Writing a story is like growing a flower in the sense that you can’t rush it. The plant won’t bloom if you don’t give it the care it requires: some need more water, others wither if you give them too much.
I learned through gardening and writing that it’s best not to control things too much. If you smother anything, it will suffocate. The blooms in my garden prove that the wait, though taxing, is worthwhile. So do the drafts on my hard drive.
Flowers that take longest to grow are not necessarily lovelier. The zinnia and the Morning Glory both take my breath away. In this way, long stories are not better: a thousand-page Dostoevsky immerses me, as does the short A Christmas Carol.
The same is true for poetry, even free-verse. I have gained much from fantasy novels as well as history books. There is no point trying to control everything because, if loved enough, flowers and stories are always lovely.
I’m familiar with the sensation of wanting to finish writing sooner. Rushing a story will not make it better. A seedling must be tended with patience if we want flowers; good novels require the same care. We should let each novel grow as tall or bold as it wishes.
We cannot control everything–if we do, we risk destroying it.
I’m turning away from methods that promise a novel in thirty days. Instead, I’ll focus on watering the flowers: nourishing the story and treating it as if it were alive. I know the story will be happier in the long run, and so will I.
Recently I learned that a friend with whom I had been very close a few years ago died suddenly. I don’t know the details and don’t think I could handle getting into them. It has unearthed a whole new set of emotions in me, things I had only read about before in books.
There’s the personal shame, the wish that I had been a better friend and not lost contact. It storms with the logical bit of me which says there is no way I can keep in touch with everyone all the time, that sometimes friends drift apart because life works that way.
There are the echoes. In the days since learning of her passing, I’ve found myself remembering almost every conversation we ever had—vividly. Scraps of advice about hair care and whether a certain artist could sing. Memories of that time we bonded over an online game. And when we agreed that a book we had both read wasn’t so great after all.
I remember music she had recommended to me and know that those songs will never be the same again. At this moment, Whisper by A Fine Frenzy comes to mind—with the haunting lyrics I’m down to a whisper / In a daydream / On a hill… It has always been a beautiful song but now it takes on new significance.
Every soul matters. Every friend does, too. It doesn’t matter if you only ever met them online—now I know that, when you learn they are gone, it hurts all the same. It’s confusing at first, and then emotions come flooding in, and you find yourself wishing to go back to that summer a few years ago…just for a while.
Take care of your friends. If ever you feel the nagging sense to say hello, or suddenly remember their birthday, don’t waste a chance. Take care of yourself because people do care about you. And—I would do well to learn this—if you lose someone, it fixes nothing to blame yourself.
I don’t know the details, but I do know we will never chat again, and that song will most certainly make me tear up for the rest of my life. Take care of your friends, even if they seem fine—and take care of yourself.