WHAT I HAVE ON MY WRITING DESK RIGHT NOW, in no particular order: a couple of drafty middle-grade novels. The inkling of a new picture book. A non-fiction young adult manuscript. And collection of folktales.
One of the above-mentioned drafty novels has been frozen for quite some time. This story held so much promise! So many readers said so! But at a couple of crucial points in my writing, my own belief in my ability was shaken by the gale-force winds that can blow you down when really smart people comment on your work.
Not sure if these notes blew apart the story’s roof or the foundation, but either way, I couldn’t sort it out, and this left me pretty broken up about it. Still, my writer friends assure me, what I’ve learned from writing this story is invaluable, even if this particular book will never bear fruit.
That happens, my writer friends assure me. And that’s okay. You’ll pluck a line or a character or an idea from it for a different project later. Deep breath. Let your hopes for this go. Move on.
Four years ago, on a Saturday whim, my now-husband and I bought a scraggly plum tree. The plant dude said we lived near enough to crabapples that it’d pollinate, and we’d have plums in the next year or two.
We tied it to the roof of our car, drove home, dug a hole in our pathetic, patchy backyard, and planted it – not too close to the house, just in case we built a porch someday.
The tree grew, but no plums the first year. (Lots of aphids, though – I wiped them off, day after day, with a mixture of watery dishsoap.)
Second year, we built that porch. Still no plums. But the tree grew, and flowered, and it was pretty and green.
Third year? No plums. (Still lots of aphids, though.) We’re guessing that plant dude was wrong. Our yard doesn’t have enough room for another tree. We’re disappointed, but Oh, well, we think. It’s a pretty tree.
We had super-crazy windstorms last spring. I mean, enough to blow siding off the house. The tree had a few small branches broken, but other than that, it was healthy. (No aphids this year! Coincidence?)
This summer, a family of robins nested in the tree, with three babies almost close enough to touch – and we got to watch them from the porch. So, plums or not, I loved the tree.
But as I looked at those babies in the nest, you know what else I saw? Tiny plums. Those gale-force winds? Must have blown some pollen our way.
It’s hot out today.
The babies have since left the nest. The plums are purple and big. When I finish this post, I’m going outside to gather fruit.
Now, I didn’t do anything to deserve this harvest, other than plant and care for that tree. I’m fully aware of that.
Sometimes, the things you give up on surprise you. Sometimes, we have to care for things for a long time before we see any fruit. I’m thinking a lot about that, about how things and people change, and about how the aftermath of a storm can bring such surprises.
So, after I’m done gathering outside, I’m coming inside to prune that manuscript. Maybe, to torture the metaphor a bit more, I’ll find that those confidence-shaking gale-force winds in fact carried much-needed pollen.
Maybe I’ll find some plums.
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