‘How do you keep focused during long writing sessions?’
Focusing is not something I struggle with. In fact, when I am focusing, I am unlikely to hear anything going on around me as I block out all other noises and sounds. I have always done this and the teacher always had to come over and tell me it was time to stop reading at the end of each lesson [we were allowed to read until the end of the session, when all our work for that specific lesson was completed]. It used to drive my parents and siblings nuts and now it drives my husband and children crazy because I won’t hear them talking to me if I am writing, reading or blogging. My sons get quite upset about it, especially Michael, as he says I ignore him. I’ve tried to explain I just don’t hear him if I’m absorbed.
When I’m on work deadlines, I work 12-hour sessions, eating and drinking at my computer, in order to review and mark up changes to a document and all the related reports. These sessions are usually from 6am to 6pm and occur about 3 or 4 days a month during my busy periods. During the working week, I am usually logged in to my email and Skype from 6am to 8pm in case there are emergencies or ‘urgents’ that I need to deal with. I pick up emails and deal with them while I read or blog and sometimes when I write if I’m working through the weekend. I am trying to do this less often lately due to the high levels of work stress I experienced during the C-19 lockdown period which was bad for my health. I worked every weekend for 3 or 4 hours a day for 5 months.
I am quite fortunately in that I can split my focus to a certain extent if I want too. This enables me to listen to a meeting and do other ‘light’ tasks such as checking changes to documents at the same time. My son said this is impossible until I made by point by repeating the a work conversation word-for-word, having listened while I reviewed changes to a work document. I can’t write a story, read a book, or review complex spreadsheets or legal agreements while doing other things. These tasks do require my complete focus and attention. Being able to use all my time efficiently by frequently doing two things at once does help me do things much quicker and gives me more time for other things. I always read both my blogs and twitter accounts at the same time. I have two computers and alternate reading posts and tweets on the two machines. I am also fortunate in that I read very quickly and retain most of what I read.
Back to focusing on writing, I usually write in blocks of not more than 3 hours for the simple reason that this is all the writing time I have in a day. From Monday to Friday, I try to squeeze in 1 hour of writing; I often don’t manage it every day, especially during busy periods. I usually write for 3 hours on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday so that makes for between 9 and 13 hours of story writing a week. I am not supposed to work on a Friday as it is my off day, but I usually work until 1 pm. I spend additional time editing what I’ve written but that doesn’t require as much focus as the creative process. I often edit on a Saturday afternoon. I also spend extra time doing research and reading as it is easy for me to disappear down a ‘rabbit hole’ when I am interested in a topic that I am writing about.
I write approximately 6 blog posts a week and this time is additional to the above, as is the time I spend writing book reviews. Reviewing a novel takes me between 45 minutes and 60 minutes and I usually write 2 or 3 reviews a week.
I don’t do anything to retain my focus. A colleague was shocked recently when I said I don’t drink any coffee or fizzy cooldrinks. I find drinking lots of water and limiting tea to three cups a day allows me to work at a optimum level. I also try to go for a 20 minute walk around my garden every day as that is good exercise and releases the tension a bit.
How do other writers manage to keep focused? Click on the link below to find out.
You are invited to the Inlinkz link party! Click here to enter