Yaya, my Greek grandmother, was a gardener. The best gardener I’ve ever seen. She loved fresh cut flowers in her house. Her backyard was so overrun with flowering plants— even in the fall something was in bloom— only a tiny patch of grass was visible in the center, where her grandchildren posed for pictures. The family believed gardening was her hobby. But she wasn’t obsessed. If a weed popped up, she plucked it out. The only time she pulled out her silver watering can was during a dry spell. My mom and her sisters believed Yaya’s garden thrived because of the coffee grounds and egg shells she tossed into the soil. But those ingredients never helped their gardens.

I didn’t inherit Yaya’s green thumb. I tried in college, but every potted plant I bought died within a month. During my college professor years, a student asked me to care for her philodendron over spring break. She never reclaimed it. I ended up repotting it five times. It was the beginning of my houseplant garden. At one point, I had a dozen African violets and several enormous shamrocks, as well as cacti and jade plants. It was the closest I’ve come to having a hobby. My success encouraged me to venture outside. I studied gardening magazines, purchased perennials and annuals and gave it a whirl. But I soon discovered I don’t like digging in the dirt— or weeding, or poison ivy, and I don’t like battling ticks.

And yet, I do it every day. In my writing. The weeds and poison ivy are the nasty habits that creep into my sentence structure— the incorrect punctuation, the excessive use of adverbs, and the convoluted sentences I use when four words would suffice. The ticks are my Whores of Negativity whose sole mission is to convince me I’m wasting my time.

But here’s the rub…

Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.

~Gloria Steinem

I’m not a traditional gardener. My yard is bare, and over the years my house garden has dwindled to a handful of healthy jade plants— they need the least care. But I have notebooks filled with seedlings. And I’m willing to battle whatever writing ticks threaten my progress because my stories are worth it.

What hobby have you let go of, or are you willing to relinquish in order to focus on your writing?