Sago Palms and Writing–Trust the Process

Look at these twin sago palm crowns!

Colder than normal temperatures of the past winter damaged our great, old-fashioned looking sago palm shrub. I was heart-broken to see its dead fronds. In May, after considerable debate and research,  my husband and I trimmed off all the shrub’s fronds, leaving two large brown and shaggy dead-looking trunks coming out of a single one in the ground.

We watched for signs of life. June came, and verdant green fronds began to sprout from the ‘babies’ growing all around the base of the shrub. I liked those babies, because I like the wildness of an untrimmed sago. But nothing happened on the two main trunks. I wailed, I fretted, I wanted hubby to cut babies from the base in hopes of channeling all the energy to the main plant. For a variety of reasons, we never did that, summer got hot and I accepted what may come.

Toward the end of June–June on the Gulf Coast, I remind you, when summer had been here for months and months–two large seed pods came out from the center of each trunk. Great long things, and yes, they looked exactly like penises. They grew and grew, and then sat there, sort of bent. I kept watching and waiting, too. All of a sudden, in the third week of July, tiny pale fronds showed off to the side of each seed pod. Over the following week, those fronds grew with remarkable speed, pushing out the wilted seed ponds, until the fronds came shooting out like great crowns of glory. The sago lived!

Creativity–like human life itself–begins in darkness. ~Julia Cameron.

All those months when nothing was evident to the eye, deep in the plant and ground the natural creative process had been going on. Step by unseen step the creative process proceeded, until out into the world came the result.

“Trust the process,” taught writer Jack Bickham.

Last week I wrote and re-wrote on a series of scenes for days. They were good with action, but I just could not see that I was getting anywhere. I could not  ‘get it right’, meaning, which I did not know at the time, I was struggling to see exactly what my characters needed to say. I kept on writing, as if fumbling in the dark, and I also kept on fretting impatiently over my writing, as I had fretted over the sago palm. Until one morning, after another frustrating session of writing, the insight of what I was trying to say dawned as clearly and fully as those new fronds popping out from the sago. Ah-ha!

This is my process, especially as I am beginning and crafting the first third of the novel. I have said I have difficulty trusting the process, but in truth I do trust, or I would not keep returning to the blank page and trying again.  The more I can trust the process, the richer and more powerful will be the result.

6 thoughts on “Sago Palms and Writing–Trust the Process

  1. OMG! I just about fell out of the chair reading this post; I was going along reading about your palms, then when you described the seed pods looking like penises, I cracked up. I will never look at a sago palm the same way again; from now on I will smile and think of them as “CurtissAnn’s Penis Palms.” (My husband can’t figure out why I’m laughing hysterically, and I won’t share this joke with him!)


  2. The hard part is whenever people you are closest to, do not trust the process you are going/growing through.

    My Dad’s sago palms took a hit too…he trimmed off a lot of brown fronds, but they survived.


  3. A great lesson for all of us, CurtissAnn! Thank you!!!

    We’re burning up in KC. . . 98 by 5:00 p.m. However, I am still thankful I don’t have to shovel my drive!!! 🙂 L, Dana


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