You Need More Space

Well, maybe you don’t, but I do.

Spring Gate Vineyard

I’m creating space at a friend’s vineyard in Pennsylvania this weekend. How about you?

I don’t think it’s impossible to write when you’re busy. It’s easy to make excuses about why you don’t have time to be a writer. I don’t want to create more obstacles for you. You should write, whether you have space or not.

But if you’re like me, you’re too busy. You’re checking your email too often. You’re committed to too many projects and groups and even people. You need more space.

Three Ways to Prune Your Creative Life

To create space, you need to prune the excess from your life. Philip Roth said:

It’s work. Just endless work. There isn’t time for any bullshit. I just have to work all the time, very hard, and cut everything else out.… I write from about ten till six every day, with a hour out for lunch and the newspaper. In the evenings I usually read. That’s pretty much it.

But how do you create the space? It won’t be easy, but here are three ways to create more space in your life for your writing:

1. Quit Something

“Every single Thursday, I quit something,” says Bob Goff. “We can quit anything on a Thursday. Quit believing the lie that you’re still the person you used to be.”

What can you quit?

There are great things in your life, things you’ve committed to, things other people are relying on you for, and these things are impeding your creativity. What can you quit?

Perhaps you can’t quit something right now, but if you want to create new space for your creativity, write your plan to quit. It might take six months, but it will be worth it.

2. Use Self-Control

Confession: I check facebook too much. How about you?

Fortunately, there’s an app for that.

Self-control is a free program for Mac that allows you to block sites you choose—like Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail—for a certain amount of time. For example, if I’m working on my novel and don’t want to be distracted for two hours, I can turn on self-control to block Facebook and Gmail, but I can leave Wikipedia unblocked if I need to do some quick research.

For PC users, check out Freedom.

3. Find Your Writing Workspace

In September, The Magic Violinist said:

J.K. Rowling wrote in coffee shops. E.B. White wrote in his living room. Philip Pullman often wrote in a museum café. All writers have a place that’s theirs to write in, a place that they’ve claimed as their own, even if it’s a public place.

How about you? Have you found your writing workspace, yet?

If you want to create space for your writing, perhaps you need to find a place free from distraction where you can focus on creativity.

If You Want to Be Creative, Prune Your Life

The oldest grape vine in the world grows in Slovenia. It’s over 400 years old, and its grapes are still used to make wine.

However, if you want to grow grapes on an old vine, you have to prune it. Grapes only grow on freshly pruned, green shoots. A vine as old as 400 years can grow new shoots that bear fruit, but only if you cut the tops of the vine from the trunk every year.

In other words, to be creative, to bear fruit, a vine needs the space to grow something fresh, and to create that space, you have to cut out all the excess.

Do you need to prune your life? Do you need to remove the excess so you can grow something fresh?

If you do—and you may not—welcome to the club. I do too. Let’s decide to create that space together.

How do you create space for your writing?


Alright, no more excuses. Write something today. You can work on your work in progress or something new. Just write.

Write for fifteen minutes (or more). To stay accountable, post three or four paragraphs of your practice in the comments section. And if you post, be sure to give feedback to a few practices by other writers.

Happy writing!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • Beca Lewis

    Love this Joe. Love the idea of quitting something every Thursday! I use the app called Freedom to keep myself off the interest for periods of time. All I have to do is remember to use it! The things we do to keep ourselves from doing the thing we want to do. Appreciate this and all that you do from all of us who want to write!

    • Thanks Beca! Yes, I forget to use it, too. I wonder if there’s an app for THAT? 😉

      • Beca Lewis

        Well Joe, if you find it- let me know!!

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  • Christine

    Another thing I did yesterday was sign up for NaNoWriMo. Like other writers on our planet, I’m going to commit myself to writing 50,000 words in the month of November and hopefully produce the mystery story my grandson would like me to write for him. I’ve been doing some plotting, but have another novel idea up my sleeve if this one just doesn’t pan out.

