Editor’s Note: this is a guest post by Kit MacConnell of Goggles & Lace.
It’s a problem many of us suffer through on a day-to-day basis: lack of focus. We let it ruin that pretty, little block of scheduled writing time we so neatly outlined in shiny colors on our calendar. We glare at that shiny-colored block until something shinier catches our attention, and that cute little block of writing time gets thrown haphazardly–out the car window–as we go speeding off to the beach.
When we return home, we look at that neat little block of writing time (that did not literally get thrown out the car window, because honestly, that shiny box was conveniently forgotten in favor of sun and sand), and think, “Oh, my gosh, I completely forgot about writing!” Sometimes we might even make the Home Alone-kid-face to convince ourselves we’re being sincere about forgetting to write.
But you did not forget. You knew very well what you were doing. You give it all kinds of names. You hide it behind the guise of “writer’s block,” “procrastination,” “creative ADD,” “lack of time,” or “lack of talent.” You even tell people, when they ask (or when they don’t), that you are making so much progress with your writing. So much progress that your notebooks are filled with scribbled down notes and ideas–but no actual content.
The super-secret root of your problem is this: you’re scatterbrained.
You’re scatterbrained and your writing is suffering.
But your writing doesn’t have to suffer.
No matter which way you slice it, though, being scatterbrained will destroy your writing only if you let it. Think of it this way: as a writer, you have a whole mess of tools at your disposal, but your tools are all piled into a single crate in your garage. Usually, you’re hunting for a screwdriver in that crate only to find you’ve pulled out a hairbrush. (“How did that get in there?” you cry.)
It’s clear that you need to organize your writing tools.
Why Your Lack of Focus Is A Good Thing
Being scatterbrained isn’t a bad thing. A lot of the time, it just means you have too much in your head to reasonably sort through at that particular moment. It means you’re creative. I’ve never met a single scatterbrained person who wasn’t creative. All you have to do is harness that ridiculous need to drop everything and chase the idea that pops into your head–whether it’s a sparkly new idea for a high fantasy novel, or an overwhelming urge to scamper off to the mall to compare different types of spiffy, neck pillows for your cozy late-night writing binges.
How to Tell If You’re “Scatterbrained”
Not sure if you’re scatterbrained?
- Do you spend endless hours writing down ideas for amazing stories, but never seem to flesh any of these ideas out?
- Do you waste time on name lists, sites like Model Mayhem, or
“character creation” generators?
- Do you forget what color your main character’s eyes are? Forget how you decided to spell his name halfway through chapter 6? Suddenly realize your red herring doesn’t actually lead your readers away from the correct conclusion?
- Did you start writing, remember you have a family to feed, start dinner, and then realize that adult swim was much more important than whatever it was you were doing?
It’s okay. Really. You’re brilliant, you’re just managing you writing tools ineffectively.
Finding A System That Works With Your Lack of Focus
Some writers have trouble being organized. Some writers will tell you that they are organized, but I can guarantee that it’s only because they’ve worked at it and finally found a system that works for them. Don’t get jealous that their system is effective and yours isn’t.
Don’t worry. We’re going to find your system, so take a deep breath. Here we go.
1. Make outlines
Do you hate outlines? Have you ever tried one?
An outline is a fantastic way to keep your thoughts straight when they’re threatening to run away with you. They don’t have to ruin the “organic writing” process. Outlines can be edited and altered as many times as it tickles your fancy, and those little plot points will do wonders for getting from A to B in your story. Would you drive from Boston to Albuquerque without a road map? Unlikely.
2. Carry a notebook with you
Carry a small notebook for on-the-run ideas. I know, everyone gives this as advice, but it hasn’t failed me yet. I always manage to get a brilliant idea when I don’t have a notebook, so it’s best to carry one no matter what. Even the cute little ones that fit in your back pocket.
3. Get a desk calendar
One of those big ones you see on teachers’ desks. They’re reasonably priced, and those shiny blocks of scheduled writing time I mentioned previously really stand out when outlined in highlighter. Jot down the time you allotted to write, when you will sketch characters and settings, and even when you will outline your novel.
4. Meditate and schedule some “down time”
That desk calendar I mentioned? Pencil in some meditation time on there. (Or downtime of your choice.) Meditation is a fantastic way to help clear your head of all that clutter, breathe deeply, and let go of everything that’s got you wound up. If you prefer gardening, or jogging, or eating three pints of ice cream and watching Tyra, then that’s cool, too.
5. Wear comfy clothes
Two words: comfy clothes. Who wants to write in the clothes you wore while you worked all day? Button-down business shirt, or cozy sweater? Jeans, or Batman pajama bottoms? Leather-soled dress shoes, or fuzzy, brightly colored socks? You do the math.
What I’m getting at is this: in order to accommodate your naturally scatterbrained creative mind you need get organized and bring the pressures of life down a notch.
Your writing (and your sanity) will thank you.
Kit MacConnell is a twenty-something girl with big dreams and an overactive imagination, bent on cranking out as much fiction as she can. (It really gets crowded in her brain with so many characters clamoring for attention.) In addition to her aspiration to publish her first novel, she writes random flash fiction pieces for Goggles & Lace, her blog, and rounds out her week with writing exercises and installments for the weekly series Letters from Blackford Hill.
Are you amongst the fantastic, scatterbrained masses? What do you do to keep yourself focused and on track? How do you wind yourself down enough to make progress on your writing?
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