Trimming the Fat

You thought this post was going to be about editing, didn’t you?


It’s about something much more important.

We’re diving deep into the reasons why writers don’t get as much work done as they would like, and why they have difficulty getting into the meaningful guts of that work when they do sit down to it.

The number one challenge writers struggle with is time.

We don’t have enough time to write. We can’t find the time to write. And when we are writing our time is interrupted.

If you struggle with the “not enough time” game the real problem you have is energy leakage.

All of us have dozens of tiny little pinprick holes in our life that leak energy. The holes are so small that we tend not to notice them or we don’t take them seriously. But each little hole sucks away our energy (read: time and attention). At the end of the the week it all adds up—into hours. Yes, hours. I guarantee that you are currently losing hours of your life to these tiny little energy leaks.

And I’m guilty of it as well. I’m writing this post, in fact, to kick myself in the butt too.

Here are the Top 4 energy leaks in most people’s lives:

Facebook and Other Instant-Gratification-Websites
If you are spending less than a minute reading anything on any website—whether it be a status update or a news story—it’s just not serving you. Your brain isn’t absorbing anything of value in less than 60 seconds. It feels good, of course. It feels like you’re learning, engaging, connecting, and remembering. But…you’re not. You’re wasting time.

Do you honestly want to connect with a friend? Spend 10 minutes writing them an email and ask them about their life. Do you really need to stay updated on current events? Pick your articles carefully and read the entire story, no skimming. You will immediately notice the difference between this kind of conscious consumption of what’s on the web and the more mindless click-and-scroll we all fall prey to when we’re wasting time.

Your Phone
It rings—calls are coming through. It buzzes—someone sends a text. Another buzz, another text. A bell dings, someone commented on your status. Your rational mind whispers, “You really better take a look. It could be an emergency.” But guess what? It never is. The chances that these messages are from a loved one lying in the hospital are about .001%. The chances that it’s just another text that says, “LOL” or “Pick you up at 8am” are about 99.9%. You can do the math.

Put your phone away for certain periods of time. You don’t need to have it on you and be checking it every second. Humans lived for thousands of years without cell phones and somehow managed to survive. You can too.

Just like everyone else, I enjoy some awesome TV shows. There is nothing wrong with watching TV. But the problem with television is that a lot of people watch it unconsciously. They turn on the TV when they get home for “background noise” or they turn it on out of sheer boredom and end up watching total nonsense that serves them in no way at all.

Make it a rule to only the turn on the TV after you’ve decided what you want to watch. If you can’t think of anything you want to watch, then you’re getting a clear sign to spend your time elsewhere (and hopefully on your own projects).

Other People
Every day we come into contact with people who will frustrate and annoy us. We want them to act in a way that makes sense to us, and also act in a way that makes us happy. But that ain’t gonna happen. Other people are not going conform to the way we think things should be. They’re too busy following their own paths!

Since you can’t control what other people do or how they think, there is absolutely no point to wasting your energy obsessing about it in your own head, or trying to convince them to change in real life. This is the hardest energy leak to work with, and also demands the most constant practice. Whenever you catch yourself trying to control someone else, cut it out and move on. You’ve got bigger things to devote your attention to—like your own creative work.

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  • Reply chris creed 14 March, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Love this idea of Energy Leakage. A perfect way to put it. When a weightlifter is performing a lift, they want to have tension throughout their body for optimal muscle engagement and strength. If they don’t, it’s called leakage there as well.

    What if we do that in our work? Maintain optimal engagement and not have any energy or time leakage. Love it! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 14 March, 2014 at 11:01 am

      Thanks Chris! I love that image of the weightlifter. And sometimes making things and writing stories feels exactly like that.

  • Reply Justin Meckes 14 March, 2014 at 9:49 am

    The suggestion you make with the television is good. I’m definitely guilty of using it for background noise, so deciding what I want to watch before I turn it on is great advice. And with Netflix and Hulu it’s completely doable.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 14 March, 2014 at 11:00 am

      Thanks Justin! I had the same problem for many years until I cut out cable TV. Now I just have Netflix, Hulu, etc. and I do find that I get more done with less noise going constantly.

  • Reply Glynis Jolly 15 March, 2014 at 10:01 am

    When I started this first writing project I’m plugging away at, I was trying to keep up with reading blog posts, writing my own posts, doing the social media sites, and the list goes on. Of course, because of all the busyness, I had a few false starts. I finally slimmed down how many posts I was reading and writing per week, and took out 2 social media sites. I, also, schedule some MUST WRITE time into each day. I’m still struggling with the writing sometimes but it isn’t as pronounced now.

  • Reply Peter Nena 16 March, 2014 at 3:46 am

    Not Enough Time. Energy Leakage. I am a victim of this. I have a day job and when I get back to the house I have barely two hours to write. And sometimes I’m so exhausted one good sentence emerges as if from a lake of glue. Then I despair and plan for another day.
    I am also a victim of FB and Twitter, eating some of my time away. I must work to get rid of these ‘holes’, as you call them.
    Thanks, Lauren, for sharing this post. Happy Sunday!

  • Reply Robyn LaRue 17 March, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    I gave up TV for almost 10 years and had zero regrets. Now I’m self-restricted to 2 hours a week (gotta love DVR!) I still struggle with the phone every day. I work from home and calls funnel to me as needed, so never know when one will pop up. I do give it to Hubs to monitor after 10 pm and work until midnight, though. 🙂

    Building a platform takes a lot of time away from writing, but it can be done. Love hearing about others’ experiences as well as yours!

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