Ask any creative type what they long for, and most will say, “More time to work on my art.” I’ve always felt that same tug, that same yearning for more quiet creative time in my overscheduled life.

When I went from two captains’ jobs to one, I thought opportunity had finally come calling. I would have entire days to do nothing but put words on the page. What could be better?

I know, I know. I can hear some of you snickering. Even when I first said it out loud, echoes of other writers laughing hysterically made me quietly anxious. But I could do this, I decided. I’m a professional. I was being given the gift of time. I was determined not to squander it.

Clearly, someone did not tell the chattering voices in my head or the people around me about my plans. I found if I don’t screen calls and keep the garage door closed, I get interrupted all day. “Oh, good. You’re home.” After fifteen years of freelancing, numerous dear ones have yet to grasp that “home” doesn’t always mean, “Ready to hang out and chat.”

But of the two issues, that one is the easiest to fix. The other, the endless chatter in my head, is much harder to escape. Before you can write, you have to find a way to quiet those screaming tyrants. They change from person to person, but here are some of the chorus members that muck up my brain. First there are the doubt gremlins who say, “What? You? Write a book? Hahahahaha, that’s funny.”

Then there are the closets that demand to be cleaned, photos that must be organized right this minute, bills to be paid–and where is that money coming from anyway?–phone calls to be returned, socks to pair up, situations with family and friends that must be resolved, addressed, faced…well, you get the idea.

Focus, I’ve learned, is slippery as a wet frog and equally hard to catch. Even harder to hang onto.

But without it, nothing gets written.

Sometimes, you have to be sneaky to catch that slippery frog. You set a timer or a deadline. You free write…or, you outline. You promise yourself chocolate if you meet your word goal. You play music, put on headphones, light candles, squint at the screen.

Some days focus comes easier. Other days I’m afraid I’ll have bruises from banging my head on my desk.

But I keep trying, keep writing, keep fighting. Because somewhere past all the clutter and the fear is a story that only I can tell. And that’s worth fighting for.

How about you? How do you get a grip on focus?