I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pruning Each Other's Orchards

Photo by gabriel77/istockexchange.com

My recent ACFW conference was unsettlingly wonderful! Besides the obvious writing expertise, I was awed by the spiritual nurturing and support, particularly experienced among the Ponderers. I am so thankful for the relationships established during last October's MBT StoryCrafters Retreat. I cringe now to think I almost didn't attend because of budgetary concerns. The truth is, I couldn't afford to miss it.

Meeting in both Minnesota and Indiana with aspiring and accomplished authors willing to critique each others' projects, while praying for and with each other and sharing loving encouragement, reminded me of . . . Amish farmers.

Amish farmers are known for faithful diligence and abundant harvests. But it's difficult for Amish men to prune their own trees. When it's time to prepare their orchards, it's easier to prune someone else's trees.

So wise Amish neighbors arrange a day for orchard work. At a set time, men meet in the middle of the road between their orchards and shake hands. Then the farmers proceed to their neighbors' trees to do all of the cutting necessary to bring those trees to maximum potential in the next fruit-bearing season.

At the end of the day, the men give the trees a final look, ensuring they have done all the required pruning. They then meet again in the middle of the road, shake hands and wish each other well. From that point on, every farmer and his family enjoys seeing the orchards reach full potential.

So it is with Christian authors. We write for Him--but we also are meant to support one another as we pursue the creative process. We often meet in the middle of our writing roads, shake hands, exchange skills, bless each other and shake hands again, and then await and enjoy our mutual harvests--our successes. Because of our shared efforts, the blossoms seem more fragrant, the fruits more lovely. Most of all, God is pleased by our unselfish cooperation and freely-expressed love as we follow Him while serving each other.

It is now officially fall. Apples and other fruits are being harvested. But no matter what the calendar says, it is always the season to contact our writing "neighbors" and arrange to meet in the middle of the road between our orchards to exchange support, services and rejoice in many bumper crops.

~Delores Topliff


  1. Dee, I loved this analogy when you shared it with me the first time. And I still love it!!

  2. Great post, Dee! And like Beth said, a lovely analogy. I'm so thankful to have "met in the middle of the road" with you and others at ACFW.

    Also, I'm now hungry for a golden crisp apple.

  3. It's hard to prune their own trees because they're so fond of the trees? That's so like "kill the darlings" that we often hear in writing circles.

    It hard to red ink my own darlings, but I'm so thankful for critique partners who will do it for me while I do theirs.

    Beautiful analogy, Delores!

  4. Great post, Delores, and so timely! Now that we've had a week to process what we learned at the conference it's time to get to the pruning. My crit partner and I have shaken hands and exchanged "orchards." I'm looking forward to a great harvest!
    I miss you all so much - hugs!

  5. Case in point: Today I didn't know how to start an article. So I posted on Facebook: Anybody have a suggestion for jump-starting an article?
    Edie came across the road and offered a suggestion--and I'm started on a rough draft!

  6. I love the analogy, Dee! So often we are so close to our story we can't see what needs to be pruned. I, too, am thankful for this group and their sharing heart.

  7. Beautiful post! :)

  8. Awesome post Dee. You have such a beautiful way with words.

  9. Delores,

    I so enjoyed your post! I have done some reading about the Amish, so I should not be surprised that the men help each other in this way. :) I love how you brought it out in a fresh light the beauty of having someone else critique (help) our works. Isn't it wonderful how, even in farming and in writing, we do our best when we are letting ourselves be as God created us to be: dependent on Him and interdependent on each other? Thanks for the word picture and the wonderful post!

  10. When I'd call my girlfriend and ask for her prayers, after saying yes, she'd always say ... "Its easier to do someone elses dirty laundry than my own."

    I guess the same is true about writing. Its easier to think outside someone else's box than our own.

  11. I'm often too close to my own writing to see the pruning it needs. I am ever grateful to crit partners who jump in to tell me what I need to hear!

  12. I'm almost home from ACFW, finally get there tonight, w/ many memorable times, hugs, even on top of conf., so I've got a Dr. Seuss-like ice-cream cone piled high w/ so many scoops I'm staggering around trying to keep it upright when maybe I should gently lower it w/ the help from friends and have a yummy ice cream party.
    Love and miss you all, Dee

  13. Such a beautiful post, Dee! I'm thankful for those who have helped me prune my orchards and vise versa. :)

  14. Love this, Delores. Thanks for sharing!