Chasing a Deadline   10 comments

How you keep focused during long writing sessions?

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Who says I stay focused?

No, really. I usually have two or three projects going at once. Focus may not be my thing.

Long Writing Sessions

I have them and they’re almost always character-driven. When a character is telling me his or her story, I write it down and sometimes it is so engrossing I don’t get distracted by other projects.

Those are the best times and distractions aren’t really a problem when that’s happening.

Editing, though?

Those are some long sessions as well and those can be distracting. I enjoy editing in many ways – it’s when the characters allow me to polish their stories to my own purposes (for the most part). But there’s those other projects calling to me, so I need to stay focused in order to get the best results.

How do I do that?

Coffee. A nice pot of coffee and a bit of scone helps. The act of getting up to get it actually gives me short breaks that help me to focus for long hours.

Genre- or scene-appropriate music, through earphones, so I can’t hear the world around me. If I can’t hear the neighbors doing something entertaining or my husband watching a movie or a U-Tube philosophy podcast, I am less likely to get distracted from my work.

A timer. Sometimes I go through periods when I can’t settle down and so if I’m struggling with that, I’ll set a timer on my phone. I say “butt-in-seat-fingers-on-keyboard” until it goes off. I also sometimes use the timer to break up my writing sessions so that I don’t wear myself out.

But Seriously?

I grew up in a small Alaska house where everybody did everything in the main room because the rest of the house wasn’t that warm. I learned early to concentrate even when there is activity around me. I can watch television and write at the same time — depending on what I am writing. I can handle the noise of my family — and in fact, miss it when it’s absent. Distractions are a part of life and sometimes that neighbor doing something entertaining is the kernel of a story idea, so ignoring them might not such a good thing.

Writing takes discipline, but it also takes observing and interacting with life. Sometimes I write for 12 hours straight with only bathroom breaks and maybe making a second pot of coffee. Other times, I write for an hour and then let life draw me away to reality. I let the story dictate what level of discipline I need to exercise in any given day. Right now, I’m trying to write a minimum of a 1000-words per day so I can finish the rough draft of “A Death in Jericho” before the end of January, but I recognize that too much focus on an enjoyable activity can look a little like obsession, so I won’t sweat the word-limit more than absolutely necessary. If I finish the rough draft by February 7, I’ll consider myself well-rounded.

10 responses to “Chasing a Deadline

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  1. I’d find music through earphones very distracting, as I need total silence to write. Your timer idea is great – I need to copy that!


    • Total silence is the most distracting sound I can think of. So is white noise. Music or even just the growl of the boiler works better for me. This summer we had a couple of new neighbors who are lawn-obsessed. Their lawnmowers were great screening sound so I could get some good writing time in.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lol. I’m the total opposite to you. I can’t even stand it if Sam’s in the same room watching TV when I’m trying to write. He puts his headphones on and then for some reason his breathing gets louder. I need my own study, that’s for sure!


  2. It infuriates my good lady, how I can just switch off from reality and type. All I need is coffee.


    • Yeah, my husband is baffled by it. The other night I was working on a scene when he asked me to join him for a movie I’d seen before. Okay, I love the guy, so I brought my laptop and I wrote while the movie was playing. I would occasionally get distracted by the movie and there were a couple of scenes I didn’t care about, so then I’d concentrate on writing.

      Brad was like, “Seriously? How can you do that?” But it works for me.


  3. Music in my ears allows me to turn of the rest off the world.


  4. Wow, Lela, I could never write for 12 hours straight. I can work for this long in my day job, but that’s because I have to as my job is deadline driven. I would never do it willingly. I also find writing mentally draining. You are like Stephen King, he also used to write for hours and hours.


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