Learn How to Jam

On Bulbing, Blooming, and Wacked Bulb-to-Bloom Ratios


By Christine Carron

Patience is the last of the five Goodjelly Moves, completing the circle of skills that help you ace the writing adventure. Here’s the tricky bit: You cannot do patient. You just are (or are not) patient. A truth that got me thinking about tulips.  

In November, my friend (and fellow writer) Sharon planted a hundred tulip bulbs. To bloom in all their glory, tulips require a months-long, cold dirt bath. As far as I know, Sharon has not installed under-earth cams to live feed the progress of the bulbs. She trusted that she did her part and is now letting time, cold, and dark do theirs. Her patience with the bulbs is effortless, because she’s ignoring them and doing other things.

An approach that qualifies as a valid Patience hack. You can get better at patiently waiting for responses on query letters, for example, by focusing on a new story, learning the fiddle, taking up boxing, or doing whatever might float your distraction boat.

So, check, distraction is a valid and useful Patience hack but . . . also a bit tepid in context of the writing adventure. Why? It doesn’t fully deal with the gumption required for Writerly Patience in comparison to Tulip Patience. Sharon is an experienced gardener. Her bulb-to-bloom ratio will be pretty high come Spring. A garden awash in tulip awesomeness. But we writers might plant bulb after bulb after bulb and come our metaphorical Spring . . . nada.

Which may seem depressing, but I have a strong bias for dealing with reality. So let’s deal. There’s a lot that’s out of our control on the writing adventure, which is why the Goodjelly Moves swings into Grace and Patience territory in the first place. Luckily, with Patience there’s a deeper hack than the distraction that we can play with. We can expand what blooming means for us.

Take me for example. I’ve been writing for twelve years, and absolutely nothing has bloomed in the narrowest sense: Not a story I’ve written has been published. Yet, as I look back, I see bloom after bloom: Finishing my first story. BLOOM! Getting my first agent. BLOOM! Getting into my writing mentor’s ongoing workshop. BLOOM! Learning (after eight, freaking long years) how to do backstory. BLOOM! Being chosen as a finalist for a prestigious writing fellowship twice. BLOOM! BLOOM! An editor from Random House sitting across from me and telling me she loved my story. BLOOM! Getting my second agent. BLOOM! All those things were boosts to my confidence; encouragement to carry on.

So, yes, the reality is the bulb-to-bloom ratio on the writing adventure is totally wacked. So change your measure. Let your growth, your craft, and every good thing that happens along the way be the blooms that carry you into the next Spring and the next and the next.

The Goodjelly Prompt of the Week

  1. What are writing bulbs you have planted in the past month (sending out query letters; applying for a residency/scholarship; gotten words down on the page, etc.)?
  2. If you feel either the need to check the status of those items somewhat incessantly or self-flagellate for not being further along on the journey, what will you do to distract yourself from those more impatient ways of being?
  3. What have been special moments of blooming on your writing adventure?
  4. What strategies will you use to connect to/remind yourself of those “bloom” moments (i.e., the motivational uplift of them) when the adventure feels less blooming?