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How you keep focused during long writing sessions?
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Long writing sessions can be tedious, especially for those who force them into their plan. As a writer who follows the flow, I rarely put a schedule a down. Some might think I never get anything, done, but the blog is proof otherwise. The most planning I do for my site is knowing that on Fridays I publish, and then what topic is published each week of the month–whether that is Shagbottom, Zo, something about my companion book, or the vlog.
What about those months with an extra Friday? Having subtopics and knowing what those are helps me choose for that odd pitch. I don’t outline the articles, and I’m sure some may say–well, that shows! Preparing every entry to that level would require staff and months of advance work.
Sure, there are writers who have the time to outline and execute that plan. But, even if you do, is it worth the time? Does that level of polish reflect the person I’m trying to share with readers? For many micromanaging that time can be stifling to creative flow. Like me, you can’t always just turn it on and off like a water spigot. Congratulations, if you can. In addition, I hate sounding over polished. It’s not who I am, unless I am writing a novel.
Managing my time…
Booking a slot of time to work solely on my writing would take a lot of planning and negotiating. I’d have to find a sitter, or plan it post bedtime (whenever she finally does lay down to sleep). Thus, my start time would depend on the behavior of others. It’s unrealistic to just pen it in and stick to that with the structure of my life. The amount of stress this could cause would make it difficult to switch from getting there to the actual act of writing.
Certainly, there are days where my daughter is off with her grandparents, and sometimes on extended stays. But, this doesn’t mean the mom work ends, or that the daily tasks for myself are caught up either. Mending, laundry, cleaning, cooking, the shopping, and my day job each require my attention regardless of the presence of a child.
Long writing sessions often happen by chance for me. It’s attached to how well the work flows from my brain to the page. Somedays, I can only squeak out a few pages, or put my effort into refining what has already been put down. Either way, I get the work done.
There are days when I realize I have just hours to get my response in for the hop! Or, there are times when it’s a day or so before I must have the month’s blog completed. Panic is a hell-of-a-writing prompt. In fact, I’m writing this on the Saturday afternoon before it goes up Monday at noon. That’s not a lot of time to plan, let alone outline, proof, and organize. (Typos always happen, even with the best executed plan.)
But, should I find myself in the midst of a long writing session, I find no problem maintaining that focus. It happens on it’s own. Therefore, realizing it happened is hindsight. So, what happens to create that perfect zen?
A few things just fall into place. My muse (or the will, excitement, and material) cooperate to keep the pace up. This means there’s a lot to write down (a lot to be said). In addition, it means that I either have time or I am taking the time despite what else is on my to-do list.
The truth is, that life is a balancing act, regardless of what you have to do. You’ll make choices, actively (conscious) and passively (subconscious) that affect every arena. Your writing style will likely determine how you work best, and how you work best will look different from most other writers. This doesn’t make it wrong or right, better or worse. What works for you, is what works for you. It’s nice, though, to read about other writers who have your style, so you can not only pick up tips from them but feel less of an imposter.
If I scheduled a long writing session, what I would do to maintain my focus is to make sure that my to-do list was checked off (at least anything that requires my immediate attention, and prioritize from there). This shuts down anxiety and it’s distraction. Next, I’d make sure that I could be uninterrupted, so that I give myself the best opportunity to get into and hold the flow. Prior to all of that, I would make sure I had a dedicated space with working equipment to reduce further stress and eliminate obstacles. But, this is a perfect storm reality does not always supply–even if you strive toward it. In other words: shit happens.
Writing by the seat of my pants has always proven to be my best opportunity. Letting myself write when the mood grabs me means that I will hold my focus and I will get to where that writing needs to be. Sometimes, I do have to walk away when I still feel I could go on a while longer, because life is moving. Making notes for the next time help me walk away confident. Writing this way has kept me from forcing anything onto the page later that doesn’t really work, is weak, or needs a lot of massaging. When I sit, I am ready and the words have found me.
Sure, it can be frustrating to watch the days and weeks pass without the mood taking me. After years of operating in this manner, I have learned to not have anxiety around it. This is just my style. It means there’s something simmering in the depths. When that bubble comes up, I’ll find another project that was worth the wait.
A lot of my writing is dependent on internal reflection about the story. I tell myself the story a hundred times and test it out. This not only ensures it’s worth my time to write, but that I am excited about it. Plus, having given it enough thought makes for substantial material to write about without having to agonize.
Don’t agonize. In my informed opinion, agonizing creates a load of crap! You’ll have to rake that muck away from the good stuff, and that’s work you don’t need. Then again, panning those waters could be beneficial. Perhaps you’ll find the gold?
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