Six years ago, I moved the Texas Gulf coast from Colorado where I had lived all but four years of my life. My husband came on a temporary assignment that almost instantly became permanent. I’m tempted to think of myself as a newcomer, especially as my internal compass still looks for mountains to alert me that west is “that-a-way.” But, I no longer am, and as unlikely as it seemed to me before moving, it now feels like home. Before we moved, I never minded winter. Now that I no longer have to deal with snow and ice, I don’t miss it and find it a nuisance during my annual mere-week-long treks to more northern climes. One of my favorite parts about where we live is that it’s in a forest, and so our home is surrounded by shade and the songs of colorful birds. Being in a Gulf Coast forest also means we have the occasional palmetto bug, otherwise known as a huge, flying cockroaches. Dealing with them is still better than snow and ice.
I’m learning to garden all over again since I’ve moved from Zone 5 to Zone 9. No more of my beloved peonies, which require a period of winter, but gardenias, hibiscus, jasmine, azaleas, and crape myrtles that bloom in abundance through different parts of the year. I miss the water garden left behind in Colorado, and I have a spot picked out in our new back yard for another one. Hopefully construction on that will begin soon. There’s still nothing quite as soothing as the sound of running water and watching gorgeous fish swimming lazily in the water.
I find that gardening is a wonderful metaphor for writing and vice versa. Both begin with a basic plan that almost instantly undergoes ongoing revision. Both have to be nurtured. Both offer unexpected beauty and surprises. Both have to be weeded. I always tell myself that I hate weeding, but in actual fact, some of my best ideas have come to me while weeding. This is my own version of that “chop wood, haul water” axiom to find clarity and solutions to problems.
Before I became a full time writer, I spent a lot of years as a technical writer, mostly preparing software documentation for huge commercial systems. I’m sometimes asked about the differences and if writing novels isn’t easier. Well, writing novels is both harder and more rewarding. Unlike technical writing, the writing of novels has no clear cut right answer except for reader satisfaction. Finding ways to deliver a good story that touches a reader is, for me, the most rewarding writing of all.