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How To Maintain Focus When Writing

focus when writing

Can you maintain your focus when writing?

If so, you’re a wonder!

Most people struggle to maintain focus. They feel scattered and find it difficult to stay on track.

I recently got an email from one of our readers, Barrett Caton. He said:

I tend to over-think things when I write. Sometimes it just feels like a part of my mind is scattered all over the place, and it’s affecting my writing. How can I remove this annoying barrier?

Do you suffer from a similar malaise?

If so, don’t worry. You’re not alone!

The reason we struggle to maintain focus is simple: our brains are wired to pay attention to all the sensory input we are inundated with.

The sunbeam hitting your paper, the sound of cars passing, the way your new tee scratches your neck. The smell of coffee beans from the nearby cafe.

And the distractions we face …

Your phone rings.

You wonder whether your friend on Facebook replied to your comment.

Unpaid bills press in on you at the back of your mind.

You remember that you didn’t do the grocery shopping.

Your loved ones clamor for attention.

And on and on it goes…

 

Where does that leave the piece you are writing?

What piece?

Oh, the one I was just writing.

Now let me think … what was I about to say?

Sometimes it’s a wonder we ever get to finish a piece, don’t you think?

Back to Barrett: I told him how I maintain focus when I feel scattered.

It’s simple.

I listen to music that helps me focus. There;s a site, called Focus at Will where you can get a free account and listen to music chosen for improved concentration.

There is a lot of research that music can help us focus. In particular, music with about 60 beats a minute calms you down and puts your mind into a state where you can be focused and creative.

 

Why is it so important to maintain focus when writing?

 

If we maintain focus for at least five minutes, we can enter a zone where we can push the limits of our capability.

maintain focus writing

 

Yes, when we are focused, and push ourselves into that special zone, it can result in magic!

 

What about you? How do you maintain your focus when writing?

I’d love to receive your tips so that I can put together a resource for writers.

Please share your tips and thoughts in the comments.

As to Barrett, he’s 14 years old. You can tell he’s going to be an outstanding writer. He’s got the drive:

I love to write, whether it’s at school, in my spare time or on the toilet.

He’s an inspiration, isn’t he?

I look forward to reading your tips!

 

About the author:

Mary Jaksch is Editor-in-Chief at Write to Done. Grab her FREE report How to Write Like an A-List Blogger Mary has helped thousands of students successfully create profitable blogs at  A-List Blogging and is the blogger behind Goodlife Zen

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54 thoughts on “How To Maintain Focus When Writing

  • StitchFace

    When I’m writing, one of the reasons I become distracted is due to depression. It causes me to lose focus much easier than one would probably consider average. To combat that, I’ve found earplugs work wonders. Being introverted, I think and talk to myself a lot, so blocking out auditory stimuli helps me funnel my thoughts better, which in turn allows for better posting and an easier time mapping out short stories.

    Reply
    • Mary Jaksch Post author

      Ah yes, that makes sense.

      For you listening to music would wouldn’t work at all…! Each one of use has to find out what kind of ambience we need in order to writel. Good that you know yourself well

      Reply
  • Debbie Alferio

    When I write, the best way for me to stay focused is to eliminate as many distractions as possible. I have to be in a quiet place and be completely “in the zone” before I can really concentrate on what I’m doing. If there is any background noise, it almost always kills my muse. As for music, I know it works for many people, but for me, I tend to get too caught up in the songs, either singing along or trying to find another station if I’m listening to the radio and something comes on that I don’t like. For me, closing out the world and entering the one I’m writing about is the only way to go!

    Reply
  • Izham

    I don’t have any much tips in focus. What I do is breaking the focus in many sessions per day. For me, I can’t take whole three hours just to sit in front of my lappy and write. I need at maximum 15 minutes before I break my focus.

    Well, I can blame all sort of gadgets around me that have affecting my lifestyle. Even when writing this I keep looking at my next tab Facebook.

    I need to reset my focus and try it chunk by chunk.

    Thanks for the tips. Focus at will is now what I trying to try.

    Reply
    • Mary Jaksch Post author

      Hey thanks for stopping by, Izham!

      When I want to focus on my writing, I turn off everything: I disengage from the Internet, and stash my phone in a cupboard. Otherwise, I’m always ‘just taking a short look’. Next thing I know, I’m responding to an email and have wandered off my writing task… :-(

      Reply
  • Ed Walker

    I sat by a stream on my way to work one day last week. I got so engrossed in writing that I almost ended up being late.. I’d recommend it to anyone.

    Reply
  • Ace Jordyn

    I had to claim a space as my own so I converted a spare bedroom into an office. When I’m in my writing room, everyone knows I’m there to work and must be left alone. Sometimes I write, sometimes I think and sometimes I research. Most importantly, it is my creative space with my own clutter and notes on the walls and no one else’ – it is my safe place. I also listen to music for meditation and that helps me zen into my writing zone.

