What Kind of Writer Are You: Gardener or Architect?

writing like gardening


I am a gardener. Well, I am not a gardener by trade per se, but a gardener by style. That is the best writing tip I have ever received, and it was given to me by the great George R. R. Martin. Some may know him as the author of the world-famous ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ saga, a certified procrastinator and a fellow gardener.

The art of writing is a style of personal expression shared by myself, Martin and many other people within this grand world of ours. While I would call myself a writer, I have often felt as if my writing was lazy or too spontaneous, as if it was just not the right way to write. However, that changed when I listened to an interview with Martin.

According to the wise procrastinator, there are two types of writers: architects and gardeners. These two types of people have a myriad of differences regarding how they construct their books, how they plan out their narratives and how their stories ultimately end. Martin claims to be a gardener, though he does also dabble with bits of architecture, and neither can be claimed to be the best style of writing.

Architects are marked by paradigms of organisation, planning and structure. That is, they are exemplified by their ability to meticulously imagine every detail of their story before putting it into narrative form. Examples of the architect include the likes of J. D. Salinger and Harper Lee, who were perfectionists by trade.

Contrastingly, gardeners are on the opposite end of the spectrum. They are marked by their ability to envision details of a story while predominantly allowing it to grow according to what feels right. The gardener often allocates the course of the story to the characters and events, as if they were alive and acting of their own volition. Some examples of the gardener are the aforementioned George R. R. Martin and the marvellous Stephen King.

Let it be known, however, that no writer is one extreme or the other. No matter how hard we may try to resist it, we all have bits of gardening and architectural work within us.

While it may seem enticing to plan out an entire story ahead of time, making sure that every minute detail is curated and thought out, is just not practical for me. I lose steam and passion if I lay out the bones of the story ahead of me. The intrigue and joy that come from discovering the narrative then vanish away.

For the longest time, I thought of my tendency to write whenever I felt like it as a sign of a poor writer because the work often becomes messy. Meanwhile, I would look at the architect to see the neatest and most eloquently expressed work of literature, a sign of true craftsmanship and perfection.

However, after hearing Martin’s interview and his assertion that there are two paradigms of writing, I found myself with a new understanding. Despite how I may feel like an inferior writer because I prefer gardening to architecture, it is my own style, and that is all it is. As long as ideas can be expressed through the art of writing, neither the gardener nor the architect is in the wrong.

About the Author

Tri Nguyen is an aspiring freelance writer in Southern California. With a deep interest in neuroscience and philosophy, he often writes on his academic blog at https://slovenlyscholar.wordpress.com. Formal writings as well as casual dialogues can be found here. 



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