How to Stay Inspired and Focused on Your Writing
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By LaBruyere   |   Watch
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Published: July 27, 2014
Literature Basics Week

Our world is so full of noise and distraction. It’s no wonder “Walden” is a classic—Thoreau had time and quiet in which to write it! And plenty of inspiration from nature.

So how do we focus, as writers, on our craft? Even if it’s our passion, sometimes it takes a lot of effort to sit down and just write—especially if we struggle with attention or hyperactivity, whether diagnosed or not.

As someone who has studied both academic writing and reading in college and graduate school, and a veteran of National Poetry Writing Month for 7 years and National Novel Writing Month for one, I can attest that intentional writing, for fun or for a grade, is not easy to focus on, especially without a good writing environment.

So what to do? Many professional writers will tell you just one simple thing: write. James Patterson said,
“The trick is making writing into a daily habit. Same time. Same place. Same hot beverage of choice. Every. Single. Day. Again. And. Again.”
But what are some practical steps for the attention-challenged?
Here are some things to ask yourself, to help your focus and your purpose:

  • What is your muse?
  • What is your audience?
  • Why do you write?
  • What kind of writer are you?
  • What kind of thinker are you?
   

Your muse:


You won’t hear many people say they think Greek goddesses whisper inspiration to them as they did centuries ago. But today, many artists will call their inspiration their muse. So what’s yours? Are you inspired by nature? By love? By faith? By a specific person? By a TV show? By a passion for storytelling? By politics? By imagination? Find out what it is, and write a few pages, or poems, about just one muse to get your creativity flowing.

Your audience:


Sometimes your driving force behind your writing is who you’re writing for. Do you hope to be published? Write for a wide audience by focusing on what interests others. I’ve read a book or two that were clearly written as a publication of some author’s life-long passion, but which absolutely no one else would be that interested in. Don’t write that way. Write what you love, but know your audience. Study the market, and the process of publication. Are you writing for a grade? Sometimes you just have to know what your teacher likes. Are you writing to express yourself, only for yourself? Enjoy the freedom to blow off some steam. Use the "who" you're writing for to give you a reason to write. 

Your reason:



Do you have a driving passion to say something that matters? Does writing give you a creative outlet? Does it give you a sense of self-worth? Do you just like to share your opinion? Do you write to improve your craft? Do you write to instruct? Keep your purpose in mind, and use it to give you momentum.  

Your style:


Are you the sort of writer who writes spontaneously? Do you only write with blue ink on paper? Do you start your stories or poems in the margins of your notes at school? Do you only write if you’re sitting outside? Are you only able to write well if you’ve eaten a bagel with cream cheese while sitting cross-legged, and having sprayed Chanel No. 5 in the air three times while chanting in Vulcan? Whatever it is you do to get in the zone, however strange it is, do it. But also: don't let bad weather or a missing blue ink pen or your lack of cream cheese keep you from writing either. There are no excuses. 

Your brain:


Here’s a key question to ask yourself if you struggle more with focus than inspiration: how does your brain work? Depending on how your brain works, you may need to make changes to your writing environment. Some people need an environment that is visually stimulating because it triggers ideas. Others find a stimulating environment highly distracting. Those who are more visual may like music in the background as dull noise. Others find music disruptive and want total silence. Others may want noise, but not music, and will turn on rainymood.com instead.

Here are some tips for creating a writing environment:

  • Pick a spot. Are you most comfy in your overstuffed chair? Are you more focused sitting upright at a desk? Do you have a room you can escape to for writing? If not, find a spot outside, or find a good library or coffee shop. Virginia Woolf wrote in a basement. Sir Walter Scott once wrote on horseback. Agatha Christie wrote in a hot bath. Maya Angelou wrote in a hotel room. Many famous authors went to their version of today’s coffee shops: the local pubs. If you pick a spot that’s intentional for writing, you’re more likely to actually write while you’re there. But whatever you do, don't use your lack of a good writing environment as an excuse not to write. Like the famous authors above, make one, whatever the cost. 
  • Dress comfy—take off your shoes, wear sweatpants, or write in your underwear (but not if you’re writing at a coffee shop, please).
  • Snacks: a cup of tea has inspired many a writer. Bring candy—give yourself a piece as a reward for finishing a page. 
  • Remove distractions: are you distracted from writing because you feel guilty for writing instead of cleaning? Keep your workspace clean so you don't get up and clean it all the time.
  • Materials: do you have a favorite pen? Buy ten just like it. Keep all your writing materials nearby, so you don’t get distracted looking for them. If you get up to go find your thesaurus, you might find yourself wandering to the kitchen and washing dishes instead.
 
Don’t get discouraged: writing is like any art—you write a few excellent stories, you write some terrible ones. Or you write some terrible ones and revise them until they’re great. Read some pep talks. Enter a contest. Seek critique. Try a challenge. But most of all, give yourself grace to fail, and take pride when you succeed. Our work will never be the literature of the next generation if we don't even write it. 

Figure out the answer to all of the above questions, and own your uniqueness in each category. Knowing how and why you write is a great way to focus. Writing without purpose or identity is so much harder to do. It is better to stand out for being different than to not stand out from the rest because you don't know who you are as a writer. Remember also that your answers may change a bit depending on what you’re writing and who you’re writing for. But even so, your writing is uniquely yours. My challenge to you is to make a mission statement for your writing. Author Elizabeth Barone kept it short and sweet on her website. She said: "I write New Adult drama with grit—stories about characters struggling with inner demons, like substance abuse, mental illness, and self-discovery." What's yours? Share it in the comments below, if you like.



