Thank you! Here are your ten MORE tips for staying focused on your mansucript!
11. Go all in
Stop second guessing yourself.
Yes, you’re going to come up with ideas for other novels. Maybe even more exciting ideas, but that doesn’t mean the one you’re currently working on is the wrong one, and it doesn’t mean it’s time to start over. You’re a writer; a creative individual by trade. Your mind is going to be flooded with ideas constantly, so you can’t let them distract.
Write down ideas as they come to you and save them for later. You can jot them in a notebook, write them on a post-it, or save them to the cloud with Google Drive or Evernote. The point is to get the ideas out of your head and put them in a place where you will be able to find them once you are done with your current project.
People who jump from one idea to the next rarely get anything accomplished. There will always be another idea, so once you have chosen one to pursue, stick with it.
12. Focus on Activities that Move you Towards your Goals
You may have already heard of the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, which suggests 80% of the results you get are going to come from 20% of the actions you take. That means it’s extremely important to focus on the 20% that’s moving you closer to achieving your goals.
Writers often get lost down side streets of adjusting their manuscript’s formating, hunting down the perfect Moleskine notebook, building their author platform, or revising endlessly in search of that one perfect sentence. These sorts of actions may indeed be a part of your writing process and part of building your author career, but they’re not going to be part of the 20% that are going to produce the most important results.
Most of the time the 20% that’ll move you towards success is going to involve putting words down on the page. That’s pretty much it. Focus on the writing itself, not the activities around the writing.
13. Consider your Writing Environment
Your environment can have a major impact on your level of productivity. Some people write best in a quiet room, while others write best in a busy coffee shop. Know what works best for you and then seek it out when it’s time to write.
Environments with cooler temperatures usually keep people more awake and alert, so make sure the room you are writing in isn’t too warm.
Bring water, coffee, or tea with you when you sit down to write. If you are going to be writing for a prolonged session, you don’t want to have to interrupt your flow to get yourself a beverage when you eventually get thirsty.
Healthy snacks are also helpful. Stick with natural whole foods, as opposed to highly processed high-carbohydrate snacks that’ll give you a surge of energy only to send you crashing down just a fast, leaving you tired and distracted.
14. Treat Yourself like a $1M Client
If you have ever worked in the service industry, and most of us have at some point in our lives, you know the importance of going above and beyond for your high paying clients.
As a fiction writer, you’re your own boss, but you’re also your own client. You would never show up late for a meeting with a high-end prospect, or skip a session with a million dollar client, so you shouldn’t skip writing sessions either.
You likely work your butt off at your day job, so do the same with your writing work. Treat yourself the way you treat your best clients.
15. Use the Pomodoro Technique
This time management technique, named after the tomato-shaped timer its inventor used in University, breaks work sessions up into intervals of 25 minutes of concentrated work followed by 5 minutes of rest.
The technique allows writers to avoid burnout by ensuring focused work is also balanced out by appropriate rest. People in both creative and non-creative fields have found the technique helpful for staying focused, so give it a shot. It might just work for you as well.
16. Know Your Why
When pitching a book to an agent or publishers, authors are encouraged to know the answer to the questions: why you, why this book, and why now. Even if you plan on self-publishing, asking yourself these questions can be a powerful experience.
Knowing why you are writing your book can serve as a touchstone that you can return to again and again during times of distraction.
Are you writing this book to build authority and expertise? To share your message with the world? To generate income to support your family? A clear understanding of why you’re doing what you’re doing, and then returning to that Why on a regular basis, should be an important part of your work cycle.
17. Use Your Energy Windows
One of the most common reasons for a lack of focus is not actually a mental variable at all, but rather a physical one: exhaustion.
If you stayed up all night partying, or binge watched your favourite Netflix show until 3 am, you’re almost certainly going to have a difficult time focusing on your writing the next morning.
One of the most important productivity hacks you can ever implement is simply to get the sleep you require to feel rested and healthy. Once you are rested, do your writing at the times where you are at your best.
Many writers work well first thing in the morning, but perhaps you’re a night owl or get an energy hit mid-afternoon. The time of day doesn’t matter, so long as you’re well rested, so look for windows of energy and make the most of them.
18. Have Background Noise
Background music and noise, even just white noise, can be helpful for producing a more focused state when writing. Music with lyrics, however, can sometimes be distracting, so you may want to create a writing playlist for yourself that consists of instrumental songs.
Some writers like to write to music that reflects the mood of the chapter being written, while others like to use “study music” that drowns out the regular world.
If you are the type of writer who needs specific types of music playing to write, make sure you do your writing in a location where you can control what’s playing. Making sure you always have a set of headphones with you can be extremely helpful in situations where the music, or sound in general, is out your control.
For those who prefer to work in silence, getting yourself some noise canceling headphones will be an excellent purchase.
19. Segment Writing and Research
Research is an important part of most writing projects, but it can also work as a convenient excuse for procrastination. Don’t feel like doing the hard work of drafting a chapter? Well, there is always more research to do!
Unfortunately, the second you hit Wikipedia or Google or enter a library, you’re almost certainly heading down a rabbit hole that will be difficult to emerge from for some time.
That’s why I recommend separating your research sessions from your drafting sessions. When you sit down to work, make sure you know what type of session it is going to be, and then stick with it. If it’s a research session, research to your heart's content. Spending a day in the library is a great part about being a writer. But if it’s a writing session, focus on the writing and only the writing.
20. Embrace Distractions
Loud coffee shop? Listen for unique dialect.
Are your kids driving you crazy? Turn them into monsters in your novel.
Creating the perfect, distraction-free life simply isn’t possible for many of us, so learning to turn distractions and frustrations into motivation and inspiration for your writing is, perhaps, the most valuable focus related skill set a writer can embrace.
We cannot control our environment at all times, and we can almost never predict what life is going to throw our way. Remaining nimble, flexible, and ready to incorporate the curve balls life throws your way will allow you to continue to make progress on your writing, even when everyone else succumbs to distraction.