The more elusive satisfaction of writing

“I asked myself how to weigh the easy pleasure of gardening against the more elusive satisfaction of writing. And how to compare the private playfulness of growing flowers with the public experience of being published.” — Laurie Lisle, Four Tenths of an Acre

Yesterday I ruminated about the external nature of gardening and the internal nature of writing. Ms. Lisle is right, however, that gardening is a private pursuit in that one grows flowers, vegetables, herbs, and so on for one’s own pleasure, whereas publication has the word “public” as its root: the whole point is to get your work to as many people as might find it interesting or useful. How neatly paradoxical!

Ms. Lisle also describes the pleasure of gardening as easy and the satisfaction of writing as elusive. This must be in some measure due to the fact that success in gardening does not depend on others while success in writing is completely dependent on others. There is no audience in gardening, no market on whose vicissitudes one’s success hinges. There are most certainly forces beyond the gardener’s control that affect success — weather, pests, etc. — but plants have their own innate motivation and urge to succeed. The gardener merely needs to clear the way, so to speak.

One’s writing has no such inborn drive to succeed. In fact, more writing has died without ever seeing the light of day than has been published — talk about survival of the fittest! In this case, however, it is not necessarily the fittest work that survives as much as that which is championed by the most persistent or creative or fortunate advocate, be it author, editor, or agent. Wouldn’t it be lovely if a writer only had to clear the way!

Maybe the satisfaction of writing will prove to be less elusive in the digital world. E-books, blogs, e-zines, and web sites make it much easier for writers to get their work before an audience. I don’t know if it will ever catch up with gardening, but I think writing in this century will be a much more rewarding activity than it was by the end of the previous century.

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