Over the weekend, I was working on a book project. I’ve been working on it for almost a year and desperately need to finish it. But when I sat down to work on it, suddenly everything became more interesting than the writing on the screen in front of me. It was hard to focus on writing and not the millions of distractions at my fingertips.
I stared at the wood table for too long before picking up my phone and texting back everyone I hadn’t in the last six months. I stared out the window, got a refill on my coffee, and then finally wrote maybe thirty words.
5 Things You Need to Focus On Writing
If you’re struggling to finish all of your writing projects, you’re not alone. I almost always get questions about how I focus long enough to actually accomplish all of the writing I need to get done. So for the sake of all our writing careers, I’m going to try to answer that in today’s post.
1. You Need Real Paper
Computers are incredible. They have made our lives so much easier, but when it comes to focusing, paper is necessary.
When we write, our minds have a million thoughts running through them. How do I want to organize this chapter? What are my main points? Have I already introduced this character? I’ve found that real paper and a real pen give me more power to answer all these questions and allows me to better focus on the writing when I do turn to my laptop.
2. You Need Time
The best way to focus is to give yourself a lot of time. My favorite article about this is written by Cal Newport, which explains the concept of Deep Work. There is a great benefit to taking two or three hours with zero distractions to get work done.
We focus best when we know we have an entire morning or afternoon to dive into a project. When you write, you delve into another world. You need an extended period of time to refresh yourself with where you left off and where you want to go.
3. You Need Deadlines
Deadlines and I have a serious love/hate relationship. Without them, I get nothing done, but with them, I’m often miserable. However, at the end of the day I need to pay rent and buy food, so deadlines it is.
Don’t just set deadlines for weeks and months in advance; set deadlines for what you will accomplish before lunch. You will focus better knowing exactly what you need to do before you get out of your chair.
4. You Need a Pattern
Before I established a pattern in my writing life I was lucky to roll out of bed before 10 am. I worked when I felt like it and didn’t accomplish a lot. But when I did finally establish a pattern, my whole writing life changed.
Establishing a pattern will help you write more consistently. There’s even research that proves famous writers’ sleeping habits lead to productivity and more focus. (I’m in.) Either way, we are creatures of habit and focus when we are consistent in our lives.
5. You Need a Place
You’re a creative, which means sitting in a cubicle will probably kill you. I wrote a post a while back about the importance of finding your place to write. Finding a place you know you can focus on writing is the key to getting the writing done.
Focusing Takes Practice
Although I always picture myself typing away furiously, crafting word after word into beautiful sentences, it never looks like that. About sixty percent of my time is spent staring out windows, counting the clouds, and wondering if these books will write themselves.