Writing for a living isn’t easy. Whilst plenty of people have a way with words and can craft a nifty sentence, story or character, the key to being a successful writer boils down to focus and self-motivation. You’re so often left to your own devices; vulnerable to the temptation of procrastination. You start writing – but your phone buzzes. It’d be silly not to look at it, right? How about a quick cup of tea? Where’s the biscuit tin? There’s none left… Why don’t you bake some?
It’s an easy trap to fall into. So, how can you stay focussed as a writer?
Placing motivational messages around your workspace can help to keep you focussed. When you’re bogged down in a tricky paragraph that just doesn’t flow or tearing your hair out over a storyline that can’t reach a resolution, a message or sign like the personalised ones at mysafetysign.com can help you remember what writing means to you. Why do you love writing? What made you want to do it as a career? What makes this amount of frustration worth it in the end?
Every good writer needs to be able to set their own deadlines and stick to them. Whilst you might get deadlines set by a publisher or agent, it’s your own deadlines that determine your fate as a writer. If you never set any, you’ll never finish that book or screenplay. It’ll fade into the background, becoming the lowest priority in your pile of papers. But setting your own boundaries might not come easy. If it’s something you struggle with, try entering competitions or schemes. You might not feel that your writing is ready, but it will force you to become more focussed and acclimatised to the art of meeting deadlines. Be strict with yourself. You are your only employee, and you can’t afford to lose focus.
That being said, don’t be too harsh on yourself. Whilst scheduling deadlines, make sure you also allow time for breaks. We are at our most productive when we work in a short amount of undisturbed, focussed time. So, setting yourself eight hours to write that short story without scheduling any breaks isn’t feasible or useful. You’re better off giving yourself an hour, having a twenty-minute break and repeating this throughout the day. Likewise, allow time for social interactions. See friends. Go out for meals. Use it as a goal to work towards, and treat it as a reward. You could even combine the two and join a writers group or a book group – somewhere you can discuss and explore your ideas and work collaboratively.
It’s probably something you’re tired of hearing, but staying focussed as a writer really means writing, writing and writing some more. Set yourself a ten-minute challenge at the beginning of the day to write about a totally random topic. This will get you into a creative headspace and will fuel your passion. Likewise, make sure you allow yourself to fail. Doing focussed writing that goes wrong and gets discarded is still better than not doing any at all. You’ll most likely find that by writing the wrong thing, you find out what’s right.