by Pat Miller
Autumn in Texas lasts about 48 hours.
Few of our trees change colors. Instead they cling to their green leaves until, one cool day, they shed them like a sneeze.
For Valentine's Day three years ago, my husband bought me this Shantung maple. Its Texas SuperStar description bragged that it "...turns spectacular red or red–orange in late fall. "
The first fall, the tree showed absolutely no color but green. Maybe it was still too young.
The second fall arrived. No red, no orange, not even brown.
I was full of hope this third autumn. Mentor trees across the street flaunted riotous reds and oranges.
One crisp day, half the leaves fell off. Still green. I decided my maple was a dud. Spectacular was not in its vocabulary.
Winter winds revealed how wrong I was.
Turns out, this slacker tree is actually perfect. It was selected from among finer trees by a female mockingbird.
The tree's stubbornly green leaves protected her and her family until they and the leaves flew away in their season. Mama Mocker thought this was, indeed, a spectacular tree.
I overlooked what was hiding in plain sight.
This maple revelation reminds me of my writing journey.
For years I tried to write fiction. One story was rejected 32 times before publication. The others continue to migrate through publishers.
I thought it was because I was new at this. So, I attended conferences, took online classes, and faithfully showed up at my computer.
Year two and three went by, and my fiction was still "green". Mentor texts and colleagues revealed their secrets, but my imagination refused to get vivid. My stories were duds.
Then one spring, I tried my hand at nonfiction--a biography. Research became addictive, my subject became a family member, the writing was more effortless. Turns out, creating color from my imagination isn't my strength. But constructing a nest to support the life of another is.
Maybe your writing strength is hiding in plain sight. Besides fiction, try biography, science, poetry, and magazine articles. Perhaps you'll discover a spectacular talent!
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