When writing, you may have noticed that you write more easily and more fluidly when you achieve a high level of focus on your work.
Focus is important while working on any task, but it may be even more important for writers to be focused while working on writing, since we often have other things going on in our lives that seem more important.
Without proper focus we can become so completely consumed with one task (like organizing pens) that we don’t make any progress on our next blog post or chapter.
At the time of posting this, there’s less than a week left in Camp NaNoWriMo, and so achieving a high level of focus is even more important now, as we all need to reach our word goals.
So here are 7 ways you can increase your focus while writing.
1. Schedule Dedicated Writing Time
The first thing you should do, if you’re not already doing it, is to start scheduling time for writing.
Bonus points if you can schedule your writing time at the same time or on the same days repeatedly, since this will create a routine for your mind to settle into (and relates to #7).
If you don’t know where to start when scheduling some time for writing, start by looking at what activities you already have scheduled that take up a large chunk of would-be writing time or energy.
For example, my family usually goes grocery shopping on the weekends, and I’m an extreme introvert, so getting groceries takes up a lot of my time and energy. Because of this, I often schedule my weeks so that I’m only working on small projects, or no projects, on the weekend.
Another way to schedule writing time, is to find short periods throughout the day when you can write.
For example, you may have a half hour of transit to work in the mornings and afternoons. If you take public transport (like a bus or train), this time could be spent by working on writing.
If you don’t have any free time for writing, make some!
Instead of spending 2 hours watching TV in the evenings, cut it down to just 1 hour and use your extra hour of time on writing.
You could also start waking up earlier and writing in the mornings, or stay up later and write in the evenings.
2. Start Writing (Even if You Don’t Feel Like it)
Once you’ve scheduled out some time for writing, the next thing you should do is stick to your schedule.
This is probably the most difficult method on this list, but the best way to get things done is to simply begin.
Once you start writing, your brain will be able to focus on writing more easily than if you spent your free time watching TV or playing video games.
Even if you don’t have some writing time scheduled out, if you find that you have just a few minutes of spare time, opt for increasing that word count instead of surfing social media.
3. Create Writing ‘Triggers’ for Your Brain
Humans are creatures of habits, and so certain habits can trigger our brains to go into a different mode.
In order to get your brain into a writing mode, you may want to develop a trigger or two, which will let your brain know that it’s time to get down to business.
A writing trigger can be something as small as wearing a certain pair of shoes while writing (and only while writing).
You could also have these as writing triggers:
- Listening to a specific kind of music, band, album, or song
- Drinking tea or coffee out of a special cup
- Wearing your hair in a certain style
- Having a special writing location
I suggest having more than one writing trigger, that way, if you can’t use one of your triggers, you have a backup.
In order to develop your writing triggers, make sure that you deliberately create that habit while writing. Over time your brain will associate your desired triggers with writing.
4. Eliminate Frequent Distractions
The nemesis of focus is a distraction. If at all possible, try to eliminate things that distract you frequently.
I tend to be easily distracted by video games and Netflix, so I don’t write in the same room as the TV or video game console. I’ll admit that I’m a fairly lazy person, and so I would rather stay at my computer and work on writing than move to another room and set up a game or show.
Another thing that I find distracts me is having to search for things.
To prevent that, I make sure that I know where everything is. My ‘in use’ notebooks are all in a container under my desk, my to-do list is on the wall beside my desk, and my writing books are all on my bookshelf.
If I ever need to search for information in one of my novels, I make a little note to myself that just says that I need to research X thing for Y scene. That way I don’t have to break my writing flow to look something up, I can just do it later when I’m editing or revising.
Try to figure out what frequently distracts you, and find ways to efficiently deal with those distractions while writing.
5. Listen to Soundtracks
Soundtracks are the best kind of music you can listen to while writing, since they are specifically designed to keep you focused on the task you’re doing without distracting you.
After all, the composers don’t want you to lose focus on the movie or video game you’re enjoying, instead they want to enhance your focus.
If you want to listen to music while you write, queue up the soundtrack to your favorite video game or movie, and sit down and write. You can even use the same soundtrack over and over again to create a writing trigger.
6. Reward Yourself for Staying Focused
If you do manage to stay focused for long periods of time, or focused enough to get a lot of writing done, give yourself a reward!
This could be in the form of watching a movie you’re been waiting for, eating your favorite food, or spending a few hours playing a video game.
Don’t give yourself rewards too often or consistently though, as your brain will begin to expect them. Instead, only give yourself rewards when you’ve completed a large project or if you’ve had a super productive day.
7. Consistently Practice Writing
Lastly, you’ll want to consistently practice writing.
Practice makes progress, and when working on a large writing project, making consistent progress is important if you want to eventually complete the project.
Consistently practicing writing will also help your mind get used to writing, and so you’ll be able to write more in less time while also using less energy.
Do you have any tricks for improving your focus while writing?
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I post every Wednesday, so check back next week for some new content!