Making Space for Your Writing Seeds to Grow

This is an excerpt from my forthcoming guide to overcoming self-censorship.

Collage of diary page, woman's face, and flowers, copyright Ellerslie, 2013.

Image copyright Ellerslie, 2013. Used under license from

Writing requires the same kind of dedication to the work as does gardening. Even when nothing much appears to be happening inside, it’s important to feed the soil of the imagination so that creative ideas will take root.

Because your writing is rooted in you—in your experiences, interests, passions, beliefs, and feelings—it is an inherently organic process. When you honor your own individual creative rhythms, you make space inside for your ideas to grow.

The seeds of your writing can be found in everything that moves you and particularly in whatever is present for you when you sit down to write. You can find the seeds by looking around in your life for them, wherever you go, by noticing the things you find meaningful. You can also find the seeds by writing; they blow across your paper, through the sounds of your words and the thoughts in your sentences. If you pay attention, you will see that suddenly they are there for you to gather.

Because seeds need time to lie fallow, you can grow them by not forcing them into form before they are ready to take form—they will let you know when it’s time—and by planting them first in a small, private container, which you alone nurture. You can grow them by nourishing the soil of your imagination, long before it’s time to plant, by keeping a steady commitment to the garden, even if you can get to it only twenty minutes a day or an hour or two a week, just to go there and mix your hands through the soil and break up clumps that might block a young root’s passage.

For the time being, if you’re not ready to produce, forget about being productive. Stick with brief, regular journal writing or do writing exercises instead; the exercises in this book [or on this blog!] may prompt you to write generatively, for self-exploration and for fun.

Give yourself the freedom to write any way you please—fast, slow, neat, sloppy, choppy, flowing, earnest, angry, silly, poetically, factually, fictionally—and to use whatever tools you like—pens, pencils, crayons, paints, a typewriter, or a computer. Date your journal entries and writing exercises so you can look back over them later and put them into historical perspective.

As you write, check in with yourself to see how things are going; that may be all you need to do to work through resistance and cheer yourself on.

When you write to discover, to get clear, to learn more about yourself, your interests and passions, you begin to follow your intuition, which leads you through cycles of darkness and light, emptiness and fullness, to dormant seeds that later bloom into unexpected growth. From the tiniest seeds of your experience—from the voices that whisper inside you to the snatches of strangers’ speech that drift to your ears, from an image that pops into your mind out of nowhere to the landscapes you dream and the paths you walk along every day—from these seeds of experience and imagination, anything can grow. With these seeds, every blossom in your writing garden begins.

Read “Cultivating Your Writing Seeds” for ideas about how to collect and nurture writing ideas.


  1. EC Writer says:

    As you’ve positioned it, gardening is a wonderful metaphor for writing. I find that gardening feels like a chore, until I get used to doing it. Once I make it part of my routine, it becomes natural to want to step outside and wander through the pathways of my garden, checking on the progress of a newly planted squash or tomato, clearing space around a particular plant to give it more light and air to grow. Such is true for writing as well! I esp. like what you said about letting seeds lie fallow, nurturing them in a quiet and private place. How true. Lovely advice here for any writer.

    • Thanks so much. I’m glad you like this post. Just back from a writing retreat, I went outside to check on my garden and started pulling weeds. I’ll plant another day. Now it’s time to write!