I ran my first online writers’ circle last week and was discussing the writing of articles with my students.
“I think I am more of a gardener,” said Nikki.
“Eh?” I think I responded. I had never heard this phrase before, well, certainly not in the context of writing.
“I am more of a gardener than an architect,” she continued.
I was none the wiser so asked for more explanation. And after she had explained I asked her to repeat it so I could take notes.
You see, some writers like to plan it all out first – to create a structure and then start writing. Others are more of the ‘put the pen on the paper and just go’ type of writer, as Natalie Goldberg writes in her book Writing Down the Bones, like me.
Nikki told me that the original concept is attributed to George RR Martin, the guy behind the Game of Thrones novel, who wrote:
“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be.
George RR Martin
The gardening bit
In the online writers’ circle, in my workshops and on Me-Treats I always include plenty of spontaneous exercises where I present an idea and immediately give students five, 10 or 15 minutes in which to write something. I give them with a seed of an idea, let them start gardening and just see where it takes them; how it grows.
For me, I start with the germ of an idea, one that is not yet fully formed, put fingers to keyboard and go with the flow, writing from my gut until my ideas run out. I work out what I am going to say while I am writing it.
The architect bit
After a break (a few hours or more) I return to the piece to put some structure onto it, adding subheadings if I feel I need them, maybe moving the text around a bit and cutting unnecessary words. I always ensure I include some kind of insight or takeaway because I like my readers to feel that my words are worth reading enough to come back again.
It makes no difference whether you are a gardener or an architect, or, better still a bit of both. It is okay to start off with a detailed plan or with just a seed. What matters is that you accept who you are and learn to craft your natural style into a coherent piece worth reading.
author, journalist, teacher and poet
'Sharing what I know to help others to grow.'
Jo Parfitt has published 31 books, helped more than 100 authors get into print and more than 1,000 to begin writing. She's an inspiring, compassionate and encouraging teacher.
Jo has run Summertime Publishing since 1997. She has lived abroad for almost 30 years – in France, Dubai, Oman, Norway, the Netherlands, Brunei and Malaysia. She specialises in inspiring others who write about expatriate issues.
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