“What you plant, you will harvest later.” ~ Og Mandino
As I write this, a large tractor outside my office window rolls last week’s mowing. Earlier today, the turkeys rolled by the house to gobble cherry tomatoes from my garden. Down the lane, the distinct smell of drying tobacco wafts from a barn. Roadside stands are awash with local beans, beets, pumpkins, and squashes. This is harvest, when we get to reap the rewards from someone’s hard labor all those months ago.
It’s a leap of faith, living by the land. You toil all spring and summer and it doesn’t look like much for the longest time, the precarious growth only one drought or flood away from complete failure. But you put in the work anyway, laboring with trust and patience.
It’s like living a creative life. We make art, write stories, compose music, take chances. We toil mostly in private, our creative endeavors tiny seeds cast upon the field that we pray will take root in someone’s heart come harvest time. Nature cues us how to do it right.
First, we commit to our creative endeavors; in order to reap, first we must sow. My creative undertaking is, of course, writing, but the advice stands if you’re painting, writing a song, sewing a dress, or remodeling a house. We sit down and do the hard work of shaping something out of nothing, attempting to be true to our heart while keeping in mind the particulars of the intended audience. As much as we love guacamole, planting an avocado tree in central Kentucky would be foolish. We create as much for others as we do for ourselves, so we need to understand the particular environment in which we work. It’s in the sharing of our bounty that our creative endeavors gain meaning and legacy.
Many ideas die on the vine, while some flourish into beautiful fruit. Some ideas are surprises, like the volunteer tomatoes that my turkeys love so much. It makes sense when we know that the word inspiration means to inhale. It’s a gift when the muse shows up like a gust of autumn wind deep in our lungs.
A creative life requires endless weeding. I have over a hundred columns that, 300 or 400 words in, simply didn’t go anywhere. I had nothing real to share, realized I was simply telling interesting – if meandering – stories instead of instructive and inspiring parables, fables, or allegories. I call this file folder scrapped, but it just as easily could be called weeds.
And the pieces that make it into my newspaper column often bear no resemblance to their first incarnations. I have a magnet in my office that says, write drunk, edit sober. Most creatives know the drunk-like frenzy we fall into when we are on fire artistically. The ideas pour out as easily as water from a felled glass. And being in the flow is pretty addictive stuff. But if we want it to be good instead of just fun, pruning is required.
But the most important guidance from harvest is the reminder to take time to lie fallow, to rest deeply. This can be a hard practice when you owe your editor 800 words in two days and you’ve started – and scrapped – four columns. But it’s in the quiet that we can set intentions for the next round, mindfully choose seedlings that will support our goals and purposes. It’s a time of reflection, as in my basil loves that sunny spot by the pear tomatoes, but those impatiens clearly want to be moved to the shady side of the house. I thought the two looked really beautiful in the same raised bed, but I had to burn those flowers up before I realized that next season I have an opportunity to make a wiser choice.
So I take a cue from Mother Nature and rest, thinking and planning and dreaming instead of actively creating. A fallow mind isn’t empty, but instead primed to hear the call of the muse when the time is right.