Writing

Gardeners and Architects

Flowers in my garden - a good place to run away to.
Flowers in my garden – a good place to run away to.

I have been reading Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer, and what really struck me was a question posed to George R.R. Martin who talked about Gardeners and Architects. And while Mr. Martin doesn’t believe there are many writers who are purely “Architect” or “Gardener”, here’s his explanation of the terms:

“Architects do plan everything ahead of time, just as a reach architect does, building a house. An architect builds a house, and he knows how many rooms it’s going to be, and how many square feet in each room, and where the pipes are, what the roof is going to be made of, the dimensions of everything, even where the plugs are going to be in the walls. He knows everything before a nail is driven, before the foundation is dug, and before all of the blueprints are proofed. There are writers who work that way.

“The Gardener just sort of digs a hole and plants a seed, and then he waters it with his blood and sweat before waiting to see what will come up. It’s not totally random, because obviously the Gardener knows what he’s planted: he knows whether it’s an oak tree or a pumpkin. If he’s not taken totally by surprise by further inspiration, he has a general idea of what he’s doing.” [- George R. R. Martin, source: Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer (2013), p288]

And I realized, of course, that while not a pure Gardener, I’m certainly more Gardener than Architect. And yes, perhaps I am drawn to the terms because of my own love of actual gardening. And the analogy works to consider it that way, too. I might plan what I’m going to plan where in my garden – and I do select the plants – but sometimes there is unexpected beauty … or what I thought was a great plant turns out to be a weed.

I’m reminded by a song by Karine Polwart from her Scribbled in Chalk album (which is gorgeous, if you haven’t heard it):

The lyrics for “Take Its Own Time” go:

You ceased to mow the lawn ten years ago
You just wanted to see how your garden would grow
You abandoned the pruning shears and welcomed each weed
You permitted the soil to select its own seed

But it would be unfair to assume you don’t care
For you pay great attention to all that goes there
But you simply abstain from a plan or design
You just let it all hang out and take its own time
You just let it all hang out and take its own time

And you follow a thread in a book that you’ve read
Or in something that someone you heard somewhere said
You say, “It’s all connected, it’s all intertwined
If you let it all hang out and take its own time …

And I wonder, while I consider that this is often how my front garden looks and my gardening style, that this may also be my writing style.

What about you? Gardener or Architect?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. 🙂

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