I know, I know: no one wants to talk politics. We want to live our lives, and remain happy, or be happier. I do, too! The trouble is that right now, they're everywhere: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, the news, the papers, television in general... and whatever your position on them may be, getting away is sometimes really hard.
Creative folks like myself see this as a double challenge. It is, traditionally, the duty of many artists ("volatile creative types", if you'll allow me to quote an old cartoon) to reflect the world around them in their art, be it through obvious or subtle means. If we do not reflect the world we live in, we can reflect the world we wish for, and thus create a contrast. All of this reflection is very important in fast-changing times, as 2017 promises to be... but sometimes, it's just tiring to be a prism, or a mirror, or light-reflecting device of your choice. Sometimes, a creator wants to just sit down and have fun. The trouble is: with this traditional burden on our shoulders, should we feel guilty for just having fun?
Absolutely not. Now, as much as ever, people need fun. If you need to be reminded of that, print it out, tack it to a corkboard, paint it on your wall... whatever it takes to get the message across to your brain. (Sometimes mine needs a sledgehammer.) Ready? Let's get to work.
Oh, wait. ... Can you focus? I know that lately, I haven't been able to. My mind keeps drifting to all the better things I could be doing. There's so much contradiction: people need fun, but the world needs voices for change...
Yeah. That. Thanks for the demonstration, J.D.
So, if your standard creative-type person can manage to settle on the fact that they're going to practice BICHOK (butt-in-chair, hands-on-keyboard), how to keep the mind from wandering? There are several possibilities:
Writing sprints - they aren't just for NaNoWriMo anymore! Set a timer for as long as you feel like you can easily focus. There's no shame in starting small: five, ten, fifteen minutes... even one! Put down what you can in that time, and treat it like meditation: if you find that your mind is starting to wander, just bring it gently back to your writing. One version of this is the Pomodoro technique: write for 25 minutes, take a break for five, repeat.
GET THE REAL PAPER OUT.
Sometimes longhand writing really is the best way to go about it, and keep from being distracted. It also has the bonus of being portable - you can write anywhere. If you already do this, and you find your focus waning, switch to typing and see how you do... but use an application like Cold Turkey to limit your website use. There are plenty of other internet browser add-ons that fit a similar bill.
If you can't write, doodle. Make an inspiration board on Pinterest. Do some writing-related research. Go over your outline. Chances are, if you do something related to your project, it will spark something after long enough, and you'll be able to start churning out the words!
Build yourself a writing playlist, or find music that helps you focus. If I don't have a set playlist, or the time to make one, I'm finding that electronic instrumentals do the trick for me. (If you're curious, you can check out my Pandora station.)
SET A DEADLINE.
"I'm gonna have this chapter done by the end of the week, so help me..."
DON'T SET A DEADLINE.
The world won't end if you don't finish. Remember: if your head explodes, you'll never make it as an author.
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, BRIBE.
No writing done? No ice cream. No new episode of Insert Favorite TV Show Here. No buying That Thing You Saw And Really Want. That's all there is to it. Your parents knew where it was at, guys. (Hi, Mom!)
So, there you have it ... a few techniques that I've proven work for me. If they work for you, go right ahead and rock them! If not ... I promise, I won't be offended. If you have a trick that helps you focus, please leave it in the comments below!
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