Be the Tree

icestormI once read a factoid that stuck with me. This isn’t unusual. Factoids have a knack for sticking to my brain like annoying wads of gum to a shoe. But I recall it was something to the tune of trees experiencing 70% of their root growth during winter. Now I’m SURE this depends on the tree, zone climate, and a whole lot of other variables that Dendrologists (thank you, Google) could tell you.

But the bottom line is this: Stuff grows even if it looks like it’s not doing anything.

Who in the name of bark cares?! Well…I do. Deeply.

And here’s why:

As writers, we often use our word count as a measuring stick. A way to tangibly gauge whether the BICHOK day is a raging success or a head-hanging failure. *braces self for chorus of Amens* However, I’ve come to realize the inherent danger of this practice. Because for me it’s the writerly equivalent of playing in traffic…at rush hour…on a unicycle. It is a muse kill.

Now, obviously there are word count realities we must self-impose to meet a deadline. I get that. But when the word count becomes your ONLY reality, well, it’s tough not to wither and die on the creative vine.

Because not every success can be measured in words.

Sometimes it’s an epiphany—big or small. That missing puzzle piece that suddenly gives your story/scene more clarity. More depth. More…more. And should that deserve any less rejoicing than the number at the bottom of your computer screen? Please. Just give that a moment to marinate before answering…

THIS is exactly why we as writers (or whatever your creative endeavor) need to give ourselves permission to be the tree in winter. Despite our floundering words or tears over the lack of them.

Stuff grows even if it looks like it’s not doing anything.

Without fail, winter will pass and give way to spring. And all those roots you’ve been so laboriously growing while everyone (including the cat) thought you were hibernating? They’ll finally give rise to the blossoming flower and its subsequent fruit. Glorious, magnificent, word fruit!

They say nature is miraculously complex.

But I say… So is writing.

Honor your nature. Whatever the season.

 Darcy

Writer's Life

43 Responses to Be the Tree

  1. Sarah Tomp says:

    This is what I’ve been trying to tell myself. I plan to listen to you.

    xxoo

  2. Sandra Owens says:

    I suddenly have a strange desire to go check my tree roots. :-) Seriously, though you’re so right Darcy. It really is too easy to get hung up on those word counts. Sometimes, I find if I just walk away when I’m staring at that non-growing word count and do something mundane, without even realizing it my mind is busy tearing down that brick wall I hit. Great post.

    • Darcy says:

      Sandra! Wonderful to see you 😉 I love that you recognize your mind is “tearing down the brick wall.” It unequivocally is! Now go check your roots. You’ll get no judgment here!

      xo
      Darcy

  3. Hi Darcy! Sometimes my stomach churns all day until I hit my word count. Like I feel I’ve accomplished nothing without it. It’s a good way to keep pushing but it can also be nerve-wracking and sort of destructive. Lately I’ve been trying to stare at the page and say, it’s just me and you, WIP. To remind myself of the main reason I write, which is, I can’t not write. All the other worries–the counts, the productivity, selling, producing faster, the business end–those are all secondary. So thanks for the reminder that too much focus on only one thing isn’t good for anybody.

    • Darcy says:

      OMG, yes Miranda! Many of us get sucked into that cycle of go-go-go. Push-push-push. Then…you suddenly remember why you got in the car in the first place. You’re in it for the journey. However meandering it may sometimes be 😉

      Thanks for the lovely and very real sentiments!

      xo
      Darcy

  4. Thank you, Darcy! I so needed to read that right now.

    • Darcy says:

      My dear Savvy Bonnie, I selfishly wrote this post for me. But it makes me endlessly happy that it brought you a little comfort too.

      Turns out I’m in amazing company :)

      xo
      Darcy

  5. Amy DeLuca says:

    I lurve this. Because of the truthie-ness. Wish I had one of your cute little hearts to throw on it. Some days we grow roots, some we sprout leaves. Happy growing, my friend. Amy

  6. Sonali Dev says:

    A huge big Amen to you, sister!!

    I do all my writing in my marinating– when I sleep, cook, hang out with friends, watch TV-essentially when I’m not writing is when I’m really writing. The actual word count is just typing.
    (And then of course there’s the revisions. But that a whole different story.)

    So awesome to be thus reinforced, it almost gives me roots! :)

    Hugs
    Sonali

    • Darcy says:

      Sonali! My darling, but of COURSE you have roots! We just sometimes forget what we can’t see 😉

      And it’s sooo true! The key pounding IS just typing. Because the miracle already happened during the cooking, cleaning, driving, etc…

      Thanks for the wonderful comments!

