In preparation for the on-coming winter, Bob and I weeded a hillside garden that boasts proud, colorful daylilies, a run-away oregano plant, rampant dill, and two small boxwoods.
We carefully weeded and mulched that bed last fall and, this spring, pulled out most of the young weeds. The bed looked beautiful.
And then I traveled for a good part of the summer, sometimes with Bob, sometimes on my own.
And because I was away, the weeds went wild, throwing late day parties (and seeds), snogging and reproducing on a surfeit of sun and rain. The few intermittent days I was home weren’t enough to clean up the party mess.
As Bob and I tackled the clean-up job during the beautiful Indian summer weather we were having, as I tugged and wrestled and dug those opportunistic weeds out, leaving a clean, orderly and mulched flower bed once again, I couldn’t help but think of the creative success lessons the weeds were teaching me (I know, I find lessons in the oddest places).
1. Yes, there is room for you and your work. One of the supposed advantages of daylilies is that they cut back on weeds with all those leaves. And the spreading yew? What weed would want to grow among those prickly needles? Apparently, those hardy weeds. They grew among the yew branches, parsed themselves out among the daylily leaves and even twined themselves around whole plants. They weren’t discouraged by crowded conditions or unwelcoming environment at all.
Just as you shouldn’t be. Sure, there are lots of romance writers, or landscape painters, or movie trailer composers out there, and they may even be doing something similar to what you are doing. But, you are not them. Remember, all it takes is just a little free ground, a little space where you can soak up sun and rain, and you’ll not just survive but thrive. But you have to be willing to brave up and claim that ground, even in crowded conditions.
2. Broadcast your work. In gardening, broadcast means to scatter seeds rather than plant in rows. That’s what weeds do with the help of wind and animals. They don’t worry about being organized in rows or being planted just so, or obeying someone’s sense of how things should be. They spread where and when the opportunity arises.
Do the same with your work. Use whatever means are available to you to get your work out and about, in as many ways as possible. Broadcast the other way, too, by using social media, speaking gigs, exhibits and performances. Donate work to a few (don’t overdo it) select charitable or community events.
3. Get rooted in your work. I discovered that there were weeds that had a single tap root that went deep, like dandelions, and weeds that had roots that spread out beneath the soil and sent up new shoots, like crab grass.
But rather you like to go into your work as deep as you can go in one particular form of creative expression or branch into several, be rooted, know the traditions, the craft and the history of your art form and then use that knowledge to keep you grounded. The more rooted you are the more likely your success. One type of weed had a very small root system, neither deep nor wide. I pulled it out with little effort. Don’t be like that. You don’t want to be easily uprooted by rejections or bad reviews.
4. Be persistent. That’s the thing about weeds. They persist…and persist. That’s why, when I remove my attention from that garden, they spring up all over. “Hurray, she isn’t looking!” Be persistent like a weed. Be crafty. Be sneaky. Keep springing up. And growing.
Here’s to your weedy success.