Writing With a Short Atten- Oh, Look!

I'll be the first to admit it, I don't have a very long attention span. If I lose interest or get distracted, I'll quickly lose my focus. This can be quite a problem when I'm writing. I want to write three pages a day, or sometimes write for an hour, but it can be hard. Sitting down to write takes focus. For all you people out there who have this problem, whether you're ADHD or just have issues focusing, here are seven do's and don'ts to help you.

1. Don't writing at the computer.
When I write on the computer I instantly have a harder time concentrating. Part of the problem is all the stuff on it. I think, oh, I should look this up while I'm thinking about it. Or I'll just take a little break and play a game. Or check Facebook. Next thing you know I've wasted half an hour. Also, my creativity just dries up when I stare at that stupid, blinking cursor.
My advice- use paper as much as possible. You may burn through reams of it. I do. But it will help get the writing done. If you have to use a computer for writing, my trick is to close my eyes. This helps to to focus on what I want to say, not stare at the blank screen.

2. Do break it up
Don't just write all three or whatever pages at once. Break it up into smaller chunks. Sometimes I'll write a page and a half, then take a five minute break. I'll read a chapter of a book, play a game of solitaire, or get a snack. Then I'll finish my writing. Or you could break it up into time chunks, if you count writing by time. Say you want to write for half an hour. Do fifteen minutes, take a break, and then do fifteen more minutes. And it actually has to be writing, not just staring at the page.

3. Don't write in the car
Time after time I've brought my writing in car, thinking, I have plenty of time to write. I'll get a lot done. Right. When we return home, I've barely written anything. There's just so much to look at or people to talk to, I can't concentrate on writing. No matter how good my intentions, it doesn't work. If you're like me, leave your writing at home or finish before you leave.
When you have to write in the car, try hanging a blanket or jacket in the window to block you from looking out it. Make yourself focus on the page and do it one page at a time. When you have to take a break, keep thinking about what you'll do next, so you can keep going faster.

4. Do reward yourself
There is no greater reward for accomplishing your daily goal than a piece of chocolate. Or a game, or a few minutes of reading, or whatever works for you. It helps me to have a motivator to finish my writing. When I get this done, I'll play some fun stuff on the piano. Or make a piece or jewelry. Something to keep me going.

5. Don't write around others
I always find it harder to write when other people are around. Especially my sister. We get talking and I get distracted. It's easiest for me to just shut myself in my room and write until I'm done. Then I can be around people again.

6. Do focus on one thing at a time
When I'm have problems figuring out what to write next, mostly when I write on the computer, this tip I read in Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird helps a lot. She suggests looking at your story through a one inch frame. What she means is, instead of looking at the big picture and freaking out, focus on a little thing. This scene. What is happening right now to this character. That bit of dialogue. Once you get going again, then you can return to seeing the bigger part.

7. Do make writing every day a habit
This is one of the best ways to get your writing done. Habits, once made, are hard to break. So if you make good habits, like writing a couple pages every day, it will help you focus and get it done. Try playing a game with yourself. See how many days in a row you can write without missing. Even if it's just a page. (You don't have to count Sundays. I don't.) If you make it fun, you won't want to miss a day and have to start over. Set an amount of days to complete- 30, 60, six months, a year- and when you reach it, reward yourself.

Of course, these are all things that work for me. If you write better around people, go ahead. If you do best on the computer, don't stop. I am simply suggesting things I know help me. Take what helps you from this and leave the rest.

Happy writing!


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