Hey you!!! Yeah you!! Over here! No, not the monkey. I know it’s cute and fuzzy but FOCUS!
That’s what your manuscript is screaming every time your cell phone goes…PING! Or when your email, Facebook, or Twitter goes…DING! With all the different “deadly distractions”, as I call them, swimming around like sharks ready to pull you under and shred your writing willpower, it’s no wonder at times you feel like focusing is the last thing you can accomplish.
What really makes them even more deceitful is they start out like the cute little monkey. Just a small glance at my cell phone won’t hurt, after all I’ve been waiting for my friend to text back with dinner plans. Or I simply must find out if that email is about my Amazon order being shipped. And then it happens, complete chaos and the shark feeding frenzy begins…
OH LOOK! A baby! Sooo Cute!!
Wait, no, gotcha again! FOCUS!
See how easy it happens? But as creative artists we must be disciplined and shoot straight to prevail.
Here are a few ways that I have researched and done myself to stop those sharks from circling around…
1. Turn off your phone. Yes, turn it off. No vibrate or turning the ring tone down low. That’s cheating and you won’t die I promise. Keep it far away from you so that you’re not tempted to turn it back on or glance at it when it lights up.
2. Turn off your internet. I know I know. That’s worse than turning off your cell phone. I mean, I need it for research for my manuscript! It can’t be bad, it’s a writing tool! That’s what you tell yourself but then your sucked down into a whirlpool with those sharks! Research for your book is essential, but to save time perhaps jot down a few notes while you write of things you might want to look up. Then give yourself an allotted time after writing for the day to do just that. You’ll definitely find that you can focus a lot more and get way more done.
If it doesn’t look like you can resist the temptation, and I can’t lie at times I can’t, here are a few programs that can help with internet addiction. LOL!
This tool will block you from your own temptations whenever you’re trying to write. This is how it works: Suppose you want to spend the next three hours writing. Just turn on Anti-Social, schedule it for three hours, and you’ll be blocked from distracting social media websites. Presently, this application is available only to Mac users.
This free application will block you from accessing the websites that distract you the most for a set period that you determine. Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites—even if you restart your computer or delete the application.
First, you configure your writing period, word goal, and your preferred punishment should your fingers stop typing. Once the setup is complete, you’ll need to type continuously; otherwise, there will be consequences. In case you’re wondering what those consequences might be, here they are:
- Gentle Mode: A certain amount of time after you stop writing, a box will pop up, gently reminding you to continue writ- ing.
- Normal Mode: If you persistently avoid writing, you will be played a most unpleasant sound. The sound will stop if and only if you continue to write.
- Kamikaze Mode: You will need to keep writing or your work will unwrite itself. That consequence should keep everyone on track.
This is a free Chrome extension that will help you to stay more focused on your writing by restricting the amount of time you spend on distracting websites. Let’s say you decide that you want to spend a maximum of forty-five minutes on social media day. Once you use your allotted time, you will be blocked from social media for the remainder of the day.
This tool won’t keep you off your social media networks, but it will keep you more focused. Available from Apple’s App Store, WriteRoom is designed to be an alternative to Microsoft Word. The program allows you to write, but you can’t add formatting or insert screenshots. All you can do is write, and sometimes that’s exactly all we need to do. http://www.hogbaysoftware.com/products/writeroom
3. Create an atmosphere to be more efficient. Now that your phone is off and your Twitter and Facebook is locked down, maybe all you can do is stare at the blank page in front of you.
There are plenty of things that you can do to create the mood. Even some studies suggest that you need some background buzz to help with your creative flow and loosen your writing muscles.
This website offers an array of music for whatever your mood might be. If you want to chill, try Mellow Indie. If you prefer popular songs, click on Today’s Biggest Hits. If you don’t want to hear any lyrics, click on Cool Jazz for Warm Nights or Ambient and listen to the sound of birds chirping and waves washing ashore. There’s music for every taste here.
4. Find a space to write. Treat it as your sacred ground. Where do you do your best writing? In your bedroom? The basement? The local coffee shop? For me it’s the bookstore. It doesn’t have to be a particular one but something magical and inspiring takes place for me surrounded by all those books. It makes me want to write and never stop.
