Of Frogs & Focus

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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?

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    The Conversation

  1. Great article Connie! Without focus you can’t have performance! I love your comment “Focus, I’ve learned, is slippery as a wet frog and equally hard to catch. Even harder to hang onto.” So true! I work with CEOs and business owners who run into the same problem. They get so busy working in their business they lose focus on what they really want to accomplish. The only solution is to put strategic planning time on the schedule. The same holds true in all aspects of life – if it’s important to you – you gotta carve out the time for it by putting it on your calendar.

    • Connie Mann says:

      So very well said, Sharon. Good reminder that we all need to carve out time to figure out where we want to go. I’ve learned that the writing always goes better if I know what I’m trying to say. 🙂

  2. Your post is very timely. I’ve been having a hard time focusing these last two weeks. I only have approximately 3 more chapters to write on my current WIP, but I find myself sitting down at the laptop only to jump up to do something, anything, other than write.

  3. Alison Stone says:

    This is a great post. I have four children and always thought, “When they finally all go to school, I’ll have tons of time to write.” My youngest is in second grade now and I find if I don’t buckle down, the entire day can be consumed by “stuff” and I still won’t get the important things done. I find the best way to accomplish my goals is to make a list and stick to it.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Oh, I know the feeling, Alison! If I’m not careful, entire days gets sucked into a black hole of urgency marked, “stuff” and the really important things don’t get done! Like you, I’ve found lists–and deadlines–to be wonderful motivators!

      Congrats on your new book!