I was trying to find an analogy for writing when farming came to mind. A new novel is like a farmer’s new crop. Consider what goes into getting the novel to that stage: first there are the seeds of an idea, then the first drafts, then the feedback, the hunt for a publisher, chasing the market by promoting the work, and later, counting the pennies as royalties roll in (if they roll in!). Finally, wiping the slate clean and writing the next book.
Farmers too plant seeds of various kinds: tried•and•true varieties like canola, soy and corn, or specialty organic seeds, just as the writers develop their ideas in either mainstream or literary fiction. Aren’t trial crops like drafts, isn’t the weather at times just as hostile as literary criticism and rejection letters, isn’t the hunt for buyers of farm produce in a commoditized market difficult, and aren’t the pickings slim? Isn’t the harvest like a book launch? Isn’t Fall the most lucrative time of the year for a farmer as it is for an author? Is letting the field lie fallow over the winter before re•planting in spring like letting the imagination rest and re•invigorate itself for the next novel?
Some farmers sell out to conglomerates and co•operatives and work for guaranteed prices and quotas, much like contract writers or journalists. Others take their chances at selling their wares at country fairs and friendly co•ops like self•published authors do. Some writers even peddle their work at weekend farmers markets, rubbing shoulders with their buddies•in•hardship? There must be an unexpressed kinship and bonding taking place at these venues among these silent types. Oh, and lest we forget, Canada Revenue likens farming to writing as the only profession in which the practitioner is not expected to make a profit during his lifetime!
The only difference between these two vocations I find is that as farms wane and farmers exit their industry today, writers are entering theirs in droves and we are awash in new literature delivered via traditional and non•traditional forms. Writers are at a different end of their cycle than farmers, it appears. But cycles do go around. The recent rise in global food prices is a harbinger of what happens when farmers are not given their due respect. Perhaps faming will return to its once held place of pre•eminence among the trades once global food scarcity levels hit a higher notch, if we aren’t there already. It be nice to see writers return to their once lofty pedestal too, being provided just reward for their sincere toil, for unreservedly sharing their imaginations with the world. Ah, but then I am a dreamer.
There is another glitch to realizing this dream. Farming produces stomach food while writing generates soul food. And in the human hierarchy of needs, farming will always come first. We have not evolved as a society yet to recognize that soul food is as important as belly food. I wonder if I would be treated with more respect the next time I introduce myself not as a writer but as “a farmer of soul food?” Would I be embraced graciously or would I be asked a dumb question like “Can I buy your stuff at the grocery store? Which aisle?”