Can’t keep up? 5 ways to be more focussed on your writing

It’s hard to have enough concentration to be able to write when you have so many distractions during the day. You can’t always be listening out for the baby to wake up or constantly checking your phone for updates and still manage to write anything worthwhile. You need a healthy dose of concentration to be able to do yourself justice and write well.

But what if time just crawls by? You’re staring at the blank wall more than you are writing. You look down and realise you have written the grand sum of 4 words and they aren’t even in the right order! Imagine you’re doing your favourite thing, whatever that is, playing Candy Crush or Call of Duty, watching a film, reading your favourite book. You automatically shut down any distractions and carry on, really immersed in what you are doing.  How the time flies then. You just need to mimic that when the writing gets tough.

Take a look at these and see if there are any that help you write more productively.

1) Minimise distractions as much as you can. Turn off your router, put your phone on silent, turn off radios or TV.

2) Change your work place if you can. I normally work at a desk in the corner of the dining room but when I can’t concentrate I move to the kitchen table or even lounge on the bed. I can’t explain it but it seems to kick start me and my concentration does return temporarily. If possible, I head out to the library or a coffee shop, this seems to have the same result but it lasts longer. I think it is the embarrassment of people noticing that I’m staring into space that makes me more productive!

3) I also tend to work better in small bursts particularly if I know there is an end to it. For example, if I know I only have 5 minutes, I will just try to write continuously. If I have longer, for example on a weekend, then I employ the Pomodoro technique. Basically, a posh way of saying I work for 20 minutes (using a timer, the original was a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato I believe thought up by time management guru Francesco Cerillo) , then get up for a minute or two, make a drink or check my messages. Then back to work for 20 minutes.

4) If a time constraint isn’t working I give myself a goal as well. Whether that be 600 words or editing 3 paragraphs or a small slice of whatever it is I’m working on. I still use the timer but try to fit each goal within the 20 minutes. It focuses my mind as I am much more likely to write 600 words if I know that is what I have to do. If it is open ended and I just say to myself I need to write, I seem to spend more time staring at the wall or drinking far too much coffee…

5) Above all, just write. Your first draft may be awful to start with but that is what editing is for. When I write I try not even to look at the screen just my fingers (as I’m a rubbish typist it’s more essential than just a preferred thing) so there are numerous spelling errors and randomly inserted letters. I also leave notes to myself while I’m writing when I would like to write more about something but don’t have the information to hand. Rather than distract myself by researching I just write the problem in capital letters or put in TK. It’s a handy little thing that stops you getting hung up over an exact word or phrase and allows the flow of words to continue without making you stumble too much. It stands for ‘To Come’ apparently but I’m not sure that’s just something people have made up after the fact. In reality, whatever it stands for it is useful because there are very few words in English where ‘T’ and ‘K’ comes up together. (unless you are writing about TKMaxx  of course!) so searching on ‘TK’ in a document doesn’t give you many alternatives.

Most writers have terrible first drafts but as the saying goes, you can’t edit a blank page. Get what you can down on paper and then you can hone and massage until you have a masterpiece.

Today’s 5 minute task

Pick one of the above tips and use it in your writing today. It’s important to get those words down any way you can.