Musings

On finding your writing sweet spot

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Having worked as a professional writer for the last 15 years from the comfort of my home, there is always some kind of distraction that lures me from my work.

Distractions of a Worried Mind (Flickr: DeeAshley)

Distractions of a Worried Mind (Flickr: DeeAshley)

Laundry calls every day. Mounds of it.

So do my girlfriends. Coffee? Quick lunch?

And my kids. Can you bring my study guide to me at school? I left it on the desk in my room.

And then there’s Candy Crush. Not even going to dignify this one. There’s no excuse.

Were it not for my work ethic, chances are I never would have lifted this writing gig off the ground.

Losing your writing focus? That may not be such a bad thing.

Trust me, I have my times. Just one phone call, one stream of ants in the kitchen and I can be knocked off my game for an hour or more.

The trick is getting back on track. And you can.

Here are some of my tried-and-true tips for staying on task with my writing projects.

Egg timer: In another life, I was a high school English teacher and this was one of my favorite, most effective tools for getting my students to roll up their sleeves and hunker down to a task. There is nothing like a ticking clock to focus your attention on an assignment.

Classical music: This was another tool I used in the classroom. Some studies claim that classical music (think Beethoven, Mozart and Bach) has a real and measurable impact on stirring up the creative juices. Let those instrumental strains flow and the words and ideas will come to you.

Goals and lists: God, how I love making lists. Every morning of every day, I sit down and bullet-point a list of my writing goals for the day. I am careful to do three things. First, I list at least 2-3 items that I know that I can accomplish. Nothing spurs me on like checking off those first items. Second, I challenge myself with at least two goals that are difficult and far-reaching. When I check those off, I know I have made real progress. Third, I keep the list manageable so that the carry-over to tomorrow is not overwhelming.

The fringe: One of my favorite authors of all time majestic wordsmith Toni Morrison. She has always inspired me, not just for her incredible stories and beautifully-constructed prose, but for her own personal story. The mother of young children when she penned “Beloved,” Morrison learned to write on the fringes of the day – mostly those pre-dawn hours – where she found that she was not only uninterrupted, but that she was at her most creative.

Kerri S. Mabee is managing editor at EducatedWriter.com. Learn more about her at kerrismabee.com.

Kerri S. Mabee

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