Photo by Catherine Castle

It’s officially spring!

Not by the calendar—that momentous event occurred on March 20. Spring starts for me when I’ve seen the robins in the yard for the first time. The robins are my benchmark of spring, and I look for them every year. This year I spotted the first one on my neighbor’s lawn on Easter morning, this past Sunday.

I think of the robins’ arrival as the start of a new beginning. They are my harbingers of hope.  Their arrival signals a new beginning to the gardening season. A chance to break the restlessness of winter’s cabin fever. A chance make last year’s flowers bigger and better. A chance to keep all those gardening goals like keeping the tools clean, keeping a regular spraying schedule, deadheading every week, and pulling those pesky weeds from EVERY bed. In other words, it’s the time to make things better, correct the errors of last year’s garden, and move forward.

Spring means I have less time to write. Generally, I spend 2-4 hours a day during the spring getting my garden ready for the upcoming gardening season. I don’t usually do a fall cleanup since the leaf mold causes my allergies to flare up and I spend the entire winter season battling a stuffy head, sore throat, and other allergy symptoms.

So, when spring comes, the garden consumes me. I can’t wait to get outside as soon as the weather clears and the sun comes out. After all, there is only one season when I can see the day lilies peek through the earth, one season when the plants are completely fresh and free of disease, one season that I can garden in long sleeves without taking a sweat bath. When summer hits the freshness of the new growth often disappears, replaced by insects, heat, and drought. Working in the hot sun becomes a chore, not a joy, and I spend hours dragging the garden hose around the yard in an effort to keep things watered in our sandy soil.

It’s like that for me as a writer, too. The excitement of a new beginning on a book makes me rush to the computer to sit down and write. The story is fresh in my mind, the story possibilities and twists and turns of the plot line endless. I am as in love with my new characters, setting, and story as I am with the fresh green tips of Mom’s daylilies pushing through the weedy flowerbed. I can’t wait to get my hand dirty in the words.

But as the book’s season drags on, and I find myself mired in a sagging middle, or a plot that isn’t working quite right, or endless edits, I lose my original enthusiasm for writing, just like I lose the desire to work in the garden in the humid air of summer under a blazing sun. I’d much rather sit and look at the garden blooms on those days, with a book in my hand and a glass of iced tea beside me. When that happens I must make myself find springtime again. I must purposefully look for the things that will awaken the same feelings of a new beginning in my writing.

Those are the times that I have to go back to the beginning of my book and read it from the start as if I had never seen it before. In order to resurrect a new book spring, I must fall in love again with my characters, my story, and my words. I must envision what the final product will be, just like I envisioned what the next spring and summer garden will look like when I pore over winter’s gardening catalogs and magazines, looking for new and exciting things to do in my garden.  I have to dream of the proposal I’ll send to the editor, dream of the book contract I’ll get, and dream of the book’s success.

Envisioning all those things helps keep me on track. It gives me the desire to keep going. It helps me figure out how to make the book better, to correct the problems that are holding me back, and to move forward to the goal I saw the first day I started writing.It provides a new spring, in the middle of summer’s hot, blazing, uncomfortable sun.

What things do you do to help you start anew when your writing starts to lag?