Life has a way of interrupting “our” plans. Especially our writing time. We have jobs, families to take care of, deadlines to meet, and many other obligations. It can be hard if you aren’t living on your own and you have roommates. It could also be difficult when you have a family to take care of and the only time you get for yourself is at night or early in the morning. How to stay focused in limited time looks completely different for everyone, but we can all agree that it’s something that we can improve upon.
Right now, it has been even more of a task to stay focused while being at home. For some writers, this might be the best thing! For others, it might make you even more distracted to work from home all the time. Let’s look at some ways that we can stay focused. Whether it is tips on eliminating distractions from the room or even how to set intentions for your writing session, we hope one of these can work for you and help accomplish your goal.
Block Out Time
Creating that commitment can be difficult. You might have a thousand things to do and you feel like you aren’t going to ever have time to write that book. Making the effort to block out time for yourself can keep you focused. You know that time you set out is solely dedicated to writing and nothing else. Even if it’s only for 30 minutes and you progress up to a longer period of time, making the time is what matters.
UHP Author, Savannah Price suggests writing at your “peak distraction-free time.” During this time, she can easily turn off her phone and write undisturbed for a few hours.
Find a time that works for you and stick with it. Put a reminder in your phone. Write it on a calendar. Make that time a priority. If you never make the time, you will never get it done. It’s not about making it perfect, it is about working to get it complete.
Location, Location, Location
Finding a space to write is always difficult. I’ve tried the “writing in bed” method which always results in me getting too relaxed and putting on a Youtube video instead. It’s good to find quiet spaces that can keep you focused but are also comfortable for you. For Price, her back porch is one of her favorite writing spots. For others, it might be your local coffee shop. Find quiet spaces where distractions are limited so you can fully focus on the task at hand.
Right now, it might be hard to find a coffee shop, so maybe try your local park. These days I have even found sitting in my car is a good place to focus on my writing.
Once you find those creative spaces make sure to stay focused! Getting up too much may result in a break in your concentration. But taking breaks is always good.
Distractions can be something as simple as background noise in the coffee shop. For others, it might be a smell. For many, it is the notifications on our phones. Do Not Disturb on the iPhone has truly become my best friend. Even in university, I have used this tool to keep myself focused while doing homework. As much as I would love to text my friends all night, their messages can wait.
Joyce Carol Oates acknowledges that the worst thing for a writer is an interruption. Once we are interrupted it can be hard to get back to that thought or that great line that could have generated an idea for something else.
If you are using your computer, it might be a good idea to turn off the Wi-Fi while you are writing so you don’t feel tempted to see what’s happening on Twitter or Facebook. If you do need it, make sure that you are only looking at browser topics that are relevant to your work.
Extra noise can easily break the connection. It can distract you and you might completely forget what you were going to write. If you are going to be writing in a place that may have a lot of background noise, it might be good to bring some noise-canceling headphones with you.
But, if you are like me and silence only makes you more distracted, find some good music. I have really been into finding different instrumental tracks to keep me focused. While at first, I thought playing my favorite songs would help, they only further distracted me. I can easily focus when I have music that only plays a soothing melody.
Price suggests writing playlists: “I have a different writing playlist that I listen to when I’m writing, and a different one for editing. Both of them have little to no lyrics in the songs. It helps your brain switch ‘modes’ and you can get more done when you aren’t distracted by words.”
We’ve talked about some ways to find spaces that are comfortable for writing. Let’s think about how we can stay focused once we begin the session.
Set Intentions for Each Writing Session
There may be some writing sessions where you may be unsure of where to start. You might have left off somewhere and you might have forgotten how you wanted to finish that particular section. If that is the case, it can be useful to set an intention for your writing session for that day. For Savannah, that looks like making a list of things she needs to write about or things she needs to finish. It helps her to stay focused by checking things off of a list. It can also feel good and help you feel more productive.
Lindsey Renee, UHP author and a mom of 3, also sets intentions before she goes into her writing sessions. When dealing with certain topics, she might place that topic around her throughout the day so when she gets to her writing session, she can already have some ideas cultivated.
It might be useful to do a brain dump before each session to clear out the thoughts and ideas in your head that could keep you distracted. For the first 5-10 minutes, it might be difficult to get into the flow of writing your book. If you start by doing journaling or typing out all of your thoughts up until that point in your day it can allow you to go into your draft with a clear mind.
Meditate on His Word
A lot of times we can be distracted from thoughts that may creep into our heads questioning if this section of a book is right, if this sentence is moving enough, or if that synonym even makes sense in the sentence. Meditating on God’s word can remind us of our purpose as writers. Take out that time to seek Him when you feel fear creeping in, and I am sure the right words will flow. Even if they don’t, it’s okay. Don’t be discouraged. It will happen.
“Fear can kill motivation dead”J.E. NICE
Take a Break…or Two
It is okay to take a break. Sometimes you might be on such a roll with your writing that you don’t need a break. If so, awesome!! If not and you just feel stuck or your eyes are getting drained from staring at the computer screen for a long period of time, walk away. Do something to switch your brain off. Checking Instagram doesn’t count. Maybe taking a walk or grabbing some tea. Even stretching could help get some energy back into your body. It could also be jamming out to your favorite song before getting back into the flow. Who knows, you might even get some inspiration while you are on your break.
When you begin to lose focus remember your purpose. Remember that your story is valuable. What God has given you is valuable. He wants you to share your purpose with the rest of the world.