Michael Pollan says gardening makes you a better writer
The Atlantic recently compiled a year’s worth of writing advice from authors like Amy Tan, Michael Pollan, and Stephen King, all condensed into one tidy article. Notably, Pollan credits digging around in the dirt with helping him solidify the ideas in his books. Cool, right? Here are some of his tidbits:
I kept reading, and I kept gardening … I’d learned a set of values from Thoreau in the library, but it was only when I tested them — in the crucible of an actual garden with actual pests on an actual patch of land — that I was able to form my values more fully.
Pollan made the link from plate to farm to oil fields when reading Wendell Berry. Realizing that “eating is an agricultural act,” as Berry wrote, dramatically changed Pollan’s perspective — and gave him something to write about:
I didn’t have a subject until I kind of hit on the garden by mistake. And by engaging with my own agricultural struggle on a small scale, I became reoriented: I learned a way of thinking and living that I didn’t know before. I wanted to write more and more about the agricultural and political realities I am joined to by my eating.
So when, as an editor for Harper’s, he had the choice of focusing more on writing or editing, he chose the former. And everyone who read The Omnivore’s Dilemma rejoiced! Especially his agent and publisher, who if they know what’s good for them are handing out trowels to all their new writers right now.
Get Grist in your inbox