Administrative · Advice · Work

Responding to SpamBots (How Do I Focus Edition)

I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing. I have had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there. I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Many thanks!

First, full disclosure: this question comes from a clear spambot. I’m not going to include the link to their casino / multi-level marketing company / malware site, but I did like the question, because as a writer it’s something I’ve struggled with — and still struggle with — myself.

I write in four different places: this blog, a book related to this blog, personal essays on my own site, and book reviews as part of Cannonball Read. It can be hard to focus in the moment, but a few things help me write through distraction. Some are bigger picture tricks; others help in the moment.

  • I write nearly every day. I have a reminder in the task app I use, and I stick with it. I’m not perfect, so there are definitely days that I just don’t feel it, but I write more often than I don’t. Even finding five minutes to write down some thoughts is helpful to keep me going.
  • Related to that — I carry a notebook wherever I go. Sometimes I spend my lunch break writing about something at work or home or in current events that’s on my mind.Perhaps a stranger near me is particularly interesting. Sometimes my notes turn into an essay; sometimes they stay in the notebook. But it keeps me writing.
  • Every Sunday I schedule out a few things to work on so I’m not staring at a blank page, unsure where to start. Maybe it’s a response to a question for this site, or editing and building out an essay I started in my notebook.If I can pick 2-3 things that I know I’ll work on in a week, it makes it easier to get going.
  • Finally, when I know that there is something I want to focus on specifically, I give myself a time limit— say, 30 minutes on a week night, or 60 minutes on a day off — and during that time all I can do is write. I can work on anything, but I have to be writing. Ideally it’ll be the project I want to focus on, but it might also be me jumping over to my journal for a bit. Knowing that I can’t hop up to clean the bathroom or play around on my phone makes it easier to focus. I know it isn’t forever, and anything particularly distracting can wait.

Another idea is to look at your daily schedule and figure out when it’s easiest for you to focus. I find I can do some writing as soon as I get home from work, but am not great after dinner. Morning and mid-day on weekends are best, as is any day when I’ve worked out (my brain just doesn’t work as well if I’ve not been physically active that morning). Having a snack right before also avoids the distractions of a growling stomach or a dry throat.

So yeah. That’s what I do. Thanks for asking, spambot!

P.S. You can also go this route, which some might find a bit extreme, but it works for me.

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