Thoughtfully Rushing: How to Focus in the Fast Lane

How to focus while you're writing

How to focus while you’re writing


Do you ever find it hard to focus when you’re supposed to be writing?

I’ll say it straight. Between launching Indie Plot Twist, planning As the Mystery Unfolds, brainstorming story ideas, and writing two or three ebooks apiece (I’m losing count) … Carrie and I are kinda busy. Every day, I write myself a to-do list, just to make sure I don’t forget anything. Then from the time I sit down at my desk until the time I fall into bed, I speed through the list like a race horse.

When I started writing professionally, I began to feel like a writing cyclone, leaving a trail of words in my wake. No matter how much you write, people always seem to want more. (Seriously, why can’t people just read the same blog post every day for a month?) The risk is to quit caring about what I’m writing, just churn out content, meet my deadlines, and forget about quality.

Which would obviously be self-defeating. If your writing reads with the appeal of a drowned rat, nobody will come back for more.

Often times when I sit down at my desk, my mind is consumed with thoughts of all the things I have to write—instead of being focused on the one blog post, scene, or chapter that’s actually sitting in front of me.

Whoa. Did you catch what I just said? I mean, I know authors come up with a lot of excuses not to write, but this one is pretty weird: Writing is distracting me from writing. LOL.

So I’ve had to train my mind how to focus, even when a dozen projects are shouting at me. How, you say? Why, I’m glad you asked.

Tell Yourself to Slow Down

I know. Duh, right? But this is seriously my key technique. When I open a new draft, instead of jumping in and slapping words on the page (a sure sign I’m not thinking about what I’m doing), I rest my hands in my lap for a moment. Look away from the computer. (My cat sleeping in the rocker makes a nice image.) And then I tell myself, “You’re writing now. This is important. Slow down.”

Just those few seconds of mental rest helps purge away the thoughts of everything on my to-do list and bring me around to the project at hand.

Write a Journal

Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I can’t focus my thoughts enough to write. Actually, this blog post is a stellar example. (Trust me, you don’t want to see the twenty previous versions.)

In cases where my brain is still too scattered to get anything done, I set aside the blank draft and open another document: my writing journal. And instead of writing the actual blog post or story chapter … I write about  it. What I’m trying to say. What I think it’s about. Where I expect it to go. That usually frees my mind up enough to get the actual writing done.

old-fashioned hand pump and sink

Write while you’re not writing

Write while You’re Not Writing

Funny thing is, you don’t actually need a pen in hand to do your writing. One of the best parts about being a writer is that you can do it 24/7! (Which also means you never get time off, but who cares?)

‘Fess up, you’ve already done this. It’s called “daydreaming.” You’re thinking about your project while you’re washing the supper dishes, driving from point A to point B, or waiting in the doctor’s office. The beauty of pondering your project while you’re away from your desk is that when you get back to your work space, the pump is already primed. You’ve already turned the work over in your mind and have an idea where you mean to go with it.

A note from Carrie: Washing dishes and doing mundane household stuff is one of my favorite non-writing writing activities. I couldn’t agree with you more on this particular point.

Right-o, Carrie! Not to mention, there’s no better way to liven up dish time than by plotting the perfect murder!

Pave the Way while You’re Inspired

Another trick I use is to jot down ideas whenever they come to me. That’s how I write posts for this blog. Whenever an idea floats through my head, I’ll quickly click “New Post,” scribble the idea down, and save it as a draft. Then later when I need an idea, I have a whole gallery of pre-thought-out ideas to choose from.

In Conclusion

As a professional writer, yes, I’ll be leaving a flood of words in my wake. But I’m determined not to sacrifice quality for quantity. I think there is a way to thoughtfully rush. It just takes a bit of … I don’t know … thought!

So, what do you do to help focus your mind during writing time? Share in the comments! We’d love to hear from you.

And if you liked this post, stay tuned. Carrie will be teaching a whole four-week clinic on time management in the near future. Details to follow …


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