Focus. Focus. Focus.
Posted by June Love Mar 4 2013, 12:01 am in writing tips
Have you ever sat down to write only to discover your spirit is willing, but your mind refuses to cooperate? Sometimes, it’s because we’ve had to put down our writing for awhile due to a new job, an illness, or perhaps motherhood. Whatever the reason, it’s often difficult to get back into the swing of things. So, how do we get our writing momentum back?
I recently went through a severe anti-focus bout. After seeking advice from different friends and through a process of trial and error, I finally found my way back. However, I know me and know that I can be easily distracted. To help me for the next time my mind wants to wander, I compiled the tips into an easy-to-remember format. Should you ever sit down to write and realize all you’re doing is staring into space, then I hope at least one of these tips will help you.
Fill your free time with your story. FREE TIME?!? Normally, I’d be the first one to fall on the floor laughing at this, but by becoming more aware of how I spend my time, I learned I have a lot more free time than I thought. By free time, I mean the times when you’re doing mindless tasks, such as taking a shower, drying your hair, exercising, cooking, or driving to the store (okay, to be fair, I don’t necessarily consider driving mindless, but I think you know what I mean). If you’re in the middle of the story, then think about what you’d like to happen next. If you’re plotter and have all the stars aligned, then think about your dialogue. It doesn’t really matter what you’re thinking about, as long as your story is occupying your mind.
Overlook your inner editor. At my last chapter meeting, a chapter mate said she’d learned over the years some writers were in a perpetual state of editing. She looked at me and said, “You’re very close to becoming one, so start writing and stop sweating the small stuff.” Because my writing time had become so erratic, I would find myself constantly re-reading my story to familiarize myself with my plot and characters. Then, of course, I’d start editing what I was reading. Before I knew it, my writing time was over and I had no new words on the page. I finally decided if I was going to move my story forward, I had to learn not to go back and clean up my writing. For someone who is an organized control freak with OCD tendencies, I can tell you this wasn’t easy. Right now, my inner editor is on vacation. She’ll be back by the time I finish my book. If you’ve been away from your story, I’m not saying you can’t go back and catch up with where you are, just be careful of falling into the trap of re-hashing the same scene time after time.
Clear your mind. Did you know that this is one of the hardest things for people to do? We are always thinking about something–even if we’re just thinking about clearing our minds. Yes, I’ve done this. Our minds are constantly racing with daily tasks that need accomplishing. When it comes to writing, we need to clear our minds of those thousands of other things we think we should be doing and let our creativity flow. Again, I’ll refer to that side of me that used to believe everything in my little universe had to be perfect before I could sit down, without guilt, to write. Laundry done, house cleaned, groceries bought, etc. A rough wake-up call is all it took for me to realize that life will never be perfect and neither will the world stop if I sit down to write with dust bunnies under my bed. If you’re having trouble focusing, then try to clear the clutter out of your mind and see if that helps you.
Understand what writing routine works best for you. We can’t measure ourselves by what “Super Writer” does. Each individual must figure out what works best for them and then move at their own pace. Some writers prefer early morning, while others do their best work burning the midnight oil. I have a friend who writes during her fifteen- minute breaks at work. Maybe it’s not an ideal situation, but it’s what works for her in her particular situation. I admire her for her determination to write regardless the obstacles. Finding our peak time is only half the battle, the other half is making it routine. That doesn’t mean life won’t throw you curve balls, but it’s up to us to maintain our momentum by adapting. I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t done this lately, but I’m learning.
Sit down and write. Sometimes things can happen that will alter our perspective on life. It can be something minor, or it can be a major. Regardless, the occurrence will shape our thoughts, our emotions, and our beliefs from that point forward. Because of the change in my life, I suddenly had both the time and freedom to write. Instead of taking advantage of it, I’d make excuses not to write. This inability to sit down and write had nothing to do with a clean house or clean laundry and everything to do with fear. You see, for a while there, I didn’t have that gnawing need to write and it scared the hell out of me. Had I lost my passion? My creativity? Each morning, I’d boot up my laptop, open my WIP, and then decide I needed another cup of coffee. Or, I needed to let the dog out. Or, I needed to organize the apps on my phone. This went on for days. Then, one morning I decided I had to know. Either I was a writer or I wasn’t. If I wasn’t, I didn’t need to waste any more time pretending. The time had come to either stay in the chair and write, or let fear find other things for me to do. I wrote 509 words that day. Not Super Writer by any means, but at least I was writing. The best part was I couldn’t wait until the next day to write some more. The worries I’d had flew out the window as soon my fingers began flying over the keyboard. All it took was just sitting down and writing.
How do you stay focused? If you’ve been distracted, what do you do to get back on track?