For more inspiration:
The world is at your fingertips, literally. Just as you need to breathe, just as you need sunlight, just as you need water—if you’re a word person, you need to write. Sometimes you may know where you are going, and other times you may be embarking on the long road to possibly nowhere—it doesn’t matter—you’re getting the words out.
–Hallie Durand
 
“Many an aspiring writer is just in love with a glammed-up idea of being an author, but not enthused about the actual work. Well, the only way to learn to write is to write (and to write a lot). Sit down and get started. Even if you just type, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ Writing is wretched, discouraging, physically unhealthy, infinitely frustrating work. And when it all comes together it’s utterly glorious.”
–Ralph Peters
  For Discussion: 

  • What is your muse?
  • What is your audience?
  • Why do you write?
  • What kind of writer are you?
  • What kind of thinker are you?
  • What is your writer's mission statement?

For further reading:
www.explorewriting.co.uk/creat…
avoidingatrophy.blogspot.com/2…
writetodone.com/31-ways-to-fin…
www.buzzfeed.com/doree/quotes-…
www.buzzfeed.com/doree/quotes-…
elizabethbarone.net/creating-a…

For prompts, challenges, news:
irrevocablefate.deviantart.com…



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Lit Basics Week Well, the internet has a lot of entries when you search for the words "definition of story" (a lot possibly meaning millions). It's where many of us get our wisdom from, isn't it? One of the pages I selected said a "story" is defined as "a narrative, either true or fictitious, prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale." I like the definition, and although that's not the only thing that a story is, I believe it's a nice groundwork to build up from. The most interesting parts are the words "prose or verse", "narrative", and "designed to interest, amuse or instruct": narrative, to me,
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Comments (21)
fernknits's avatar
fernknits|Hobbyist General Artist
I'm faving this so I can come back and savor it when I have time.  Thanks for all the insight!
Reply  ·  
LaBruyere's avatar
Hooray! Thanks! And you're welcome. :)
Reply  ·  
Jchrispole's avatar
Alright, I appreciate the prompt! Read all of it, agreed with it, and I'll be focusing more on my work. Thanks for your thoughts! 
Reply  ·  
LaBruyere's avatar
You're welcome--thanks for reading!
Reply  ·  
amour-raven's avatar
amour-raven|Hobbyist Writer
I cannot express to you in words just how inspirational and motivational this article is! I'm actually listening to music as I read this and even as I'm commenting now. It can be quite challenging to remain focused on the rhythm and not the words of the music as I'm attempting to write. Although, I find that I am able to listen AND read, but when it comes to music and writing...the two do not mix at all. I may try rainymood.com.

When I saw the title I didn't think I needed to read through the article because I thought: I'm not distracted and I'm sure that I don't lack inspiration. Well, I have decided that I could use the advice and I'm glad that I read this! I was completely absorbed with this entire article and I thank you for writing about a common struggle in such a comprehensive manner. :heart:
Reply  ·  
D-Archae's avatar
D-Archae|Hobbyist General Artist
This article is very interesting! In my case, I only write in my dear slow laptop, sitting in my bedroom and, of course, alone. And I didn't know rainymood, I will put it next time, it's wonderful. I'm weird, I can write with music, it doesn't distract me, but it depends on the story. I usually read listening to music... I draw listening to music... I think I'm addicted to music Sweating a little...  But maybe I can because I don't pay attention to the lyrics, just because I don't understand them. I can't read or write listening to Spanish songs.
Reply  ·  
LaBruyere's avatar
Thanks very much for reading--I'm so glad it will be helpful to you. I agree--I think we all find that we are more distracted than we think. I love rainymood.com for writing, or sometimes just any nature sounds or even something really soft like harp by itself is good. And I agree--listening and reading is a whole different story. :)
Reply  ·  
amour-raven's avatar
amour-raven|Hobbyist Writer
Well, of course! :heart:
Reply  ·  
SirDNA109's avatar
SirDNA109|Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you!
Reply  ·  
LaBruyere's avatar
Welcome. :) Thanks for reading!
Reply  ·  
SirDNA109's avatar
SirDNA109|Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I appreciate it!
Reply  ·  
SkysongMA's avatar
SkysongMA|Student Writer
These are really great! 
Reply  ·  
LaBruyere's avatar
Thank you! Hope they help!
Reply  ·  
sylveda's avatar
sylveda|Student Writer
Love this so much! Thanks for all the tips and inspiration! 
Reply  ·  
LaBruyere's avatar
You are welcome. Thanks for reading. :)
Reply  ·  
Parsat's avatar
Been liking this week's articles a lot! Great job with this one; it was detailed, informative, and (my favorite) quirky.
Reply  ·  
LaBruyere's avatar
:D
Reply  ·  
Skargill's avatar
Skargill|Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you, my writing had stalled recently but I think some of these tips will help me get back into it.
Reply  ·  
LaBruyere's avatar
Excellent! Thanks for reading. :)
Reply  ·  
rlkirkland's avatar
rlkirkland|Hobbyist Writer
Wonderfully detailed and great follow-up resources. Bravo! :sun:
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LaBruyere's avatar
:bow:
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anonymous's avatar
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