Writing Remedies for Being Root Bound


Suze Allen

I recently read this piece from Justin Bariso, an EQ writer and leader and I pulled from it some salient points for being root bound in our writing. I see students and clients get stuck in their creative process all the time – stuck, not necessarily blocked – and I thought about how much pressure we put on ourselves to make all our writing count in a way that is ready for publication or being part of the whole – BUT sometimes we just write for clarity, for back story or for exploration or because a tangent got juicy. All of these ways of writing are necessary and important. And the practice of just writing is vital to being a more expansive writer. If you find yourself being root bound – look for another way in, a bigger theme, drill down on detail, ask yourself questions, seek a new environment or container for your writing or your ideas for writing and don’t get hung up on writing for your book or the greater good or for publishing. If you feel too bound up – Keep exploring, breathing in and out, in and out letting your thoughts go, listening to music, to birdsong, stepping away and stepping back in, moving around, getting out in nature or any other way you change the channel. Let your thoughts and feelings percolate. Farmers leave the ground fallow some years and treat it with fertilizer, manure and compost and turn it over and over so the soil can become nutrient rich again and a better incubator for seeds and ultimately plants and food and flowers.  Trust your process and look for ways to grow your writing and your ideas.


Here is what Mr. Bariso had to say.

This weekend, after waiting  way  too long, I replanted the tree into a much larger pot. Removing the tree from its existing pot, I realized how incredibly root-bound it was. The tree’s small, thin roots wrapped entirely around the inside of the pot, forming a complete base. Honestly, it was quite a sight to see.

Plants grow to the confines of their environment. In this case, my tree’s pot constricted the space available, so the roots grew around and around, making up for the lacking width and depth. Root-bound plants are unhealthy because they reach their full potential. As I said, it was long past the time I moved this particular tree into a larger environment.

While my hands were in the dirt, breaking up the roots and securing them under fresh, healthy soil, it got me thinking about writing. Like root-bound plants, we eventually only grow to the confines of our environment.

I think people get root-bound and stuck in their environment. 

But here’s the thing. Like my tree, new life comes from a wider environment. Over time, my tree’s roots will expand and thrive in the larger pot until it needs more room. At that point (hopefully before it gets root-bound), I’ll transplant it again.

Root-bound writers should change their expectations. Don’t feel pressured to publish daily or even weekly. In fact, don’t feel pressured to publish at all. No one should be setting limits and expectations on your writing except you (unless, of course, you have a paid editor you are accountable to). Instead, write on your terms and on your schedule.