      Hugs,
      Darcy

  7. Piper says:

    My dear mentor Tina McElroy Ansa says, “Thinking time is writing time.” Those words and your post help me feel less guilty for the time that I take to recharge. Thank you, Darcy!

    • Darcy says:

      Oh, Piper, I just LOVE quotes like this! Your mentor is very wise.

      I was chatting w/ a friend the other day who said she doesn’t believe in writer’s block (and I wholeheartedly agree!). It’s writer’s BURNOUT. Sometimes slowing down can actually be the best way to regain your momentum.

      I’m so glad these words helped. I know they helped me to write them!

      xo
      Darcy

    • Joanna Shupe says:

      OH, I love this quote!!

  8. Hi, Darcy! Thanks for the post giving us permission to write naturally. Have a wonderful winter growing roots.

    • Darcy says:

      Hi, Dawn Marie! My gosh, you’re so welcome.

      Thanks for dropping by and I wish you plentiful sales and a productive growing season as well :)

      xo
      Darcy

  9. Lark Howard says:

    Great post, Darcy. I’ve been struggling to bang out my daily minimum of 200 words a day over the past few weeks due to a crazy amount of work at the day job. I’m not sure my subconscious is creating anything brilliant during this slow time, but I’ll trust you it is and wait for the “literary spring” to come.

    So glad we’re trees in the same forest!

    • Darcy says:

      Thanks, Lark! I am happy to share the forest too! And listen, you don’t have to trust me there is brilliance brewing in your subconscious quiet…trust YOU. They don’t call it a leap of faith for nothing 😉

      Cheers to the spring!

      xo
      Darcy

  10. Chris Taylor says:

    Great post, Darcy. I love the metaphors and imagery. You ought to be a writer! LOL! I hope when the winter thaws and the Spring arrives, you’ll be overwhelmed by your word fruit. All the best for 2014.xx

    • Darcy says:

      LOL, Chris! Yes, writing professionally has crossed my mind 😉 So appreciate you stopping with your well-wishes! And I’m hopeful this year’s fruit will be a bumper crop as it most certainly has been for you!

      Wishing you an abundance of sales as you dive into Indie waters!

      xo
      Darcy

  11. Jean Willett says:

    Oh, Darcy, you said it eloquently! We need that creative time to mull over all aspects of our stories.I call it percolating. My story has to rumble around my head. I write copious notes, work a story board of mind-mapping lines and colors, then pray my subconscious will spew it out in a logical structure. Right…hasn’t happened yet, but the information available in all that percolating becomes a draft to edit. Stories need to season.

    • Darcy says:

      Jean, what a wonderful surprise! Percolating is certainly an apt word for the process. And like you, I’ve yet to experience a spontaneous spewing once the percolation is complete. Still. It doesn’t stop me from hoping one day it’ll happen :)

      Thanks for dropping in and sharing!

      xo
      Darcy

  12. Darcy,
    I wholeheartedly agree! That’s the problem with doing NaNo sometimes. I have a very love/hate relationship with the month of November. I will say this about the word count thing. Even though I feel stressed to get the words on the page to make those bars on the graph show my progress, I’ve come to realize that it’s okay for the first draft to be craptastic. I usually don’t get a feel for a character (especially secondary characters) until far along into the book. So, by getting those first words down it’s more like an exercise for me.
    I completely agree about the roots developing when you don’t visually see the proof of it. Sometimes my best scenes come to me in the shower (and, yes, I talk to myself there) or in a traffic jam (and, yes, I talk to myself there as well–thank God for hands-free cell phones to make it look like I’m not crazy). So, I guess my roots lie in showers and traffic. haha.
    Great post, Darcy! :-)

    • Darcy says:

      LOL. Oh, Kim, I KNEW I could count on you to root in showers and traffic 😉 I once had an epiphany while cleaning the toilet. You just never know when/where inspiration will strike!

      But I think it’s great that you’re able to take away from NaNo what IS useful and let the rest go. That’s a practice we should try and embrace with everything in life!!!

