Having an outdoor garden in which to relax is truly a lovely thing. But you may feel disappointed because you don’t have an outdoor space in which to build one. Maybe you see photos online and they look beautiful and serene, but then you feel lousy that you don’t have the space, money, or time to live your dream. Well, you actually don’t need any of those things. Because sometimes the dream is just as powerful as the real life experience.
Take me, for instance. I’ve always loved those tidy European potagers I see in gardening books, magazines and websites. They’re often similar. They have gravel or crushed lime for a base. They’re laid out in squares or rectangles in a courtyard formation. Sometimes they’re lined with boxwood shrubs or stone borders. At the center, they always have a lovely birdbath or triangular obelisk. I often see lavender and rosemary blooming. Tomatoes and beans tumbling around. Just thinking about it soothes my soul.
Well, studies show that imagining is highly effective at growing our happiness. Also, learning about the potager’s dimensions, materials, plants, and all else can boost a person’s mood as well. And so, while I feel a little sad that I don’t live in the countryside in France where I could walk out in the sun every morning and pluck a sweet pea off a vine, I know living the dream in my head is a positive healthy thing for my mind.
How I Build my Dream Garden
Years ago, the best way to create a dream garden might have been to create a board of photos and articles. Tack up newspaper articles, diagrams from books, photos from glossy magazines. And you of course can still do that. The tactile experience can’t be beat. But you can also create a Pinterest account in seconds. Pin your diagrams, articles on vegetables from that site. You can also get a Pinterest plug in that allows you to pin any photo you see on the internet. It’s an easy, wonderful way to collect your favorite ideas and images.
Yes, it only exists virtually, but that’s okay, because the dream garden is there to soothe you when you need it. I often go to my French potager board when I’m stressed. I read, I pin, I aimlessly look around. There’s no pressure, there’s no expectations. I just allow myself to relax into the joyous escape of a dream garden.
What is your dream garden? My potager is more about a lifestyle. Living in a sunny place where I can simply grow my own food and wander the cheery serenity of a garden. Yours may be a brick patio with a fireplace for entertaining, maybe a cozy bench nestled in fragrant rose bushes. Whatever it is, let your mind fill with anything and everything you’ve ever desired. Don’t hold back and enjoy the exciting possibilities!
I’ve been thinking a lot about creating author brands lately and how lost I felt a couple of years ago when I didn’t have one. I believe an author brand is important for writers to communicate to readers who you are, what you value, and what your books or writings are about.
It’s an unfortunate word because it implies we authors are commercial businesses rather than people, but then again, we do want to sell books, don’t we? So yes, we are people rather than businesses but in order to share our books with the world, we need to show potential readers quickly what they’ll get if they journey with us via buying and reading our books. And because we can’t meet each reader and have a two-hour long chat, we need to show them quickly through a few brief sentences, colors, symbols, images, etc., in short, all the things that make up a brand.
Where to Start
But what is your brand? Do you have any idea? I didn’t. I knew I’d always done two things over the course of my life again and again: wrote and gardened. But that didn’t translate into a look, a feel, revealing info about me or my life. They were simply two interests.
I’ve talked on this blog before about an incredibly useful book I found called Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps by Nancy Blanton. I truly discovered my brand with this book. It has excellent questions and exercises for authors struggling to figure out why they write and why they write the kinds of books they do. It’s simple and short. I recommend it highly.
Pinterest Magically Knows
Another tool I used after reading Blanton’s book was Pinterest. Why? Because I needed to nail down in even more detail what I was about. The visual representations in particular. The great thing about Pinterest is as you use it, you don’t even realize you’re figuring out yourself. Their algorithms for one’s personal taste are crazy, even diabolically, sophisticated.
So I set up an account and started surfing. Because I’ve always written and always gardened, I started by creating a Gardening board. This led to a feed of pretty gardens and as you can guess, I clicked on the ones that drew me in. That led to ancillary photos of gates, birdbaths, etc. As I clicked through those, I learned I was interested only in antique iron gates that had ornate patterns, birdbaths that were traditional, and gardens with flowers of purple, blue, magenta, and orange. Colors that mostly blended harmoniously together. I was a more romantic gardener. Though I always knew that, I now saw what exact images reflected that taste and discovered words that I could attach to me: antique, traditional, romantic, harmonious.
Brand Colors and Fonts Discovery
Because I clicked on flowers, Pinterest fed me bouquets. I was drawn to bouquets that looked like old paintings of still lifes. Because I saved those, Pinterest slotted more into my feed and I discovered I loved how the flowers’ bright colors and green stems popped against dark, even black, backgrounds. And so, on my website, you can see I chose the brand colors of black, green, and assorted purples and magentas. (What’s so cool too is Dionne, our Magnolia Press designer, included all of those in my book cover.)
In addition to gardening and flowers, photos of home interiors featuring flowers started appearing. I clicked on rooms that featured old furniture, bookcases, cut flowers, and antiques — similar to the things in my real life home. But as I clicked on more of those photos, I realized I loved the old and romantic but also the clean and tidy. I liked the modern feel of a sparse room but the warmth of an antique lamp or velvety sofa. So two new words entered into my brand vocabulary: clean, modern. And believe it or not, through this work I found the fonts for my website: Cinzel, Lustria and Montserrat, a combo of traditional and modern lettering.
Not a Web Designer, Just an Author
Now, a trained, educated marketing person will think this is pretty basic stuff. In fact, it may seem amateurish, but it’s what I found that works for me. I don’t have time or money to get a thorough marketing education, but I have read some good marketing books. And I learned that if an author doesn’t know where to start in building a website, Pinterest can easily help you discover the distinct tastes that make you you. Plus, you’ll have a fun time doing it!
To see more of my Pinterest boards, including Paris, my Seattle garden, favorite book covers, dark forests, and other things I dream about, click here.