Finding Focus

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way…if not, you’ll find an excuse.”

These words stare up at me from my desk, written on a yellow Post-It.  I have it there as a reminder to stay on track with Weight Watchers, but lately I’ve been thinking of how it pertains to my writing career as well.

Being a Gemini, I seem to enjoy having many projects going at once.  Actually, it’s not even that I “enjoy” it per se.  It’s more like I don’t know what to do with myself if there’s a block of time not taken up by something. So in the past, I’ve started on one project, then somewhere along the way I get distracted and begin another, and another, and so on until I have anywhere from 5-7 things awaiting completion.  Then, when I spend time working on one, I also beat myself up for having so many others unfinished.  It’s a vicious cycle that I’m ready to break.

I’ve had similar problems in the past with my writing.  I have a folder full of stories that I began, then lost momentum and focus somewhere around page 30. Much of the reason is that I never wrote outlines for those earlier stories; I simply let the words flow out of my head.  I’ve found recently that my ideas and imagination can flow freely for about…you guessed it…30 pages, before trailing off with no clear direction planned.

When I was in school, I relied on deadlines to keep me focused…though not very well. If I had a week to do a book report, I’d procrastinate until the day before it was due, then cram as much reading in as was necessary and finish the report with minutes to spare.  This was how I spent much of my school years, and luckily I was able to skate through with As and Bs. However, in the life of a currently unpublished author, the only person giving me deadlines is me…and unfortunately, I’ve discovered how easy it is to break deadlines that I’ve set for myself.  It’s almost like a self-imposed deadline isn’t as important as one given by a teacher, or (I assume) an editor.

Looking back at my teenage years now, I see that I may not have been so lucky after all. Which brings me to the true crux of my issues…discipline. If I’d learned some back then, I doubt I’d be struggling with it as much today. They say it’s easier for people to learn things when they’re children: music, a foreign language, etc.  I think the same is true with discipline. However, no matter how tough it might be for me, it’s time to learn some. I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I no longer want to skate through life. I’m ready to dig my heels in, roll up my mental shirt sleeves and wade through the muck of procrastination in order to attain my dreams.

I’m learning more and more that, in order to succeed as an author – or anything else for that matter – it takes discipline. I need to set aside a certain amount of time daily to focus on my writing (all aspects, including marketing and this here blog), if I want to see results.  Even if I’m only able to devote an hour each day to this craft, it’s an hour more than my prior way of thinking, which was to wait until I had several hours of uninterrupted “free time” (HAH!) to spend on a book.

With the ability to see what my past choices have gotten me, I can clearly assess what changes I want to make.  As I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’ve learned to see my “reasons” for what they really are…excuses.  I’ve already found TONS of excuses.  Now it’s time to find my focus.

Will I have an easy time of it?  Probably not.  I’m envisioning much kicking and screaming from my inner child.

Will I succeed?  Absolutely.

How do you find discipline?

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dana
    Nov 12, 2010 @ 08:23:42

    Wow, you and I have GOT to be related… Some very familiar tendencies and thought processes in your post, as well as those files full of partially written stories or books (I actually have 150 pages on one that petered out)… The best quote I’ve heard about writing/discipline is ‘writing equals ass plus seat.’ Putting the time in. I find whatever my word count or frustration level, if I put in the time with my computer or Alphasmart on my lap, turn the TV off and focus for a couple of hours after work, eventually things will flow. If I don’t put that time in, nothing is gonna get written. So no matter what else is going on, I make myself take that time to put in on the writing. I also have learned to occasionally give myself a day off if I’m so burned out or tired or ill that the thought of it makes me wanna cry. My brain just won’t focus. Then I tend to turn to one of those other projects waiting in line for completion. 🙂

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Nov 12, 2010 @ 08:57:26

      LOL Doesn’t surprise me, Dana…that’s why we get along so well, I think. 😉

      Yes, I agree that I need to make myself take that time to write. Now, how to get there…
      I would add an addendum to the quote (which is great, you’re right): “…& fingers to keyboard.” ‘Cuz I could put my butt in a seat & just daydream for hours. Not productive though.

      Nice to see you here, as always. Thank you, Dana.

