Topic of the Night: Regaining Focus
Last night I talked about focus, how times and outside events sometimes cause us to lose focus in our writing.
How do you get the focus back on writing besides the simple answer “Slowly?” That answer helps no one, really.
So let me give a few ideas on how to regain focus, or at least how I have done it at times. How I have brought back up writing on my priority list over the years when the world is tossing in far too many things.
Look at Overall Goals
Sometimes losing focus can be not only caused by other things in life taking priority, but also by each of us losing a focus on what is important with our own writing.
When the goal fades, the importance of your writing fades back down the priority list as well. Just natural. It starts feeling like “Why bother?”
So step back and take a hard look at your overall goals, see if they still fit what you are doing. If not, change them to goals that do fit. This might take some time. Give it the time.
Success Can Cause a Lack of Focus
Strangely enough, with writing, accomplishing a major goal or reaching some milepost can really cause you to lose the focus on the writing. It should work the other way around, but it doesn’t most times.
This has stopped me cold and made me lose focus numbers of times over the decades.
How to get past this is to again step back, acknowledge what you have accomplished, and reset another goal or milepost. And then focus on that new goal. That will bring up the focus on your writing and bring your writing back up your priority list.
Lack of Success Can Hurt As Well
This one makes more sense than most, but isn’t often the cause of a lack of focus. Most writers I know don’t give up easily on dreams of writing.
But when sales are down or under your made-up expectations, the focus can get pulled into other places trying to fix the sales. And they can’t be fixed without writing.
But just when the writer needs to really jump to more writing, the focus of lack of sales makes the writing almost impossible.
I usually don’t much care about how my books sell. But at times this creeps in and when I hear myself say something along these lines I try to smash it down at once. So listen to what comes out of your mouth to spot this problem.
A ton easier said than done.
Your Goals Force You Away From Writing
Wow, have I seen this a great deal. Especially with writers who start making some money with their writing or who go freelance with their writing. Suddenly everything in the business world, in the marketing, in the production, feels more important than the writing.
Notice I said “feels” which means the priority list has shifted.
In fact, the focus on the writing often drops so far down the ladder of priority that it is an afterthought. Even though the writing is the center of the business. The other stuff just “feels” more important and is more controllable in theory. So it gets done first, leaving little or no time to write.
This becomes a death spiral, actually, for writers, since the more the money goes down because of lack of writing focus, the more the writer will focus on external things like more promotion and so on to try to fix it. Scary but true and I’ve seen it over and over.
And yeah, you folks over the last three years have watched me try to balance this as we have built WMG Publishing into a solid, mid-sized publishing company with many employees. Sometimes I have lost that balance. Mostly I have won.
Over the last month I have lost, but I will regain the focus on the writing again soon, meaning in the next few days.
The sudden focus to a health issue or a family member or close friend health issue can cause writing focus to vanish instantly. And that’s logical.
The key in times of health issues is to keep your writing a fun, safe place to play. And take all pressure off your writing instantly. Guilt around not-writing might be a motivator in normal times, but it is deadly around health issues.
Take the pressure off and make the writing important again as the health issues clear.
I had to do this when my friend Bill died suddenly. I spent almost nine months not writing because my focus was on clearing up his estate and recovering from that. But when the time was right, I came back to writing. But it took some months to get back.
Those are just a few of the things to try to help you regain focus when the writing suddenly seems to not be so important.
Sadly, I have seen far more writers than I want to think about lose focus, put writing way down the priority list, and never recover. Take this problem as a serious problem, no matter the cause.
And keep the writing fun. Make it a place to escape from the other things. That also will help you give it more focus because it is fun.
And we all like having fun.
Star Fall is Out in a Bundle
Repeating this again since I really hope a bunch of you get this bundle to see what I produced in those ten days in August. Some of you might remember the book I wrote in ten days while aiming at seven days in late August. Star Fall: A Seeders Universe Novel. That book is now available as I promised it would be. The official publication date isn’t until November, but at the moment it is available in a fantastic bundle called The Extreme Science Fiction Bundle.
Also notice that in this bundle there is a fantastic Retrieval Artist novel called Extremes by Kris. It also has a great novel by Kevin J. Anderson, another by Mike Resnick, and another by M.L. Buchman. Plus two books by J. Daniel Sawyer.
And also an amazing volume of Fiction River: Risk Takers. I edited that and it is a fantastic example of a Fiction River volume.
Totals For Year 4, Month 2, Day 26
Writing in Public blog streak… Day 1,103
Total Miles This Month… 138 miles
— Daily Fiction: 00 original words. Fiction month-to-date: 4,700 words
— Nonfiction: 00 new words. Nonfiction month-to-date total: 1,500 words
— Blog Posts: 800 new words. Blog month-to-date word count: 9,000 words
— E-mail: 27 e-mails. Approx. 2,200 original words. E-mails month-to date: 389 e-mails. Approx. 24,500 words
— Covers Designed and Finished: 0. Covers finished month-to-date: 0 Covers
— Year of Short Fiction Goal: 120 stories (July 1st to June 30th). Stories finished to date: 8 stories.
— Yearly Novel Goal: 12 Novels. Novels finished to date: 2 novels.
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Jennette Marie Powell
Thanks again for this! I’m getting ready to review my goals for 4th quarter, and this looks like a good time to re-evaluate my longer term goals as well. It also really helps to know that even long-term pros like you deal with this stuff, too.
Thank you for this, Dean. Very timely, as presently I am kicking myself over being behind on 2 internal deadlines. Ironically, the book covers are paid for, approved, and delivered. With my former roadblock outsourced, what’s my excuse now? *Navel Gazing.* This amazing time-suck consists of watching sales go up, up, up (Wow, finally!) and then down, down, down (Oh, no! I have to finish/publish the stuff in my pipeline, OR ELSE!!!). Two other books got an honorable mention in a contest. I was so thrilled, it totally defocused me. I think I got a haircut that day, and I might’ve cleaned out the fish pond. Ugh! Now I’m going to turn off the internet and add some words to this story. I like the MC and the setting, I have a good idea where the plot is going, all I need is a bit of normalcy in my life. (Maybe I need an agent. Can you recommend an agent that would insulate me from all these distractions? (Duck-and-cover, laughing madly 🙂 )
Ah, just what I needed to hear. I’m a week in on a bout of a recurring illness, and oh the GUILT that I’m not writing! I know beating myself up is only making matters worse, but it’s a long-established habit. ? This too shall pass, and when it does, getting back to writing will be a joy. Sometimes it helps to have someone else tell you it’s okay, so thanks for that!
Life-rolls are deadly, and you are right. Keep the guilt away. Keep the writing fun and a shelter from what is going around you. I’m slowly coming out of my life-roll and am very glad I did all those things. It made coming back sooooo much easier.