If you’re anything like me, which I’d venture to bet a large percentage of you are, you may often have trouble staying focused when you write. While everyone level of focus varies, I’d like to give you a few quick bits of helpful advice on how to keep your mind on the page and away from the little annoyances that might try to rip it away.
1. Schedule a time to write that is right for you – Most of us have a pretty good idea of what point in the day we are at our most functional. Myself, I’m a night owl. I have my best ideas at night and am usually at my most focused and relaxed in the wee hours of the morning. This is when I write. Maybe you’re an early bird and find your mind to be at it’s peak just after you wake up. If that’s the case, then set your writing time for the morning. This easy concept, when put into action will do wonders for your production and concentration. Write when you’re most functional!
2. Get rid of as many distractions as you can – I know I make that sound a little easier than it is, but you’d be surprised how many distractions you can eliminate when you take a minute or two to pay attention to your surroundings and pick out the things that annoy you the most. If the cat is prone to constantly meowing, put him/her in another room for a while. If you live near a busy street, close the windows. You get my drift, right? The more distractions you can eliminate from the beginning, the less they will bother you once you get in the zone.
3. Play that music – This is is a must have for me. Whether you’re writing an academic paper, a novel, or a non-fiction work, music can help to keep you focused. Personally, I prefer to put on something ambient, devoid of lyrics and generally calming. This may not be right for you, but I urge you to find something that moves with the flow of your writing. If you’re writing something deep and emotional you should listen to something that comes across that same way. If you are writing a heavy-hitting, intense and dramatic scene you might want to try something a little more upbeat and punishing. If not just to keep your mind off the little sounds and sights that surround you, the music may just bring out thoughts and ideas you didn’t have before.
4. Do what feels right – I mean a few things by this. If you feel tired, take a nap. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or running into a mental block, take a break and when you just can’t seem to get it right no matter what you do, take the day off! It’s ok to do these things, assuming you are writing for pleasure and without a deadline that a day off or a few hours of rest wont interfere with. Hungry? Eat! All of these are things that can be crippling to your train of thought and more often than not, the only way to move past them is to give into them. Don’t beat yourself up if you need to give in. After all, you’re only human and denying that fact will do nothing but frustrate you.
5. Turn off your damn phone – I know this one might be the hardest of them all, BUT YOU HAVE TO DO IT. Every time you stop to check your text messages, answer an email or silence each individual phone call, you’ve allowed an unneeded distraction that could very well be hindering you from having the best thought you’ve ever had. (Ok, maybe that’s a little intense, but it can happen!) In conjunction with this step, when at all possible, shut off your internet connection. You don’t have to go so far as to unplug your modem or router, but disconnect yourself from the web and try to keep your mind on the goal!
6. Try a full-screen text editing program – This of course applies to those of you who compose your work on the computer, but at this point I’ll assume this is a large majority of you. If you’re not sure what these are, let me explain. A full-screen text editor does it exactly what it says, provides a full-screen view of what you are working on, cutting out all other distraction from your desktop, allowing you to stay focused on only the words that you are putting on the page. There are a whole host of these applications available ranging from the most basic to the feature-rich. Find one that feels the most comfortable for you and give it a shot for a while. If you don’t want to dig around for something that works for you, you can always use the trusty maximize button your current word processor and do your best to avoid minimizing.
While these are only a few of the many different ways you can keep yourself in the game and focused, they are some of the most time-tested and proven. In the future I’ll slip you a few more helpful tips, but until then, check out my previous posts for more insightful information and then get back to writing….
Write on Writers!