Daily Focus

daily-focusI have been very focused on my writing of late, partly because I realised that I wasn’t putting in the time I thought I was. When I reviewed my daily and weekly activity it was shockingly short of what I should be doing. That is short of what I want to be doing, so that I reach my goals and release the books I would like.

Due to a range of things this year hasn’t quite gone to plan and I have had days and weeks where my daily activity has slipped. And then there are some days I sit at the computer for hours and still feel like I’ve made no progress. But each day is important. Writing every day is better than not writing. For lots of reasons…but the main one is that all these little daily activities add up to the bigger picture.

When we struggle through a day or week, we can feel like we are plodding with our writing/creative/life goals and not getting to where we want to be. But all of these little tasks should be working toward the bigger picture.

 

Are your daily goals and activities working toward the bigger picture?

 

I have talked about goals and goal setting a lot. I review them regularly and as we work toward a rapidly approaching end of year, I am more or less organised for next year. All of these plans and goals reach toward my bigger goals. That is: to write full time.

So each goal I have for the year, leads towards that. I break it down and consider what I need to achieve each quarter, or month or week to meet the annual goal.

This comes back to what I do every day. Because we should be working every day toward our goal. Toward the mountain.

Some days seem harder than others, some tasks are not as exciting as others, but they should all be necessary in that movement forward.

 

Do you know what you want to achieve this year? Do you have a place you are aiming to get to?

 

Keep the focus on that goal, ensure your daily and weekly goals are moving toward it and that you are taking action every day.

My New Writing Space

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Oh, people it is so lovely.

The view.

The space.

The quiet.

The fact that it is all mine and I can leave my writing out if I want to.

 

Yeah *girly squeal*

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The only problem is that until this morning I hadn’t sat down at it to write. And I am back at work today so I can’t even fully appreciate it.

The house is still a mess and I have spent the last few weeks trying to find a home for everything and clear the space so that I can clear my mind and write. But I haven’t been able to do that.

IMAG0709In fact it has been a little disappointing but taking the time to clear the space has hopefully meant that I can settle into my writing again, and not try to fit it in around the organising.

I have found that I’m not quite as relaxed as I hoped to be in my own home. Partly because now that I have the chance to be organised I have found that I can’t do anything until I am organised.

Total organisation is a long way off and yet I am slowly breathing and at last writing.

Now I just have to remember to go to work and not wait for the sun to rise over my view.

What is my writing focus?

piles of writing

There seems to be so much to think about this week that my brain has kind of stalled. Maybe it is more bunny hopping as it has moments of clarity before it all gets too much. This is because I move later this week and my brain is trying to ensure I have everything done, organising all the little bits involved in moving (including when I can buy the milk so that I can maintain my tea levels whilst directing movers away from my crisp white walls – See? I’m ranting).

OK and breath.

Right, so on top of the craziness of moving I have been thinking about where I am going with my writing and what I really want to achieve.

I currently have three projects (outside of the website) on the go – one at planning, one at drafting and one at editing. None of which has progressed very far in the last week or so.

On top of that a friend and I decided we wanted to write together. We have talked about for years but done nothing about. So after much discussion and working out what sort of thing we want to do we are starting to plan a series of novellas.

I’m sure once I am in my new, crisp writing space it will all seem a little easier. The ideas are flowing for all projects (moving included) and my hope is that they don’t become too muddled in my head (although it all feels quite muddled as the moment).

Around all the writing and craziness of moving I have been playing with ideas for making money from my writing – copyediting, proofreading, copywriting etc. – but it all distracts from writing fiction which is where I really want to be. It might help me earn some more funds towards supporting my writing but really I need to focus on what is important.

So even though I am literally up to the eyebrows with writing projects it is what I love. And I know that I can settle and focus and start getting some more writing out there. Trying to start a “writing business” on the side when I already have a day job is just a distraction from what I want. I do need to think about marketing and growing my audience to be able to sell more fiction. In some ways this is part of my business, particularly as I am currently self publishing. This has been part of the learning curve to work out what business of writing I am in and what I need to do to make that a success.

