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The Focus It Takes to Write

While I’ve thought of myself as a great multi-tasker for years, I recently found that my multi-tasking was preventing me from completing writing.  If I get lucky enough to be home for my daughter’s nap time, then I’m constantly racing against the clock to get a multitude of things done during her nap.  And, if I’m working after she goes to sleep at night, I am cramming everything I have to do into two short hours before I have to go to sleep.  Does this sound like your life too?

I was recently working on my first blog post for The Kindness Project, a new collaborative blog for which I am a contributor.  I had been writing in my head for weeks, but hadn’t gotten much down in the Word document I had started for the post.  I was distracted by other things (namely e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter) each time I sat down at my computer. Last Sunday afternoon arrived.  My daughter was napping and I realized it was time to get moving since the post had to go live last Friday, December 7th.  Therefore, I did something I hadn’t done since we were working on Day by Day.  I closed my Firefox browser, put my phone in another room, and just wrote.  I finished the blog post I had been writing in my head in a short amount of time since I was free from online distractions!  (Click here to read the post, which is about being a kind driver.)

A few days later I got motivated to return to the picture book manuscript I completed last November.  The motivator was the front page article of Wednesday’s NY Times entitled “For Young Latino Readers, an Image Is Missing.”  The premise of the article was that Latino students don’t see themselves in books since there are few books that feature Latino characters.  When I read it I immediately thought, the characters in my manuscript are Latino!  Therefore, once I tucked my daughter into bed, I went into my office, shut the door, and started revising the manuscript. While I took a couple of stretch breaks and internet breaks, I wrote for nearly four hours.  I was able to do it because I removed the distractions that keep me from focusing on my writing.

If you’re having trouble focusing on your writing, then I’m here to suggest turning off your phone (or at least turning it to vibrate and not looking at it) and closing down your internet browsers.  It worked wonders for me last week!  I’m planning to help myself focus like this as I continue to revise my manuscript and get ready to share it before I send it off.

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Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

9 thoughts on “The Focus It Takes to Write Leave a comment

  1. TwoWritingTeachers always come to my rescue in the right time. I had been writing a story for work in my head for days but just couldn’t get myself to write. this blog has come as a wake up call. and esp, Meredith’s comment. I’ll notify when I complete my story 😀

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  2. And that is just what I need to do this week. Immediately. I have stuff I need to write and I’m getting distracted with “other” things on the computer, too. And the phone’s been ringing. I should have plenty of time for everything now…after all, I AM retired.

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  3. Something else that has helped me is a free online program called WasteNoTime. It allows you to track where you’re wasting your time, and you can block sites immediately once you realize you’re wasting time. I currently have it set up so that I spend no more than 20 minutes on Facebook. Once it’s been blocked, I can’t go back to it. You *can* override the blockings in case of an emergency.

    http://bumblebeesystems.dyndns.org/wastenotime/

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  4. Thank you for this post Stacey. It’s something I have been thinking about for my students as well as myself. I’m not great at making time for myself to write…it might be that I’m letting those other distractions win out over writing or it might just be that I’m exhausted enough that writing seems less important. That’s a reflection for another day. For my students, I have been thinking about needing to space them out around the room more to remove the distractions for them. Unfortunately, I can’t put headphones on them all to block out noise (like I might do for myself) but I can spread them farther apart to show them that I am willing to help them find a place in the room where they can be successful with minimal distractions from others because writing is important.

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    • @Robin: Try using focus spots with your kids. I believe I blogged about it a bit in 2007 & 2008. Lmk if you need guidance and I can help you work through it. January, after winter break, is a nice time to get them started with focus spots during workshop time.

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  5. Ah, yes…distractions. Turning off the phone and logging off the computer are two essentials to finding focus. That, and really believing that the laundry, making cookies, sweeping the porch and taking the dog for another walk are just forms of distractions…

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