      Thanks for swinging by…and drive safe 😉

      xo
      Darcy

  13. Yes. Just…Yes to this. Sometimes you just have to be still in order to let things grow. A fabulous post Darcy! And perfect timing for me…

  14. Hi Darcy.

    Awesome post! And so very true. We all have complex root systems that continue to grow and spread (Much like our writerly behinds) as we navigate each day. So when I get stuck and need an emotion, I can dig deep and remember how I felt the day my oldest started kindergarten, or the first time I laid eyes on my hubby, or the day my mother died. Our roots are our life experiences always there to draw upon, and to perhaps inspire different endings than those we had. (And about the only good thing about getting old!!! ;0) Glad to know you’re doing well!

    • Darcy says:

      Ahhh, Tammy! It’s so great to “see” you! Roots are complicated things, aren’t they? Happy to hear you’re using yours to breathe life into your wonderful writing. Thanks for sharing and joining the party! Oh and you’ve brought drinks!!!

      And speaking of parties…I still have that black feather boa you gave me 😉

      xo
      Darcy

  15. tracy brogan says:

    Brilliance. I can see the shine of it from all the way over here! Love this post. And at last, a reason to celebrate my dark roots.

    • Darcy says:

      Aww, shucks, you flatterer, you :) My darling T, you have every reason to celebrate those dark roots. For crying out loud, they’ve been to Graceland! Which automatically makes them glittery and magical. The words, they’ll be a rollin off your fingers!

      Glad you could stop by!

      xo
      Darcy

  16. Hey Darcy, great post! Sometimes I write in ‘focus view’ which minimizes distractions on the screen–it hides word count which takes my mind off the numbers. I love the idea of my story growing ‘roots’!

    • Darcy says:

      *squeal* Patty! What a fabulous surprise! And what a clever way to get yourself in the zone and avoid glaring at those numbers. Because I swear those numbers glare back.

      Happy growing 😉

      xo
      Darcy

  17. Melissa Keir says:

    This is something I needed to hear now. I’m in hibernation mode because of being swamped with work (yucky day job) and no time. I don’t even have time for bathroom breaks. Anyway, I know that the stress of pushing myself to write is what has me off my game too. I see all these people who write down how many words they got done in one day, one sitting and I choke. I’m a tree, gosh darn it!

    • Darcy says:

      LOL. Melissa, you are a MIGHTY tree! So you can just tell that to anyone flaunting their word count. Course they may think you’re a bit deranged, but it only adds to a person’s appeal (IMO).

      I’m so happy you stopped by and feel better for it!

      xo
      Darcy

  18. Joanna Shupe says:

    Perfect timing for me as well. Our chapter does a 30,000 writing spring in February…and I don’t know if I’m ready this year. I feel like my story needs to percolate a little longer, but then THE GUILT. Oh, God! The Guilt!

    Thanks for this post. Well said, as you do.

    • Darcy says:

      Joanna, say the word and i’ll come over kick Guilt’s ass. Seriously, it’s an absolute WASTE of emotion… (and yet we all do it.)

      My vote? Listen to your gut. I think we need to guard the joy of creation more fiercely than we often do.

      Thank you for dropping in!

      xo
      Darcy

      p.s. Tell Guilt i’m packing brass knuckles.

  19. Diane Burton says:

    Very insightful post, Darcy. It’s hard to quantify our writing, though word count does help. But creating is more than quantity. I like the analogy of a tree in winter. Good job.

    • Darcy says:

      Why thank you, Diane! Appreciate the comment and am delighted the post resonates :)

      Wishing you wonderful writing! Whatever your season.

      xo
      Darcy

  20. Kristen says:

    I can see why this post is resonating with everyone! Smart and comforting words of wisdom. Now, please tell me that since my word count has been zilch every day for too long that I’ve got a full-blown tree ready to burst out next time I sit down with my ms? 😉

    • Darcy says:

      Hey Kristen! Welp, I’m a believer in the “anything is possible” line of thinking. And while I can’t guarantee WHEN it’ll blossom, I imagine your root system is becoming quite substantial :)

      So, way to grow and thanks for popping by!

      xo
      Darcy

  21. Lucy Kubash says:

    Nice analogy. I hope I’m a tree right now, because my brain seems to be frozen. Thanks for sharing and giving me hope.

    Lucy

    • Darcy says:

      Oh dear Lucy, we are ALL frozen here in the mitten! You are ABSOLUTELY the tree. You’ve just got to hang in there until the great thaw and those ideas will melt all over the keyboard & into that story :)

      Keep the faith and thank you for commenting!

      xo
      Darcy

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