The Power of Focus

We all multi-task. Our society virtually demands it. We can’t even drive to a nearby location without having gadgets and smart phones in the car with us.

And that comes at a price.

We miss a lot. It’s so easy to get sidetracked. Day after day we get swept up in the squeakiest social media wheel. And that’s just when we have a little free time.

Pretty soon, deadlines are upon us, opportunities have been missed. And truly workable ideas have been lost.

I had a manuscript that an acquiring editor had critiqued. She needed some changes to look at it again. There were two contests bearing down on me – (y’all know I like a contest) – but precious little time left to participate.

There was only one thing to do.

F – O – C – U – S !!

Every minute that I have had for writing, I’ve applied to my projects. I don’t know if they are successful yet. But I have been. My manuscript has been reworked and resubmitted. Two contests have been entered. And there is no way to lose, as the feedback is priceless even if you don’t win.

And guess what?

By focusing on my story, not getting sidetracked, not wasting creativity on internet surfing, the story stayed fresh and the details remained in my head from previous work days. Characters walked with me. They woke me up anxious to get busy. I didn’t insult them by dropping them for other projects. I didn’t have to reread the preceding ten pages before I could get back into the world of my manuscript. It was so much easier.

Try it if you have a project that has stalled. Stay with it solely. Don’t waste valuable writing time multi-tasking and spreading it as thinly as honey on hot toast.

Your reward may be a finished project.

Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.  She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food.  She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.   

About reneejohnsonwrites

I have recently returned from University of Iowa's Novel-Writing Intensive during their Summer Writing Festival. Other credits include two stints at The Essoyes School in France, two terms at a writer's residency at Noepe Center for Literary Arts on Martha's Vineyard, and a retreat in Italy. Join me in 'writing the world.' -- Renee Canter Johnson, author of "Herald Angels", "The Haunting of William Gray", and "Acquisition" published by The Wild Rose Press. Coming soon--an international intrigue set in Venice, Italy--where adventure and danger are as masked as the characters.
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29 Responses to The Power of Focus

  1. Brenda says:

    All good points!! I need to do this very soon (once school starts). Mommies are multitasking maniacs!

  2. “…spreading it as thinly as honey on hot toast.” Oh, Lord. This is precisely the type of activity that will keep me unfocused and then have to take a nap. Now lemme tell ya how good honey, chocolate syrup and peanut butter go on toast…..

  3. Arindam says:

    So many good points you have shared here. “Stay with your project solely”-it’s a great piece of advice. These days i am working on my first fiction book and I feel just as you do. I am so connected with my characters now, that I can’e leave them go away from me.
    All the best for your future projects!!

  4. Astra says:

    Thanks – I needed this. I have a goal in mind for the Fall and I’m pretty sure it will require superfocus 🙂

  5. Sheila says:

    Ah, the sucking noise of the internet! My friend and foe! Great advice! I particularly like your comments about your characters walking with you, waking you up ready to get busy! That sounds like the sign of a great story and inspired writing. Good luck with the outcome/feedback! ~ Sheila

  6. megtraveling says:

    Great points and actually quite difficult to do! This is a good reminder…

  7. Writing is one activity that doesn’t work well with multi-tasking. You are so right. Just narrowing focus down makes writing go faster and the work is more consistent – less editing later.

  8. Inspiring take on the theme. Focusing on what’s important help us go back on the right track. Best wishes to you and your family.

  9. Yes and no, Renee.The one time I find I do what you call ‘focus’ (and it is) and I call ‘tunnel vision’ is when I am hit with a dead line so close it’s just about to smack me between the eyes. It is a most peculiar mindset. Concentration by another name. Blending out all other. Trance like. Other than that? I just go with the flow. Sure it’s annoying when being interrupted and losing your thread. So what? How often – on getting back – do I find the thread was WORTH losing? Or as I like to put it ‘worse losing’.

    Good to hear from you again.


  10. Renee – What wonderful advise. I’ve been trying to apply this rule to the time I have remaining before the intense restorative medical care begins with my right arm and hand. I’m beginning to see how I have to stay on task for the amount of time I’ve allowed or soon I have a day with disappointing results. This is a timely post for me. Thank you.

  11. I Am Jasmine Kyle says:

    Great advise on being focused! I don’t have a cell phone anymore I HATE them! I HATE it when someone is alone somewhere and they are on there phone. LIke “I’m not alone I’m with the phone.” JUST BE ALONE! Who ever judges someone for sitting quietly undistracted I DECLARE is mentally unstable! All these gadgets were supposed to make our work go quicker so we could spend more time doing nothing. Now we have more to do than ever! What a tragedy!

    • You are so right. Yesterday I heard someone ask how our mothers managed to get everything done without the aid of gadgets. The reply was – no cell phones and no email. Just think of the time we spend on just those two things alone.

      Thanks for dropping by Jasmine. I hope you’ll visit often.

      • I Am Jasmine Kyle says:

        I hope to visit often! Thanks for the post it was nice to have some friendly discussion!

  12. ***By focusing on my story, not getting sidetracked, not wasting creativity on internet surfing***

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    I stopped doing contests, flash fiction,writing prompts & stuff like that….It is all too much. But I do consider my blog my writing exercise for my book!

    Great post, Renee. Xx

    • We spread and spread and then realize we are doing all of these extraneous activities instead of our ‘meat and potatoes’ – whatever that is for us. It is so encouraging for me to hear that you too have had that moment of realizing too much is just too much.

  13. rangewriter says:

    I’m so glad you didn’t sing the praises of multi-tasking. I am sick to death of hearing about how wonderful these multi-tasking wizards are. Congrats on buckling down and sticking with it. Good luck!

  14. TBM says:

    Congrats and excellent advice

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