There I was… a long weekend in February, laptop charged up and ready to go, Keurig just finishing up. So, what was different? I’d just written a couple of really good chapters in my novel, it was almost eleven p.m., and I couldn’t wait until the morning to get the next chapter done. All of the details of the previous chapters were right there, begging to be laid out for me to tie them up at the end. So how did I ensure that I kept my mind on the writing? Here are my twists on four familiar strategies:

1. Working from a dedicated writing location: I do have a basement writing lair, where I can sit at a desk, plug a wireless mouse and keyboard into my laptop, and type more comfortably. The key here for me is, it serves as a mental shift in what I’m doing. When I’m in the lair, I’m there to write. I’m not typically there to cruise through Facebook or write blog posts (No, in fact I’m not in my lair as I write this!) or check on my website. I’m there to write, and it works. That’s not to say that I haven’t knocked out a few chapters while in the world’s most uncomfortable recliner while “watching” television.

2. Listening to a soundtrack to help me focus: To further help me focus when I’m in my writing lair, I bring up YouTube and put on some ambient noise. I find it hard to concentrate in silence, because my mind starts to wander off into the woodworking projects I have planned or other household chores I need to do. My favorite background noises have been flowing rivers with bird sounds, crackling fireplaces in a cabin in the woods during a rainstorm, and waves crashing onto a beach. I can’t do this with any music at all. So, coffee shop noises are fair game as long as there’s no soft jazz playing at the same time. I also won’t rule out Star Trek engine ambient noise, either. They all provide just enough of a distraction to keep me from being distracted, if you know what I mean.

3. Organizing my distractions: Speaking of woodworking projects, I can’t just turn that off, you know. To keep those distractions from dragging me away from the writing lair, I’ve been keeping a list of the other things that I still need to do or projects I want to make, right there on the desk with me. So far, it’s working. I’ve told myself that I can address those things on my list once I’ve gotten to the end of my work in progress. The shift I intend to make is to write my whole first draft, then while it marinates for a little while, I will turn my focus to making and completing some wood projects. Once those are finished, then I can go back and attack that revision, revision, and revision process. See? One thing, then the other. Not everything all the time… This isn’t life in the fast lane, you know.

4. Holding myself accountable: I’ve found that it helps to tell someone what you’ve been up to. Writing, especially in a basement writing lair, is a very solitary process. Often, once I’ve met my writing goal for the day, I’ll pack up my laptop, and head upstairs, and then it’s right on to Jeopardy!, or a trip to the grocery store, or whatever’s next on that list. At some point, I need to tell someone what I’ve done. “You won’t believe what I did to my protagonist today,” or “3,940 words today.” Then I’ll stand there waiting for a high-five or a gold star or something. The positive reinforcement reminds me that I need to keep up the pace, keep my focus, and keep myself accountable.

So, there you have it. It’s not magic, and it’s probably nothing you haven’t heard before, but it’s my twist on the old favorites, and it’s what works for me. Maybe this will help you find what works for you! Now stop reading blogs and get back to work!

6 thoughts on “4 Tips for Staying Focused on Writing

  1. Great list! I can’t do music though, even without lyrics. The only time I listen to anything is when I’m trying to drown out outside noise, and that’s when I turn on the metal, lol. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Stuart, there’s a time and place for everything, and I agree… I can’t write while music is on either. The metal is reserved for my drive to work so I can make sure that Bose system works like it’s supposed to. A little Octane never hurt anyone. 🙂

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  2. I use to write mostly at a coffee shop in South Baltimore called Spoons, but as time went by I knew I needed a more permanent space. The dining room – a room we used maybe once a year – became my office. I find that setting a writing goal each evening helps to keep me focused as well as checking in with my writing group every morning at 7AM. We call it Sprint and the idea is to write without any interruptions for one hour. Thanks for sharing your tips. Reading what works for other authors is always helpful to me.

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    1. Hey Kimberly! I actually grew up in South Baltimore. I haven’t talked about my series of books lately (Undercurrent, Rise of the Wave), but the city where those books takes place is actually South Baltimore. In 2136, there’s a dome over the city, but… there’s enough Baltimore there to recognize it.

      If you’ve ever done NaNoWriMo, those who are prepping for the November marathon often “meet up” for writing sprints. I love having uninterrupted time, so good on you for getting it out there first thing in the morning.

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      1. Yes, I always have good intentions at the beginning of November, but by the second week I find I’m off track. I grew up in South Baltimore, too, right on Fort Avenue near the railroad tracks. The old place is barely recognizable now.

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      2. Good ol’ South Baltimore. 🙂 So, next November, get your writing lair set up, figure out where you’re going, don’t edit while you write, pick a word target (like 1,666) to write each day, and DO NOT leave your lair until you’ve done it. I loosely plotted my novels each time, never to the end though. Then, I used my commuting time to plot what I’d write that night. Then I’d brew up a cup of coffee and write until I was finished. I’ll admit that sometimes, that writing occurred while watching TV, but still, had to make 50K!

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