Are The Fruits Of Your Labor Worth The Commitment?

Great things can take a very long time.

Which seems somewhat anathema to our “instant” society, no?

As a novelist, I’m used to settling in for countless years with a place and people, with the twists and turns, the delights and sorrows of what the characters go through, the story ever deepening as it grows.

And that’s just the first draft.

It’s not unusual for one scene to take a week to write. Plus, let’s not focus on the time involved in revision and rewriting . . . Years can be optimistic.

And I can’t count the litany of novelists who only gained renown after their deaths. Herman Melville, for one, was buried in a pauper’s grave . . .

The joy is in the creating, no?

Although I always chuckle at the Cormac McCarthy quote: "I'm not interested in writing short stories. Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing."

Every novelist I know gets a laugh from that.

To keep the faith, to believe in the process, is much like trusting Mother Nature that the rain will fall and the harvest come in.

Once upon a time, I was a farmer. And in recent years, a gardener. Doing so provides a great antidote to the eons it takes to see a book to fruition.

But even that depends somewhat upon what you’re cultivating.

As I rewrite my new novel, I’m so blessed to have the expertise and company of Gary McKibben, the grower and vintner at the Red Caboose vineyard and winery, who’s teaching me (or trying to!) the nuances of growing great wine grapes. Because of course, my fictional characters are doing just that, and in the same county, near the same land, where Gary creates his wonderful wines.

Every time I’m with him, I learn more than I can even begin to recount.

I’ve ambled through the pristine rows, grapes being nursed by the grandmother vines, and those just starting to produce nicely. I’ve gone there to pick grapes, the clusters full and glistening in the morning sun.

Red Caboose vineyard and winery,

Last week, I went to see the ladies springing new growth, the harvest complete, their relief vigorously evident under the blue Texas sky.

And as we strolled I commented on how nice being a farmer was, seeing quickly (in comparison to novels) the fruits of your labor from early spring bud break to finally having the harvest complete.

This is the time as well of uncorking their new-release wines, and oh, my. Because at the Red Caboose they use no pesticides, they don’t have to filter the wines. The full mouth feel of them, the rich fruit-forward flavors. The noses so intense it takes a bit to even sort through the layering aromas.

And the legs do a virtual dance in the glass, flowing in continuous swirls.

Because of this Old World method (which all the experts said couldn’t be done in Texas), the wines taste, indeed, like the terroir from which they come.

Fruits of our labor

But ah, the Cab Franc/Tempranillo, aged 24 months in American white oak, deep in color, with an intense nose of liquorice and coffee aromas, then with a rich dark berry taste and a long, layering finish. I could drink this one forever.

So interesting is the 2012 Touriga Nacional, which is used primarily for their Tawny Port, the nose teasing you of the rich sweetness of port, the flavor doing so as well. Just luscious.

All of these varietals and blends are estate grown. All are unfiltered. All are big robust red wines.

And as this is a land I know well (the very place I lived on and farmed for long stretches of my adult life is just down the way), I can taste in them the lushness just under the hardscrabble soil, the native aromas teasing like a glint from peripheral vision.

The finale came in the form of "Some of that Red," their Tawny Port wine, again produced from estate-grown grapes. Tinta Coa and Touriga Nacional provide the basis for this Port, which is then aged in oak for 7 years before bottling. Unfiltered, oh, my, god, the flavors! The nose is so intense, it’s almost like candy, caramelized sugar, rich plums, raisins . . . But like great ports, never a cloying sweetness. Oh, my, do those flavors just waltz on the tongue.

The wines of the Red Caboose have won a litany of awards, and justifiably so.

Award winning Texas wine

When Gary says they grow wine, never is this point so dramatically driven home than when tasting the blessed end products.

One of my favorite things about this beautiful vineyard is the grandmother Cabernet Sauvignon vines—which again, the experts said couldn’t be grown in Bosque County, Texas. Planted in the very beginning as a test, today these mature ladies have thick stocks that are tree-like as they branch up the trellises, twisting into place, fashioned carefully by the grower’s hand. And now producing mature, full, incredible wines.

So I had to rethink, as I drove home, that yes, while often farming gives that immediate sense of fulfillment, at least through the cultivating season, when you’re growing wine, well, actually reaping said benefits occurs far down a long and winding road. Gary poured 2012 vintages. And the port had aged for 7 years . . .

The way those Cabernet ladies grew reminded me of the way story plots come, of how characters ripen and mature as the book takes shape, as branches sprawl out and are carefully weaved into the whole. Of how the plot changes the characters and characters drive the plot.

It’s all a dance between the thing created, and the one at the helm of creation.

And all requiring patience and fortitude and fidelity as the fruits of those labors may indeed be far far on a distant shore . . .

It takes a measure of courage (and perhaps stubbornness) to keep one’s commitment while toiling at an endeavor that will be all those years in the making.

But then again, that’s what life’s about, no? To keep one’s eye on the prize, to keep focused on moving the dream forward, even when the outcome can’t yet be seen.

It takes faith that what you’re doing will one day bear fruit.

Hopefully we’ll all one day see that fruit (and in our lifetimes, rather than a Pulitzer post-death a ala John Kennedy Toole).

But then, I always draw strength and comfort from that old saying of Nelson Henderson:

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

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52 comments
Sharon M Hart says October 5, 2016

I appreciate how you connected the wine-making process to the writing process. I live in the San Joaquin Valley, surrounded by vineyards, so I am always cognizant of the changing seasons by the look of the vineyards: the first green sprouts of spring, the heavy clusters of the grapes in summer, the rows of raisins drying in the sun, and the barren branches in winter. It reminds me of what C. S. Lewis wrote about the law of undulation.
Thank you for sharing.

