Friday, June 10, 2011

How to stay focused

I have cleaned out my works in progress file.  It feels pretty good.  All I have in there now are novels, though, so that's the end of my easy projects for a while.  I'm 13k words into two of them, but it's taken me a bit to get to that point.  Novels take a long time to write.

Today I'm going to write about a point very close to my heart - staying focused, staying on task.  I've been flirting with staying on track for months... no, years.  I've tried many things, and some have succeeded, and some have failed.  I've written an entire novel in one month, and I've been crippled by self doubt for twice that.

There are a lot of words on the internet dedicated to this topic, and it's easy to see why - there's at least one 'answer' to this problem for every single person who deals intimately with the written word.  I have three - filing, scheduling, and my writing journal.  I also blog and run a small online community for daily writing prompts.  I'm working on getting into blogging for a larger site, to get my writing seen by a larger number of people.  These are all things I do to stay on track, and also the things that I need to stay on track for.  The cycle is self-perpetuating.

Because there are so many 'how tos' floating out there, I'm just going to say what works for me, personally.  Maybe it'll work for you, too.  

I've talked about filing lately, so I'll only give that a brief overview.  As a writer, I believe that having an organized place to see all of your projects is very important.  The feeling of not only finishing something, but having some place to put it, gives the emotional satisfaction that is often lacking when the work is simply finished.  I don't know about you, but I sometimes get this empty feeling when I finish something.  Like, 'that's it?'  Having a place to put the work (and look at it often) makes me feel like I have actually accomplished something.

Scheduling is something new to me.  I'm usually the kind of person who flies through life by the seat of my pants.  But when I have trouble sitting down to write, a schedule keeps me to it.  Just having some time when I know I'm supposed to write.  I've been getting up much earlier than I usually do, when the house is asleep and quiet, making myself a cup of tea, and sitting down at my computer.  I drink my tea and do my 'morning internet' (comics, email, reddit), and I've been starting to visit blogs and leave comments on them.  It's past time I joined the blogosphere.  Knowing that I have that time to myself and knowing that it's likely to be my only time during the day to get my stuff done really helps.

I've also mentioned my writing journal before.  The one piece of advice I can possibly give to new writers is to keep a word count journal.  I make notes of what I'm working on, how many words I write per day, and when I finish each piece.  I have a goal of 10,000 words per week, and seeing my progress toward that goal day by day is necessary for me to keep doing what I'm doing.  Meeting goals is awesome.  It feels good, and I feel like it gives me some bragging rights (just to my fiancé).

Basically, my schedule exists to keep my honest.  My word count is a constant and daily measure of how I'm doing, and my daily prompt is to keep me thinking.  This is what works for me, right now.  I'm still not where I want to be - I'm writing, but not editing, and I'm finishing pieces, but I'm not submitting.  I'm not perfect.  But neither is anyone else out there.

What's something you do that works to keep you writing?  

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