Why the Struggle With Crabgrass Makes Me a Better Writer

There’s nothing like weeding to focus the mind.

Photo credit: Jane Trombley

There is something about doing battle with crabgrass that is remarkably zen. You can get into the flow, just like with writing.

Crabgrass sits there in the sun, tenacious and resistant, in all its crabby glory. It mocks any attempt to control; it evades eradication.

Sometimes the writing process is like that, too, but in a different way. Writing dares you to start. Writing challenges you to tackle the Sisyphean labor of translating ideas into communication.

One becomes a better writer in overcoming those obstacles.

Crabgrass control and writing flow are both often maddeningly out of reach. They sit on the imaginary fence just beyond our human grasp, having a cigarette and smirking.

How to get the upper hand.

The writing process is much like fighting crabgrass, but easier on the manicure. Here’s what it takes to get the upper hand.

Deliberate Practice

Lawn-lovers know it is imperative to stay ahead of the invasive tufts of crabgrass that blight a green swath of lawn. It requires the same deliberate practice that the writing process demands. You just have to attend to it nearly every day.

By doing something every day, the situation improves. The writer’s skill improves, the lawn is free of unwanted interlopers. Deliberate practice, leads to a better outcome. That is as true of dealing with crabgrass as it is with writing.

Sure, you can use the nuclear option and spray unknown toxins on your turf. You can also stop writing. That’s an option, too.

But neither leads to the desired outcome, and neither feeds the soul.

Prolonged Effort

The prolonged effort of deliberate practice puts one in a zen-like state.

Allowing the mind to wander, to pick up bits, turn them around like facets on a diamond, takes time and concentration of prolonged effort.

Prolonged, concentrated periods of time give way to ideas. Ideas → insights. Which in turn lead to more ideas, more insights.

See where this is going?

The continued effort gets you into the flow. With crabgrass, once you get a-pulling, it’s hard to stop. Weedy tufts with tendrils of filament roots fill the bucket. It’s a great time to let the mind wander, and pick up those wisps of ideas that can turn into writing topics or points of view.


Being a good writer is about being tenacious. It’s about not giving up, of trying again and again. Even if, or when, the crabgrass reappears, or the idea funnel gets clogged.

I started this piece, as I often do, with a headline. I tested several headlines using the Co-Schedule Headline Analyzer. My first few stabs didn’t hit my threshold score. So I started to write, thinking some inspiration would come.

A few paragraphs in, getting into the flow, I tried a few headlines again. Bleh. And again.

Finally, eighteen headlines later, I came up with something that seemed to work.

Tenacity is the same determination that animates an unrelenting attack on crabgrass. Tenacity brings you closer to achieving the unachievable: perfection.

Photo credit: Jane Trombley — Perfection is a long way off.

The Upshot

On the face of it, crabgrass and writing have zero overlaps. In a Venn Diagram, there would be no shaded area of commonality.

Yet, like many incongruities in life, there are commonalities.

Gardeners and lawn lovers, embrace your inner writer. Writers, say hello to your inner crabgrass warrior.

You are more alike than you are different.

Steward your writer’s garden and get rid of the weeds.

At the end of the day, do you know what they, crabgrass and the the writing process, both impart? Discipline, baby.

Copyright 2018 Jane Trombley