pruning, all sorts of prickly, insidious stuff can grow where beauty, fragrance and show-stopping brilliance should reside. In other words, if you write nothing – or spend no time creating something – it can all become too daunting to attempt. But unfilled space is unnatural; it goes against the law of nature. And so that empty space (aka the blank screen on your laptop) gets taken over by the tangle of your life, and that germ of an idea gets strangled by the jagged weeds of other commitments (or neglect).
When I go for some time without writing my novel, it can take a while to uproot my backside from the sofa – and at first, when I do face the blank screen of my laptop, the words that do come out feel rather tangly and long-winded (much like the blackberry weed). But with careful cultivation, regular attention, some judicious editing – and a big dose of discipline – I trust that those words which might come out all rambly and weedy at first will eventually reveal themselves to be the flower or the fruit in exactly the right place.