#WIPMADNESS Week #4 Check-in — Focus (or, lack thereof)

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I watched this little Rufous Hummingbird flit around all Sunday afternoon. The birdfeeder was full of fresh nectar, but each time he arrived, he made the rounds of the available flowers on the deck before darting over to the feeder for a drink. Then it was back to the red Calibrachoa – no, wait… make it the white Bacopa – nope, it’s the golden Bidens. Another dash to the feeder for a sip of nectar.

He couldn’t seem to stay at any one place for longer than a couple seconds, and so ended up returning to each one multiple times. He probably got adequate nourishment, but he sure expended a lot of energy in the process.

He reminded me of my own futile efforts to concentrate on my WIP some days.

  • Open WIP document.
  • Oops, almost forgot to check Facebook, e-mail and Twitter.
  • Locate my misplaced mug of coffee – can’t function without caffeine.
  • Re-read yesterday’s chapter and mark a few weak spots.
  • Check for new blog comments – it’ll only take a moment unless there are new ones requiring a reply.
  • Contemplate whether to make the changes in that earlier chapter or move on to the next.
  • Stare out the window at the birds.
  • Check to see if anyone has replied to my Facebook post.
  • Return to the kitchen to dump my cold coffee and get a hot refill.
  • Recheck e-mail.

And on it goes.

Distractions aren’t the problem. Lack of focus is. The infamous “butt in chair” advice works only if I actually concentrate on my manuscript while seated. Bird watching or browsing the internet while sipping coffee doesn’t count because my brain is not fully engaged in the task.

How much more productive would I be if I allotted a specific chunk of time to the social media tasks, then turned it off, swivelled my chair away from the window and settled down for a session of real writing? I know that perfectly well, but I watched the silly hummingbird who couldn’t settle in one spot either, and smiled at his lack of focus.

Until I realized that he was multi-tasking with one purpose in mind: to fill his stomach.

I guess he could teach me a thing or two about focus after all.

~

So did you have trouble focusing on your #wipmadness efforts, or did you accomplish last week’s goals? What do you hope… no, plan to achieve this week?

~

The winner of our Week #3 draw for
a $25 Amazon gift certificate is

M.A. Scott (@ghostgirlwrites)

Congratulations, Mary Ann! Please e-mail me at caroljgarvin [at] gmail [dot] com and I’ll tell you how to claim your prize.

For Week #4, K.M. Weiland has generously donated a copy (print or digital) of her 2011 release, OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL to someone who comments on today’s check-in post. You can check-in multiple times during the week (until Saturday) if you’re in need of a little extra motivation or to offer extra support to your fellow Wipsters.

Now, stop procrastinating and get to work!

~.

(“A lifelong fan of history and the power of the written word, K.M. Weiland enjoys sharing both through her novels and short stories. She blogs at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors, where she mentors other authors and shares the ups and downs of the writing life.”)

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41 thoughts on “#WIPMADNESS Week #4 Check-in — Focus (or, lack thereof)

  1. nonoymanga says:

    Excellent birds photpgraphy!!! Cheers Nonoy Manga

    • Thanks, Nonoy. I’m just an armchair photographer when it comes to the birds. Most of the photos are taken hastily, and through our family room window without a tripod — not conducive to the best quality, but I love catching the birds in action .

  2. bethanyrsmith says:

    I feel like this post was written just for me! I’m trying really hard to start a new story while querying my old one, and this sort of split in focus does not become me.
    I write a scene for the new story, and immediately start comparing it to my polished manuscript.
    I have a great brainstorming session, then get a full request, or a rejection.
    Back and forth, back and forth.
    I suppose my goal this week would be to really commit to the new story, to turn off the internal editor and get some words on the page. Even just a chapter or two would be great!

    • kiperoo says:

      Beth,
      I am in EXACTLY this place. So frustrating! But we must continue!
      Hugs,
      Kip

    • Split-shift writing has to be such a challenge. I think it must require some very disciplined scheduling of writing sessions, separating one project from another. I hope this week sees you making some good progress on that new story.

  3. I adore hummingbirds. These photos are fantastic, Carol. Good advice about focusing. I am a terrible flitter and check out all the flowers instead of getting down to business. I need deadlines to get it done. They really work for me so I take courses. Also I need to feel that satisfaction of finishing something so I have revived my love of short stories and have been writing some for contests coming up. Novel writing is great but so all consuming. Good to have the short stories so I can finish a small project and feel that sense of accomplishment.

    • I’m like you in getting things done when there’s a deadline… whether it’s writing or housework! Just tell me company’s coming and watch the clutter disappear. LOL!

