The time has come to prep the garden, to churn the soil, to sow the spring cold-crops that will bring the first warm-weather harvest. As always, I will plant old favorites and try one or two new items. Thinking about the peas, spinach and lettuce that will sprout makes my mouth water in anticipation of the salads and sandwiches to come. When I go out to check my plots, I fluster a mother duck who has laid her eggs up next to the house. Her chosen nursery resides along my route to the raised beds. I startle as much as she does. Ducklings would change my game plan. Unfortunately, my appearance  frightens her away. The eggs, abandoned through fear, will never hatch.

Isn’t it true that every best-laid scheme suffers a setback or two? In addition to the fowl nursery in the flower bed, the weather forecast promises snow. With temps too cold for outdoor activity, I postpone my trip to the garden center. Adding more soil and manure will have to wait. But all is not lost. The seeds sleep in the garage, quietly expectant. The earth warms ever so slowly. Movement happens, if only in tiny increments. Patience remains the word of the day, the month, the year.

As in gardening, so in writing. The plans I carefully prepare at the turn of the year begin to unravel shortly after I ink them into my master calendar. Revision #8 finished by the end of February? Not quite. Twenty queries out by the end of March? Um, only made it to the halfway point there. Spend three full days polishing the latest manuscript? An email for a conference in Cincinnati comes across my screen. I curtail the writing hour to register. Life brims with necessary distraction. I can’t ignore one aspect of the process for another. As in gardening, so in writing. Each step of the process deserves respect and attention.

Fear, as Frank Herbert wrote in his novel DUNE, is the great mind-killer. Just as my presence spooked the duck and the weather delayed my tilling, criticism and rejection leave me adrift, uncertain, contemplating surrender. Life would be simpler without the compulsion to write. Yet those seeds of ideas are still there, tucked into their packets, waiting to be planted.

There is no way to avoid the unexpected turns. Every fracturing of the grand scheme occurs because LIFE intrudes. Bathrooms need to be cleaned. A grandson has minor surgery and Grandma travels to help out. The nursing home calls with news of yet another fall by an elderly relative and, again, the day’s production is put on hold. A friend passes away unexpectedly. Grief swoops in.

It isn’t only daily life that forces changes to the schedule. Rejections point the manuscript in a new direction.  More queries must be created. Research requires more time than expected. A new story craves attention. The blog must be drafted!

As the months wind on, carrying me further from the initial plan, I weed the seeds already sprouting. A non-fiction piece finds a fundraising venue. Reviews and interviews are off for editing. The manuscript revisions continue, a short story blooms with fresh ideas, a fantasy story adds new chapters. Creativity resides among the dark, untended niches of my mind, waiting to be fertilized, watered, warmed by the sun of my imagination. As long as I am open to the possibilities, they will sprout.

May your garden grow!