#WW Staying Focused as a Writer
Staying focused. It sounds simple but is all too complicated for many. It’s different for every writer, but I’ve recognized quite a few common stressors among authors. Some get overwhelmed by finding time to write and manage social media. Others can’t finish a novel without another one sneaking up on them. Some even ditch novels altogether. Like I said, it’s different for everyone, and there are many reasons behind the variety of #writerproblems out there. (Hence why there is an actual hashtag for such things.)
So, today, I wanted to discuss one I deal with as well as the ways I’ve kept myself in check over the years, but I would love to hear about how you manage your writing!
My issue is completing a novel when a new one suddenly demands my attention.
While I have no problem finishing a novel or coming up with an ending, I used to have a hard time keeping focused on the one I need to complete next. Any time I got a new idea or a new character, all I wanted to do was obsess over the new, potential story in front of me. I realized it was a problem when I spent more of my time planning novels than actually writing them, and while this happened to me a few years ago, I learned a lot of little tricks to keep me focused. In fact, this exact issue happened to me recently. While I’m mainly working on the rewrite of November Snow, I have another completed novel—one that’s never been released before that I refer to as “D”—and while it is complete, there is something wrong with it in my gut. And I realized what it was just the other day. Now, all I want to do is go fix everything in that manuscript. But I have to control myself. This is how.
1. Give Yourself a Time Limit
Whether it’s writing in a new novel or posting on your social media, tell yourself you only have an hour or two to do what you want before you continue to do what you need to do. Maybe you give yourself a few days. (I did.) However much time you need, give it to yourself, but try to set a time limit so you can get back to your original task. For instance, I gave myself a few days to jot everything down for “D”, but eventually, I know I have a bigger goal that needed attention, and now, I’m back to focusing on November Snow. “D” will gets its day soon. This isn’t to say I don’t want to work on November Snow. I do. I want to work on both, but I had to pick one because of other goals I’ve set (publishing dates, for instance).
2. Be Aware of Triggers
Another aspect of this I have to control has to do with triggers. I will use music as an example. I’ve only recently started writing with music on, but now I have associated playlists, and they help me focus almost immediately. If I hear “Murakami” by Made in Heights, November Snow is the only thing I can concentrate on. But “Dreamland” by Fan Shiqi triggers “D” so fast that I’ve learned to avoid that song when I’m trying to focus on November Snow. Keeping the right triggers around me, while avoiding the wrong ones, not only energizes what I want and need to focus on, but also prevents distractions.
3. And finally—Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
This is going to contradict my first tip, but if you go over your time limit or you simply change goals altogether, that’s fine. You know in your gut what you need and want to do. It’s a matter of being honest with yourself, understanding yourself, and accepting yourself and your artistic process. I could beat myself up all day that I lost time on the November Snow rewrite for “D”, but that would be counterproductive. I got something done, after all. Now, I just need to get more done. Just keep moving.
This is how I’ve stayed focused through my #writerproblems. How about you? What are your tricks and tips?
We’re 20 days away from Minutes Before Sunset!
Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2, is also up for pre-order.
And? Clean Teen Publishing listed another Goodreads Giveaway!
Also, I’ll be at Penned Con in St. Louis Missouri on July 25. If you want to meet me, send me an email! I’m just going as a reader, but I do have my first author event booked for October 17-18 at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, TX. Other events will appear on my Events page in the near future.
In other news, I’m also accepting guest bloggers again. My earliest available date is in October, so be sure to email me at email@example.com if you’re interested. I accept any posts about writing and reading, and I encourage bios, photos, and links. I look forward to hearing from you!
21 thoughts on “#WW Staying Focused as a Writer”
Reblogged this on Miriam Miles and commented:
Writing about writer problems must be in the air Shannon. Wrote my own thoughts today! Main point – think backwards when planning your schedule to get your book into print. Helps to keep the steps in order and stops me forgetting smaller points along the way. Great post by the way 😊
Great tips! Thank you for sharing your method with us.
Any time 😁
Re-blogged this. Good advice. I’ve completed two children’s picture books. Well I’m up to final editing stage. I’ve got two novels percolating in my head. One has been for a number of years. I’m getting the different scenes down as they come. Now two more picture books are starting. So hard to pick one and focus.
Thank you for reading, sharing, and commenting! It is difficult to pick one and focus, especially when we’re aware of how much time and energy it takes to finish that one we choose (time where we might get even more ideas along the way).
The time limit is a nice tool. I tend to use weekends and late afternoons for new ideas. Part of this is because the 5-year-old is running around, so I can’t do the full focus needed for book writing. Designing a character or a plot between bouts of playing or making food is a lot easier.
That’s a fantastic point, too! Choosing times for certain tasks that fit your schedule in a complementary way. Thank you for sharing how your method!
Something else I just thought of is having smaller projects on hand in case you have a low energy day. Might just be me, but in certain types of weather or after a few rough days, I just need something simple to get the brain back into writer mode.
Oh, very true! I give myself “fun” days during the rain. (Or, at least, extra “fun” time.)
I’m actually taking a ‘fun’ week now to get a project ready to start next month. It’s a nice change of pace after finishing the last book.
That’s awesome! Good for you. 😀
Sometimes, though, it is necessary to pursue something to the bitter end – when editing the final version, or making sure there are not odd hyphenations in the pdf: it’s called being professional.
That’s when a technique from Alan Lakein comes to mind: Figure out what the consequences of NOT doing it are.
For me, today, the consequences of NOT doing the final edit are delaying the work of fifteen years.
Thanks for the kick in the seat of the pants: I’m afraid of making mistakes, but I SHOULD be afraid of not finishing. Mistakes can be fixed.
Definitely! I agree. Pushing through those difficult moments are a necessary evil. Thank you for reading and commenting.
Good column, Shannon! I’m fighting a variation of this issue presently and I will try time management.
I’m glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for reading and commenting. Wishing you the best with your current writing.
I’ve had to learn to recognize my delaying tactics. Just a quick e-mail check… You know the kind of thing. I might allow myself to get up and walk around a bit, but then I just tell myself to get going!
That’s a great point! I hear of many writers who struggle with getting on Facebook and Twitter while writing. I believe there’s an app to stop that. A guest blogger just shared it on here the other day. But I’m like you! I get up and do dishes or something, especially if I’ve hit a snag, but eventually, I suck it up and get through it.
Thank you for sharing your method!
Reblogged this on Crazy Beautiful and commented:
I promise to give myself more time to write and hopefully maybe finish some of the -ideas- drafts I’ve started last winter. Music and chocolate proves to be very efficient for me when it comes down to that little creative sparkle.
Helpful information. I work on two many projects. I need to learn how to focus on one story longer, before starting another one.
Don’t keep writing the same thing over and over until it’s perfect when you have the rest of the book to work on. I got stuck in that rut, I had a scene in mind and wanted it to be my ideal mental version, but I spent so much time on it that I never finished the book. Then again, now I don’t spend any time on it because after my daughter goes to sleep I just want to spend a little time with my wife instead of writing. Just not enough hours in the day!