      There’s a shorter piece for a contest that should be taking priority right now, but I keep being seduced by my novel.

  4. Leigh-Ann says:

    Wow, great post and great insight on focus! I’m terrible when it comes to focusing on my WIP most days. However, I’m finding that taking small breaks does help my brain feel like it’s done its distraction/procrastination thing and allows me to jump back into the story a bit easier. I also have an app called Self-Control (hehe) that turns off my most distracting websites for set amount of time so I can don’t just wander over to Facebook and Twitter ever 2 minutes. This past week I did get a chapter revised and got a good start on two others, so I’m feeling slow, but accomplished.

  5. Oh SQUEEEEEE! Thank you, Carol!

    Wow…We must really be syncing lately. I spent a good part of the weekend watching the hummingbirds come to my front porch, too. I will sit in the chair for hours sometimes, just waiting for the wildlife to arrive and amaze me, which they inevitably do.

    As for multi-tasking and focus, I’m a little all over the place too. I did manage to get through to chapter 9 and have decided to tear down some of the motivation of one of my characters a bit. I think it is a good step. Now I just have to pour my heart into all week before I head to NC with my son.

    Thanks for all the inspiration (and the goodies!) all month, Carol! Now I’m going to bat my wings as fast as I can and get this WIP party started again. Here’s to an inspired and productive week, wipsters!

    • Congrats again, Mary Ann. Your response makes it all worth while. :)

      I think true multitasking requires good concentration on whatever one thing has your attention, and seeing it through to whatever level of completion it requires before moving on to something else. Too often I don’t really concentrate at all, and thus flit ineffectively from one thing to another without making measurable progress on anything! Ackkk!!

      Glad to hear you made it through another chapter anyway. Hope you have another good week.

  6. Jeanne Ryan says:

    I’ve had a challenging time with focus lately. Probably because I spent three months racing to meet a deadline. Once I hit the SEND button, my brain seemed like mush for a week. Slowly, I’m getting back in the groove. But even on my best of days, the internet is a serious distraction. So I often force myself to revise off a hardcopy.

    • After working intensely on one project for a while I think your brain is entitled to take a breather, but I’m glad you’re getting back on track again. The internet is definitely addictive. Your idea of revising from a hard copy where you don’t have access to the internet is a great one!

  7. I’m almost through this latest revision, so I’m trying to stay focused until the end. I set ridiculous goals for myself sometimes (like promising my agent a revision by a day I can’t possibly make – and then forcing myself to make it happen). I find if I give myself any allowance of time, I suddenly have the urge to skip writing days, and loose momentum very quickly. But so far, so good on this goal!

  8. Sometimes I drift off daydreaming about future scenes while I’m writing. It’s crazy making!

    I’m first drafting again and waiting on all kinds of things. Back to school a week from this Wed. Ugh.

    • I’ve always said daydreaming is part of the process — percolating ideas. It sounds like you’re making good use of your last week of freedom. Around here, school doesn’t go back until either the end of August or the Tuesday after Labour Day, so we have a while yet.

  9. kiperoo says:

    Thanks for the great post, Carol! Focusing is so hard in the face of distraction. At the writing retreat I went to recently, I made myself sit in the part of the house (or outside) where I couldn’t get on the internet, and it helped so much. My goal is to do the same during the girls’ nap so that I’m pushing forward with my draft. With less distraction, it’s definitely easier to focus. At least that’s my goal anyway …

    • Seems like everyone admits that internet distractions are the worst kind. Instead of struggling to find ways to balance social media time at the retreat, I like your plan to avoid the temptation altogether. I need to do that more often at home.

  10. Distracted? Me? Let me tell you about distractions. I can’t settle down because every day we’re told we’ll have an answer about our move. I can’t concentrate on anything else right now, even though I’ve really really tried. So I’m letting my WIP simmer while I pray, read books, and try to keep my sanity. We’re supposed to get an answer tomorrow. But we were supposed to get an answer last Tuesday, then Wednesday, then Thursday, etc. . . UGH!!! My WIP is on my mind all the time, I’m just too rattled to give it the serious attention it needs.

    • I can’t imagine trying to focus on *anything* in your situation, Angelina! Talk about being left hanging! I hope you get the word very soon and can finally begin moving ahead into whatever your future holds.

    • Shari Green says:

      Makes sense that the move would totally dominate your thoughts — I can’t imagine it NOT! When it’s all settled and you’re able to focus on your WIP again, I bet you’ll find your subconscious has been quite busy. :)

      Hoping you hear something VERY soon!

