Daily Archives: September 16, 2010

Dare To Be Different: writing lessons from a tree

I have a tree in my front yard.  Its green leaves haven’t begun to turn.  I also have a cranberry bush on the north side of my house that has sported green leaves all summer long. 

Both these plants each boast one branch of red leaves.  A single branch of all red in the midst of velvety green.  It’s a crazy anomaly and one I can’t help but applaud. 

Dare to be different.  Even nature knows that sometimes a splash of unusual is preferable to uniformity.

LESSONS FROM A TREE

  • It’s okay to be a tree.  We don’t have to reinvent a new plant every time we write a book.  At the heart of it all, each book has a trunk (MC), branches (plot, story arc) and leaves (conflict and resolution told in a thousand tiny details.)  It’s the texture of the bark, the reach of the branches and the shape and color of the leaves that creates something new and exciting, not the tree itself.  Don’t go too far out on a limb with your project or you’ll have agents, editors and readers too afraid to plant your manuscript in their yards. 
  • It’s okay to be different.  We don’t need a new topic to write a good story, just a new twist.  A red branch, if you will.  Something that sets our manuscripts apart from the other trees in the forest.  After all, blending in completely won’t do us an favors on the book shelf.  Nor will a regurgitation of Twilight or Pirates of the Caribbean catch us the attention of an agent or editor.
  • It’s okay to bend a bit.  When the wind blows, my tree sways.  It may lose a leaf or two, but in the end, it still stands proudly as the center point in my front yard.  When we receive constructive feedback from our critters, we need to be open to a new perspective on our writing.  Bending without breaking can be the difference between a good manuscript and a great manuscript.  It can determine who is left standing in the literary world after the storm passes.
  • It’s okay to need nurturing.  Mother Nature generally waters my trees.  However sometimes she needs a helping hand.  When the skies clear and things heat up, I’ve been known to turn the hose on.  If you ever feel isolated as a writer, don’t.  Communities abound where people understand what aspiring writers need.  Your significant other may not always be able to provide enough nurturing.  Your writing community can.  Use it.  Plant your roots, because if the drought goes on too long, the damage can be irreparable.
  • It’s okay to be different.  Yeah, I know I already said that, but it’s worth repeating for another reason.  Every tree in my yard has a unique shape.  Some are bold, with a few strong branches.  Others gracefully reach to the sky with delicate limbs.  Some stand tall while others sprawl.  Accept who you are as a writer and a person.  Don’t prune your branches too look like everyone else.  Embrace  your uniqueness and share your shade whenever you get the chance!

Are you okay to be a tree?  What lessons from a tree are hard for you to accept?  Which ones feel natural?