November 07, 2016

The Benefits of Falling Off the Tree - Ramona Heikel

I am in my first dry spell in my twenty-year writing practice.  I have little ideas here and there, but I miss the joy of being driven by a large concept and message significant enough to fill a book manuscript. 

On my good days I am okay with this, because I can usually trust God to manage my writing life. But other times can be a challenge, such as when I foolishly swing by the Writing Section in a library or bookstore--and I read about how I can make my (future?) characters more colorful or believable,  successfully market my (non-existent) non-fiction book, or do school visits for my (unpublished) children's picture book. 

Then I feel like a little child standing behind a six-foot high chain-link fence, watching the big kids having all the fun.

So what's a writer to do?


Have faith. Wait patiently. Be open. Pray. Expect. Be grateful for the "rest".

Perhaps that's oversimplifying it, I don't know. But to help me believe, and draw encouragement, I study nature. I tend to look at nature and see God.  My mind translates nature's ways into how God works, and how life works.

So I ask myself, "What actually happens during the shedding of leaves? It seems like such a sad, dreary time, so why does a good God set up an annual season of bleak, bare, bony trees? Isn't God all about life, evidenced in beauty and greenery?"

Here is what my research turned up, along with my rather abstract metaphorical responses. (I hope you will humor me!)

When the cool, dry weather comes along, and the food production of the leaves slows down, the tree intentionally cuts off the leaves in order for the tree and branches to survive. So in a way, if my creative leaves fall off the tree, that can be a benefit to the branches and trees. And who are the branches and trees? I'm not sure, but "I am the vine (tree?), you are the branches" comes to mind.

The tree reabsorbs the nutrients from the leaves before they fall, and stores them in the roots. That is a positive concept: creativity is not wasted during dry times, it is stored for the future.

Shedding its leaves may help trees pollinate in the spring, and many trees flower while they are still leafless. Pollinating and flowering make me think of bearing fruit. Perhaps, because of some transformation during this dry period, my future articles and stories will spread more widely and bear more fruit.

Losing leaves may help reduce damage to the tree by insects. When I think of insects I think of pests, annoyances and antagonism. Maybe in some mysterious way my fallow writing times can give me the strength to resist pesky doubts and discouragement.

Leaves on the ground put mineral salts and nutrients back into the soil, and the acids of decaying leaves dissolve rocks into the soil (replenishing it with sulphur, phosphorus, potash, iron, silica). This is provision for future blossoms of creative thought: nourishing the soul and spirit while it is at rest, thereby creating a deep well to draw from, rather than a shallow stream.

Wildlife species live in, or rely on, the layer of fallen leaves. These leaves, then, provide a benefit for the natural community. Could our restful times somehow benefit our fellow writers, or the collective body of writing? Of course.

I am fascinated and comforted by nature and its messages. I hope these facts and conjectures will provide an encouraging perspective--and a starting place for your own ponderings--during an autumn or winter in your own writing experience.

Ramona Heikel

Leaves photos by Unsplash, public domain, 

If you're interested, I found information about the science behind falling leaves at these links (the NPR link is quite entertaining!) :


  1. Excellent analogy Ramona!

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  4. Just a minute, Ramona. I need to reread your post. First question: When were you reading my mind to see how things were going with my writing? Then you were watching me behind the chainlink fence, while I watched so many other InScribers having fun. Sometimes we need to go out and kick the leaves and think about nature to see what is truly happening inside us. Thanks for this science lesson and brilliant metaphor. You have spoken to my writer's heart and soul.

    Spring is coming!

  5. Thank you both for your comments! Sharon, you gave me a good laugh. It's an amazing feeling to relate so closely to another writer's feeling, and I'm so glad to have this camaraderie with you! I'm looking forward to seeing your beautifully unfolding spring green writer's leaves :)


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