Writing Tips: Staying Focused!

Sometimes, the hardest part about writing has nothing to do with checking your verb tenses, deliberating over semicolons versus em dashes, or developing clever motifs to string through your plot; sometimes, the hardest part can be finding the motivation, breaking procrastination habits, and staying on task.

Distraction can take many forms. Sometimes, you're just bursting with so many ideas that you don't know where to start, and then you get lost daydreaming about all of your ideas at once, but never actually write anything down. Sometimes, you get hungry and stop writing while you search through your kitchen for something halfway edible. Sometimes, you get a notification that someone you like posted a new YouTube video, and the next thing you know an hour has gone by and you're drowning in a sea of unrelated cat videos. Whatever the cause, distraction can be brutal to the writing process.

So, how can we stay on task? Here are my tips!

Make Lists

Sometimes, a good brainstorm is all you need to get going! Make a series of lists. Lists are fun because there is zero pressure; you won't need to incorporate them into your final work in any way. Maybe you'll make a list of different ideas you have, and then choose one to focus on. Maybe you'll make a list of different goals, and pick which to accomplish today. Maybe you'll make a list of all the scenes you want to include in your next chapter. Whatever you're working on, try making a list quickly, writing down the first items that come to mind. Decorate the list and make it pretty to add some fun to the activity.

Incorporate Visual Techniques

Just like I recommended making your list pretty, I recommend incorporating visual techniques into your writing whenever possible-- this is a great way to get over the hump! If you're struggling to focus on writing a specific idea, try drawing it out. Then describe the drawing, and see what words you use. Can any of those words work for what you're writing?

I'd also recommend bullet journaling. This is a great way to get yourself motivated. Making pretty things is always fun! Plus, the whole goal is productivity!

Set Specific Goals

If your goals are vague, it can be really daunting to try to accomplish them. Let's say you want to write a novel within the next year. That's a huge task and a huge time frame. With something that huge staring you in the face, you might not know where to start. You might feel lost, and as a result, put it off. But what if you broke it down into smaller, more specific goals? Maybe your first goal is to have a draft of chapter one completed by next week. Maybe a more long-term goal is to have five chapters written and a full-story outline completed within the month. The more specific your goals are, and the more you can break them down, the less likely you'll be to put them off.

Give Yourself Time Limits

For the easily distracted among us, if you give yourself infinite time to complete a task, you'll find yourself still working on it long after you should've been done. This is where Google Calendar often comes in handy for me. If I need to work on a new story, a blog post, a piece of art, anything, I block into my calendar the exact time when I'll do it. Maybe I'm working on Furever Home Friends stuff at 2pm on a Saturday, and editing for a client at 9am on a Sunday. Once you have those specific goals set, locking them into a specific time can help you remain on task. 

When you're a writer, you often have to be your own boss. Often, it's easy to confuse "being your own boss" with "not having a boss." But you DO have to be that boss-- you have to keep yourself on task and pretend that you have someone to impress. And when it comes down to it, we are working to impress our biggest critic of all-- ourselves.

Happy writing!


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