Write as Rain
Don’t bother; I know what you’re going to say. You’re about to tell me that it should be “Right as Rain.”
That is the expression, but I meant, “write.” And I have just illustrated my point. When we write, we are trying to get something to start growing in the reader. We may call our words a germ, a seed, what lovely horticultural metaphors. But we want them to germinate, to sprout, to develop first into questions and then into ideas.
I’m not very knowledgeable about gardening. In fact, you might say I have two brown thumbs and a tendency to preserve the weeds and cull the veggies. But I do love the thought of plants growing, poking their heads through the surface of the soil, and reaching for the sun. There is nothing more beautiful than tomatoes clinging to their stake, corn reaching for the sky, or iris dancing in the breeze. I even love the world of tubers and roots—those hearty souls plunging deep into the earth and filled with minerals and dark tastes.
How can the plants of our literary creation come to life? How can they take root in the rich soil that is our readers? Why, we must “write as rain.”
Is it not the water that wakens the garden? Is it not necessary before the seed can sprout? So, too, it is the way we present our ideas that arouse that first thinking, that wonderful first questioning or perhaps a soul satisfying aha.
The first task of writing is to catch the reader’s attention; that gentle watering as if an April shower can capture the eye and mind.
But that is not enough. Once the reader’s attention has been won, the ideas planted must have their opportunity to grow. What does the garden need after the rain? Sun.
Having watered with our words, we must develop themes and plots as if we are slowly illuminating this patch of grass and that bed of flowers. The quality of good writing is dappled. Do not hide and cloud with darkness; shine clearly on your thoughts and themes. They are like beams of light meant to illuminate the reader’s mind. But do not become so obsessed with showing the light that you burn the plants you have meant to nurture. Remember that some plants do better in the bright and others in the shade. Shine as the sun, but the sun of May, a sun filled with warmth and love but not threatening the painful burns and drought of summer.
Over the course of your book, essay, or story the ideas within the reader grow, and that is rewarding. But is it enough? Not for me.
I want to see my plants take on their own life, to spread their seeds into the wind. If my writing doesn’t also provide the breeze, then I have failed. When my writing inspires someone to read, to share, perhaps even to write on their own, then I have set new spores free and added to the world in which I live.
The breeze of which I speak comes from emotion. Good writing generates emotion, as surely as good gardening produces good taste and good scent. Since I am primarily a novelist, it is my characters who carry my zephyrs and blasts. They are real and they experience life in full complexity, confusion, and pain. When the reader carries about those people, then the full force of my wind is loosed.
Ah, the wonder of nature and the grandeur of writing.
Let us strive to start by writing as the rain.