It certainly helps to write things down. Getting the ideas out of my head and onto paper, just like a first draft, helps to clarify my goals and wants. Once I am settled into my new house I plan to take the time to look over my writing goals for this year, how they are going and what may have changed.

It might be that I write about writing and finding time to write and other gems of knowledge I discover along the journey and I’m ok with that. And I hope along the way it helps you on your writing journey (whatever shape that takes).

My Writing Plans

shoes on deckAt the beginning of the year I discussed my plan for the year. I didn’t want to share all the details at the time because there was a lot going on (and there still is) namely the building of my house and planning the move. Then my parents went away leaving me to dog sit and that seemed to push my plans completely out.

I’m kind of back of back on track. I have the first short story out for the year, if several weeks behind schedule. I’m editing my fantasy novel (or at least I’m planning for the re-write and trying to stay positive). I am drafting my fantasy medieval trilogy (slowly) and starting to plan a series of novellas.

So I am crazy busy and all this while I (finalise the) building of my house and all that goes with moving. So this year is going to be a big one.

To give you an idea – here are my writing goals for this year (which may change as the year develops):

  • Snow (fantasy novel) to be out around August/September (not sure how likely that is, may be later)
  • Medieval fantasy trilogy to be fully drafted this year (all three books, total around 450,000 words)
  • Iski Flare Book 1 to be ready for release by Christmas.
  • Weekly blog posts with where I am at and tips to help other writers at a similar stage.

And all this while working full time, mothering full time and ….lots of other stuff.

So to make sure I can do what I want to with my writing I have a plan. (Doesn’t every writer?)

I have to pull my finger out and get on with it. I will get up and continue to write (or edit) for an hour first thing every day. I will fit in another hour of writing or writing related activity every day (probably in the evening) and use my free lunch times and weekends (when the child is with her dad) to get more done.

I have worked out roughly how many hours a week I have (about 15, give or take a couple).

Now if I used this 15 hours appropriately and productively I think I could achieve the following in a week:

Either:             Write about 22,000 first draft words

Or:       Edit somewhere between 5 and 15 scenes

Or:       Draft, edit and smooth out 10-15 blog posts

Or:       Outline or plot a single story idea to the point I could start a first draft.

When I first wrote these figures down I was quite surprised. I have a pretty good understanding of how long different activities take as I record my writing times and review regularly. So I’m sure that with focus the above figures give a close indication of what I could achieve.

So my plans are in place and underway. And they have been for a while now; it is just that I haven’t shared. Now that my projects are flowing reasonably well, if thickly, I’m more confident in how they are going. I’ll share my six monthly review in July to show how I’m going in meeting these goals.

How to beat procrastination by finding focus

therock focus

Image courtesy of www.whiteknuckleiron.com

I am currently editing two projects (as discussed last week), my day job is crazy and we are sharing a vehicle at home. And so my mind is probably more full than overwhelmed but it has had the save affect. I’m procrastinating.

The realisation that I was actually procrastinating struck during the week when I spent my entire morning hour watching videos on how to improve my web presence. I find that when I am overwhelmed I can become a bit distracted. Distraction can be one of those problems that feeds on itself.

The videos were very interesting by the way and I’m sure that when I can justify the time I will be trying to implement what I learnt. But what is the point of a web presence if I haven’t got any writing to share? If I have an author page with no books? And who would read writing tips from someone who watches videos instead of writes?

If I were to spend the time I’m currently wasting on my current projects I would be finished much sooner. Yet the mind is a crazy thing or a strange thing at least.

To beat procrastination I have found two things help. The first is focus.

Thinking about getting focused always makes me think of the Rock. He is the focus king. I try to channel the Rock while I’m at the gym (my hands are even starting to look like his – although not as big, obviously) but I should also be using this mindset for my writing.