    Reply
  • Vanessa

    Hi Mary,
    Although, I’m a little older than Barret (16), I find too that one moment I’m writing and the next I’m lost in thought.
    Music helps a lot for me too and I try to write in quiet places so that I’m lost in my world. Sometimes, with the headphones on, my pen just keeps moving.

    Reply
  • resford

    When all thoughts jump into the mind you lose focus of what you seek. The external distractions will always keep occurring. it is up to you to build on your FOCUS.
    How? you may ask. I wouldn’t recommend that mine or any other person’s style of focus will assist you in maintaining your focus. Have you ever tried doing one thing so deeply that you fail to notice the essence of time? That explains how much focus you place on that topic or project you work on. When it comes to the part of writing i usually get my points down in a bulletin so i do not forget what’s going to happen in the next scene or line of my story. Should distractions come my way it takes quite sometime to readjust mental focus until it lands back on track. Sometimes, ideas escape so rapidly that you lose it for good, it never comes back. But that is not the case, your brain has ways of finding what you sometimes forget, and they retrieve it the time you are busy doing something else. it took me a while to learn where best my mental focus lies. Try and learn to adapt to your environment.

    Reply
  • Peggy Carouthers

    I was just trying to find new tips last night, so thanks for posting. I had read about Focus@Will, which I saw in the above comment. I was looking for something kind of similar to Ommwriter and free. I don’t always use Ommwriter, but it does help me relax and focus.

    I typically use Scrivener, because I find if my files are organized, my thoughts are, too, and I work better.

    Reply
    • Mary Jaksch Post author

      Scrivener is awesome! I use it for everything I write. I was talking to Joe Michael the other day (he’s a Scrivener expert) and he’s going to run a training webinar for us later in August. Can’t wait!

      Reply
  • Eric Ellard

    I have a similar problem. It’s just a 4 letter word. (W.I.F.E)
    She is a keen crocheter. If her fingers ache she knocks off and restarts whenever the mood returns.
    Unfortunately she thinks writing follows the same pattern.
    I have repeatedly asked to be left uninterrupted for two hours a day, but pleasantness just doesn’t work.
    Does anyone else have similar problems? Or, how was the problem solved?

    Reply
      • Eric Ellard

        Thanks; I do have my own room, and for half an hour or so when I wake early I go in there, just to sit and think, making notes etc. It is later in the day when the problems arise…….
        But I will keep on going nevertheless.
        TVM

        Reply
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  • Orion King

    I’m actually similar to Barrett, I’m fourteen and my method is hide away in my room, sit on my bed, blast some random rock music from my ipod and write.

    For me writing isn’t so much the, ‘And how shall this go’ all though there is a decent bit of that its more for me like reading and just watching the events happening and wondering how in the world that happened or why that character had to go and do something as stupid as that.

    Reply
  • Jane

    Hearing quite a lot about Focus@will recently! It is true that there are lots of distractions around us that can hijack our focus. Sometimes I even forget where I started lol – this is no joke, seriously since creating content is part of my bread and butter (and so will be for most of online entrepreneurs).

    Thanks for the wonderful tips, Mary!

    Reply
  • Alison

    Thank you for that tip Mary. I used to use music but haven’t for ages so had forgotten that it used to work. One of the reasons I lose focus is when fear or doubt come up in relation to something in my writing process. I find my mindfulness practice has been hugely beneficial as I can become aware of what is happening as it happens. When I notice the tension in my stomach and feel the impulse to check Facebook or email, I focus on my breathing and release the tension. That is usually is enough (when I remember to pay attention). I cue myself to pay attention with a post it above my screen!

    Reply
    • Mary Jaksch Post author

      That’s a very interesting comment, Tam. I think it’s true, if I write something and it triggers emotions within me, my writing gets more vivid.

      Reply
  • Jack Cordwell

    For me to get good writing time, I configure Scrivener to takeover my screen. That way I’m not tempted to check email or see what Tweets are waiting for me.

    I also find that writing somewhere else (NOT home) is best, since it’s so easy to get distracted by the family or laundry, or the toilet that needs to be plunged….

    Reply
  • Bonnie House

    The way I focus is just to write my thoughts all out at once. Then when I am finished I go back and reread what I have written. This way I am proof-reading and also see what may need changing to make it better.

    Reply
    • Mary Jaksch Post author

      That’s good, Bonnie – you’re separating the inner creator from the inner editor. Many writers can’t do that easily and end up blocked.

      Reply
  • boudewijn lutgerink

    I am lucky to be married to a wife who writes herself and who is the daughter of an author. She knows what writers need, so that is cool!

