by Edie Melson
Writing is the best and the worst career choice for me. I used to joke about the fact that if it wasn’t illegal or immoral, I’d write about it. A very true statement. You see, I’m definitely an Attention Deficit Disorder Writer. Today I want to share how I turned my struggle into success.
Freelance writing and blogging is a good fit for me, in that it gives me lots of varying subject matter. It also gives me the opportunity to work in small bites and find success with short pieces. But even working with small projects I had to find a way to manage my time and not get distracted.
Book length projects are more of a struggle. I’ve had to learn how to apply my work habits for short projects to the long ones, and instead of being a liability, it’s helped me become a more productive writer.
Here are the things that help me—not just to cope—but to excel as a writer:
1. Embrace my creativity. One of the things that happens with my mind is that it’s always coming up with new ideas. Instead of shutting out these ideas, I keep a list. Now, I never lack for a blog post topic or article idea.
2. Work in small bites of time. I get twitchy if I have to sit still for more than an hour, so I plan my day in hour-long blocks of time.
3. Don’t stress about working on more than one project at once. There is lots of advice out there about only working on one thing at a time. The problem isn’t on how many things I work on at once—AS LONG AS I’m finishing projects regularly. The problem comes if I only start things and never finish them.
4. Write through the rabbit trails. In high school and college I learned how to write papers and articles by coming up with a theme sentence and focusing on that through-out the paper. That’s good advice, for the final draft. But the rough draft is supposed to be…well…rough. That’s the time to experiment and try things out. I’ve come up with some really good stuff by following a rabbit trail to its end. Often I come up with two or three good things. Good for a freelance writer.
5. Let your boredom be a barometer. Often when I get bored with a project it’s a symptom of a problem—and not with me. It means I’ve lost focus or need to add something to what I’ve written. I’ve discovered I’ve got pretty good instincts and I’ve learned to trust them.
6. Freewriting is my friend. Sometimes my mind is spinning with so many ideas I don’t know where to start. That’s when I pull out the pen and paper and start writing. No rules, just words. In very short order my brain has pulled some order out of chaos and I’m ready to get to work.
7. Keep track of time and set limits. I could research for hours. Every fact seems to lead to another, and then to another and then…well you get the idea. I give myself a time limit for research and that helps limit the distractions.
8. Keep research and writing separate. When I’m done with my allotted research time, I start writing. If I come across something I need to check, I make a note, but I don’t stop writing. Otherwise it’s hard to get things finished.
These are the things I've found to help me succeed. What could you add to the list? Or am I the only easily-distracted writer around?
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Do you struggle with focus as a writer? That difficulty may contain the secret of success. (Click to Tweet)