My word of the year for 2019 was bloom. The word resonates with me after nearly a decade of setting down roots and steadily growing and maturing as a writer.
The ‘blossoms’ I eagerly await are of the paper and print variety, namely books. I want my stories published. That’s the point, right? Getting to hold beautiful books that contain my creations, delighting and connecting with children through my stories, and marking my existence on the planet.
Some writers’ careers take off as quickly as coriander (cilantro) bolts in the summertime. Plant them in the ground, and BOOM they’re flowering.
My writing career has been more like the notoriously slow growing gingko biloba tree, AKA the living fossil. I like stately gingko trees, but I love peonies more. They take their time reaching maturity, but once they’re established, peonies are both hardy and prolific producers of beautiful blooms. I think I found my spirit flower.
2019 wasn’t my most prolific year, partly due to organising a state literary conference and learning the ropes for my new role as ARA (state director) of the Queensland branch of SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). Prolific no, but pleasantly challenging—yes!
As the months of 2019 have come and gone, I’ve written and edited and rewritten. Besides researching for two new ideas and finishing a picture book text called Boogie Woogie Bird, I completed early drafts of a brand new middle grade novel called Saving Arcadia, and I continue to polish and strengthen it with my Sunshine Coast Council RADF sponsored mentor, Dee White.
I’ve also not written, instead expressing or enhancing my creativity in other ways: drawing and painting, cooking and creating vegan recipes, doing yoga, researching, or reading for pleasure and professional development.
I’ve been gloriously focussed and deeply stymied. I’ve risen on updrafts of hope and the fathomed new ravines of disappointment. I had some pleasant wins among a few disappointing nos. I’ve patted my back, flexed my biceps, and licked my wounds, sometimes at the same time, which takes a lot of flexibility, let me tell you.
Blooming Despite It All
My garden is a good metaphor for my writing year. Its flourishing is haphazard. Everything keeps steadily growing regardless of the time of year and the amount of attention, but some months, for whatever reason, a lone plant explodes into blossom willy-nilly. It never happens all at once, of course, because a uniformly blooming garden would be weird. Ominous, even. Like, I’d expect a meteorite strike or a tsunami or a Pulitzer Prize notification in my mailbox.
My pathetic Aloha hibiscus is riddled with mites and ants, but it gave me a beautiful bloom on Christmas Day. A few days later, there were two more enormous blossoms. It has never had more than one flower at a time. Usually months go by with no buds, or the buds get eaten before they can open.
I can’t explain the Aloha’s bizarre anthesis. I gave it a fresh dose of slow-release fertiliser, but that’s nothing new. It hasn’t had a scoop of potash for ages.
I’m tempted to think it’s the adversity, the mite and ant infestation, that’s pushed my Aloha fight harder to bloom.
And I like that, because it means I can do the same thing. I can resist entropy, discouragement, and decay. I can instead push back, dig deep & reach high, and happily bloom despite it all.
So I’m blooming still. Check it out: My new word of the year for 2020…
Flower photos by Ali Stegert