Writing Tips: Keeping Focused

In the media-filled world we live in now, it’s amazing that anyone manages to get any serious writing work finished.  Between sites like Facebook and Twitter, the constant ringing and buzzing of cell phones, and everything else going on, there’s little time to think and breathe – let alone work on that novel.

Somehow, I’ve managed to find a few ways to sit and focus, even for only 30 minutes at a time to work on my blog.  (You have to start somewhere, right?)  Here are my personal tips on finding ways to focus on writing.

  • Put yourself in a “foreign” environment.  I do most of my good thinking and writing when I’m not at my house, where I have easy and convenient access to my biggest distraction, The Refrigerator.  Moving to a different location – usually someplace on-campus or at a coffee shop – always helps me focus a little more.
  • Pick your reward and stick to it.  Usually, I do this when I’m having an ongoing text message conversation.  Withhold yourself from doing something – like sending a text or getting a drink of water – until you have reached a goal, such as writing a full page of script or editing one poem.  If you have an immediate benefit, you’re more likely to push yourself to finish rather than stopping mid-thought, which is never a benefit at all.
  • Compete with a friend.  This works particularly well with models like National Novel Writing Month and Script Frenzy.  Set a goal with a friend and see who can reach it first.  That might mean finishing a short story in a week or 500 pages in one month.  Keep in contact with your friend via e-mail or text, letting him or her know how far you are.  When they tell you that they’re ten pages ahead, you’ll feel more motivated to catch up.  Especially when there’s a DQ Blizzard for the victor.
  • Join a group.  This has helped me over the past few months: since I’m vice president of an on-campus writing group, I feel like I need to actually get stuff done – especially when we have our meetings and workshops.

Everyone has their own way to focus on writing.  My favorite is to plug in to Secondhand Serenade while I’m working: the music calms me down, and since the transitions between songs are not harsh, it’s not distracting and it helps mask other (unwanted) noises.

Experiment with different things to find your own.  Maybe you need your favorite movie playing in the background.  Maybe you need to be in a study room at the library by yourself.  Whatever it is, find your zone.  That’s the best way to focus I could share with you.

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