    What I do to focus is first of all absolute silence, no music or what have you. empty desk, with just my laptop, notepad and a box of pencils.

    I then use the one-point technique from Aikido. That brings your brain into a different state (more alpha waves) and I start writing. I can enter the Flow within seconds that way.

    Self hypnosis might work as well, every now and then I use that in combination with the aforementioned technique.

    Reply
    • Mary Jaksch Post author

      We’ll here’s a martial artist after my own heart. I’m passionate about karate and I must say the pointed focus and energy that I use in martial arts works well for creative projects as well. Great to hear the it’s similar for you with Aikido, Boudewijn!

      Reply
  • David

    More young writers! I’m 13 and I just love writing about anything… mostly in English, so I’m becoming better and better in it (because Czech is my native). And writing daily brings rewards.

    Reply
    • Mary Jaksch Post author

      Hey David, welcome! Great to see that you’re passionate about writing. I have a strong affinity with Czech people as my father was a German-speaking Czech!

      Reply
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  • Pascal

    My best writing time is during my train commute to and from work; as it only gives me 1 hour a day, I ensure it’s productive, phone turned off and I know my fellow commuters aren’t going to ask me anything.
    I’ve written one novel (and got some publicity because the media here in Australia thought it was an original concept: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/south-east/cheltenham-man-finds-novel-way-to-beat-boring-commute-to-work/story-fngnvmhm-1226910381917) and I’ve started another one.
    This is pure writing time; the other important time is idea generation which can happen anywhere so I make sure I have a note pad wherever I go,

    Reply
  • Altiv

    When I write, I listen to instrumental music, mostly ost from my favorite anime series, as they help me concentrate (because if they have lyrics I find myself singing rather than writing), but I also give myself time to focus on other things, every 30 minutes or so I get up and get some water, watch some websites or get some food.

    But when I’m editing my novel, I listen to my usual music because I’m focusing more on how I write than what I wrote.

    At least this method has worked fine for me =)

    Reply
  • Akshay Hallur

    Maintaining focus while blogging is actually very easy. Prepare a skeletal structure of your blog post and then expand your ideas. Initially use distraction free writing softwares. Then for formatting you may use your blogging dashboard or any document editing softwares.
    Keeping a deadline time while blogging actually helps a lot in getting focus. You know.

    Cheers,
    Akshay Hallur.

    Reply
  • Martha Fawcett

    Each day, I begin by reading what I wrote the day before and the story itself snags me and I forget about all the noise going on around me. It’s exciting being on the edge between what’s already written and only a few clues to the future

    Reply
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  • cara menghilangkan jerawat dengan zaitun

    I have a small background in magazine journalism but my new job requires no writing at all, except for emails. . . I would like to start doing some creative writing but I don’t know where to start, as in, what do I write about, and whether it’s actually worth bothering with or not. I’d probably be more inclined to do it if there was a competition or group I could join online or something like that. . . Does anyone do any writing or their own, if so, how did you get started? And what have you gotten out of it?.

    Reply
  • Zrue

    Thanks for the tips! Will check the music.
    Actually, this is very interesting, because today I just read an article about how writing is better when your conscious mind is tired and unfocused. Only then your subconscious mind can take over and bring out the best of the novel, the article stated.
    I’d be glad to hear your opinion on the matter.

    Reply
  • Jeffrey

    on focus: I find I focus best during two different times of the day. I tend to have my best focus early in the mornings between 5 and 7, and again from 11:30pm until 1 or 2 am. There are less noises to distract me. I on some occasions find myself in a writing groove, or zone which allows me to write anytime, anywhere. All potential distraction that break my focus typically seem to not exist. I am trying to teach myself ways to enter this groove or zone anytime on demand. I’m making some progress in my ability to do so.

    Reply
  • Luis

    Before I start writing….I take some time to live that moment..almost like I am that …and eventually becoming that writing itself. Become One with it. It takes great amount focus and turning inward as opposed to outward where all those distraction dwells.
    Secondly, the removal of self recognition…that I am doing this. There is no I……no doing…no doer.

    Allowing whatever there is to take its rightful place…The Writing Manifested.

    When the inward functions the outward goes silent. Distractions are in abeyance!

    Reply
  • Indu

    More important thing I have observed is when you try to fight distractions, they will bother you even more. You just have to accept the fact that there will be distractions and reassure yourself that you will prioritize your writing activity over them. Another important thing that works for me is to break the routine. I choose a different place every time (the conducive ones) and different stretches of time. It helps to protect me from monotony.

    Reply
  • verkosta

    Hello? I run a student service oriented website which has a good no of hits. I would like to convert it to a business. Can I register the website itslef as a company or should I start a company and the website should be owned by it? What is the protocol to start a new website company in India? Please explain each stage in detail as I am totally new to this field..

    Reply

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