As I stand within the world rocking like a ship in a storm, every plan I make slips overboard as soon as I form it into an intention. My focus shifts from the global horizon to the local news of tumultuous seas and back to the task of trying to get a grip on my own life so many times in an hour – I feel as if I have ADD. I simply have no focus. So how can I write a line, a paragraph, a page, shape an idea into a short story, a memoir, or a chapter in a book if I cannot focus anything, much less on a writing project?
I read about a focusing technique hinged on the idea that our brains cannot sustain concentration on a task for more than 25 minutes before it needs a break. And so, I started setting the timer. Before long, I realized that I do not need to set aside three hours to try to pretend I am focusing on writing between trips to the refrigerator, the store, the emails, YouTube, or any distraction at hand. I gave myself permission to write in 30-minute sessions. Along the way, I discovered that I can write in sound bites, short scenes, asynchronous paragraphs and pages that I can shape later into something editable, edible, palatable, and presented like a fine meal readers may dine on at a later date.
Since I cannot just sit down and pick up where I left of because of the focus issue, I break my writing sessions into smaller sessions. It has helped me immensely.
If you are having trouble focusing, try this timer technique. It may help you shift from the world news to what gives you ultimate joy – the ability to write and shape words into something beautifully you.
Set the timer for 5 minutes:
I pull up the project I am working on and review it, deciding where I want to start writing that day. Then I set it aside. This doesn’t count in the 25-minute writing/focusing session. It is simply setting the stage. By letting it go after 5 minutes, I find that I interrupt the desire to start editing the piece or going in circles on the page because I cannot yet focus. The chime of the timer shifts my focus immediately.
Set the timer for another 5 minutes:
For five minutes, I hand write in a paper journal, fast and furiously, whatever occupies my mind, spewing it out on the page. Allowing it to come up and out of me, it dislodges the sludge that blocks my creative flow. It literally flows out of my body from head, to heart, through fingertips. Boom! It’s gone.
Timer set for additional 5 minutes:
I slow the process and hand write a simple sentence on what I am grateful for, describe one thing I saw on my morning walk, or just reflect on a moment that happened within the last 24 hours, describing it by engaging all five senses. This helps me engage in the writing process. I do not continue if the timer chimes. I move on…mid-sentence, to the writing focus of the day.
Stand up, breathe deep, stretch and reset the timer for 15 minutes:
Now I am ready to focus on my computer file and resume the storyline. Now, seas feel less rocky and my sentences less choppy. I find myself centered and able to tune into the moment. If the timer chimes, I quit only if I am struggling. Otherwise, I may find that my writing flows and I go with the current until I reach the shore.
– Julia Loren, Author Coaching and Consulting