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Report From PIA – February 15

Over the past few days I’ve been preparing my talk for the Sullivan Renaissance winter conference, and I can’t help remembering the last time I spoke in upstate New York. The audience was interested in gardening and the connection between growing plants and cultivating life, but what really captured their attention was my transition from artist to writer.

At the end of my talk, one woman raised her hand and asked, “How did you move from art to writing?” I explained that when I moved to Cape Cod, I looked for a book about Cape gardens and couldn’t find one. So I began visiting gardeners and taking photographs, hoping to interest a publisher in a picture book about area landscapes.

That idea proved to be too regional for national publishers, and too expensive for local publishing companies. But Wally Exman, of Parnassus Imprints, came to hear me speak one night and ended up asking me if I’d like to write a book of general garden advice.

At that point in my talk another woman raised her hand. “But what made you think you could write a book?” she asked. I’d told them that up until that point I hadn’t done much writing, so it wasn’t surprising that she questioned my ability.

My answer was something like this: When opportunity knocks, don’t be the one who says, “Would somebody get that?”

If a publisher asks if you’ll write a book, of course the answer is, “Yes!” Any new journey/project/work starts with the willingness to start down a road without knowing where that path will lead. We may not even know if we have the ability to complete the voyage well.

What’s important is the willingness to move forward, to find out where the road leads, and discover what we’re able to do along the way.

That might be what’s meant by the saying “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” I’d put it differently, however. I’d say, “Be willing to walk down a road not knowing if it leads to success or failure. Maybe the journey is more interesting and important than the destination.”

Gardeners are usually willing to plant not knowing if seeds will germinate, or how a particular variety will grow.

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