Shelley Widhalm

Achieving Focus in Writing

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing Processes on October 20, 2013 at 11:00 am

Being a writer can be lonely and frustrating, requiring solitude for the physical act of writing, and motivation, inspiration and discipline for the mental aspects.

When writing is the main part of a job that pays the bills, there’s no room for not being in the mood to write, because there’s the looming deadline.

As a reporter, I write in a noisy newsroom, though the writing act remains solitary. What differs is the adrenaline that pushes the writing and forces discipline and focus. I may spend an extra five minutes to come up with the lead, but after that, I mentally organize the article and write according to the inverted pyramid of placing the most important information on top with a quote high up.

It helps that I’ve done this hundreds of times and so, even though the subject and quotes may vary, I speed through my highlighted notes to assemble a story, followed by editing to make sure it flows, has a good structure and says what I intended.

I try to apply this same “stress” to my personal writing, even if I’m not accountable to anyone except myself. I often face a blank screen for my blogs or a short story I want to write, so without thinking too hard, I grab words or a visual image. Just go, I think. The clock is ticking.

My start might be rough, just like the squealing of tires as I rush off from the green light, but then I become absorbed in what I’m doing.

This absorption is a matter of focus, which, according to the thesaurus, is to draw toward a center, attract, converge and convene. The process of writing is a way to draw you into your mind, where your subconscious can be at play and you can experiment with ideas not fully formed by trying out various ways to express them on paper (or the screen).

Through the process, you are focusing to make an image clear, bring it out or give details.

By being focused, you enter into the writing, bringing your mind and body wholly there.

Writing focuses thoughts and ideas, while setting a schedule focuses you into the process. It’s a good idea to create a schedule with small chunks of time set aside dedicated solely to writing.

And then give deadlines for the projects you want to finish of one session, a week or however long you think you need.

And then acknowledge those accomplishments; just like seeing an article in print, this will give validity to your own writing.

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