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Rachel Lavern says October 5, 2016

Susan,

I started reading this post and midway in had to go back up to the top because I thought I had somehow switched to Katerina’s blog 🙂

I do believe in keeping my word (to others and to myself) and delivering on my commitments. Sometimes people make promises too lightly and break them too quickly. Do what you say you’re going to do.
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Bill S says October 5, 2016

So important to do what matters to you. I think the wine making process is amazing and you have to be so patient with it too.
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Brianna says October 5, 2016

What an interesting post!
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Lori English says October 5, 2016

Susan,
A great article that was very interesting about the wine. I loved the quote that was included in this article. This brings memories of Martha’s Vineyard and the way you write I was present. Thank You, Lori English.
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Tamuria says October 5, 2016

This was so beautifully written Susan – I could nearly taste those wines. So clever to compare wine making to writing a novel and then understanding that while it appears the former occupation would achieve immediate gratification, it is, in fact, a slow process before the fruits of the labour can be truly enjoyed. Here’s to perseverance, no matter what our goal.
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Sabrina Quairoli says October 5, 2016

Wow, great post. Your description of growing wine made me want to go on a wine tasting soon. Thank you for sharing. It sounds like you really enjoyed yourself.

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Roslyn Tanner Evans says October 5, 2016

How delightful to get lost in your weaving between the grapevines and story telling.You are some interesting lady, farmer, dog raiser, novelist, editor & I bet a whole bunch more.

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Neely Moldovan says October 5, 2016

I love the way you look at things. Its truly beautiful! I love the connection you made.

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zim says October 5, 2016

“It takes a measure of courage (and perhaps stubbornness) to keep one’s commitment while toiling at an endeavor that will be all those years in the making.” – Your quote is what keeps me going in my career as a blogger. I am starting to see some fruits of my labor.

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Reba Linker says October 6, 2016

“It takes faith that what you’re doing will one day bear fruit.” Ah – yes! I think we all need to periodically stroll those vinyards and remember that good things take time, and that all things have their own rhythm. It is the antidote to our ‘results NOW’ culture. Thank you, Susan, for this beautiful reminder!
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Kristen says October 6, 2016

What an amazing adventure you are on! I cannot imagine having the patience to write a novel and I admire those that do! I can see where it would be a lot like gardening, something I have started enjoying the past years as well.

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Erinn Sluka says October 6, 2016

With an 8 year old we are practicing patience which is so hard to have when young

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Jennifer Quisenberry says October 6, 2016

How delightful! I thoroughly enjoy visiting vineyards and attending wine tastings. What a wonderful way to spend the day!
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Kathy @ SMART Living 365 says October 6, 2016

Hi Susan! Having just gone to Napa for the first time and then touring Sonoma County tasting wines, I could relate to this post on many levels. Yes to the fact that most anything great takes time and commitment. I love this quote, “It takes a measure of courage (and perhaps stubbornness) to keep one’s commitment while toiling at an endeavor that will be all those years in the making.” thank you for reminding why I do what I do. 🙂 ~Kathy
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Renee groskreutz says October 6, 2016

I am just starting to see the fruits of my labor and it is a beautiful feeling. It has taken me several years to get here though. This is such a wonderful reminder.
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Kristen Female Wilson says October 6, 2016

I had to do a double take… thought you and Katarina merged.. lol So true that we need to be true to ourselves and well… do what we say… not only for others but for ourselves. Thanks, nice learning experience.
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Alene A Geed says October 6, 2016

Characters ripening and maturing.. I love the way you express yourself. Probably why you are a writer. Also love the name of your book.

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Myteenguide says October 7, 2016

What a nice post, very inspiring. Fruits of the labor are not easy to get, take a lot of hard work.

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Christy says October 7, 2016

Everything worthwhile takes time. Putting in the effort is always worth it or at least it has been for me. Never give up on yourself.
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Kimberly says October 7, 2016

Sometimes I think that the things I do are not worth my time because I feel like I am not getting anywhere at the pace I want to. But I have to remember that getting from point A to point B usually takes some time no matter where you’re going.
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Joan M Harrington says October 7, 2016

Really enjoyed this post Susan as it really got me wanting to come and visit this winery 🙂 I am SO not a wine drinker, but the way in which you describe it well, you know……thank you for the awesome visual as relating to the fruits of your labor. I can totally relate and yes it seems like it takes forever for “fruit” to come, but as long as you have that one thing, FAITH that with all of your efforts that one day all of your hard work will pay off, it will be so worth it!

Thank you for sharing 🙂 Another great post!
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Kathy says October 8, 2016

Susan, When I was younger, my grandmother would let me help her make these amazing raised donuts. Of course, there was that time we had to wait for the yeast to make the dough rise and I complained the entire time about waiting and she would say, ” If you give things the time they need, you will get rewarded for your wait.’ This story reflects that well. Thanks for sharing.

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Elizabeth O says October 10, 2016

One of the treasures of planting seeds is watching the effort of our labor come to fruition. I can appreciate the piece you shared and how it speaks to the actions we take in our lives.

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Jackie Harder says October 11, 2016

Years to fruition…sigh. Yes. I get that. And it’s so hard to keep the faith! Thanks for the inspiration.

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Joyce Hansen says October 12, 2016

Susan, my mind always escapes to what you are writing about. I swear the wine section is the supermarket is calling me.You remind me of how marketing is changing. Rather than place emphasis on benefits, it’s becoming the experience one gets from a product or service. But, more importantly, when we invest our lives in things and do not see the fruits of our labors it’s what we leave behind for the next generation to grow from.

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