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10 Tips for Staying On the Writing Beam

One of the biggest challenges I have as a writer these days is just staying on the beam.

For example, just now, rather than write that first sentence and move on to the next, I Googled ‘staying on the beam.’

I wanted to check—was it being used in this context by all sorts of writers and other procrastinators? Luckily, the top search finds for Google were gymnastics references. Had they been links to stories about procrastination, I possibly would have lost the morning curious as to what others had to say.

The ability to do spontaneous searches is a good thing. It can lead to better writing certainly and even add new dimensions to whatever it is you’re writing.

But at the same time, the only way you’re going to make any progress (and presumably money) is to stay focused and complete one writing project at a time.

Here are ten tips to make sure this happens:

  1. Don’t go online the minute you wake up. For writers, first morning thoughts are like farm fresh eggs. Before they are influenced by anything else, write them down.
  2. Don’t write while in your pajamas. One of the best-known writers in America, Gay Talese, dresses to write as if he were a banker or a lawyer. He wears a custom-made three-piece suit with a tie and even cufflinks to go to his office which is in the basement of his home.
  3. Take social media breaks but put a time limit on them. How often and how much time? You’re a grown-up, you can figure that out.
  4. Before starting any big writing project, make sure your refrigerator is stocked so you’ll have no reason to run out for lunch or snacks.
  5. Once you start writing, ignore e-mails, texts, phone calls and all other distractions until lunchtime when you can take a short break.
  6. And when we say break for lunch, that doesn’t mean prepare a four-course meal or try out a new recipe from Barefoot Contessa. A simple sandwich, salad or soup or some combination thereof should suffice.
  7. Once you’ve made some progress, give yourself a reward…maybe a cup of tea with honey or a quick read of that cover story of New York magazine.
  8. Try not to shut down for the day if you’re stuck. Hemingway would always end his writing session in the middle of a chapter. That way he could pick it up with a head of steam the next day.
  9. Sometimes a change of scenery can work wonders. There’s no law saying you can’t take a walk around the block to revive yourself.
  10. When you don’t seem to be making any progress, stop. Remember, writing requires intense concentration and your brain is like a muscle. It needs to relax now and then.

~ Susan

What tips do you have for staying focused? Share your advice!