Focus, People; Focus!

Post Date: February 6th, 2012

“If Mark Twain had Twitter, he would have been amazing at it. But he probably wouldn’t have gotten around to writing Huckleberry Finn.”

— Andy Borowitz

Image found here

Despite the best intentions with my writing, I’ve become this wandering, forgetting, unproductive woman. This woman with adult-onset ADD. Check out this charming, silly British video and see if you recognize yourself. For anyone older than 35, ask yourself if you used to be different. You know, able to concentrate for longer than 10 minutes? Ah, the good ol’ days.

The kitchen timer is working for 30 minutes at a time; no worries there. Bits of writing are getting done. But facing my unfocused behavior and my relationship with Facebook and other modern distractions means I’ve had to try other strategies.

These tactics worked this week to keep my focus:

  • clearing my desk (not my office) of clutter. This means grabbing everything in sight and tossing it on the floor. This is key because if you start cleaning, two hours later you’ll have a clean office. But you won’t have writing. Writing is more important. And when I can see nothing but my keyboard and the screen, the way is clear and the words will flow.
  • locking out the cat. I felt better when I learned from my writing partner I’m not the only one with an obsessive cat. Sonny (blog mascot, sure, but 100% feline diva) knows just how to emit babylike cries to break concentration and paw me with such plaintive looks I’m convinced I’m the worst cat mom, ever. So I turn up the music, lock the boy out, and let Sonny do whatever he wants outside my domain.
  • making a checklist. My problem is, I’m rushed with so many ideas, I’m afraid I’ll lose them. So I jot them down fast as I can on random pieces of paper (thus the desk clutter) and I also make a big list of All I Want to Do. Then I get back to writing. 
  • starring priorities on the checklist. Much as I want to do it all, I have to choose. As mystery author and freelance writing business expert, Hope Clark, writes, “Pick one project that will represent you well in 2012. Then center your world around it.” Hard as this is for me, I remember when I’m avalanched with ideas to pick the priority. YA fiction. HOW WENDY REDBIRD DANCING SURVIVED THE DARK AGES OF NOUGHT. So when Sarah gets back to me on my most recent draft, you can bet I’ll drop my short stories and next education book idea. And though I’ve been picking at some short stories these last few weeks, I know I need to get back to my YA dystopian novel project ASAP. (Am very excited about that one, by the way.) But you get the idea; I have dreams of being a Renaissance woman but I’m more of a Mistress of Mishmash, a Hit or Miss Gal Trying to Do Too Much. And the only way Wendy’s story got written was by getting up daily for six months and doing nothing else first save make the coffee. Nothing got in my way, not even Sonny. 
Do what Hope Clark says. She just released her mystery, Lowcountry Bribe, a labor of love for many years while she built a business teaching writers how to get funds, find publishing venues, and keep focus. If you don’t already subscribe to her Funds for Writers newsletters, check them out. It’s been yet another ongoing strategy I’ve employed–the encouragement of a fellow writer who doesn’t give up and doesn’t make excuses.
How’s your focus? If it’s a little fragmented, take a breath, skim some survival strategies, and get Hope in your inbox.  
Writing Prompts:
  • Which social networking site has you in its grip? And not in a good way? Write about the high it gives you and estimate how much time you spend on it per day. Ask yourself these questions: 10 years ago, what were you doing with the time you now spend “networking”? What are you doing on these sites that matters, meaning, are you connecting and comprehending, or are you bragging, gossiping, ranting, or snooping? How can you use the best of social networking to achieve your writing goals? How can you limit your time on these sites? When you think about your life, how do you want to spend your time? 
  • What is your number-one distractor when you’ve sequestered yourself for writing? Name its causes and its remedies. Make your list and implement them at your next writing session. Inform the irritants (your cat) that you won’t be bested or disrespected next time around. 
  • What is your number-one priority for your writing this year? (This question is from Hope Clark. Check out her newsletter for an exploration of how to get your mind on one relentless goal.)


  1. Bob Mustin says:

    Sounds like you need to throttle back on the caffeine. 🙂

    I love that picture of Twain!

  2. Au contraire, Monsieur Mustin! Caffeine is still legal and powering this machine! 😉