A Writing Lesson from a Sunflower and a Bee
It is sunflower season in my backyard. Sunflowers are amazing plants that take forever to grow. Their name while alluding to their sun-like appearance is more about their ability to follow the sun with their heavy heads. Sunflowers do grow towards the sun as do most plants, but they tend to be more extravagant in their solar devotion. Plant them near a wall or fence to protect their long stems from wind and storms. I planted them in May and then waited, and waited. A few green sprouts appear and that’s all for the first weeks. I walk out to the seedlings and stare at them willing them to grow faster. Two weeks of torrential rain reward me with plants that sprout almost a foot overnight. The long green stalks soon top my six-foot privacy fence by the end of July, but no hint of a bud.
Almost ninety days after I buried the seeds in the ground, a small green flower head begins to form. I know this because I am checking the plants every day. Sunflowers are a constant in my life. No matter where I live, I grow sunflowers. Actually, the sunflowers pretty much grow themselves. They aren’t like fussy roses who refuse to bloom without the proper nutrients. Give them water, sun and time and they’ll produce often plate-sized blossoms.
Time seems to be my sticking point with these bright yellow flowers. I plant Russian Gray Mammoth seeds every year. My seeds are from the previous year’s crop. This variety grows between ten and twelve foot high. It takes a while to get that big. Finally, in August when summer shows signs of ending with the cooler nights, they bloom erupting into a forest of suns atop waving green stalks.
Sunflowers are amazingly hardy not prone to the traditional pests as many flowers are. Along with the bright blossoms come the bees. Huge bumblebees and their cousins the honeybees crowd each flower gathering up nectar for the hive. Despite the fact, I stand mere inches from them watering the plant they keep on working. Out of courtesy to the bees, I only water the plants at their base.
Bees are becoming exceedingly rare and I don’t want to jinx our local population, which is currently residing in my backyard. The bees teach me a great deal about writing with their single-minded focus. They have a job, which is to gather nectar. There is an obvious shadow, my own, blocking the sun, still they continue to work. There is even a known menace in the spraying garden hose. Bees with wet wings are flightless. Even aware of this on an instinctual or experiential level, they persist. How many of us have that type of laser tight focus on our writing?
Sigh. I do not. My daughter left early for work informing me how much work I'd accomplish without her interruptions. Somewhat true, but I become distracted by other things too. Bob Mayer, renowned author, at a workshop I attended, spoke about having the importance of having two computers. One had no Internet and was just for writing. That meant no checking sports scores, Facebook or a quick break at Pinterest. When is a break at Pinterest ever quick? Even though we are a nation of multi-taskers, numerous tests have proven no one does multi-tasking well. The result of doing several things at once is a mediocre product. It even takes longer to make this product too. Here we thought we were doing such a superior job.
If I can be like the bee, then I can focus on my project and complete it before checking on why my dog is madly barking. Usually his frantic alarm is due to the school bus driving by or a leaf falling. As for the burning smell, I might need to check on that since it’s probably dinner.
The sunflower reminds me it takes time to become something great. A day spent making corrections after I changed a character’s motivation may seem like a wasted day, but it isn’t. Writing takes time to do it right. I imagine or at least hope the more I write the better I will get. That’s the plan. The sunflower also needs the silent support of a fence or its stalk will be broken in a random storm. We writers can be like that too, but are storms tend to be rejection letters and scathing reviews while our support is often other writers. This is my lesson I learned from a sunflower and a bee. What does nature teach you?
Today’s giveaway is a copy of Seeking Shelter, which is the tale of woman growing into a beautiful creation despite a humble start, rather like the sunflower. All you have to do is comment.