How To Improve Writing Discipline and Focus
How to improve writing discipline and focus
Storytelling is a gift that every human being naturally possesses. However, some individuals transform their love of stories and answer the artistic call to become a writer. The creative outlet of writing allows you to expand your horizons and bring unique concepts to life. It's also a skill that requires time and effort to organize your thoughts and help readers understand what you're attempting to say.
Whether you want to start a blog or craft a novel, you can build a solid foundation of skills to become the best writer you want to be. I've designed this guide about writing discipline to kickstart your journey if you're new to writing or need inspiration during a period of writer's block. These tips will cultivate a consistent practice to manage ideas, challenge your skills, and keep that spark of ambition alive.
Take care of your health
Life is a delicate balance of priorities at home, work, and everywhere in-between. When one area presents obstacles, your response can prevent it from intruding on other areas of your life or let it spiral out of control.
If you're stressed, anxious, or exhausted, unhealthy habits will affect your ability to write. Examine your physical and mental needs, and ask yourself if there are habits that might be holding you back. Do you exercise or spend enough time outdoors? What are your go-to vices when life throws you a curveball? Do you drink enough water? Find out the emotional and physical triggers that cause your energy and well-being to feel sluggish or uninspired. Little tweaks to your physical activity, what you eat or drink, and how you relax will go a long way to ensure your ability to handle all of your roadblocks, including creative ones.
Turn off distractions
Technology provides an excellent source of entertainment and information. It's invaluable when you need to receive feedback on your work or research topics. However, the constant stream of email notifications or that unshakable feeling of missing out on social media is a primary culprit.
If technology interrupts your process, consider using airplane mode to temporarily disconnect from the internet. Turn off notifications or set your phone in another room, so it isn't continually snapping you out of the "writing zone." It might be a challenge at first, but setting hard limits with distractions will develop the direct mindset you need to address your writing without losing your train of thought and focus.
Chances are you wanted to become a writer because you fell in love with a particular book or author. When you read, you expand your senses to how other writers describe their worlds, develop their voice, and invite you to escape or enhance your life. While it's fantastic to read for your enjoyment, reading with a writer's mindset also helps you nurture an in-depth understanding of storytelling as a formula.
Pay attention to elements that fail to grab your attention or excite you to implement in your work. Do you like the point-of-view the writer chose? Are there divisive character tropes? Did the protagonist or antagonist complete compelling arcs from beginning to end? The more you explore what you're reading from different angles, the more techniques you can apply to your writing.
Carry a notebook
I used to forget to write down ideas for stories, especially while running errands, exercising, or hanging out with friends. But, I started carrying a small notebook around with me, and it's become a genuine game-changer for my writing discipline.
A common misconception for writers is to wait for a muse to come along and fill in the blanks of a story. However, inspiration strikes when you least expect it. Having a notepad sharpens your observational skills and enhances your imagination. Even if a specific aha-moment isn't relevant to a current project, it could later become a useful reference.
Allow for downtime
No matter how many authors land on The New York Times Best Seller list, I promise that they are not writing 24/7. Most writers face balancing their home life with writing as a job, another career to supplement writing, relationships, and raising kids.
As important as it is to transform your concepts into a blog or novel, taking a break is just as vital for your mental and emotional well-being. Practicing yoga for fifteen minutes, meditating, or taking a walk around the neighborhood are low-level yet energizing ways to clear your mind. When you're feeling particularly stressed out or overwhelmed with writing, give yourself time to refresh and return to it when you gain a new perspective.
Maintain a clean workspace
Author E.B. White once said, "A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper." Although I find his outlook a bit over-dramatic, there is truth in what he is saying. There is no such thing as a perfect time or place to write. However, you can still foster a hassle-free environment that makes it easier to jump into writing.
Studies have shown that our workplaces affect how we feel and think. If bills, knick-knacks, and old projects cover your desk, you will ultimately feel uninspired and tempted to procrastinate. Find solutions to co-exist with your environment, where everything is ready for you to start. Simple changes include removing unnecessary objects from your desk and keeping documents organized with folders or a filing system. You might surprise yourself how much an untidy workspace affects your mood.
Start journal writing
Every artist often faces criticism, rejection, and expectations about success or failure. As a writer, you need an outlet to let your emotions flow freely and separately from your inner critic and peers.
Journal writing is a subtle yet powerful method to write for an audience of one: you. All you need is a journal and time to yourself to delve into your fears and dreams or recap the day's events so far. The sky is the limit of what you can share. After exploring your innermost feelings and thoughts without judgment, you'll feel reinvigorated with a refreshed attitude.
Try creative prompts
Sometimes starting a story is my biggest obstacle. When I face a blank page or a blank screen on my computer, I worry about filling it up with the words and thoughts I want to express. During these moments of self-doubt, I turn to prompts for inspiration.
There are books and websites available that include sentence-starters or word associations for every topic from your lifestyle to what-if scenarios. These tools are great to think outside of the box and flex your creative muscles just for fun. Sometimes working on a prompt for five minutes will motivate me to turn that energy towards my writing and keep going.
Set a daily routine
Do you ever reach the end of the day wondering how the time flew by or if you accomplished what you wanted? If you switch between multiple projects and struggle to manage your time, a daily routine counteracts the fatigue of procrastination and fear of aimless wandering.
Organizing tiny details that you don't think matters today impacts the ability to train your mind to be creative when you want to settle down and work. Even if you are only free to write on your day off from other engagements, the act of repetition throughout the week strengthens your focus to finish your tasks, including your writing goals.
- Set an intention after you wake up. Use a motivational mantra or inspirational quote to instill an optimistic mindset in anticipation of what the day beholds.
- Plan your activities the night before. Instead of filling in the hours as they go by, you will wake up prepared and know what you need to accomplish.
- Go to bed early. Physicians recommend getting at least eight hours of sleep to fully restore your body and provide adequate rest for the next day.
Establish a writing goal
Writing goals track your progress, energize your imagination, and offer a feeling of accomplishment. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the 'big picture,' goals break down chapters and deadlines into smaller, manageable pieces.
A daily or weekly goal fits in with your overall schedule, while a long-term deadline will motivate you to complete your smaller goals on time. The former could consist of writing for one hour a day or 1,000 words a day, while the latter could be to finish the first draft by a specific date. Find a combination of both types of deadlines that fit your lifestyle and motivate you to move your project along gradually. With enough practice and patience, you'll ultimately develop a writing discipline practice that works for you.
Now It’s Your Turn
Grab your writing journal (see our journals at The Amazing Office) and start working on your discipline and write some stories!
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