“Words are like flowers… cultivate them carefully, arrange them artfully, and you will create something beautiful.”
Just like gardening, some people have wonderful green thumbs and their plants flourish and thrive. Others (like me) have the Black Thumb of Death!
Fortunately (for me) my writing skills are much better than my gardening skills.
So how do you go about creating beautiful masterpieces that you’re proud to display? Well, just like a garden, you need to put in a lot of hard work and effort.
Put a $1 Plant in a $10 Hole
The key to a healthy garden is great soil preparation; likewise, it’s also important to prepare your fertile imagination to sow the seeds of creativity. The best way to do this is to READ LOTS! And lots of different things (not just your favourite Stephen King books over and over *guilty*).
Whether it be books, blogs, magazines, newspapers, or tweets, each new source will expose you to new ideas, perspectives and writing styles. Don’t worry if it’s not Tolstoy or Shakespeare, after all, one of the most important components in soil preparation is manure, so feel free to engage in a little pulp fiction from time to time. As long as you’re reading something, your mind is being fed.
You Can’t Grow Mangoes in the Alps
Just as you would research which plants you would grow in your region, you also need to research who will be reading your copy. It’s no good writing flowery, poetic prose if your intended audience are blokey-blokes looking for information about deep-water fishing.
When you understand the language your audience will respond best to, you can provide the right kind of climate with the words you use.
Pulling the Weeds
In any new garden, the weeds will grow thick and fast, but ultimately need to be disposed of to let the better plants thrive. Writing is a similar process – you can get a lot of words on the page, but you need to pull out the useless material to get to the good stuff.
Once you’ve established which words and phrases to nurture, you can start tending to them, helping them grow in to something truly spectacular.
Where would the stunning gardens of Versailles be without the magnificent landscaping lending such structure and symmetry? Without the careful planning, it would be nothing more than a random collection of carefully sculpted topiaries. While it might be interesting, it certainly wouldn’t hold the same appeal.
Just like Versailles, your writing will also benefit from structure and planning. Start with a general theme, map the general layout, then fill in the details. The most obvious structural details of writing are: the beginning (opening statement), middle (content), and end (conclusions).
The finer details include spacing, paragraphs, punctuation, spelling and grammar. When you’re done writing your piece – stand back and check it over from a few different angles to make sure there’s no azaleas where the roses should be.
Even the most glorious gardens benefit from regular pruning to keep them in tight shape and your writing is no different. Once you’ve landscaped, fertilised, and weeded your copy, it will still benefit from a little pruning to refine its shape and make it look perfect.
Take a careful look at your text and see if the odd contraction can be used (“you’ll” instead of “you will”, for instance), or if there are some superfluous uses of “that” which can be removed. While these changes may seem fairly minor, their overall effect can be quite substantial.
So as you can see, with a little TLC, both your garden and your writing can flourish… well, unless of course you have that cursed Black Thumb of Death, in which case you may be better of just calling in a gardener (or a copywriter, of course!)