Wednesday, June 15, 2011

3 Quick Tips: Staying Focused on Writing

I can be as motivated as all get out, working on a project that is interesting, lucrative, and fun to write, but... hey, did you just see that chickadee fly by the window? Aww, so cute! I'll bet there's lots of cute videos of chickadees on YouTube. Hey, there are! See?

Cute Chickadee Video

In other words, writers are sometimes an easily distracted bunch.

Here are a few tools I use to try and keep my mind on my work and off of unnecessary distractions:

#1 Play music
I can't listen to just any music, though, or I'll get distracted by it. It has to be classical and lively or dramatic enough to keep me awake, but not totally focused on it, while also being loud enough to drown out any persistent family members, phones ringing, or birdsong.

#2 Set a timer.
It's a lot easier to make yourself write for 15 minutes than it is to make yourself write for an hour or a lengthy, undetermined amount of time. I coax myself into writing like I would coax my 7 year-old son into cleaning his room: "Come on, just do a little bit now until the timer goes off and then you can take a break. You can get ice cream after you write for 15 minutes! Would you like that?"

Here are some good writer timer sites:

Meditation Timer
Egg Timer
Online Stopwatch 

#3 Apply some pressure.
For me, fear, anxiety and deadlines are all great motivators. For example, I always have problems focusing when I sit down to work on a novel. There's no immediate pressure there to keep me going, and no deadline to worry about. Working on a novel, for me, translates into relaxed, la-di-da, unstructured, "Aww, look, another chickadee!" time. That's why I like Write or Die.

Write or Die measures the pauses between your typed words and responds with consequences of varying degrees. Plus, it's so evil, I think if it could kill you dead through the your computer screen for not typing fast enough, it would. Instead, it'll start deleting your hard-fought words, blinking the screen, or worst of all, play the sound of babies crying. As a pregnant chick, I particularly hate that one, but it's super effective for keeping me on task. I mean, come on: my laziness can cause babies to cry! If I stop writing for one second, what kind of monster does that make me?!

In fact, just the mention of Write or Die has got me freaked out enough that I'm going to end this blog post here and get back to something more productive. I'd do the same if I were you.