Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Writing 101: Focus

When you want to write a book, it really helps if you’ve got a good vocabulary. You’re going to need something to write on, and I recommend a lightweight laptop with a full-sized keyboard. It’s always useful to have a good imagination, to have the ability to visualize and picture things. But it is absolutely essential that you have one ingredient, or you will never, ever, ever finish that book: focus.

What’s That Over There?

Seriously, the other stuff can be dealt with. You can buy a thesaurus, right? You can learn typing techniques. Heck, there are classes online for free that teach technique. It’s even possible to improve your imagination. The more you use it, the more it works. Focus...that’s something that you either have, or don’t. And lately, I don’t have it. Do you?

To have focus, you’ve got to have the ability to concentrate on one thing and one thing only. If your mind is wandering, if you’re staring at the TV, if you’re thinking about something else, you’re not focused. And you can’t possibly write at your best if your mind isn’t totally committed to the story. You can’t keep 5 percent of your focus somewhere else. You can't be listening for the phone with half your mind while you write. You’ve got to focus totally on the world that’s on the page.

It’s one of the hardest aspects of being a writer. But if you can expand your vocabulary by learning new works, and flex your imagination by practicing often, then you can train yourself to focus. At least, I really hope that it is.

There’s a certain form of therapy where the person being treated sits in a darkened, soundless room. It has something to do with avoiding stimulation of all types. The point is, you can use a similar approach to force yourself to focus. Turn off the television, the Internet radio and the telephone. Turn your devices on silent mode. Now, write. If the story is the only thing in the room with you, it’s going to be much easier to focus on that and only that. Get yourself into the habit of getting focused on the story, and slowly start learning how to focus when there are other stimuli around you. Force yourself to focus, and you’ll be training yourself how to do it.

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