02 October 2011

A Time to Grow

It's spring here in New Zealand. Well, on some days it feels like it might be. All of our spring bulbs are awash with colour, and as the winter rains have started to drain from the ground we've begun to actively garden again. Weeds have popped up, some plants need to be moved, and a general treatment of fertiliser is required to give all of our plants a head-start.

One section of our vege patch is already sequestered by strawberry plants - the babies of last year's crop. They've been tentatively producing flowers and rather deformed strawberries for a couple of months now. I was watching a gardening show the other day and was a little surprised by their advice: take off all of the flowers in the early season. This will allow the plant to grow bigger and produce bigger, better fruit.

I took myself out to the patch today, and got busy with weeding. I looked at the lovely white strawberry flowers, and all the developing fruit, and ignored them for a while. Then when I looked closer, I noticed that many of the strawberries were in a sorry state. Some were quite flat, while others had lots of little knobs of them - a bit like a rooster's comb! I realised these are not going to be good strawberries for eating anyway. So, rational thought overtaking my nurturing instincts, I plucked the flowers and fruits from the plants with increasing courage. There was probably a hundred or more. I do hope this act of sacrilege does indeed result in healthier plants (not deceased ones).

A strawberry flower (right) and a baby strawberry (left). Both had to go!
As I stripped the plants, it got me thinking about where I am with my writing at the moment. I have queried a number of agents with my current MS, and while I've had some interest there's been no offers. I have a few more agents to query, including some "dream" agents, and while the rejection (or lack of response) will sting, I'm more ready for it now than I was a few months ago. I have all but accepted that this is not the MS that will launch me into publication orbit. And on one hand it feels like Groundhog Day, but on the other I know I've learned so much this time. I feel much better equipped to start with a new idea, more confident that I have the tools I need (or at least more than I had before) to execute it well.

Like the strawberries, I am in a growing phase. I could try to put work out there, but it won't be as good as the work I'll produce in the future. I know that even if I do get published eventually, I'll continue to improve with each successive novel. It's all about timing (and luck, of course). I need to accept that right now, I'm supposed to be growing. Later when I bear fruit again, I believe it'll be that much better for it.

I'm sure everyone's seen this video, but it helps me every time I hear this advice.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.


  1. Happy Spring to you! The trees here are starting to turn colors as autumn creeps in.

    Querying is hard. Take and learn. Rejection stings but makes us stronger.

    You will bear fruit when your season comes.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement Loree :-)