5. Set realistic and obtainable goals. Many famous writers talk about their daily rituals and many involve having goals. Naturally, if you’re a published author under a contract, a deadline is the best goal of all. But if you’re writing your first novel or have yet to nail that first publishing contract, the only deadlines are the ones you set. Write like you have one either way though. If you stay committed you will truly have one some day. Having specific writing goals will likely cause you to stay more focused.
Your goals can be things like word count, pages per day, hours of writing per week, etc., just keep it something in your ability so you don’t lose confidence. If you find that you are consistently meeting your goal, then consider expanding it a bit beyond your comfort zone. This is a marathon not a sprint. Which if you have been in the business for a little while you know this all too well. Patience is a virtue and not just a cliché in this industry.
6. Schedule time for your writing and stick to it. Sure, things come up but make sure your not just giving in to the deadly distractions. Be smart and schedule a time when it doesn’t conflict with other responsibilities. Otherwise, it just becomes another excuse not to get your writing done. Make sure everyone around you knows that your scheduled writing time is your serious time to devote to your goals. They need to understand how important your writing is to you.
Try your best to schedule writing for YOUR most productive time of the day or night. For example, don’t try to wake up at 4am to write if you hate mornings and can barely spell your name even after a cup of coffee. Totally me by the way. Find your “writing time zone” and stick with it. You’ll find you get a lot more accomplished.
Don’t overwhelm yourself either. Write for only 3 or 4 hours and then take a break. If you can only write for 1 hour at a time (or just and hour a day) that’s a good start. Just write. Once you get a rhythm going you can increase your time. Too often, beginning writers feel they need to set aside huge chunks of time writing. When they aren’t able to do that consistently, they get discouraged and give up. Most writers don’t write 8 to 10 hours a day. On a side note (but very improtant) make sure you aren’t waiting for inspiration or to be in the mood to write. Again, writing requires great discipline. I would hate to see how much I would write if it depended soley on if I felt like it or not. Or other authors for that matter. Harry Potter might still be in that maze looking for the goblet or Katniss Everdeen might still be fighting for her life in the arena during the Hunger Games. Thank God for discipline and perserverance!
7. Editing can happen later. Some writers may disagree about this, but the process of editing is a negative force which can be quite overwhelming depending on if you’ve done it before and how diverse your skills are with it. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s completely in our nature to grab ahold of those errors, omissions, and inaccuracies and immediately want to fix them. What if I miss it the next time I do a read through? Better fix it now. No! That again is one of the “deadly distractions”. It seems harmless and it seems like something you HAVE to do right that second. But you don’t, really. There will be time for it I promise. And when the time comes you’ll actually be wishing to God you didn’t have to edit one more solitary blessed thing. Believe me, I’ve been there.
Creating and editing are two seperate things and you want to be able to give your undivided attention to both when the time comes. Here’s another personal tip. If you’re like me you undoubtedly get overwhelmed by the length of your manuscript and the unending editing you will endure. Never fear! One of the authors at the Writer’s Digest Conference gave me the most wonderful astounding advice. It was one of those “duh” moments. He simply wrote to his goal amont and then the following day devoted himself to editing what he had written the day before. Hello? So simple. I can literally hear you let out a deep breath. Until we snag a publishing deal our editing and writing is on our time. I had never really thought about it like that until he shared it. So just let out that breath again…I promise you’ll get there.
8. Last but not least. You’ve been writing for hours and now you find youself staring at your computer like a zombie. You’ve read the same sentence 5 times. TAKE A BREAK!!! We’re not running a sweat shop here. Although, that might be good for my diet. Anyway, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a 15-min break just to refresh and renew yourself. You’ll find that if you give yourself these little nuggets your writing will show it.
So there you have it. I’m sure you can find plenty more tips and quite honestly this is just the tip of the iceberg. Writing is very subjective in all aspects of it. You must do what works for you and try until you find the perfect fit. Once you do however, take them and turn them from tips to guidelines. Afterall, you are the only one that can keep yourself focused.