The economy is tanking, the economy is growing; the world is struggling with climate change or it’s not. And on top of everything, the zombies are out there just waiting to make us their dinner. It’s enough to keep us all in a constant state of turmoil.
Of course, the economy will do it what it does, the world most likely will go on, and zombies aren’t real. But according to experts on the History Channel, the popularity of zombie stories and various other world-changing storylines is connected to our fundamental fears of having no actual control over our lives and the very real threats of terrorists, disease, environmental catastrophes, and more. So what’s a writer to do when unreal distractions make us run in various – real and emotional – directions? As suggested by Hope Clark, founder of Funds for Writers Funds for Writers, we can turn to the “F” word. We can “focus.”
I’m writing this tongue-in-cheek, of course. Clearly we’re not all boarding up our windows to keep out zombies or storing up supplies in hopes of surviving a world catastrophe. These extreme activities are not robbing our time, but we do have daily living to manage on top of our efforts to further our writing goals. Life can become a gerbil’s wheel of endless business. It’s easy to latch onto the latest advice; the latest tips that suggest how we can best take our writing ability and aspirations and turn them into a viable writing career, despite all the obstacles and distractions. Write a blog and use Facebook and Twitter to build a Web presence. Diversify with short stories or commercial nonfiction. There are varying approaches touted with equal earnest. Trouble is, if you’re working a day job, managing a family life and trying to get your writing career off the ground, the wealth of advice can be just one more distraction pulling you in different directions and diluting your productivity. So focus.
Clark puts it pretty succinctly in her newsletter.
“Pick one project that will represent you well … . Then center your world around it. Let's say . . . write a novel. When you're enticed to enter a contest, don't do it, unless it's for a novel. When you see a retreat, don't go, unless you go to write the novel. When you attend a conference, only go to further your novel. When you see a Chicken Soup that catches your fancy, only do it if you've already worked on your novel for the day. Nothing gets done unless it's affiliated with the novel,” she wrote.
It’s simple advice. Something to keep our attention and bring it back to creating what we want, whatever that may be. Focus, to concentrate your efforts. Focus, to use your limited time and energy to accomplish what best meets your needs.
This article is excerpted from Romancing the Prairie, the quarterly newsletter of the Prairie Hearts chapter of RWA.