Friday, March 11, 2016

Hocus, Pocus: What Happened to My Focus?

One issue I've struggled with in my writing is lack of focus. Truth be told, I start a lot of things but don't finish them.

Maybe it's because of the weather. Maybe it's because there is so much going on in my little world. Or maybe it's because there are so many external distractions--like all the hoo-hah with the Presidential elections. Which reminds me: How many more debates must we endure?

Whatever the reason, most days I feel like Louisa von Trapp singing her part in "So Long, Farewell," from the "The Sound of Music."

If my mind could sing, it would be replaying the lyrics, "I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly."

Take today. I scrolled through some old file folders searching for short stories I've written over the years. During one search I found a folder with a title that wasn't familiar. I opened the file and read the beginnings of a YA novel I started (complete with chapter outline) two years ago. It was pretty good, but I had completely forgotten about it. Feeling frustrated, I plucked out a short story. Same thing. The story was off to a good start but never got finished.

I've decided that to overcome my lack of focus, I'm going to give myself a spring break. While the guys are out turkey hunting, I'm going to hunt down my old stories and beginnings of novels and try to clean them up. If I tackle one thing at a time, it just might work. It's either that or wave a magic pen over my laptop and say "Hocus, Pocus, bring back my focus."

How about you? Do you struggle with focus? Do you have any tips to bring back focus? Or do you have a magic pen I can borrow?

24 comments:

  1. Donna, I can relate! I've tried to go back and revisit story beginnings and book ideas, too, but I still can't stay on task long enough to finish them. :) Good luck to you, and if you find that magic pen, can I borrow it, too?

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    2. Hi Dianna,
      Thanks for the well wishes. I haven't found a magic pen, but -- quiet the coincidence-- today I received a fancy pen in the mail today from a company which addressed the envelope to me as an employee for an agency where I retired over a decade ago. I think they need to update their mailing list.

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    3. Love how you wished for a magic pen and then it came to pass. Sounds as if the universe is sending you a message. "To do" lists always help a lot to give a satisfying sense of accomplishment. Bird by Bird, Donna!

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    4. Thanks, Clara. You're right. I need to reread that book!

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  2. I have been there, Donna! What helps me is to set short term writing goals and deadlines. Every day I sit down to write I have a specific word count goal. I write it on a sticky note and put in on the wall behind my computer. If I am revising rather than drafting, I cut and paste my pre-determined word count goal into a separate document and that's what I revise. That way, even if I didn't make it to a great stopping point in the narrative, I met a goal that I can cross off my to-do list and that is remendous satisfying. Don't know if that is helpful, but it works pretty well for me.

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  3. I have been there, Donna! What helps me is to set short term writing goals and deadlines. Every day I sit down to write I have a specific word count goal. I write it on a sticky note and put in on the wall behind my computer. If I am revising rather than drafting, I cut and paste my pre-determined word count goal into a separate document and that's what I revise. That way, even if I didn't make it to a great stopping point in the narrative, I met a goal that I can cross off my to-do list and that is remendous satisfying. Don't know if that is helpful, but it works pretty well for me.

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  4. Thanks, Sarah. I especially like your suggestion about setting daily word limits.

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  5. I can appreciate you situation as I have been/am there too. I think being a woman and wife complicates things...many things to interrupt our minds and our time. Winter is my prime time but I was sick this winter so lost most of the writing energy. I have no solution other than I do "write" in my head. Sometimes I scan a story before a trip to doctor office or riding along with hubby to something, even the movies. With a fresh look I think go over it and over it in my head, thinking, arranging, and rearranging scenes sometimes getting a great detail to use later. Meanwhile, my stories and poems sit here like yours do waiting on me--like the poem that is trying to be born from last week's visit to the family farm! Happy Spring Break....

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    1. Hi Claudia,
      Thanks for stopping by. I love your photos and commentary on your blog, especially the budding flowers. I hope your health improves and you get back to writing. Wishing you a happy spring!

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  6. Donna, your post tells my story, too. I have way too many unfinished projects and need to grab one at a time and stay with it until the end. My goal is to change myself into a more prolific writer starting today.

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    1. Hi Pat,
      Good luck with your projects. You are a prolific and talented writer whose work I admire.

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  7. Donna--I'm like that dog in the movie "Up." I get easily distracted by every squirrel that comes along.

    I'm with Dianna. When you find that magic pen, can I rent it?

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    1. Hi Sioux,
      I got a pen in the mail the day I wrote this post, but so far it hasn't helped a lot.

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  8. I love the "Hocus Pocus, I need to focus" as I need that in more than just writing!

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    1. Hi Lynn,
      Hope it works for you. I'm still trying.

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  9. Your idea sounds like a winner. I have the same problem, although I'm determined to work my way through a four year old NaNoWriMo manuscript by the end of this year. We shall see if it happens. I seem to do better with shorter projects because they typically involve a deadline.

    Pat
    Critter Alley

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    1. Hi Pat,
      I am looking forward to your bringing in chapters of your NaNoWriMo work to critique group. It is such a fascinating idea and you are such a talented writer.

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  10. Right now I would be happy just to start a lot of things! I've had some great (to me!) ideas, but no time to flesh them out. So I've got a little list of key words.

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    1. Hi Val,
      A list of key words? That sounds like a good idea to spark ideas.

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  11. Hey Donna! I thought I commented here, but guess it was just a good intention at the time :) I've been VERY out of focus for so long...and couldn't seem to get myself writing again. (I have excuses...not sure if they are GOOD ones, though!) BUT, submitting to the Erma Bombeck competition got my writerly juices flowing again, and also seeing all the CS call-outs, some of which I plan to write for. I read a wonderful article about focusing/writers block not too long ago. It was just so beautifully written...I think I remember where it is, too. I'll check and if I find it, I'll send you the link! Happy Writing...when the mood hits ya!

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    1. Hi Becky,
      Thanks for your comment. Sometimes the comments don't appear or they appear twice. That happens to me a lot. I'm so happy you are writing again. I never know what might get the spark started to ignite my writing passion. I've come to realize there is o magic formula; it's just a matter of sitting down and getting started and continuing to plug along.

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  12. I lose steam, or focus and surprise myself when I go back and find these little incomplete nuggets. If only I could complete them. I know what you mean.

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    1. Hi Linda,
      I feel the same way! I am surprised when I find something I've forgotten that I've written.

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