Like a seed in the desert: Have you ever seen one of those nature films where an unusual rainstorm comes to a desert? There are places in the world where it may rain only once every few years – sometimes as infrequently as every 5 to 10 years. And what happens? Within hours, dormant seeds hidden beneath the desert sand start to germinate. They blossom quickly. Insects are attracted to them and feast on the flowers and vegetation. A few seeds are produced that fall back to the desert floor, waiting for the next rain.
You might think of your writing like a desert. You’ve written a few novels, some poems, a screenplay – and nothing germinates. Or, if you manage to get an agent interested or the book actually published, it goes nowhere. This can be disheartening – and can make you give up. In fact, it makes most people never get a good start. What, if anything, can writers learn from the seeds in the desert?
I think the world follows a plan. The way one part of the world works is similar to the way another part works. If we can figure out the rhythms of nature, there is a chance we can apply those patterns to our everyday lives – and our writing. Let’s consider seeds.
Jesus told a parable about seeds that were sown on several different kinds of soil. (Matthew 13) Those that fell on good soil germinated and developed in full plants. Some fell into marginal soil and sprouted only to be choked by weeds. Some fell on bad soil and never germinated – or died immediately.
A fortunate writer creates a piece that falls on good soil. It finds a targeted audience (like the insects to the desert blossoms) and it grows like wildfire. Many more creations have some initial success (they get published or performed) only to languish in the marketplace and die quickly. Many, many other pieces never make it out of the desk drawer – or if they are sent to a publisher or agent, they fellowship with other unfortunate souls in the slush pile.
How do you find good soil for your writing? If I could tell you a cut-and-dried answer I’d be on the New York Times bestsellers list every week. However, indulge me a while and I’ll speculate.
Good soil is made up of a number of components. There is dirt and there is dirt. If you’ve ever prepared a flower bed, you know that plain old dirt is not your best bet for growing day lilies or begonias. You usually have to enrich the soil, add things to it – get it ready to nurture and feed your plants.
Good soil for your writing is made up of a number of components. You can’t grow most pine trees in Texas clay soil and a publisher of science fiction is not interested in your mystery romance. You’ve got to target your writing – so it will fall on the soil that it good for it.
Next, you’ve got to consider timing. The desert seeds are patient. If they try to germinate when they feel like it, they will die in short order. No… they wait for the proper moment. You too must wait for your topic to be “hot” if you want it to sell and keep selling. Good luck trying to predict the marketplace. Nevertheless, you should be passionate about your writing, prepare it the best you can, and seek both the good soil and right timing to get it into the hands of the public.
There is also the contents of the seed to consider. It contains viable food within itself – food that gets it started when the timing is right. Bad writing – the contents of your work -- rarely sells even when the soil is good and the timing is right.
Finally, (although I’m sure I could think of other seed-things) nature creates seeds in abundance. I recently noticed a field of wildflowers that seemed to go on forever. This one field must have contained tens of thousands of plants – and each of them was producing seed for the next year. Some would not make it – some would. Don’t put all your hopes into one piece – create many seeds.
Like in nature – if you are patient – you may find that good soil and proper timing to make one of your seeds blossom and grow into a giant sequoia