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  • Writer's pictureAndy Shepherd

Growing a story is almost as tricky as growing dragons!

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

But sometimes roots won’t let go easily and this story was well-rooted. It had been planted with a lot of love, you see.

When my eldest son was very small we had a dragon. The dragon arrived one day when we were stuck in traffic. Because my son would get fidgety and grumpy in the car, as lots of parents do, I made up stories to keep him from chewing through his seat belt or wiping soggy rice cakes all over the car door. Having a dragon who could lift us out of traffic jams helped no end. And because he was such a big help our dragon stayed – although he did make an awful mess of the paintwork on the car. Which is why he usually hung out on our shed.

When my second son arrived he started asking lots of questions about our dragon. Where did he come from? Where did he go when he wasn’t on our shed roof? Why had he chosen our car?

All very good questions.

And so with these questions in mind, I started writing down the story of our dragon, it became a picture book, called Tomas and His Dragon.

The seed had been planted.

(Warning – I’m about to get rather carried away with the gardening metaphor here…)

Quite early on, I invited some people into the garden to see my seedling of a story. These were experienced gardeners, and I couldn’t wait for them to see the marvellous exotic thing I was growing.

But sadly a few of them were rather careless guests. They trampled all over the little shoots. And with all the hack-and-slay advice I was getting I didn’t know who to listen to.

All I knew was that with too many gardeners in my garden, the seedling looked like it might wither away completely.

So I closed the garden gate and went back to tending carrots. Tomas’ story was still in there somewhere, but to be honest I didn’t take much notice of it. Maybe I hoped if I left it alone it might recover a little one day.

Other stories started taking up my time. And I found a fellow gardener to help who was far more wise and gentle. (Thank you Mellie!)

Every so often I’d look over and see the dragon story sapling, hidden now in the shrubbery.

I had the feeling that all the time its roots were getting stronger. But I never interfered too much.

Besides, a couple of the more blousy plants in the garden were taking up more and more of my time. And I really felt like these were ready to show. I was aiming for The Chelsea Flower Show with these beauties.

But then, after all the hopes, there was a hard frost of rejections and those blooms faded.

I stumbled around the garden, yanking up seedling stories as I went and casting them into the wheelbarrow of shame. I was going to have a bonfire to end all bonfires. Tear up this garden that I had ploughed so much time into and cover the whole lot with concrete and stupid tubs of pansies.

It was while I was grumbling my way through another handful of torn up weeds that I found my dragon story seedling. And it wasn’t a seedling any longer. It had proper roots. And I was sure there were a few more tendrils poking out.

I suddenly remembered it as a little seed and how it had started my whole garden and how much I had loved it.

So I stopped tearing things up and left the rest of the garden to grow wild and free. I turned my attention back to what I had planted in the beginning. And I decided to grow this one just for the family. Not for show.

Every day I watered it and tended it and the kids played around it and fed it, and together we looked after and grew our story.

Until it was strong. And ready to flower.

My writer friend very wisely told me that no idea is ever wasted. Sometimes they just need the right time or conditions to grow.

My advice is nurture all your ideas. Because you never know when one of them will bloom.

And if you’d like to read the full story of exactly how long it took to grow this story you can find my earlier post all about that journey here.

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