1. Pludovick
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    Pludovick Member

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    How to improve focus

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Pludovick, Jul 13, 2013.

    I love writing (as I assume most people here do!) but at the moment I've really, really been struggling to just focus, knuckle down and actually get something down on paper. I'm currently on my summer holidays before I go back to university in September and I decided to forego a summer job this year to try and write my first novel... but it's just not happening. I've got it all planned out, with individual chapter summaries, story arches and key plot-points all neatly organised, but now it's come to writing for prolonged periods of time it I just can't stay focused at all.

    I'd been hoping to write about 1000 words a day, but in reality it's ended up being a fraction of that. It's not just a problem with writing- I seem to have a chronically short attention span for anything that doesn't involve physical activity and rarely manage to sit through entire TV shows or movies without getting bored or restless and finding something else to do. The only real advice my friends have been able to give me is simply not letting myself do other things until I've hit my daily goals, but I find it near-impossible to be creative in the slightest when my brain is screaming at me to go and do something else instead.

    I'd be curious to know if anyone else has had similar difficulties with focusing on their writing (or other activities, for that matter) and what can be done to alleviate this problem because it's really starting to cause me issues.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Michael O
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    Michael O Contributing Member

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    Yeah! Shut-up and pay attention! The secret is you have to...Holy Shit! Elvis just landed a UFO in my backyard! Gotta Go!
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    *:D*
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Beer helps. :p Not too much, mind you.

    I have to switch to a different part of my story sometimes when I find myself struggling with the section I'm working on. That seems to do the trick for me.
     
  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you have always had this problem focusing, and it happens to you in all different activities, have you ever been evaluated for ADD? I know of adults who had it but weren't diagnosed until after their kids were diagnosed with it. There are medications that can make a huge difference for some people.

    Just something to consider.
     
  6. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    I've read that meditation is great at boosting focus. Also, exercise may help.
     
  7. Michael O
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    Michael O Contributing Member

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    Research strongly correlated attention span with TV. Kids who watched too much had an attention span the length of program between commercials, about ten minutes max. It's not called an idiot-box for nothing.

    Ritalin has become very popular on college campuses and research shows it helps. Don't think there has been side-effects of any concern. If there was, why prescribe it to children. Wonder what the placebo effect's range is. There's several more pharms prescribed, don't remember their names but Ritalin seemed to work the best.

    There was also a study where tinted lenses were used and rose colored lenses helped children diagnosed with mild forms of dyslexia. Often wondered about looking at a black and white page for so long. Diet, sleep patterns, learning modality, so many factors in play.

    If your brain screams to go do something else, go do something else first. If it screams then...OH SHIT! You're crazy, just like everybody else. :)
     
  8. JCAC138
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    The same thing happens to me. What you have to do is train yourself psychologically to be able to write every day. At the beginning it will be difficult because staying focused is the problem, you just have to withstand it and do it anyways. Before you realize, you'll be writing every day without the difficulty that you had before. It's sort of like going to the gym (First its hard to go every day, but then you find yourself going without any problems because you liked the outcome.)
     
  9. Rimuel
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    Rimuel Member

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    Yeah, I was thinking of ADHD myself.

    There are some exercises you can do to improve your focus. For example, dharana. The basic exercise is:

    1. Sit comfortably in a quiet place.
    2. Close your eyes.
    3. Imagine one thing, and try to focus only on that image for a certain period of time.

    The image can be anything. The simplest is to imagine a shape: a red triangle, a black oval, a blue circle, a silver crescent or a yellow square. Whenever your attention sways, don't panic. Steadily bring your attention back.



    That's Newton's First Law applied to humans. :)
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think there's any substitute for just plonking your ass down in your desk chair and writing. You can make the case that it isn't talent or ideas or a virtuoso skill with language that makes a writer; it's the ability to sit down and write until the work is done.

    When I'm working full out, at my best, I'm getting up very early in the morning. Four thirty or five am. That's a magic time - everyone else is asleep and there are no sounds except the waking birds. I can get three or four hours of good work done before I even have to be aware that there are other people in the world. Those hours become very precious after a week of so of working on that schedule. I start to really crave my mornings.

