Writing is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling activity for me, but it can also be incredibly challenging, especially when the internet is constantly vying for my attention. Here are a few steps that help me focus and may be useful for some of you. If you're struggling to write, revise, or edit, don't worry–you're not alone!
WRITING SPACE Having a specific spot to write can create a routine. This could be a quiet room in your home, a local coffee shop, or a library. In my case, it’s a tiny office. The key is to find a space where you feel comfortable, that is ergonomic, and buffers you from the outside world. Wherever you are, distractions like work, the kids, and laundry must be blocked out. There are a few tricks that may help. Turn your chair toward the wall so everything is out of sight. Pull down the shades if you face a window. Clear your desk of distracting knick-knacks.
TURN OFF THE INTERNET The internet is full of distractions, including news, fun websites, social media, and infinite knowledge, all of which can derail your writing. If you write using web-based tools, consider using website blocking tools, such as Freedom, StayFocusd, or Cold Turkey. They block distracting websites during your writing time. It’ll ban Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and other time sinks so you can get in the zone.
TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS Notifications from your phone can and probably do divert you're attention, even if for a second. The tones and buzz are designed to make you take notice, which is counter to uninterrupted writing. Turn off notifications with the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your phone. Don’t worry. you can set critical phone numbers and apps that can get through the digital roadblock so you can take emergency calls from your kids, parents, or boss.
SET A TIMER TO STAND When I’m writing, I set a timer for 20-25 minutes. During this time, I focus solely on my writing and avoid all forms of chaotic life, both online and physical. After the timer goes off, I take a several-minute break and then start another session. Standing, stretching, and moving around have been proven to promote brain activity. I often walk downstairs to refill my coffee or water. This may not sound like exercise to you, but it gets the blood flowing in my legs and breaks up the monotony. Plus, I’m chronically ill, so I don’t need anything more strenuous.
Hint: Set tiny goals for each writing session like writing 200 words or completing two lines in your outline.
ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE Having a routine helps me get into the right mindset for writing and makes mental space for writing. My regimen starts by taking off my watch to charge followed by a twenty-second breathing exercise and a quick stretch from a back arch to arms and fingers. Some people flex their toes before they start. I tend to write better in the morning before brain fog sets in, giving me greater clarity. If you’re a night owl, write at night. Routines vary from person to person, but they really do work.
Hint: Set aside and schedule dedicated time each day or week for writing. If it's on your calendar, you're more likely to follow through.
PRIORITIZE TASKS When I sit down to write at the beginning of each day, I jot three achievable tasks into my desktop notes app. I used to handwrite them on sticky pads, but times have changed. Sometimes researching a regional delicacy or which type of combat boots a character might wear will take precedence over cranking out words. Other times it’s outlining. Achievability is the key. Small goals aren’t as daunting, so it is easier to begin, and once you’re already on the right path it is easier to keep going. Write a short scene. Line edit a paragraph. A short list keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. If I achieve more, then great. If I achieve less, I know what to prioritize next time.
Hint: Celebrate small victories by rewarding yourself with a snack, your happy dance, or a short walk.
SLEEP IS MY FRIEND Brain fog (a medical term) is my enemy. And it is only exacerbated by sleepiness and chronic fatigue, both of which are problems for me. Counterintuitively, I write more in short order when I’m rested, so taking a short nap is actually more efficient. This may not be an option for you, especially if your only free time is late at night or early in the morning, but every half-hour of rest helps. To promote deep sleep, I don’t drink anything with caffeine after 3 pm. A bit of exercise can help you sleep, which will help you write.
Hint: Techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or the Pomodoro Technique can help you stay present and focused on your writing goals.
KEEP AT IT I hope these steps help you as much as they’ve helped me. Focus takes time and effort beyond forcing our minds to pay attention. It’s a series of factors, some of which you can control and others you can’t. By making small changes you can achieve your writing goals.
Q. How can I maintain focus while juggling multiple tasks as a self-publishing author?
A. Prioritize your tasks based on urgency and importance, and break them down into smaller, manageable steps. Utilize task management tools or techniques such as time blocking to allocate dedicated time for writing and other essential activities.
Q. What strategies can help me overcome writer's block and stay motivated?
A. Experiment with different writing environments, routines, and rituals to find what works best for you. Set achievable goals, celebrate small wins, and seek inspiration from other authors or creative outlets. Consider trying writing prompts or exercises to kickstart your creativity.
Q. How can I minimize distractions and maintain focus during writing sessions?
A. Create a distraction-free writing environment by turning off notifications, finding a quiet workspace, and using productivity tools to block distracting websites or apps. Set specific boundaries with family or roommates and establish designated writing times.
Q. What role does self-care play in maintaining focus and productivity as an author?
A. Prioritize self-care activities such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating, and relaxation techniques to support your physical and mental well-being. Taking breaks and practicing mindfulness can rejuvenate your mind and enhance focus during writing sessions.
Q. How can I manage time effectively to balance writing with other responsibilities?
A. Use time management techniques such as time blocking or the Pomodoro Technique to allocate focused writing time and schedule breaks. Set realistic deadlines and prioritize tasks based on their importance and deadlines. Delegate non-writing tasks or consider outsourcing certain aspects of the publishing process.
Q. What should I do if I find myself procrastinating or losing focus frequently?
A. Identify the root causes of procrastination or distraction, such as fear of failure, perfectionism, or lack of clarity. Break tasks into smaller, more manageable steps and address any underlying issues that may be hindering your productivity. Seek support from peers, mentors, or accountability partners.
Q. How can I stay focused and productive amidst external distractions and unexpected challenges?
A. Practice resilience and adaptability by maintaining a positive mindset and focusing on solutions rather than obstacles. Stay flexible with your plans and be willing to adjust your goals or priorities as needed. Cultivate a support network of fellow authors or professionals who can offer encouragement and advice.
Q. What strategies can help me maintain focus during long writing sessions or periods of intense creativity?
A. Take regular breaks to rest, stretch, and recharge your mind and body. Stay hydrated and nourished with healthy snacks to sustain energy levels. Incorporate movement or mindfulness practices such as yoga or meditation to stay grounded and focused.
Q. How can I avoid burnout and maintain long-term focus and productivity in my writing career?
A. Practice self-awareness and listen to your body and mind's signals for rest and rejuvenation. Set boundaries around work hours and commit to regular self-care practices to prevent burnout. Remember to celebrate achievements and milestones along the way to maintain motivation and momentum.
Q. Where can I find additional resources and support for staying focused and productive as a self-publishing author?
A. Explore online communities, forums, or social media groups for self-published authors to connect with peers, share experiences, and seek advice. Consider reading books or articles on productivity, time management, and creativity for additional insights and strategies. Investing in courses, workshops, or coaching programs focused on author productivity and success can also provide valuable guidance and support.
As always, I appreciate your support of self-publishing and indie authors. In the name of putting myself out there, here are a few of my works.