How a writer can improve focus

arjai101 asks: I like writing. I write a lot of Fantasy and Sci Fi. People often tell me that I’m pretty good at it as well. They say I have good ideas. So, I decided to put together a compilation of my short stories and try to get them published as a book. I have quite a few written so far, but I still need a few more to write. I have the ideas for the stories and I’ve done the planning, but the problem is that I can’t focus. I’m a thirteen-year-old on summer vacation and I’ve basically turned ADD. It seems that every time I sit down to try and work on the project I just can’t focus and work on it. I also can’t manage my time and force my self to do the writing. When I try to sit down and write and force myself, the writing comes out really crappy. How can I stay focused and get myself to sit down and write again?

Hi arjai101 –



Oh boy do I relate to this!


arjai101, there’s one simple reason you have trouble making yourself disciplined enough to write regularly – it’s HARD!  And it’s hard for everyone.


First of all, it’s hard to make yourself focus for long periods of time.  Wait, was that a squirrel I just heard?!


Second, it’s hard to make time for yourself to work on something that no one else cares about.  As much as you might hate doing homework, you have teachers, administrators, and probably parents breathing down your neck telling you when you need to do it.  But no one’s going to do that for your book.  Or your symphony.  Or your artwork.  It has to be just you.  And that means it’s you who has to do it when your friends want to play, or there’s something good on TV, or… you know I really do think that was a squirrel out there!


Lots of famous writers get their work done in amazing ways.  Woody Allen writes two hours a day, even when he’s making a movie.  Supposedly the great playwright Tennessee Williams would get up extremely early (maybe 4 in the morning?) and write while he drank whiskey for a few hours, and then go back to sleep!  (Please note, I am not recommending the whiskey part!  Williams didn’t live that long, and was a pretty miserable fellow!)


No one can tell you how to do it, arjai101.  Early in the morning or late at night is probably easier than other times of day, just to avoid distractions.  And how do you determine your time?  Two hours, two pages, two good ideas…?  It’s really up to you.


But I can tell you one thing.  There’s only one way to write, and that is to WRITE.  The more stories you write, the better.  And when you look at your last cool Fantasy story and think, “well, it’s not as good as Tolkien,” invite me over to take a good bite at that voice!  That’s just a negative part of you that’s coming up with reasons to not think what you’re doing is great.


And when you stare at that screen and can’t think of anything to write?  Hey, just write nonsense.  Seriously.  Make up silly poems, silly stories, anything.  Just get those juices flowing.


And the more you write, the better chance that you’ll end up with something just as good as Lord of the …  you know I’m just SURE that’s a squirrel out there!  Sorry, gotta run!!!


Have at it!



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Voncile - July 2, 2015 Reply

This is both street smart and intelligent.

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