Stay Focused When You Write.

Last Update: July 12, 2015

The truth is, nobody can focus on a task for very long. It's just the way we mortals are put together. Take running for example.

Imagine, instead of writing, your job was to simply run.

Would you sprint wide open until you fell to the ground exhausted? Would you jog at a leisurely pace? Would you run all day or stop whenever something caught your attention?

If you're like most people, you'd probably quickly get distracted.

And once you're distracted, the quality of your running will deteriorate. You'll struggle to get back in the running groove. It might even be frustrating. Soon you'll be wandering all over the place wasting your time.

On the other hand, if your job was to run for only 20 minutes, take a break and run for another 20 minutes, it'd be a lot easier to stay focused.

Get a Timer.

A simple timer set for brief periods will help keep you focused. You can use a free online timer. I prefer to use the timer in my iPad so I can listen to music or sound tracks specifically designed to enhance concentration while I work. The right kind of music will boost your concentration even more.

"Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents." --Ludwig van Beethoven

And Headphones...

Headphones help to block distracting noises too. If you're working in a very noisy place, use earplugs and headphones.

Don't let the simplicity of this technique fool you. It's powerful. The trick is to set a timer for a span of time you're comfortable with. A 30 minute work period is a good place to start. Before you sit down to write, simple set a timer for 30 minutes and don't do anything but write or think about writing for that time.

Be Gentle with Yourself.

Your mind might still wander. If it does, gently bring it back to the task at hand.

If you have no idea what to write, that's okay. During the allotted time, it's your job to make space in your head for your writing project. If you do that, the ideas will come.

Breaks are Critical.

The length of the break period is up to you. If you're on a deadline, keep break time short, 5 to 15 minutes. If you're working on something intense that requires a lot of brain energy, take longer breaks.

Breaks can be productive too, especially when you need to be creative. Sometimes, the best ideas will pop in your head when you're on break.

It's important to get up out of your chair and move around during the break period. Walk and stretch to get the blood moving again. Get some fresh air. If you're feeling energetic do pushups and squats.

When you plan your day, either the night before or in the morning, it might help to schedule how many writing periods you want to have. Expect some days to be more productive than others.

Music...the Other Secret.

If you're listening to music when you're writing, the type of music can make a world of difference. Songs with words and a heavy drumbeat are distracting and keep your thought process on a superficial level. On the other hand, classical music improves focus and creativity. Baroque music, specifically, has been proven to boost creativity and concentration.

Baroque music, such as that composed by Bach, Handel or Telemann, that is 50 to 80 beats per minute creates an atmosphere of focus that leads students into deep concentration in the alpha brain wave state…In one study, students wrote twice as much with music than without! Music and Learning by Chris Brewer, 1995.

What tricks do you use to help you focus and create?

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Kingfisher Premium
Great Post Gary, there is only one part that I disagree with; it's where you say "Be gentle with yourself" Whenever I realise I'm losing focus, and my mind starts straying from what I'm writing, I am quite severe with myself and 'mentally' tell myself off! However, it really comes down to, "whatever works for you".
GaryHorton Premium
Hi Kingfisher,

I think you're right. It really is whatever works. I tend to be far too critical of myself and I know other people are too. Once my thoughts turn self-critical my creativity is lost and my energy plummets. This is why I recommend that we be gentle with ourselves.

Thanks for pointing this out.
JeanL Premium
Excellent advice!
GaryHorton Premium
Glad to help.
barsum52 Premium
I needed
GaryHorton Premium
Glad to help!
Darwyn Premium
Hi Gary, very interesting read. I will try a few of these techniques out. The distraction thing can be hard to overcome sometimes. This will help. I love the Beethoven quote! Thanks for sharing.
GaryHorton Premium
Hi Darwyn,

It seems that distractions get worse every day. I sometimes wish I could run away.
Darwyn Premium
What are you running away from Gary?
EKautz Premium
I may not be of normal species Gary - I listen to loud distracting music and my mind is never on writing when I write. I also puke out my words as they come and stop when the price is done.

I write music poetry andy blogs all this way.

As for your post, it is very great info for most ... And well stated.

GaryHorton Premium
Hi E,

You might be a space alien. I couldn't work that way, but to each their one.

There was a time when I could only write with people around me, so I wrote in a coffee shop. Fortunately I got over that. It was probably just a vitamin deficiency anyway, either that or an unconscious attempt to meet women.

Remember, when your species attacks earth to eat the Canadians first.