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This Writing Life: Finding Focus

11 July, 2013

It’s my birthday week this week, and we’ve also had some glorious weather here in the UK, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy writing. With fewer than ten chapters left to edit, my most recent novel is finally coming together, and I’m looking forward to having it done! Or as done as a novel can be before it’s read by anyone other than the author, anyway…

As I was working this morning, completely ripping apart and rebuilding a very important scene, I found that nearly two hours went by before I’d realised it. I hadn’t been checking Facebook, or my emails; I hadn’t been surfing Last.fm to find new bands to add to my playlist; I hadn’t even been wandering up and down stairs for fresh cups of tea. Instead, it was two hours of solid work, with a much improved scene to show for it that finally contains the tension and emotion I’d originally been aiming for.

Finding this level of focus seems to be increasingly rare for me. There was a time when I could sit down to write and do nothing but (a time before a PC with internet, and also before having a job, a partner or anything much beyond school to think about), but these days there seem to be a thousand and one other things to occupy my days. Even something as simple as replying to a work email might take half an hour, and suddenly I’ll find myself with neither the time nor the motivation to write.

Equally infuriating is the fact that I have no idea what inspires these sudden bursts of focus. Is it the music I’m listening to? Having a caffeinated coffee at breakfast instead of decaff? Working on something very detailed that requires more concentration? The weather or the day of the week (as my day-job shifts vary day by day, that last one isn’t as unlikely as it sounds)?

Not knowing, of course, means it’s difficult for me to replicate these times. There are days when I simply can’t make myself focus and can’t seem to do anything about it. What I can do, though, is be alert for these brief periods of intense focus and make the most of them. Today I’ve done that by pushing myself to finish a scene rather than telling myself I’ll come back and do the last bit tomorrow, and also by writing this blog post as soon as the mood struck me, rather than just adding it to the queue of ‘things to do’.

I don’t believe in making excuses for not getting work done – if you want to write, you’ll do so, whether you’re feeling ‘inspired’ or not. That doesn’t mean, though, that we shouldn’t embrace moments of superior focus and creativity, and make the most of them when they show their heads!

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