Bricks and old bones — what foils your new?

We recently had a gardening adventure at work. We were gifted a beautiful array of donated plants. The team cheerfully volunteered to re-home these into a shady, tree-lined backyard. The day started out well. We had new gloves, new shovels, waterbottles and a row of shiny new plants at our heels.

The happy stalled moments later when our shiny new shovels bite through the soft layer of fallen leaves and mulch and… cracked against broken bricks, roots, old pipes and dry dirt.

I am not the strongest, most athletic, enthusiastic of specimens. My enthusiasm and zen feelings popped like a balloon as we uncovered bricks, broken clay pipes, the remnants of old walls and dirt so dry it felt like concrete. It turns out there are a lot of interesting things beneath that deceptively peaceful layer of rotting leaves and fresh dirt. And… those interesting things were bloody hard to dig through!

As I pretended to dig, pausing to rescue the occasional ridiculously hard-core worm, it got me thinking about what lies beneath the soft, friendly mulch of our creative selves. How easy is it to dig suitably deep holes for vibrant, shiny new things to grow in our creative minds and routines?

We may love the concept of setting vibrant new plants in artfully arranged neat rows, but… how hospitable are we?

How teachable are we?

I have been hungrily devoured online courses and workshops for two years now. I set a generous budget and ambitious targets of how many workshops/courses/resources I will work through in a year. My learning curve has been astronomical. I could fill ten books with all the things I DIDN’T know about… well, writing a book. It has set a thirst in me that I hope will never be quenched. I want to be a life-long learner, actively pursuing opportunities to study aspects of writing and story-telling and people and publishing until the final words trip through my mind.

Is learning as simple as ticking a box and saying “done”?

Do we make space to revise and revisit things we feel we have mastered? Would a new teacher/mentor/angle deepen our understanding of a topic? Do we need to review something we know, to build confidence on the ‘why’, or remind ourselves of something we “knew” but then slipped sideways off?

Time and money is a finite resource. We do need to think strategically about what we are doing, and why, but this doesn’t mean what we already know (or think we know and have mastered) should foil the shovel-strokes of new exploration, or block the design plans for a shiny, vibrant new garden.

How teachable are you?

Is it time to consider what boulders/blockages/remnants of the old blocks progress with your new?

First published on my website 13 May 2021

Nicole writes short stories and novel length speculative fiction and a weekly blog or