I was happy when Thomas Rainer recently confessed that he sucks at planting. Because if he, a professional landscape designer, sucks at planting, I can probably forgive myself the mistakes I make every time I pick up my spade.
It’s occurred to me that gardening is a metaphor for writing. I begin by sketching things out, sometimes on paper but more often on the ground.
Even my most meticulous planting plans result in what Anne Lamott calls a “shitty first draft.” With my writing, I make sure no one reads my embarrassing early attempts, but with the garden, all messes, mistakes, and experiments are on display.
Just as I do with drafts of my writing, I edit the garden. Neurotically.
Invariably, the most beautiful moments result when I give up trying to control every colour association, every leaf spurt, and just enjoy the dance with my unseen partner.
Thomas Rainer reminds me that gardening is also a metaphor for life. In the garden, as in writing, as in life, failure isn’t something to avoid or fear, but to embrace. Rainer writes:
“I wish you many, many failures. I wish you grandiose plans that fizzle into hair-pulling messes, bold gestures that melt into formless puddles, and spectacular fireworks that fail to ignite. I wish you fail often and fail fast. Because out of [these failures] comes courage. And out of courage comes good design.”