Saturday, April 2, 2016


Our cherry trees hardly blossomed this year.  I was still waiting for them to peak  when I noticed the leaves were already out. So they blossomed, kind of - but not in the spectacular pale pink mist of previous years.

Pretty yes, but not spectacular

But we also have two small apple trees down at the end of the garden and for years they haven't blossomed at all. When we first planted them, I was told by a horticulturist  at Merrifield Garden Center not to allow them to bear fruit - but instead to pick the blossoms off - until the trees grew stronger.  It wouldn't be good for them to bear fruit when they were young, he said - much like pregnancy in a teenage girl, it was too big a strain on one so young.

That was five years ago. But this year, we fertilized the trees. Lo and behold, I just walked down to the end of the garden and found that they had blossomed!  Blossoms in spring equals apples in fall.  So - finally, finally I think our apple trees are ready to bear fruit.
apple blossoms, a sweet promise of apples!

It might be a stretch, but here comes my metaphor.  I'm thinking of course, about writing practice.  You see, I've been working hard at a manuscript which is taking a very long time, and it's still not quite ready to bear its fruit. But yet there are other things I write - things that I have put aside, or written off the cuff, which are almost ready to go right away.

As a writer - as a creative artist of any kind - you never quite know what will work and what will not.  I just had a conversation with my son Elliot about a song he'd written. He wrote it hastily - didn't pour in his heart and soul - and yet people respond to it more than to other things he has labored  long and hard to produce.

That, I told him, is the story of my life.

"People love proficiency," Elliot said. "In the case of this particular song I knew how I could make it shitty and catchy!"

Evidently this is true for other artists too.  Augusten Burroughs, who I had the pleasure to introduce last week for a reading at Busboys and Poets - spoke about his book Sellevision - over which he'd labored long and hard.  But why didn't it sell?  So he handed his agent his journal about trying to stay sober - something he'd written only for himself. Turns out this was precisely what WOULD sell.  And it became his best seller Dry.

Check it out here Augusten Burroughs at Busboys and Poets.

I guess we've come a little way from my story about the cherry trees.  All I really mean is that you never know what will blossom. You never know what tree you plant will actually bear fruit. So keep on planting.

As I told Elliot - I have the feeling that things we work hardest at are really about how we learn the craft.  But when we do stuff quickly it's less self-conscious - we throw it away - and somebody is bound to catch it.

We are always learning our craft.  Always getting better at it. Maybe something else we produce, while we are deep in the craft of that precious manuscript -  maybe something from the heart but more off the cuff will blossom in surprising ways.

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