Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

How a Gardening Journal Helped to Jumpstart my Writing Career


biffybeans garden

There was a time when I thought journal writing was pretentious. It seemed silly and self-absorbed and for someone who’d end up with a career as a professional writer, it’s almost comical how much I didn’t “get it.”

In the late spring of 2004, I’d find myself sitting at The Hacienda in Pasadena, California at my dear friend Lisa’s wedding. Lisa’s brother was sitting and talking with my friend Lorraine at our table about the gift of a new journal and my eyes were rolling back in my head at the thought of, “Oh no, not them too.” Back then, it seemed that no matter where I was, I kept hearing about people and their journal writing. It probably didn’t help that I was also seeing a plethora of black notebooks in the “What’s in your bag” photo group on Flickr.

But the thing that finally pushed me over the edge, and into the realm of the inky pen happened while I was watching TV. Flipping through the channels, I stopped on one of the shopping networks and they were selling, get this- a gardening journal. I watched as the host oohd and ahhd over this book like it was the greatest invention since sliced bread and I laughed out loud. A gardening journal? That’s just ridiculous!

But something about that book stuck with me that I can’t explain. I think it was a five year journal and it might have been something about being able to see things from one year to the next within the same book- a comparison of sorts, because not long after, I found myself at Blick (on Sept. 14th 2005 to be exact) standing in front of a display of black notebooks. Sitting in my car and taking the plastic off of the book, what I didn’t know then was that my entire world was forever changed in that moment – the moment I’d become a writer.

Writing has been my creative outlet, my therapy, and a big part of my career.

Back to the gardening journal – I totally get it now, because I wish I was keeping one for my first ever gardening experience this year but I just haven’t had the time. I wanted to document which seeds I bought from each company and why I’d chosen them. The dates I’d planted each seed. Which method I’d used to start them, (peat pellets or garden soil) and how long until each sprouted. Which products I’d used to prepare the garden beds. Why? Because it is exciting to describe an event or process and then look back upon it to see how it’s grown. Both literally and figuratively.

Do you keep a gardening journal?

One thought on “How a Gardening Journal Helped to Jumpstart my Writing Career

  1. Absolutely.

    In fact since August of last year I have written 700 pages in two Miquelrius gridded notebooks and that is just preparing for THIS summers garden as well as a few experiments in seeing what I could actually grow inside in the winter. It turns out its a lot!

    Having all that information about when you started things and when they germinated and how well that timing worked out and how you fed things is a godsend for the next years work. If I don’t document it, I don’t learn anything. I find myself looking back to see what I have done in the past many times. With out that information I would be lost…

    I now grow things that I would never have grown before (like flowers…I never saw the reason to grow anything I couldn’t eat)and feel that in the past year I have learned more than a dozen years of gardening has taught me.

    For the first time ever I am growing everything for my garden from seed. I have not bought a single seedling and I have been successful beyond my expectations. Not everything has been a success, but I will learn from those failures because I wrote down what I did wrong. If nothing else the process of writing cements it into my memory.

    In my opinion if you garden and don’t keep a journal your doing yourself a disservice.

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