      Reply

  2. Cindy Sample
    Nov 12, 2010 @ 08:35:07

    Hi Alyx. My biggest issue from a writing perspective is that I’m very social and can always find an excuse not to sit down, on in my case, stand up at the computer and write. So what I do now is block out certain days or even a week when I turn into a hermit. Then I can pump out 30 or 40 pages which evidently makes me a binge writer. I’ve also told myself it’s okay if it’s not perfect because I LOVE to edit. That way I don’t sit there stumped because I can’t find the perfect sentence. The perfect sentence will come to me eventually. At this point I just want to write and feel that incredible rush that comes over you when everything starts to flow.

    If that doesn’t work I go to Safeway and buy some Kit Kat’s. That always does the trick:-)

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Nov 12, 2010 @ 08:52:48

      Mmmmmm…Kit Kat’s… I like the way you think, Cindy. 😉 I also like the idea of turning into a hermit to get writing done. I can appreciate absolute solitude for writing, but that would take me away from a life I really enjoy being in. Maybe I could adapt it to give me a couple hours a day of solitude.

      Thank you for visiting, & for the great suggestion.

      Reply

  3. Diana Orgain
    Nov 12, 2010 @ 10:02:48

    Alex – the best writing advice I EVER got was from my Creative Writing teacher at SFSU – his name is Roy Conboy and he is a fantastic playwright. His advice to me as a young creative writing student working on my thesis and wanting to change the premisis of the thesis when I was about 90% through with it because it had become boring and stale – “You have to make a habit of finishing.”
    Ever NEW project is more desirable because when it is new it’s fun. The work comes with the craft part at the end. That is when you need to apply yourself. Finishing is a habit. Yes, it takes discipline, but the more you do it (focus and finish) the easier it becomes. Hope this helps!

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Nov 12, 2010 @ 10:40:40

      It DEFINITELY helps, Diana! I like Mr. Conboy’s comment as well, especially in thinking about finishing things as a habit that needs to be honed.

      Thank you for the words of wisdom & for stopping by today!

      Reply

  4. Maddy
    Nov 12, 2010 @ 16:04:28

    One of the writers in my critique groups said she just sits and writes even if it’s gibberish just to get into the swing of things and then tosses the paper and starts fresh. Don’t think I’m quite brave enough for that though.

    I certainly agree that finishing the ‘old’ is very difficult when it’s so much more interesting to start the ‘new.’

    As for discipline, that certainly is a challenge. I’m doing Nano at the moment and my older daughter came in and asked why I wasn’t using my ‘free time’ to write my 1667 words today. I pointed out that the television was on for the children, radio for husband, I was in the middle of cooking dinner for our family of 7 people etc., etc., what I really needed was empty space in my head– time to think–what exactly I was going to write, let alone find the time to write it.

    I can see why people rent office space to have somewhere to run away and hide [and write!]

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Nov 12, 2010 @ 17:08:54

      I am SO with you, Maddy! There are so many things around the house that need doing as well, which disrupts my concentration (another excuse, possibly, but true nonetheless). I envision the lovely day when we have a place large enough for me to have a room that’s my own sanctuary & can afford me space to write. Until then, I will find discipline & focus where I can.

      Thank you for stopping by today. 🙂

      Reply

  5. Mysti Berry
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 12:02:38

    My husband is trying to teach me: *every* time I’m about to make a commitment, ask “will there be time to write if I do that?” Pretty much the only thing that makes the list before that is husband & day job, and even there I’m learning to set boundaries.

    You fully deserve to become the best writer you can be. So make a schedule (I hate them! they feel like jail!) and then whenever tempted to break it, say “I’ll just write for ten minutes.” Like with exercise, you can say “I’ll just go warm up & stretch” but you never leave once you get there and warm up. People are just funny that way!

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Nov 13, 2010 @ 13:35:11

      Ooohhh, good one! Please give kudos to your honey from me. That’s one thing that I don’t think about when I make commitments as well, so thank you VERY much for posting today! I also like the “just give it 10 minutes” scenario.

      I actually like lists & schedules (the other half of my Gemini side, don’cha know), because it helps me know what I need to do. Otherwise, my brain has to keep track of the list & I end up not sleeping very well.

      Thank you for visiting today, Mysti!

      Reply

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