Open Book Blog Hop – 4th January 2021

‘How do you keep focused during long writing sessions?’

Focusing is not something I struggle with. In fact, when I am focusing, I am unlikely to hear anything going on around me as I block out all other noises and sounds. I have always done this and the teacher always had to come over and tell me it was time to stop reading at the end of each lesson [we were allowed to read until the end of the session, when all our work for that specific lesson was completed]. It used to drive my parents and siblings nuts and now it drives my husband and children crazy because I won’t hear them talking to me if I am writing, reading or blogging. My sons get quite upset about it, especially Michael, as he says I ignore him. I’ve tried to explain I just don’t hear him if I’m absorbed.

When I’m on work deadlines, I work 12-hour sessions, eating and drinking at my computer, in order to review and mark up changes to a document and all the related reports. These sessions are usually from 6am to 6pm and occur about 3 or 4 days a month during my busy periods. During the working week, I am usually logged in to my email and Skype from 6am to 8pm in case there are emergencies or ‘urgents’ that I need to deal with. I pick up emails and deal with them while I read or blog and sometimes when I write if I’m working through the weekend. I am trying to do this less often lately due to the high levels of work stress I experienced during the C-19 lockdown period which was bad for my health. I worked every weekend for 3 or 4 hours a day for 5 months.

I am quite fortunately in that I can split my focus to a certain extent if I want too. This enables me to listen to a meeting and do other ‘light’ tasks such as checking changes to documents at the same time. My son said this is impossible until I made by point by repeating the a work conversation word-for-word, having listened while I reviewed changes to a work document. I can’t write a story, read a book, or review complex spreadsheets or legal agreements while doing other things. These tasks do require my complete focus and attention. Being able to use all my time efficiently by frequently doing two things at once does help me do things much quicker and gives me more time for other things. I always read both my blogs and twitter accounts at the same time. I have two computers and alternate reading posts and tweets on the two machines. I am also fortunate in that I read very quickly and retain most of what I read.

Back to focusing on writing, I usually write in blocks of not more than 3 hours for the simple reason that this is all the writing time I have in a day. From Monday to Friday, I try to squeeze in 1 hour of writing; I often don’t manage it every day, especially during busy periods. I usually write for 3 hours on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday so that makes for between 9 and 13 hours of story writing a week. I am not supposed to work on a Friday as it is my off day, but I usually work until 1 pm. I spend additional time editing what I’ve written but that doesn’t require as much focus as the creative process. I often edit on a Saturday afternoon. I also spend extra time doing research and reading as it is easy for me to disappear down a ‘rabbit hole’ when I am interested in a topic that I am writing about.

I write approximately 6 blog posts a week and this time is additional to the above, as is the time I spend writing book reviews. Reviewing a novel takes me between 45 minutes and 60 minutes and I usually write 2 or 3 reviews a week.

I don’t do anything to retain my focus. A colleague was shocked recently when I said I don’t drink any coffee or fizzy cooldrinks. I find drinking lots of water and limiting tea to three cups a day allows me to work at a optimum level. I also try to go for a 20 minute walk around my garden every day as that is good exercise and releases the tension a bit.

How do other writers manage to keep focused? Click on the link below to find out.

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34 thoughts on “Open Book Blog Hop – 4th January 2021

  1. This is an impressive and interesting commentary, Robbie. I used to get absorbed in things that way. These days the combination of PTSD and changing hormones has zapped my focus. It’s as if my mind yells “Squirrel!” LOL. Plus I’m unfortunately “hyper vigilant” and I hear every little thing. I used to work best in silence. Now I find that having the television on something “safe” (non-violent) and not interesting enough to be a distraction seems to help me focus. Fortunately my cat likes various animal videos on YouTube. I put one on for her, and next thing I know, I’m getting focused on my work.
    At any rate, I hope you set aside time to let that intent focus of yours go to relaxing. 🙂 Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always wondered how you manage to do it all Robbie. Thank you for sharing this detailed post explaining how you get things done and the hours you put in to each task. You read very fast which is amazing. I read slowly and take a lot of time to complete a book. Its good to know you get lost when you are writing or reading and your children complain. I get a lot of that too🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have trained my brain, Jacqui. I find it quite difficult to do one thing at a time, to be honest. Sometimes I have to as people have this idea that if you aren’t looking at them, you aren’t listening. I am always respectful of other peoples emotional needs.


  3. I have the two monitors thing going, which really helps. But to really focus, I need absolute silence. I can’t write if someone’s home, if the TV is on in another room etc. It’s gotta be absolutely silent otherwise I’m far too easily distracted. This, of course, means I ONLY get to write during the hour and a half I have home alone before I go to work in the mornings. It’s a narrow time, so I make the most of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am lucky, Jess, although I don’t actively listen to music while I work as many people do, I am not easily distracted by background noise. Having kids that never slept helped with this too. It was work when there was a moment or don’t work at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Focusing gets harder as you get older. I find a break every couple of hours helps, and also to concentrate on one thing at a time and block out everything else. On my writing days I now block out all social media.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What an impressive process, Robbie! I am not so fortunate in that I can become distracted. I need silence when I write (or instrumental music, no lyrics). Turn on a TV or have people talking around me and it becomes harder to focus. Strangely, I have no problem writing in a coffee shop where I can push the noise into background din!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can relate to having family members who have to repeat themselves, Robbie. My focus is pretty intense too. When I write, I get into the “zone,” and the the world around me vanishes. I like going there! Happy Writing.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. since I am on the presenting side so often with Zoom, I enjoy being on the other side, and view that time as a chance to just relax a bit. But I do check my email and other info during such Zoom calls…

        Liked by 1 person

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