    I read once about a nineteenth-century writer - I forget who it was - who had his servant (a writer with a servant? Wow!) take all his clothes away for a set number of hours each day. The writer would have nothing to do at all except work. He couldn't go out, because he'd be going out stark naked. I suppose that's one way of keeping yourself focused!
     
  11. Rimuel
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    Rimuel Member

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    But if he's an exhibitionist?? :D
     
  12. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    Run a lap. Then write. Feeling antsy? Run another lap.

    Repeat until you either are skinny as a pole and about to compete in a marathon, or finished with the novel.

    The energy, physically, has to get out somehow.
     
  13. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    Take your computer or notebook or whatever you use somewhere without an internet connection and/or other distractions. Preferrably somewhere you have to stay for a few hours without nothing else to do. Works wonders.
     
  14. Kita
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    Kita Senior Member

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    I have ADHD and have trouble with this myself. I overcome it by having multiple projects running at once. Currently there are two novels and a books of short stories focused around one event. It helps to be able to switch between pieces of writing.

    A huge problem I have is focusing on what I'm writing. I have a habit of coming up with unrelated story ideas (Which I jot down for future use) though sometimes if I'm stumped I'll write a short story of say 500-1500 words then return to what I was originally doing.
     
  15. Haliburton
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    Please listen to me. Throw out your chapter summaries, story arches, key plot-points etcetra. You've already worn this book out. Without any of those things, take your sheet of paper and begin writing about what you really want to write about. You are trying to FORCE yourself to write a novel that doesn't seem to interest you much. Find a subject that sets you on fire and get started on it. Don't set a goal of so many words per day, start writing and let it run until you either have to take a bathroom break or you are exhausted. If you have the right subject, you will be manacled to your machine, unable to leave it because of the excitement of getting it down on paper. Stephen King said that after he has done the first few pages, it takes over and just goes where it wants and I have found that to be exactly true for me. I am writing about a female detective and right out of nowhere, she is almost killed by somebody who has had enough of her. She loses one leg, takes a year to recover and two minutes before I wrote that it was not on the agenda. I love to write, you do too but grab on to something that won't let go of you and run with it.
     
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  16. MsScribble
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    I've got inattentive add, concentration is a bit of a problem. Small things that have helped; have a clean workspace. (A MUST!) Don't think, write or talk to much about how you can't concentrate - it might be true but negative self-talk is damaging. Get up and move around when you're having a blank spot. (I do the dishes or clean something, but I make sure I don't get involved in something that will draw my attention away.)
    I think its an issue for everyone. You said you're on holiday, maybe your brain is weary! Eat some junk food and go see terrible movies - self therapy! :) And best of luck with your first novel!
     
  17. Pludovick
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    Pludovick Member

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    Cheers for all the feedback everyone! Will definitely give some of these ideas a go, sound like they could be a lot of help. Exercise does help to an extent (I'm actually currently training for a marathon, so maskedhero was alarmingly close to the mark haha) and I'll definitely see what my doctor says about ADD/ADHD when I get back to the UK. Dharana, Tinted lenses and Ritalin all sound like they could help too, although even as a child I hardly ever watched TV as I found it far too boring and uninvolved. I tended (and still do) to play video games more as they're a bit more interactive and engaging- don't know if that would have the same negative effect on attention span?

    Rotating ideas and trying to do multiple stories at once is something I've not really dared to try before- always been worried I'll never get round to finishing any of them. If it works for you though I'll try and give it a go- I've always got tonnes of other ideas buzzing round in my head so it can't do any harm!

    I'd love to be able to do this, but my writing style is very planning-heavy and meticulous- I can't write at all if I don't have a solid idea of where I'm going! The idea of starting to write a novel without having a pretty concrete idea of where it's going to end up or how it'll get there is something that terrifies me. You've probably hit the nail on the head with having worn the book out already though- I'm creating a fictionalised account loosely based on multiple real-life anecdotes that I've already blogged about extensively. Now I've started I really want to finish it though; I'm really happy with what I've written so far and I hate leaving things unfinished. Maybe it'd help starting another project and coming back to this one later?

    Brain weariness might be a good call- I'm living abroad for the year and having to speak my (not especially fluent) second language 24/7 which is pretty brain-tiring! Hopefully it'll be easier when I get back to the UK. And thank you very much :D
     

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