By Colleen M. Story
If you want to reach your writing goals this year, you’ve got to get rid of one thing: distractions.
They surround you at every turn, vying for your attention, and every time they succeed, they pull you away from what really matters—your writing.
This year, you don’t have to settle for less than what you want because of distractions. Try these four strategies to improve your focus and make your writing dreams come true.
1. Create a Focus-Inspiring Writing Space
It’s common to blame your lack of willpower when you allow distractions to disrupt your focus. But often the problem isn’t you—it’s the space you’re writing in.
Take a second look at your writing nook. Does it inspire focus while you’re writing, or does it easily allow distractions?
First, consider what’s nearby. If you’ve got your phone sitting on the desk, a television against the wall, or other people in the room, it’s going to be harder to focus.
This year, create a writing space that does not allow distractions. No phones, televisions, radios, or other people are allowed.
This may not be easy to do, particularly if you have limited space in your home. But creating a focus-inspired writing space is critical if you want to get your writing done. Consider alternatives like a quiet space in the basement, your parked car, or even a rented office space.
If you do have access to a private space in your home, spruce it up to be inspiring but not distracting. Make it a “phone-free” zone, so that you leave your phone out of it every time you walk into it. Then include pictures, knick-knacks, and colors that will help you sink into the dream world of your story and stay there until you’re ready to come out.
2. Create a Focus-Inspiring Reading List
Here’s something interesting: In a 2016 study, researchers found that what students read in college directly affected the level of writing they achieved—even more than writing instruction and frequency.
What you read can affect not only how you write, but how motivated you are. If you’re serious about finishing or publishing your book this year, increase your focus by carefully choosing your reading material.
First, read books in your genre. If you’re writing romance, read romance. Next, read books about writing. It will help increase your focus and your skills. Third, read books about building your platform and marketing your books.
And finally, read books that will motivate you to achieve, whatever those books may be. Some people are motivated by biographies of famous writers, while others prefer how-to or self-help books.
The goal is to feed your mind writing-related, inspiring information every day. By doing so, you’ll create a much more focus-oriented mindset toward your goals.
3. Spend Time With Others Who Will Help Increase Your Focus
Be honest with yourself—after you spend time with your friends and family, do you feel more or less inspired to go after your writing goals?
Do you charge to your writing table and pound out the next chapter, or do you plop down in front of the television to watch a boring sitcom?
We all have people we enjoy spending time with who are likely to encourage distraction more than focus. But if this describes most people you spend time with, you could be hindering your writing progress.
This is the year to make a change. Seek out a writing group in your area. If there isn’t one, consider starting one yourself.
Then, find an editor or writing coach that will encourage you to focus on your writing. (Yes, it may cost money, but you’re worth the investment!) There’s nothing like an editor waiting on pages to inspire you to ignore distractions. If you’re not ready for an editor yet, partner with another writer who will be happy to read your material in exchange for you doing the same.
4. Create a Focus-Inspired Daily Environment
Here is where you can make the biggest impact on your writing dreams: your daily environment.
If you aren’t finding it easy to maintain a writing practice, something has to change. That something needs to be your environment.
Not your willpower. Not your discipline. Your environment.
You can have all the willpower in the world, but in the end, if your environment is not encouraging you to write, your goals will remain out of reach.
What you want to do is create the right conditions that will inspire you to write. Let’s look at one example. Jim has decided that he wants to write first thing every morning. To create an environment that will inspire him, he should:
- Set up his writing nook the night before. Clear off the desk so it looks inviting the next morning, and stick an inspiring quote to his laptop.
- Schedule the coffee maker to make coffee (or tea!) 10 minutes before his writing time starts. Waking up to a pleasant aroma can encourage getting out of bed.
- Set the alarm to wake him gradually to music or a brightening light. (A gentle awakening inspires hypnagogia, that state between awake and sleep when the brain is most creative.)
- Place comfortable clothing by his bed that he can quickly slip into.
- Tuck his phone out of sight so he’s not tempted to check it until after his writing is done. Maybe hide the TV remote as well!
- Set out his dishes (and cookware if needed) for a tasty breakfast he can enjoy once his writing time is finished. (This will provide a reward for sticking with his routine.)
You get the idea. The important thing is to make your environment work for you so that it’s as easy as possible to write when you want to. Make it nearly impossible to make another decision, and you’ll be more likely to follow through.
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