Sunday, October 10, 2010

Books and Blogs

Those who have been following this blog in its short life since late July have been seeing its evolution and my slow learning process here, so I thought I'd take a single blog to address the whole "why do you (I) blog and write?" and "where is this thing going?" series of questions.

Here is the key;  I've always been a bibliophile and I've always said that someday I would write a book about something.  I started writing the book Garden Musings (pictured and linked on this blog) a few years back solely as a release for me.  I simply enjoy the writing process and years ago I was conditioned by a great set of high school English teachers to be able to sit down and vomit my thoughts in a relatively coherent fashion onto paper.  But, after a couple of decades where my writing was confined to dry scientific papers in my chosen profession of veterinary orthopedic surgery, I simply missed the more creative outlet of writing for the fun of it.  And I know I'm not even close to being a horticultural expert (I should barely claim amateur status based on the survival rate of flora that I place into the ground), but I didn't want to write about veterinary patients after treating them all day, so the next best choice was a book of gardening experiences. So I started slowly writing Garden Musings and finally, during the cold winter of 2008-09, I made a push to put enough essays together to make a decent-sized book, went to an independent publisher (iUniverse), and got it out. What a learning experience publication was! 

Now, notice that I said I started writing Garden Musings solely for me.  Because I, like many others, stated loudly and clearly at the beginning that I was NOT writing because of ego.  Well, the second key here is this:  I don't care who you are, writing may be for the writer, but publishing is ALL about ego.  You may think you start writing for yourself, but once your baby is out there in the world, you suddenly CARE that others read it and you suddenly want to know what they thought of it.  There's even a whole new addictive syndrome, "Amazon-Rank Fixation," where the gardener begins checking the ranking of his book on Amazon at hourly intervals and comparing the rank to books by other well-known garden writers.  Not that that ever happened to me. 

I've had good feedback on Garden Musings the book. Much of the feedback was surprising, though.  I didn't write it to be a comedic work but I was told by some readers that it was side-splitting funny in places.  Some did think it was informative, those few poor souls who didn't realize that I kill more plants than I grow.  I was told by one reader that it's the perfect book for reading on the toilet;  each essay is three-four pages long on average...just long enough.  My mother said "I suppose it's a good read if you like gardening" (she doesn't) and my father suddenly realized, as he told my sister, "that I was a deep thinker."   

Regarding Garden Musings the blog though, there is, if you haven't run across it yet, at least one book out there specifically about writing on gardens, Cultivating Words by Paula Panich, and of course I came across it after I already published my book.  Cultivating Words covers the whole gamut of garden writing, from weekly newspaper columns to monthly magazines to books, and it's a very informative work. Using ideas from Panich's book and elsewhere, I even put together a pretty good presentation for gardening groups on the process of garden writing (lecturing is, of course, yet another form of ego-stroking as any other professor will tell you).  Ms. Panich cautions "book writers" not to become "blog writers" because blogging funnels the creative instincts away from finishing books.  And I heeded her advice for awhile, but at heart, I tend to be a little resistant to authority. A friend suggested starting the blog and that sounded like a new and fun experience, and the software seemed to be easy enough to figure out, and off I went. 

Blogging, though, is also still all about the writer's ego and it is even easier to measure the ego boost by counting numbers of comments and page hits and ranking sites and all that. These days it is all about the voice provided to me by the audience. I write for you. If you have followed me long, you may have guessed that I'm trying to settle down into a pattern: a random thought that has been occupying me on Mondays, something I'm reading or reviewing on Wednesdays, a rose feature on Fridays, a gardening technique on Saturdays and a little garden philosophy on Sundays. Of course, my obsessive-compulsive disorder occasionally rears its head and I blow that schema, but I'm trying.

I'd love to have feedback whenever my readers get time. What articles did you like?  Which were thought-provoking?  Which will keep you coming back?  God knows, except for the poor curious souls who click on the advertising and provided the $2.26 I've earned so far, I'm not in this for the money, I'm in it for the camaraderie of gardeners.  And, to be honest, the occasional ego boost of having someone else listen.


  1. I enjoy reading your postings. They seem to come from a different angle compared to most blogs. You seem professional yet trustworthy. But how would I know? :)

    This ego thing can become an addition. Not very good. This we all know. :)

  2. Actually, $2.26 impresses me! I like your blog and I'll look for your book. I didn't know you wrote a book. I appreciate also the recommendation for Cultivating Words. I'm always looking for something to read about gardening. I got started blogging because I used to write a weekly enews letter for the garden center where I worked. I missed it so much after I left that I started writing the blog. It was freeing to be able to say exactly what I wanted to say without regard to what I needed to sell. My favorite garden writer is Henry Mitchell. If I could write one essay even half as good as his, I'd stop -- at the top of my game. Thanks for the post!

  3. Henry Mitchell is my favorite too! I love the dry sarcasm in his writings.

  4. $2.26! You're a rich writer. I teach English at UNL and have written a memoir (unpublished) and published some poetry books. The blog is demanding, and I have readers who wish I wrote more on my blog like I do in my memoir. Sometimes though I need just a pictorial tour of the garden, something sarcastic, or to yell at soem dumb eco policy enstated by government. Actually, I need that more. We need that more, right?


Thank you for your interest in my blog. I like to meet friends via my blog, so I try to respond if you comment from a valid email address rather than the anonymous And thanks again for reading!


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