There’s nothing quite like getting into a writing groove.
A writing groove refers to the state of being so focused on writing that you no longer register the world around you, and you’re 100% consumed with the task at hand.
Unfortunately, this state of mind can be elusive.
If you find you can’t seem to concentrate when you sit down to write, you’re not alone. Here are some tricks you can employ to help you learn to focus better.
1. Form a Schedule
Having a routine is a great way to boost productivity, and if you’re having trouble focusing, the first thing you should do is set up a writing schedule. It doesn’t have to be every day, but it should be at least a few times a week.
The goal here isn’t to back yourself into a rigid corner with the schedule, so much as to make sure you’re setting aside time specifically for writing. This isn’t going to be time that you use to check Facebook or worry about your upcoming student loan payment—this time needs to be specifically carved out of your busy schedule to write and do nothing else.
In the beginning, you might want to play around with writing at different times, in order to find out when you’re most productive. If you can’t focus well after getting home from work, then try to wake up an hour earlier each day, instead.
Admittedly, this is easier said than done, but over time, this will start to become a habit. Until it does, try experimenting with other methods as well.
2. Compartmentalize Writing and Editing
Writing and editing are two very different processes, and learning how to compartmentalize them is imperative for writers who struggle to focus.
There are three reasons you need to learn to compartmentalize these two things:
- Editing is time-consuming.
When you’re trying to meet a word count goal, then every second you spend reading over what you’ve written is wasting your allocated writing time.
- Writing and editing require two different mindsets
It’s nearly impossible to get into a writing groove when you’re constantly switching between the creative mindset of writing and the critical mindset of editing. The constant back and forth prevents you from focusing on the important task at hand: getting the words out.
- Allowing yourself to edit while you write is a procrastination tactic
Writing is hard, and sometimes, no matter how much you love it, you’ll do anything you can to keep from doing it. The desire to procrastinate could be the result of self-doubt, laziness, or just simple writer’s block. Whatever the reason, don’t give yourself another distraction from the writing
When you’re sitting down to write, it should involve nothing more than getting the word count up.
That means you’re not going to do any editing. Period. Of course, you’re going to produce a lot of bad work. That’s okay. When it comes time to edit, you’ll be able to make it coherent, engaging, and something you can be proud of.
Even famous and successful writers don’t always “write” something great. The greatness in their writing comes from extensive revisions, editing, and re-writing.
3. Block Your Wi-Fi
The internet is a huge distraction, and when you struggle to focus when writing, it can be your greatest enemy.
You might be thinking, “But what if I need to Google something while I’m writing?” You don’t, I promise. Research should happen either before you’re writing, or when you’re editing.
If you’re someone who struggles to focus, researching while you’re writing can easily become an unintentional procrastination technique.
Do yourself a favor and find a way to prevent yourself from having access to the Internet. Here are some methods you can try:
- Put all your devices on airplane mode
- Unplug your modem
- Go somewhere where you have no internet access
- Write on paper, or use a non-digital writing tool, like a typewriter
- Use a website blocking web browser extension, like WasteNoTime for Chrome, to block distracting websites like Facebook and Google
4. Practice Mindfulness
Meditation is great for people who struggle with focusing.
Though many people think meditation is all about paying attention to your breathing and clearing your mind, it’s actually an exercise in focusing.
For example, when you try to focus on your breathing during meditation, your thoughts are undoubtedly going to stray. Practicing mindfulness through meditation teaches you how to identify when this is happening, and how to bring your focus back to your breathing.
As you can imagine, this is a long-term solution, but it’s certainly one that is proven to improve your ability to focus while writing, and in other aspects of your life.
As a beginner, however, meditation can be difficult. Try a guided meditation program, like those available in the Calm app.
5. Prepare an Outline
Studies done on to-do lists have shown that, even when we don’t finish every item on the list, simply making the list works to increase productivity and lessen anxiety about the task at hand.
If you apply this to writing, an outline can function in the same way.
Whether you’re writing a book, story, or essay, an outline can function like a to-do list.
If you’re writing a novel, for example, the outline can help you get from one plot-point to the next.
As an added bonus, an outline can help re-focus you when you get distracted, since, even if you’ve forgotten where you were going with a line of text after replying to a lengthy email, the outline will be there to guide you forward.
6. Use Technology
When all else fails, there are apps you can use that force you to focus:
This program motivates you by threatening to have scary images pop out if you don’t meet your word goals.
Flowstate is great if you need help compartmentalizing writing and editing. Once you start writing, it deletes everything you’ve done if you stop for more than five seconds, meaning there’s no time to go back and edit what you’ve written.
For those in need of extreme measures, this program locks everything on your computer except for the writing app until you’ve reached your goal, either a word count, or a set amount of time.
Stop Stalling and Get Writing
If you struggle to focus while writing, then give some of these tricks a try. While short-term solutions, like using an app, can help in the beginning, over time, the goal should be to overcome your issues concentrating, so you can get into the writing groove more often.
Whatever ends up working for you, the important thing is that you’re getting words on the page.