Lack of focus is one of the biggest obstacles to succeeding as a writer. These four simple, effective tips on how to stay focused on writing when you’re distracted by little shiny things will help you Blossom into the writer you want to be. At the very least, you’ll learn how to start the essay, write the report, or grade the stack of student papers 🙂
One way to stay focused on writing is to get inside your reader’s mind. If you’re writing an essay for school, for example, you need to put yourself in your teacher’s shoes. What does he or she want? What are the grading criteria, assignment guidelines, essay sections?
If you’re a freelance writer who wants to pitch a magazine article, you need to learn what the readers of the magazine are interested in. Knowing who your audience is will improve your writing focus by helping you get specific and targeted. Sometimes, you need tunnel vision to succeed — at least until the essay, report, or article is written and submitted.
In The Sense of Style: The Thinking Persons Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, Steven Pinker says the single biggest cause of bad writing is the “curse of knowledge.” This is what causes many writers to lose focus, or not have a lack of focus at all. Unproductive, unfocused writers don’t know how to write clearly. They get distracted by irrelevant details, or make connections that are logical only to them.
Unfocused, unproductive writers writers think their readers already know what they know. This is often why academic writers fall into the trap of using jargon that only other academics understand. Pinker encourages writers to stay focused on writing clearly and concretely.
Did you catch those two tips on how to stay focused on writing? Here there are again: 1) Put yourself in your reader’s shoes; and 2) Focus on the relevant details, not the irrelevant bits.
Those two tips help you stay focused by giving you something tangible to work towards.
But wait, there’s more!
4 Simple, Effective Ways to Stay Focused on Writing
Consistent routines are the foundation of these tips on focus for writers…
1. Tap into the power of consistency
I’ve always disliked schedules and routines. My husband is the opposite: he likes his routines and he resists change. When we got married, I teased him about his schedules. I thought routines were a sign of stodginess, boringness, and lack of creativity. But now, I’ve learned the power of being structured and disciplined in my daily affairs, so I can be wildly creative in my writing and blogging! That’s the power of routine.
If you’re already a great at routines, schedules, and disciplined writing – but you can’t stay focused on writing – read 10 Ways to Increase Your Writing Motivation. Perhaps you simply need to learn how to motivate yourself to write more.
2. Develop a routine to help you stay focused on writing
Here’s the note I read to myself every morning:
“Consistency is the key to success in everything you do. Updating old blog posts, writing new articles for ‘She Blossoms’, connecting with readers and newsletter subscribers, answering blog comments and interacting with your She Blossoms Facebook Group are your primary goals today. The secret to success is being consistent. Discipline and routine offer freedom, because a routine stops you from floundering around, deciding what to do next. Your plan is all laid out. No thought required. Just action. Habit.”
What routine do you need? What do you need to remind yourself of every morning – or every time you sit down to write? Writing your reasons and reading them daily will help you stay focused as a writer.
3. Learn how routine is related to focus
Here’s how it works for me: if I have my plan for the day all laid out, then I can focus on writing because I’m not distracted by thoughts of what’s coming up later or what I should’ve done earlier. For instance, I write my “She Blossoms” newsletter every Wednesday morning, and post it on my Adventurous Writer website.
Routine helps me stay focused by giving me that tunnel vision I need to succeed. I had to develop a new writing routine recently, because my first book – Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back – will be published in January, 2019! I need to be focused and structured in my writing, blogging, and marketing. It’s essential for success.
Success as a writer, fellow scribes, requires focus.
4. Know your biggest writing distractions
What is your biggest distraction? In the comments section below, tell me the top three things that ruin your focus and stop you from writing.
My biggest distraction is what I’m doing right now: revising old blog posts and updating them so they’re consistent with my present style. Revision is both comforting and invigorating – but it does distract me from writing my new fiction book (tentatively titled She Blossoms at Sea). I use my distraction as a reward, which helps keep me focused on writing. In other words, after I write 1,000 of my new novel I can visit my old “She Blossoms” blog posts and update them.
And that, my friend, is the fourth tip on how to focus as a writer: write first, revise later.
Do your distractions make you feel like a failure? Read How to Stop Feeling Like a Failed Writer.
Your comments and tips for focused writing are welcome below. I’d love to hear from you – especially if you’re Blossoming as a writer or blogger!
Do you want write for a living? Join the Writers Work Community and get professional career training, writing tools, an online portfolio, and more. Need encouragement? Sign up for my weekly "Echoes of Joy" email - it's free, short, and energizing. Like me!