    At first I thought it would be easy enough to follow the pattern of another mystery, just leave clues here and there for your detective(s) to discover. I brought home six mysteries from the library and read them all – now I see another complexity. How much can I allow my “hero” to bend the rules? The hardest part of writing a mystery story may well be creating characters that don’t lie and steal just like the crooks.

    They breaks into places, steal evidence, lie when answering questions, make up stories to cover what they’re doing. They evade questions and may outright lie to parents about where they were and what they were doing so the parents won’t worry and/or forbid their activity. Because how can you sneak around and solve a mystery if everyone knows that’s what you’re doing? I’ve always understood that crooks do wrong, but I’ve been a bit shocked at how dishonest the “hero” can be these days.

    So I may not get my mystery story written after all –or it may morph into an adventure story for boys. He’ll be okay with that, too.

    • T.H. Atcheson

      Good luck with NaNoWriMo! A great way to get inspired!

  • T.H. Atcheson

    As I read this post, I was hoping you’d ask us what we were going to quit, and was trying to figure that out as I went along. Definitely, the facebook time could be reduced for me. Once every day or two is really enough.
    Anyway, I did the exercise & put my 15 minutes in but won’t subject you to the bad writing that came out. But at least I wrote today! Thanks!

  • ThumpThumpThumpThumpThumpThumpThump. (Pause)

    ThumpThumpThumpThumpThumpThumpThumpThumpThumpThump. (Pause.)

    “Debbb-RUH?” (An impatient black-female voice, nasal and peremptory. Pause.)

    ThumpThumpThumpThumpThumpThumpThumpThumpThump. (Longer pause.)

    Clink — a pebble hitting upstairs window-glass. (Pause.)

    Then the clink again.

    Then once again: “Debbb-RUH?” The desolate, stomach-dropping sound of knuckles rapping on a mostly-hollow metal door. One could wish to be anywhere other than here at this moment. This com-mun-i-TEE in which he was a cultural, political and racial minority, in such marked contrast from Before. . . . but in his home of Now, conversations are conducted in raucus loud-and-proud assertions boomed across the courtyard, and the default inquisitive is “Hahhhhn?”

    Sheesh, he thought, listen to me. I’ve lapsed back into this irascibility that is no fun at all.

    Four long years.

    It’s been an education, not without its joyous moments, when he stopped to think about it.

    But he now understood in a vividly personal way what is meant by the term *cultural differences*.

    The sound of a car starting, then leaving.

    Now, he told himself. NOW I can settle down — *finally* — to wri—

    ThumpThumpThumpThumpThumpThumpThump . . .

    (Such has been the course of my evening so far. But even this could be the start of a new story, no?)

  • I downloaded Self-control a while ago, but have only used it twice. One needs the self-control to switch it on, it seems. 🙂 Great post though, I really do need to prune! 🙂

  • Well, this is the first time in a long time I am posting. I really liked the blog today. I have experienced shaving things out of my life. It was met with hurt feelings, but I still did it. And honestly I didn’t regret it.

    Well, this is what came out today.

    So that’s what bone-tired meant.

    Her bones actually ached. And she couldnt’ let them rest yet. There was still too much to do. Others depended on her. Needed her.

    It was tiring being needed. She wished someone was completing things off a list that concerned her. Heck, she wished she was on her own list. But enough of that. She needed to get this shirt mended. Why did these little buttons keep falling off. And how in the world are you supposed to get this little thread inside this even tinier needle.

    The tock kept ticking and she knew she would have to get up just when her body finally found rest.

    If only she could slow down. If only she could breathe.

    Oh yeah, that’s what her mom meant when she said two of the saddest words in the world were, “If only.”

    Thinking about mom would not get the mending done. In fact, if she went down that road nothing would get done. Just a bunch of regrets. A bunch of dark thoughts that helped nobody.

    Just then she heard a noise and put down the blue shirt. This will have to wait she said, though the words did not want to come out of her mind.

    Walking into the back room she started panicking. What if something was wrong with the baby? What if the baby died?

