Being a full-time professional writer is a double-edged sword. There’s the beauty and blessing of making your own schedule, of working from home (or anywhere, really), of living in your imagination and telling stories for a living.
And then, there’s everything else: the uncertainty, the unreliable money, the vagaries of publishing and life, the fact that your imagination is how you survive and if your imagination and your ability to produce stories isn’t at 100% you might just be in a little trouble. It’s a lot of pressure, frankly, and not always all that fun (not that I’d ever quit).
Focus is easily disrupted, at least for me. Focus is a muscle, it’s a fully-formed habit, and it needs to be exercised frequently, and with great intensity. When I let myself go unfocused for too long, it’s hard to get it back — there are always reasons to be distracted, good reasons, fabulous excuses — but avoiding the hard work needed to regain focus always feels like I’m doing harm to myself. And I am, to a degree. Because if I don’t write, if I don’t access the part of me that tells stories, I might as well find another life.
It’s easy to take the power of focus for granted, but it’s what I tell my students — you have to focus if you want to finish anything. There are thousands of pages of unfinished stories in my past (and some in my present) because I couldn’t focus on a particular project at a particular time. I cringe, sometimes, when I think of all the unfinished novels.
I know it’s not even December, and we haven’t quite reached the part where we start making resolutions, but mine is the same resolution I always make: to center myself, to ground myself, to focus so that I can create, fully.
How to do that? It’s different for everyone, but for me, it’s just long stretches of stillness and quiet and finding joy in the work. Taking the time to do that. Making the time. Committing to it.
It’s a good thing to attempt, whether or not you’re a writer.