It’s no huge secret that focus is a really good tool to completing a work. If it was a secret, it’d be one of the worst kept secrets hands down. Focus is what makes it easy to power through that tough section, or to sit down and happily toss down several hundred words.
While powerful, focus is fragile. It can be broken by distractions, lack of energy and frustration. All of these can add up to one really big focus destroyer: burn out. At some point you’re just so sick of spending time and energy on that one story that you stop working on it. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to happen.
Distractions are probably the easiest and most common focus destroyer. Noise, temperature, comfort, movement and new ideas are all forms of distraction writers encounter. Some of us think better with a certain amount of background distraction such as noise (don’t think just music for this, how many times have you found it easier to write while you have something like a fan going behind you?). When we’re uncomfortable and too hot or too cold however, even those little distractions you normally could ignore can become overwhelming.
To counteract distractions like noise and movement, try looking at what sort of learner you are. Auditory learners might do better with some form of noise, or even by dictating and recording their story. Visual learners may benefit from writing in a room without a lot of movement, or from having their processor on full screen. Tactile learners might do better by having notes they can touch and move around as they progress.
Lack of energy is another such distraction. Writing is a great creative endeavor and like most forms of art is highly subjective. It takes a lot of time to get the words down and sometimes finding that time is harder than we’d like to admit. This of course, takes energy we’d much rather spend actually writing.
If energy is turning out to be your main problem, consider taking frequent but short breaks. Short rest periods can help boost your energy levels and allowing yourself five or ten minutes to go ahead and play that phone game won’t hurt. Just remember to keep these breaks short or you might just find yourself dealing with the third focus destroyer: frustration.
Frustration itself occurs because of many different reasons. Sometimes it just happens that the scene we’re on isn’t working properly, or that we’re not making the amount of progress we’d like. Sometimes it’s also because we see great published works and can’t resist comparing ourselves.
The easiest way to deal with frustration is to remind yourself that you’re only working on a draft and you can fix the problem later, especially if it’s getting in the way of writing that scene or finishing that last chapter. Even if you end up needed to redo it all over again later, it’s better to have something down on the paper than to have nothing. Use placeholders for names if you need to, or even summarize scenes that you know you need but just can’t work out right now. It’s possible the story will give you the clues to them later on.