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Why Gardening Makes Writing Easier

Laurie among baskets and plant stakes in her garden room in the barn behind the house.

Only a white clapboard wall of my house separates the indoor and outdoor parts of my existence: the writer and the gardener. The divide is porous, as light comes in the windows, but it is also enormous because of the way it affects my emotions.

 

Whenever I walked out the basement door into the backyard, I discovered as I wrote in Four Tenths of an Acre: Reflections on a Gardening Life, that "whenever I was worried about anything--my writing, my love life, or the yard itself--going outside was like passing through a looking glass from a darker to a lighter state of mind." Even though it's difficult to garden in the harsh and unpredictable New England weather, gloom always dissipated when I began to deadhead and weed, even though I know that more weeds will spring up after the next rainstorm. This doesn't happen when I dust and pick up inside, even though I love all the small the rooms of the house.

 

Once I marveled about this to my mother, a gifted and passionate gardener, and asked her why it was so much more rewarding for us to turn decomposing cuttings in a compost pile than to mix together the ingredients of a chocolate cake. She thought for a moment and then offered: "because it's outside." Being outside wasn't the only reason, but it was reason enough because it explained that being absorbed by what makes everything grow--from bright air to dark porous soil--gives buoyancy to a gardener.

 

I also learned that after hours using my body in the garden, it feels good to go back inside and use my brain in my writing room.

 

 

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Inspiration from the grandmother of bloggers

When starting a blog, I wanted to get some inspiration and historical perspective from Eleanor Roosevelt's popular "My Day" column, which she began as First Lady in 1936. The technology was vastly different then - her columns were syndicated in newspapers - but her impulse as a blogger was not.

In less than an hour she wrote five hundred words six days a week for almost three decades. Her voice is frank and natural, and her idealistic and compassionate personality shines through. Writing more about her public than her private life - her outrage at violations of human rights, for instance - she also expressed her pleasure in gardening and family gatherings as well as her embarrassment at her foibles, like losing her driver's license after going through a stop sign.

So now I am ready to begin
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