Monday, January 26, 2015

A Forest of Writers

As a participant in Julie Hedlund's 12x12 program I had the opportunity to do a guest post on her blog. I wrote about the symbiotic nature of writing as illustrated by the redwood tree. You can see the full article here

With just a few repeats, I've added some things about redwoods, and how they apply to writers, that I didn't add to the original: 

  • Redwood tree roots grow relatively shallow, but they are able to withstand extreme conditions and reach remarkable heights because they intertwine their roots. Writers grow best when intertwined with each other. Be it critique groups, agents, editors, etc., we need each other to reach those impossible heights. 
  • Redwood seeds are about the size of a tomato seed. A lot of people try to break into writing without any background in a writing-related study, but successful writers come from various backgrounds. Even a tiny seed of desire can burst into a towering tree with the right effort and nourishment. And when a beginning writer busting with desire plants his or her roots into the soil, it gives life to the whole forest. 
  • Redwoods can sprout new trees out of fallen ones. Think of all those lousy first drafts that ended up in the bin. Consider them fertilizer for better ideas. No writing, no matter how bad, is wasted. Even bad writing can sprout something monumental, you just have to keep trying.
  • Redwoods contain a lot of tannin in their bark. This allows them to be largely fire, insect and fungal resistant. As a writer you need "tann-acity" (cue the drum roll) to withstand the fires of rejections, bugs of self-doubt and the fungus of bad reviews.
  • Redwoods don't produce resin or pitch, which aids in their fire resistance. Try not to produce pitch, the weepy sap of discouragement or negativity that will make those fires of discouragement burn hotter and longer. And don't throw pitch at others. It just guarantees that you'll get scorched in the process. But if you have been scorched, know that trees survive and even thrive when some of that dross is burned away.
  • Strong redwoods make every redwood strong. One writer's success does not weaken another writer, rather it strengthens the whole system. J.K. Rowling's success created thousands of new opportunities for writers. When we encourage and support growth in others, we strengthen the system that our own roots draw nourishment from. A tall tree isn't competition, it's an arrow showing us the direction our own tree can grow.
Thank you all for strengthening my roots. 


  1. This is great, Johnell. I really believe writers have to help each other grow. We're in this together.

  2. Definitely. I couldn't have come this far with the help of so many patient and giving individuals.

  3. This is lovely, Johnell. Thank you for being a little redwood yourself.

  4. Lovely.
    Your sub-title on the BB about "why do writers love redwood trees" immediately made me think of the now-iconic R. Frost line, "the woods are lovely, dark and deep." The only forests around here that have that feeling of darkness and depth are in fact, redwood forests.

    1. Oh, very cool to know. I love those happy coincidences. Thanks, Mirka.

  5. This was soooo good :) and I agree that we writers need each other, I don't know how far I'd have come without the help and encouragement from other writers.