Do you have problems finding the time to write? If so, you’re not alone.
A few years ago, I surveyed hundreds of current and aspiring nonfiction authors. The biggest barrier people reported was finding the time.
Why is that? If writing is important to us, why do we struggle to do it?
You might as well ask why we let weeds invade our gardens—they are very good at it.
Weeds are prolific and persistent
You plant and nurture a lot of seeds to harvest blooms and vegetables. As the seedlings grow, you must protect them from weeds that steal moisture and sunlight. If you ignore the intrusions of weeds, you end up with a garden of dandelions instead of dahlias.
Not all weeds are unwelcome or ugly. One person’s week is another’s cherished wildflower. My mother struggles with bindweed in her garden—and it has delicate, rosy white blossoms.
Left unchecked, the bindweed entangles the lilacs and strangles the flower and other plants.
What weeds grow in your writing garden?
Think of activities that steal time and attention from your creative projects. Like weeds, they sneak into your life and take root without you noticing. Some may be fun or rewarding. But they crowd out the work you want to do—writing that will bear fruit.
Common writing weeds include:
- Social media
- Binging Netflix
- Listening to every new podcast on our list (they all sound fascinating!)
- Constantly stopping everything to deal with the latest email or message
Some weeds look convincingly like other plants, and you keep caring for them until you realize they have fooled you. The same is true of writing.
You might go down a path that seems easier than the creative work you want to do. Someone may tell you that activity is important. (Oh, I’ll build a big social media following before I start writing my book.) That, my friend, is a weed that chokes out writing.
Even research, taken to extremes, can become weedy. (I have become “stuck in the weeds” of research.)
Where are you spreading the sunshine of your attention and time?
Making room for productive writing
Here’s the secret to clearing writing weeds: Stop feeding them.
Shut off the attention and time, and they should shrivel, at least for a while. (They’ll always be there, ready to pop up when you’re not paying attention.)
Perhaps this metaphor will help you figure out how to clear more time for writing.
Here are three questions to help you spot and thin your own writing weeds:
- What activities occupy time that you might spend on writing or creating? List at least three.
- How much time and attention can you remove from those activities and put toward your writing this week?
- What would happen if you did this for a month? For two months?
Want to dig deeper?
Check out my friend Stu Heinecke’s How to Grow Your Business Like a Weed. Along with great business lessons, it features beautiful drawings and small profiles of how various successful weeds spread. It also helped inspired this post.
Peruse the results of the Nonfiction Author Survey.