Do you know what my dream day would be like? My dream day would be spending a day, an ENTIRE day, writing or working on fiction writing related activities. Alas, I’m working mom with a crazy schedule, so the chances of that happening anytime soon are slim to infinitely impossible.
That means that I have to make the most of the time I have available to write. I’ve started devoting the first hour of my day to writing. Whenever I get to my desk (usually no later than 9:30am), I tell Siri to set a timer for an hour and I get to work. When the timer goes off, I stop and move on to whatever is first on my task list.
I don’t know about you, but my mind NEVER stops and it doesn’t take much to distract me. Are you familiar with Doug the dog from the movie Up? SQUIRREL! Yeah, that’s me. I have to work hard to create an environment where I really can just focus on my fiction writing. Here are some the practices I’ve adapted to keep myself on task.
Limit access to social media
When I created my standing desk, I created a separate workstation for writing. This machine does have an Internet connection because sometimes I research during my writing time, but I’m not logged in to any of my social media accounts. That extra step of having to log in is usually enough to get me back on track. I know most people don’t have a separate workstation, but there are programs and browser plug-ins that will limit your access to the Internet such as Freedom.
Turn off the phone
If I’m feeling particularly scattered, I set my iPhone to Do Not Disturb when I write. Now, again, working mom with two kids in school. I have to be reachable, so I make sure the house phone is available, but In the other room. I can finish my thought and then go check the caller ID or answering machine.
Some people need silence to write, I need a little bit of background noise. Lately, I’ve been using Songza to find suitable music. It’s a music concierge service (and it’s free!). You tell Songza what you are doing and it will find music to fit that activity. It even offers ambient noise like a coffee shop. I prefer music and there is almost always a guitar or piano instrumental category that fits the bill for me.
Capturing the Squirrels
In yoga, and meditation, they say that when trying to quiet your mind, cultivating the ability to let thoughts drift through your mind is key. David Allen author of Getting Things Done talks about capturing information for later processing and organization. To keep thoughts not relevant to what I’m doing drifting through I combine both of these ideas when I’m writing.
While writing, if I have a thought that’s relevant to my story but not necessarily the part I’m focused on currently, I type it into the document and then change the color of the text for easy location in the future. If a thought wanders through my mind about non-writing tasks, I just jot it down on a notepad I keep by the computer. The thoughts are captured, so I can let them drift out of my mind with confidence that they will be dealt with later. When my timer goes off, I usually take a few minutes to scan through the notes I’ve added to the text and move them to appropriate scenes or add them to the outline. Once I’m out of writing mode, I grab the note pad and process the information captured there, adding tasks or calendar items as necessary.
It’s not a foolproof system and I’m not 100% focused 100% of the time, but I am making better use of the writing time I do have, so I’m happy.
What do you do to maintain focus during your writing time?
Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com http://www.livefearlesslee.com. She has been a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.