I guess that last post should have been named, F is for Failure, because after that post, I failed the A to Z Challenge. I am now a day behind, and judging by the number of items on my to-do list for this week (and it’s already Thursday–WTF??), I will be several days behind very soon. I’m going to come back to that thought in a moment.
First, though, I want to say a few words about my other favorite activity besides writing: gardening. For those who don’t know, I live in a volcano field in a high desert, 7000′ above sea level. My soil is clay covered with about a foot of red cinders from the last volcanic eruption a few hundred years ago. Each May, we are invaded with swarms of locusts (a/k/a grasshoppers) that would make an Old Testament prophet proud. The wind howls all spring, and winter temps drop below 0 at least once a year. And I am crazy enough to try to grow plants here.
This exercise in frustration has taught me a few things:
Determination. Well, that didn’t work. What can we do differently when we try again? (This describes 6 years of trying to grow roses in this hellscape)
Tolerance for imperfection. Plants will not look like they did in the nursery catalog when they grow here. Apple blossoms will be frozen off long before fruit can set. The first tomato will ripen the day before the first frost. Etc.
Prioritization. Spring is wind season here in the San Francisco Volcano Field (look it up – it’s really called that. I live in a volcano field with an actual name). So when we have a few nanoseconds that are not windy–and I’m not at work–I drop everything to run outside and weed or plant something. (Digression alert! Have you ever realized that gardening is mostly about pulling out some plants and putting in others that grow less well than the ones you pulled out?) Whatever else I am doing can wait till the wind starts blowing, which it will do 5 minutes after I get outside. If it’s a calm spring day, nothing is more important than gardening. Nothing. Tie a tourniquet above that arterial bleed and wait till I’ve planted this rose bush that will get eaten by grasshoppers next month and freeze to death next winter. Can’t you see I’m busy?
Well, now, it so happens that determination, tolerance for imperfection, and prioritization are pretty dang good life lessons, especially for us writers. And I am demonstrating all three of them in my approach to the A-Z Challenge.
Yesterday I demonstrated prioritization. Work was hectic, I had writing to do, I had to pick up groceries, and I was exhausted. I inspected my to-do list, said something like, “Oh, hell no,” and started moving stuff to other days. One of the things that got moved was my daily A-Z Challenge post, because it was a lower priority than a) earning a living, b) feeding my family, c) editing my short story (it’s about a haunted ranch house that hasn’t been redecorated since the late 1980s. Mauve is terrifying. Terrifying, I tell you), and d) preserving my sanity. So I embraced my inner Def Leppard (or Elsa, for those of you with kids under 10) and Let It Go.
Today I’m demonstrating determination. So I missed a day? I can still do the challenge, still press on. And of course I’m demonstrating tolerance for imperfection. So I missed a day? BFD. Is it going to matter in a year? Is an agent going to decide not to sign me because I wrote about G on H day?
We are all doing the best we can, struggling along with too much to do and not enough time–and now we’re doing it in quarantine, with the fear of a potentially-deadly illness looming over us. So today’s discovery in my A-Z coronazoic journey is this: prioritize ruthlessly to focus on what’s most important, and cut yourself some slack when you can’t do it all. And if the sun is shining and the wind ain’t blowing, get out in the garden!
Bonus for those of you who like plants and are willing to tolerate me showing off a bit: garden pictures!
Before – when we bought our house in 2014
After – last spring
If you want to see more garden pictures or read about my gardening adventures, you can stop by my other blog, Gardening With Altitude and Attitude. It’s on hiatus for now, so I can focus on my fiction writing and this blog (see? prioritization!) but you may find some of the old posts mildly entertaining.