willburn rantA productive weekend is behind me.  I’ve re-organized the shed, wired in a new light for the barn cats, planted six five-gallon Itea and marked out the corners for the spring vegetable garden.  There’s a new straw bale encampment for the leftover camellias, a water barrel installed on the barn downspout and my family is currently sleeping off the remains of a damn good roast dinner.

Now I’ve got to blog about it.

Never mind the fact that I’ve already written two print columns this week.  I’m a garden writer in the digital age.  It’ll take more than 600 twice-weekly words of well thought out copy, wickedly injected with humor and carefully wrapped in clever cultural references to grab the attention of gardeners digging with the hand that isn’t holding their phones.  They want daily updates, tips, trips, edge, ten-star photos and reviews on the latest tool. Don’t bore them with too many adjectives.  Don’t jade them with too many facts.  Just give them your status. And then do it again.

Staring at the screen, I can’t help remembering a lecture I once attended by the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Russell Baker who bemoaned the fact that writers today have no time to think.  Blog blog blog.  Find some time to do the work we’re blogging about.  Blog blog blog some more. I fought the title of “blogger” for years.  I’m a writer, a columnist, a freelancer…anything but a blogger.

Oh no my darling – own your hell.  Blog.  The screen is still blank.  WordPress wants a title – something catchy. Key words, key words….Well, ‘garden’ obviously, but does that negate the need for ‘gardener?’  I list ‘garden’ and all variations thereof and write the required two paragraph update on my plot, my life, my dress-size for the stalkers and my headache for the sympathizers.  Facebook is updated, the sidebars are changed, a photo is added and Sisyphus is once again at the top of the hill.

Yet the boulder will roll down again, and  in my thoughtless keystrokes and hurried references I will lose my voice.

A writer’s voice, their greatest strength, ebbing quietly away in a world of one-sentence tweets and indulgent diary-esque musings. The voice that made you want to live with Lloyd at Great Dixter, sip sherry with Sackville-West, and take Amy Stewart to a party.  The voices that charmed you and delighted  you and never over-used the rule of three.  Those voices are busy gardening . Do you have the patience to wait for what they write?  Will you have the time to read it?

Marianne Willburn is a garden columnist and freelance writer gardening in Northern Virginia.  You can read more at The Small Town Gardener or follow her work on Facebook. In 2000 she became a GardenRant partner