Life intrudes and for many of us writing around a day job or family (or other equally important aspects of our lives) focus is required to ensure we getting the writing done.

Focused time is essential. Since the realisation of my procrastinating I revisited my diary and blocked out periods of time to write. It isn’t always easy, especially living with other people, and if you can’t find the time try negotiating for some. Even if you simply say “I just need half an hour, can you give me that?” or “Can you watch the kids or hold the dog so I can finish this chapter?”

The second is self awareness.

Seeing the signs before procrastination becomes a big problem can help you prevent it. Being aware of your writing practice and processes is a part of this. When you know what is coming and why then you are better able to deal with it.

Part of self awareness is to know what you really want to achieve. Knowing what you want makes it easier to work towards.

 

Revisit what you want to achieve and when you can make the time to do it. Family can be just as crazy as everything else in our lives but we have the bonus that they love us. Don’t be afraid to tell them just how important your writing is and how they can help. You never know, your partner hanging out the washing might be just what you need to lift the pressure and increase your chance to focus on the ink flowing over the page.

How focused is your writing time? What would help you focus?

Have you considered a mini writing retreat?

mini retreat

Every year in August my writing friend and I head off for a week of pure writing fun. This will be our third year and we are already planning. The retreat is booked for our preferred dates, leave forms submitted and approved. Goodies we keep forgetting to take are listed (like pillows, extra milk and eggs). It has worked really well both times and we are sure that it will not only be just as good this year but will continue on every year.

We were recently talking about how we wish we could go twice a year but it isn’t possible. Then over the last weekend we had the chance for a mini retreat when my friend’s husband was away on business. And it was as simple as me turning up after ballet classes were finished and staying the weekend.

It was a true retreat for me, given that I didn’t have to worry about pets, kids or the like. I had even left a volunteer at home doing the washing. All I had to do was write (and a little cooking/food preparation).

The key to any retreat, whether self-organised, time with a friend or a professionally organised one is preparation and focus. OK, so that is two things. But I find that once you are organised and ready for the time then the focus follows along easily.

I started the mini retreat with a plan (although rough):

  • write 1000 words a day for my current big project,
  • edit current short story,
  • draft a couple of blog post ideas,
  • spend time planning writing ideas (although this one is a bit of a procrastination tool because if I am honest I have my writing and publishing plan pretty well set).

Retreats need to be away from the pressures of life. I have mentioned that I am living with my parents and I find that even when my daughter is away with her dad and I think I have some time, Mum finds something to talk about or check, or ask or get me to do. Life will be different once I have my own space but it is nothing like working in a space where you only need to write.

A retreat can be a bit like working in a library, with a kettle and fridge handy. You just get on with the work at hand. If you do this with like minded people then you can enjoy it even more. Not everyone wants to write for 12 hours a day on a retreat – some may like a walk at lunch time, or a visit to the shops in the afternoon or movies every night. We like to write for 12 hours a day and so that is what we do.

Some people like to sleep in or go to bed early. We are a bit different there and on our last retreat we found that sometimes one of us wanted to stay up late and the other would get up early. It is a matter of respecting the other person’s (or people’s) needs and being quiet while they sleep, and so they don’t wake you when you want to sleep.

Honestly, I think we jagged it. Not everyone is as lucky as I am with my writing buddy. And in some ways I am sure I get more from the friendship than she does because she is much more driven than I. Without her there typing away I am sure I would get distracted and watch TV or wander out for a walk or a run. It is a bit like my bike class at the gym. Quite often I think I would have given up but with the trainer pushing from the front and the others riding along beside me I have no choice but to go with it. And I am all the better for it at the end. Completing the class proves that I can do it. Sometimes we need that little push by doing something with others that we would not get by working alone. And other than the ideas planning, I achieved everything I wanted to.

How could you find a little writing retreat? Could it be a day in the library? Do you have someone that will keep you going that might like to join you?