Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Fine Art of Focus

I've had a lot on my plate lately, not just on the writing front, but in all areas of life. When that happens, one thing becomes very important for me: focus.

I don't know about you, but focus sounds like a super simple concept ... until it's vital for me to stay on top of all my deadlines and projects and life happenings. That's when I realize just how bad at it I can be. So now I refer to it as a fine art--one that has to be rehearsed and practiced and tinkered with to find the balance of what works.

Here's what has been working for me.


I used to have much more time to spare to spend on writing, and now that simply isn't the case. Writing has become my "spare time" job, but I do still try to treat it as a job instead of a hobby. That helps me remember that it deserves some prioritizing, even if that means giving up a work shift every now and then.

For me, prioritizing looks like two things: create deadlines and plan accordingly. It's truly that simple (and that difficult). If you're publishing a book traditionally, the deadlines are handed to you and pretty strict. If you're indie like me, you create your own. This means I have to 1) be realistic about what's feasible but also 2) try really hard to not push deadlines back just because I can. Planning accordingly for me means 3) looking at how much time I have until my deadline and 4) calculating what open spaces I have between now and then to work on my project. Serious progress is a result of serious dedication.

The importance of sleep is a bit of a no-brainer, but more overlooked is the importance of rest. While sometimes we need to be dedicating more time to our projects, sometimes we need to be taking intentional breaks. Keyword: intentional. Set it aside on purpose. This can be for a few hours during a busy day ... or for a few days, weeks, or even months. Respect your deadlines, of course, but never underestimate the rejuvenating power of a break. Pushing through is necessary, but stepping back to focus on something else can do wonders. It takes experimenting to find the balance between roadblocks and burnout.


The Most Dangerous Writing App - I've mentioned this before and I will mention it again. I didn't think I wrote well under pressure until I gave this a try several years back. Now I can't get through a first draft without this to force me to write words. Otherwise I'm inclined to open up yet another Google tab for a research bunny trail, or you know ... just stare at the blinking cursor as I overanalyze that previous sentence. 

Instrumental Playlists - Duh, I know. Whether you like white noise, people noise, music, or silence, ambiance makes a big difference. While silence can be great for me a lot of the time, some epic soundtracks can be the key to making me type faster. Yes, really. I think it's the crescendos and emotions and memories associated with a lot of soundtracks that fuel my engagement (focus!) and energy when writing. It's not foolproof, but it's definitely worth a try. If you're on Spotify, "epic // instrumentals" and "best of desplat" are my go-to playlists. For top albums, I recommend Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (only half instrumental), The Imitation Game, The Village, and The Unveiling (by John Washington).


Can you tell I'm in the middle of drafting my June release and editing my September release? Just a tad overwhelmed over here, but focus is within reach! What are you focusing on right now?