Growing more than plants in my garden

Allison Tait blog
Posted on October 14, 2013

photo[14]If you’ve been visiting me on Facebook lately you’ll have been subjected to privy to some lovely happy snaps of my author garden. I am currently surrounded by, inundated by, overwhelmed by beauty.

Roses, irises, murraya, jasmine, hibiscus, honeysuckle, viburnum (left) and other beautiful flowering what-nots, the names of which I’m still learning.

Tiny birds flit in and out of the flowers, drinking nectar and twittering excitedly to each other.

When I inhale, the scent is intoxicating, especially in the evening when the heavier night air clings to fragrance, holding it close and concentrated.

As a writer, I love my garden. Not because I sit out there and write in the sunshine. I could, but I tend to get distracted and I don’t like the way the sun shines on a computer screen.

Rather, I use the garden as a place for focusing thought. I have spoken before of my productive relationship with weeding (it’s a good thing that I have found such a positive spin on this particular activity, as I tend to do a lot of it…) and watering (ditto).

I am not a person who can empty my mind and sit and meditate, but concentrating on digging up onion weed is active meditation for me – and useful as well.

I think, as a writer, it’s easy to get tied up in the intellectual and the tyranny of the blinking cursor. It’s easy to forget that some of the most important work of writing is undertaken while you’re doing other things. That ruminating and composting of thoughts, ideas, notions, images, and memories that goes on in the back of the mind.

I often find that if I spend some time in the garden, I come back to my study and the words ease out on to the page. By giving myself permission to think, I buy myself a ticket to a few more pages.

With NaNoWriMo coming up in November, I can see quite a few hours in the garden ahead of me.

Are you a gardener?


  1. Yasmeen | Wandering Spice

    Hi Allison, I’m new to your blog today, having discovered you through the Australian Writers Centre. I loved this post and agree wholeheartedly that sometimes the best inspiration comes away from the bright screens and demanding cursors.

    We have a plot on my husband’s family’s farm, where we grow fruit, veg and flowers. I never could have predicted the scale of the impact being on the farm and getting my hands dirty would have on me personally, and on my writing.

    By the sounds of it, your garden must be full and absolutely lovely.

  2. Evelyn

    I’m not a gardener at all but this post sure makes me wish I was!

  3. Dianne

    This is very timely, Allison! I’m just back from GenreCon, and the last session I attended was all about working like a pro. The 3 panelists – no less than John Connolly, Valerie Parv, and Keri Arthur – were in agreement that thinking time is vitally important, and should be considered part of your work time. We get caught up in word counts, and they are important to keep us motivated, but we need thinking time as well. If gardening does it for you, great, but if you just have to stare out the window for a while, that’s okay!

  4. JodiGibson (@JFGibsonWriter)

    Oh yes I get this, in the metaphorical sense. I’m not the best gardener, but my best writing takes place during the thinking hours. My thoughts are organised, scenarios unfold, words present themselves. I almost enjoy the thoughts at the back of my mind more than the actual writing!

  5. Pam Lynch

    I’m not much of a gardener either but I get lots of thinking done while walking. I try to schedule in a couple of walks a week, either along the coastal footpath or a bush track. I tend to come back with a clearer mind and even a few ideas.

  6. Amanda Kendle

    I’m not a good gardener, and my garden is not beautiful (flowers are apparently not my speciality), but we have heaps of herbs and a few veg and I love to get out there and yes, luckily I also have a positive spin on weeding (although I do wish that someone would decide that weeds are the new in plant and I could just leave some of them there).

    I take it you are NaNo-ing again this year then? I have (stupidly? cleverly?) agreed to do a talk in the third week of November about my experience of NaNo. Which means I really should be doing it again or I’m going to look a bit silly.

  7. Chris Bailey

    Yes. I’m a proud gardener. I agree that weeding is a wonderful way to promote thinking. If it’s too cold or rainy, deep cleaning is a decent substitute. Think grout and toothbrush.

      • Kaili Behan

        Allison, like you I am not one who can easily empty my mind and sit quietly in meditation, so I also find other ways of doing this. I was a prolific gardener when I lived in North Queensland, and had a rain forest backyard that attracted all manner of wildlife – Cairns Birdwings and Ulysses butterflies came back year after year in late September to lay their eggs. The caterpillars would munch their way through the Aristolochia vines (Birdwings) and Euodia trees (Ulysses) that I nurtured through the dry season until they would spin their cocoons late in the wet season for the new butterflies to hatch and do it all again.

        I have not gardened so much in Western Australia, I think until recently I was mourning my home garden, and justified not doing more because I am in a rental house. I have sort of actively engaged in a campaign of not liking the plants over here (so mean). Your post has stirred me to action … methinks a trip to my local nursery is in order!


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