The Importance of Being Focused: Making the Most of Your Writing Time

One of the most difficult parts of the ‘job’ for so many writers, authors, and storytellers out there is the most basic part: actually sitting down to write!

The most effective habit of any writer is to write and write often. Persistence is key! But we often only have ourselves keeping our writer-side accountable, making it a terrible task to open that file or bring out that notebook. Today’s writers have infinite distractions at their fingertips–and the Writer can be a notoriously ADD child, particularly in the name of research! From iphone apps, to stumble-upon, to youtube and lolcats, to twitter and tumblr and facebook and google+… it’s a wonder anyone finishes a new story with the internet hanging so lovely over our shoulders.

Today, I’m collecting advice over on Twitter focusing on turning off that ADD brain child, exhausting them or placating them, and how to focus that boundless creative energy on getting through session after session of writing. I’ll then gather that advice here, along with selected quotes to help serve as a mental professor hovering over you whenever you need that extra kick in the behind!

To start us off…

Let’s pretend you set aside one hour chunks for writing…

* Try turning the internet off for one hour a day. That means on your computer AND phone if you have access through there. Without the unending depths of possible knowledge and idea starters available to you online, you won’t feel the need to keep researching. Or checking your mail. Or facebook. Or twitter.

* While we’re at it, turning your cell phone to SILENT is another distraction down! Let people who are important know that you are busy for the next hour or so and that you’ll return phone calls and emails after you’re done. Obviously this might be impractical for folks who have children that they get worried about, but if you have a special ring for the kids then moving the phone to the other side of the room–out of arms reach!–will help you decide whether or not that phone call is worth stepping away from the characters that are just hitting their stride.

* Tell yourself “The house is clean enough”, “I don’t need a shower right NOW”, and “No, laundry can wait”. Too often when we’re preparing to write, many of us LOOK FOR a distraction. There has to be something we haven’t done yet, right? But if you give yourself even an hour of writing, all of those things will still be there when you’re done.

* If you know you focus better with music (because hey, they distraction is already there, and it’s not asking you to clean it or read it or anything!), then put on your favorite playlist softly in the background. A fun exercise after a session can be to create a playlist just for the story or character you’re working on.

* Eat beforehand! If you find that stepping away from the writing space for any reason can throw off your groove, limit those possibilities. A full stomach will do wonders for your energy.

* Have plenty of water/coffee/tea/your beverage of choice on-hand at your desk. Writing is a solitary, stationary pursuit. Like other desk workers, we expose ourselves to prolonged periods of sitting. Access to liquids is important for your health. Drink a cup or two or MORE of water if you can. Not only will it keep you hydrated and therefore less sluggish, there’s been studies that suggest drinking more water in your day helps you maintain a slimmer waist. Bonus!

* Like anyone exercising a muscle, I’ve known writers who find great joy and aid in stretching their muscles before a “work-out”. Before you sit down, take five minutes to yourself. Stretch your legs, hips, back, shoulders. Then treat your neck, wrists and hands to a little stretching, and–if you or someone you live with knows how–possibly a light massage. Increased blood flow is good for the whole body! Including the brain. :)

What are YOUR habits to keep focused?

Some quotes to amuse and encourage you:

Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet. ~Anonymous

Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up. ~Jane Yolen

The secret of becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing. ~Ken MacLeod

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2 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Focused: Making the Most of Your Writing Time

  1. Great post! Love all the ideas and I plan on using them like a checklist for my own time! Thanks. I am a new writer and trying to “hit my stride”. It is articles like these that help direct all those niggling questions that interrupt my storyline. I will continue to follow your blog.

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