    She hated these intruding thoughts. They seemed to come out of nowhere and refuse to leave.

    But they weren’t irrational, she argued. They were there because babies sometimes do die. Didn’t Erin Lynn die? Erin Lynn who lived for 8 months and went through 5 major surgeries for what? To then die of crib death? Tell me that didn’t seem harsh. And Erin’s mom laid in bed for two months doing everything right. And for what. To lay her little one in a handmade coffin. To put her in the ground? Yeah there was Erin.

    But what about Joseph Steven. I held him. I rocked him. He looked just like Steve did when Steve was a baby. An older sister remembers. And so where’s Joseph Steven.

    I had hardly gotten home from the hour long drive when Steve called. I loved spending time with him and Annie and getting to know my brand new nephew. Now Steve would know the joy I felt. Steve would look down and see what love really looked like.

    Steve’s voice sounded different. Urgent.

    “Anne, pray. Joseph is all blue. The paramedics are working on him now.”

    I was numb. Numb and then angry and then pacing back and forth. But I wasn’t praying a rote prayer. I was pleading. Pleading with the one who had given this life.

    “God, not the baby.”

    And then the second call. The call where Steve’s voice was as dead as his son. And I hung up the phone and just wept. It was the same tears that I cried for Erin Lynn. The same kind. Tears that were half sadness and half anger. I felt mad that they had to go through this and mad that they didn’t get to know him.

    And we stood around that familiar place. And watched as they lowered the toy coffin on top of mom’s coffin. Somehow Steve got comfort knowing mom would have his son resting on her.

    I felt raw as I walked away from that grave. So raw.

    I reached for the door in the baby’s room. Grandchildren are wonderful. They remind you of all the motherly feelings that were born so long ago.

    And looking in the Pack and Play I see she’s fine. Breathing in and out, in and out. And I walk out wiping off another tear.

    Will I always think of those we lost? In a way it’s as if they never left.

    • Giulia Esposito

      Lord, you made me cry. Not a bad thing, you just wrote it right.

      • Thanks for reading, Giulia. First time I really wrote it out like that.

        • Giulia Esposito

          Thank you for sharing!

    • Vicky Lightner Cox

      Wow Anne, that brought back a lot of memories and feelings…very raw.

  • Giulia Esposito

    I’ve been working all morning on a chapter. I hate it. I absolutely hate it. So I’m not sharing it today. I like the idea of this Freedom app, so I will check that out. As for needing more space…I probably do need more space but I don’t know what I can quit. My job takes up too much time, that’s for sure. But how do you quit work?

    • You probably can’t. But you could make a plan to quit things so you can get up earlier. Plenty of successful writers write at 5am before their day job.

      Sorry you hated your chapter! I hope the weekend mellowed some of that angst. 🙂

      • Giulia Esposito

        I ended up fixing that chapter. I guess a re-write was in order. I like it fine now.

  • Yvette Carol

    I’ve always gravitated towards your ‘rest’ posts, Joe, and this post on ‘space’ has a similar theme. In the increasing noise of life, and with the various demands of social media, we actually do need a reminder sometimes to stop, rest, and quit all the hubbub. A moment’s respite can do wonders. I find when the kids are around, as in the holidays (just recently), or when they’re home sick, or I’m otherwise employed serving their needs, I simply can’t write. I don’t have the ‘head space’. I can’t separate myself enough to allow the muse to enter. It’s only when the house is empty, or when they’re asleep and it’s quiet, that I can finally relax and let the creativity flow. Space is essential!

    • Definitely, Yvette. I don’t think it’s impossible to write when you are in a necessarily extroverted season, but I’ve certainly found it to be more difficult. Perhaps Susan Cain is right about introverts. 🙂

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  • writerrobynlarue

    Amen! And it’s a good argument for scaling back on social obligations and life “clutter.”

  • Vicky Lightner Cox

    Thanks Joe, I really needed this. I keep adding more stuff and make excuses that I’m not really a writer…

    • No more self-created obstacles. We can do it, Vicky. 🙂

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