The gardener plants his seeds and knows to wait before he ever pulls the fully formed plant out from the ground. He knows that there is a dark period that the plant must go through before it can bear any fruit.
During this dark period, everything is obscure. The gardener cannot see the plant grow, and no matter how hard the gardener works—nothing at all seems to come of his tremendous effort.
He toils day and night. Sacrifices so much. Uses the clearest water, the richest soil, and the best plant food to help the seed grow.
For so long, the gardener waits. He receives no medals, no applause, and no recognition. And worst of all, no one even knows what he’s talking about when he says he’s working on growing a plant. There is not sliver of evidence that any plant exists (besides the dream of a plant in the gardener’s mind) and so it is easy for others to think that the gardener is either wasting his time—or he’s just plain crazy.
But the gardener is wise. He knows to wait. He knows that the dark period is essential. There, hidden from sight, the plant is growing. It is growing. It is growing. It is growing.
A gardener knows you don't pull out a plant from the ground too soon. The best produce must be cultivated at the right time. Timing is everything. And most importantly, the dark, hidden stages of life’s processes should not be disturbed.
What Writers Can Learn From Gardeners About How To Harvest Their Very Best Ideas
So many writers don't think “the dark period” of harvesting their creative ideas is necessary. They fret and worry and are sad that a lot of their ideas seem to be “bad.”
Unfortunately these writers don't have the patience of gardeners.
Don’t be like those writers.
Instead, treat you imagination like a garden. Not all of your ideas are ready for prime time. No, not yet. They need work, they need attention, they need care, and they need time.
It's very dangerous to pull out an “idea seed” before it's ready. You may kill it.
Now, I've been known to tell writers to throw away all their bad ideas. Some writers reject this recommendation. They think they might lose something valuable in the tossing.
But that fear is silly.
Because when you trash all your bad ideas, you know what ends up happening? Those “bad ideas” are given more time to grow and mature and then, like a miracle, they come back to you as great ideas.
What you may not know is that the bad idea you currently have isn't a bad idea at all. It's just a great idea that hasn't matured yet.
Be A Smart Harvester: Always Let Your Ideas Mature Before You Use Them.
So many writers these days are bad gardeners. They’re so impatient. On a daily basis, they dig out all their “idea seeds” and check to see if they’re ready, disturbing the vital dark period that every idea must go through in order to become great.
Don't be like that.
Instead, leave the bad ideas there, in the dark, beneath the ground. Trust that, in time, these bad ideas will mature into great ideas.
Something to Try
Put all your ideas into four groups: “bad,” “okay,” “good,” and, finally, “great” ideas. Then do the following:
Bad ideas: look at these ideas with love and attention and then put them back into the soil of your imagination. Let them stay in the dark for a while. (Read: trash them.)
Okay ideas: see them as plants that are just about to bud. Give them lots of love and attention and they will come around in the next few months. (Read: archive them.)
Good ideas: mark them as plants that are almost ready to bear fruit. Don't extract them yet, however: just know that they may be ripe in the next few weeks. (Read: leave them in your line of sight. On your desktop, maybe.)
Great ideas: these are the ideas that you’re absolutely in love with. These ideas are ready to harvest today. Pick their fruit and use them immediately. (Read: use them in your novel, blog post, or article today.)
For fifteen minutes, write down a portrait of your “writer self” as a gardener. In this little story, make sure it is clear what kind of “writer-gardener” you have been. Are you an impatient gardener that pulls out his “seeds” out of the ground too soon? Or are you the “patient” writer-gardener who waits until his ideas are fully formed into plants? Share your story with us in the comments below!