Plant Flowers in the Trashcan of Your Writing

I was in Corvallis, Oregon, for a conference at the beginning of June. MIWO Live is the live business retreat component of Make it Work Online™, led by the peerless Jenny Shih. I was honored to be a part of making this event happen, including leading a workshop on blogging.

For 4 days I was immersed in deep learning, connecting, and shifting my mindset. The conference itself — as well as the powerful conversations I was having with the other coaches and the participants in our off-hours — made my brain and spirit come alive in the best way.

Which is probably why I noticed the trash cans.

All around the sweet city of Corvallis, the tops of the trash receptacles had been turned into small planters. So that each potentially gross, icky feature of the sidewalk was instead turned into something lovely. Something that draws your eye and makes you think, “Wow, this city is really nice.”

I don’t know why I was so struck by this. I guess because I’d never seen it before. Maybe other cities do this, too. Maybe it’s a huge trend that I’m just really behind the times on. Whether it’s everywhere or just in this idyllic city by the snaking Willamette River, I think it’s amazing.

Imagine taking something people avoid and turning it into something people seek out (and even ‘gram)?

A city needs trash receptacles. Otherwise the city gets full of litter. But trash receptacles are gross and icky. Everyone knows that.

So your choice is either to have a lot of icky mess spread everywhere as litter, or a few places where there’s gross mess concentrated. Right? Haven’t those always seemed like the options?

The imagination to create this new option — a place to put trash that isn’t gross or icky but is in fact quite lovely — is what blew my mind.

Let’s look at the practical impact of putting planters in the tops of trash receptacles:

  • Trash receptacles go from being eyesores to being aesthetic accents.
  • There’s more green and plant-life in the city.
  • Flowers and herbs counteract the smell of trash.

And what if these impacts had ripple effects that spread out even wider? What if…

  • People are drawn to trash receptacles rather than repelled by them, so they’re more likely to dispose of trash responsibly instead of littering.
  • Each trash can is also a reminder of the fact that we share the earth with other growing things. Maybe people think twice about tossing stuff out when they think about it ending up in a landfill and leeching its chemicals into the soil that grows our plants.
  • The city is beautified so tourists enjoy walking around and feel happy and upbeat, which leads to them spending more money at local businesses. The local economy thrives.

Those might sound like far-fetched outcomes to you. And I honestly have no idea whether there’s any truth in them. But there’s at least the possibility, yeah? A possibility that isn’t present with nasty, smelly metal garbage receptacles that people cross the street to avoid.

I’m so intrigued by this creativity. By someone saying, “We have to have trash receptacles. But we don’t have to have nasty trash bins making our quaint, walk-able downtown gross.”

They de-coupled trash from “gross.” They went back to the drawing board and said, “What if the conditions we think are unavoidable are in fact totally avoidable?”

And that’s the question I want to pose to you: In your writing, what if the conditions you think are unavoidable are places where you actually have choice?

Maybe the things you most dread can be de-coupled.

Do any of these sound like your inner voice?

Making an outline means I have to stifle my creative joy.
Writing to market means I can’t use my intuition or write from my heart.
If I blog about something, I have to be an expert about it.

Each of those statements sounds logical. Just like “There’s no way to avoid trash receptacles on city streets being gross.”

But now you’ve seen firsthand that a little creativity can bust through the logic of the way things “have” to be.

Plant flowers in the trashcan of your own writing process:

  1. What’s one belief you have about your writing that’s making it a bummer to write, or that’s preventing you from taking action? This is your writing trashcan.
  2. How can you “add flowers” to it? What can you do to de-couple it from the way you think it has to be?

I’ll give you an example from my own writing and business.

I used to have the belief that planning was a very important, serious affair. What’s more, I believed that I was really bad at planning. (Makes sense as I’m not a very serious person.)

But in my business, it didn’t feel like an option to avoid planning. Any time I would plan to plan, I would panic a bit. But I felt like I had to keep doing it, as painful and laborious as it was.

So one day, on a whim, I decided to rebel. Since my planning sessions were always so unproductive anyway, it didn’t seem like a big risk to try something that might completely flop.

I put a date on my calendar called “Planning Retreat.” I didn’t plan what I was going to do on that day. I simply created an intention that I was going to look for a way to make planning enjoyable.

At the start of the day, I put on some upbeat music and painted my nails. All of a sudden, I was in a fun, playful mood. I got out a notebook and colored pens and took to brainstorming. 👉One of my super strengths and something I always enjoy.

Over the course of the day, I tried different activities and experimented with various ways of getting into my best mode of thinking so that I could plan projects from a place of ease.

It worked.

I planned a ton of projects — writing and otherwise.

I also learned that my best planning happens when I’m feeling light. When I give myself permission to brainstorm, to try out ideas, and to play.

I successfully de-coupled “planning” and “serious.”

Now I know how I do my best planning. There’s still the trick of remembering to use what I know works. When I don’t remember, I sit and stare at my computer and feel uninspired. And when I do, I take myself to the beach and outline an entire course in about 20 minutes while watching the waves roll in.

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Where in your writing process can you de-couple things? How can let go of a belief about “the way things have to be” that’s not serving you? And how can you replace it with a reality that helps you more?

If you’re not sure what this looks like for you, reach out. I love helping writers find the process that works for them. Let’s chat and see what you need to move forward.

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