    • Deb Marshall says:

      Oh man Angelina…I really really hope this settles for you soon.

  11. I had an interesting morning. My head strapped to electrodes as I got my vision and brain signals tested. So I’ve been unfocused today.

    I also had an interesting week, since my laptop had a meltdown and I had to go buy a new one. And rescue my files from my old one, at that. I’ve been distracted restoring things to “the way they were” with this new baby. So that’s been distracting, too.

    However. Somehow, in the midst of all of this, I finished my rewrites – at least, the ones that took me to the end of the book. I now have a much more powerful climax. But I have since turned around and started re-working the beginning, because I want to make sure I have some more details spruced up. So, I’ve rewritten my opening. And it feels *good*. I’ve still got more to go, but I can see the light at the end of this tunnel. Very close, now. :D

  12. And of course, I forgot to add: Today I’m planning to do some more reading, and tonight I’ve got a write-in to get more work done. And a last-minute goal that I’ve added for this week, for the rest of July, is that I want to craft an outline, because I’m going to be participating in August Camp Nano!

    • I’d say you have every reason to be unfocused today. Electrodes?! Yuck! But you’ve had a productive week, despite that and the laptop meltdown. I don’t know about everyone else, but you’re putting ME to shame with your energy and output! Good for you!

  13. Shari Green says:

    I don’t think I moved toward my goals much this week. Not sure at the moment, actually, cuz I’m in my “post-night-shift” haze, lol. I’ll be thinking more clearly tomorrow after a good night’s sleep.

    Love the hummingbird pics and your thoughts on focus. Sometimes I’m pretty focussed, but other times…oy! Must be more like the hummingbird and keep my goal in mind when I sit down to write.

    • You’re not only in a “post-night-shift” space, but also the “post-vacation” one. At least you remembered to check in. :)

      I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect to be “on top of our game” every week of the year. If we never let our thoughts drift to something other than a WIP we’d easily become very one-sided people. (Which isn’t exactly what you were saying, I know, but that’s how my hummingbird-sized brain sometimes works. LOL!)

  14. Deb Marshall says:

    Hey! I have so little focus right now I find it hard to even get it together enough to stay up with #wipmadness! Loved you post so it was a good one to come in on. Thanks for sharing the pics of your hummingbirds…I like that they fill their belly via multitask. Maybe, sometimes, we are filling the well? SO-this week, I am all about completing the third draft of my wip. There. I said it. No need to enter me, I already have and LOVE this book.

    Thanks for hosting and waving hello from AB!

    • Hey, glad to see you here, Deb! ::waving back from BC:: You’re in good company when it comes to lack of focus. We all anticipate having loads of spare time to write during relaxed summertime schedules, but in reality I think our brains go into holiday mode and it’s harder to concentrate on old routines.

      I hope you’re able to get into exactly the right frame of mind to zip through that third draft this week. We’ll be expecting a good report from you next week. ;)

  15. Congrats, Mary Ann!

    Off topic: I’ve linked to one of your posts on my blog. :)

    • Thanks for popping in, Susan. I’ll have to go and see what’s up at your blog. (Drat! I can’t just click the link in your name… it goes to an undeveloped blog. I’ll have to come via my Google Reader subscription later.)

  16. I actually did get derailed a bit this week–I got the flu (or I think it was the flu) for the first time ever, which slowed me down a bit, and then Friday and Saturday were so busy I didn’t get a word down! I was so sad, ha. Trying to make up for it now.

    Goal this week: Finish my first draft of FOLLOWED BY FROST! If I succeed in this I will have broken my drafting record, speed-wise. Thursday is my one-month mark. :)

    • Ugh! Sorry to hear of your flu encounter. Definitely not nice! But it sounds like you’re back on track with an ambitious goal this week. One month to write a first draft??? That’s fantastic! Despite the flu, you must have been very focused! Hope you have a great week.

  17. joylene says:

    I had no internet all weekend. Shish, you’d think the world was coming to an end. My provider was nice enough to call and explain why. I thought, no problem, I’ll write. Ha! I watched too much news, hence my blog topic, diddly-dallied on chapter 10, and made a strawberry whip cream angel food cake!

    I love your photos, Carol. They’re so pristine and heavenly.

    • At least your weekend without internet resulted in a cake. :) My DH has been away since Friday, and I planned to bury myself in my writing projects during his absence and work non-stop. While I *have* written a fair amount, I keep coming up for air and heading immediately for FB! Focus, Carol, focus!!! LOL! We do love our social media connections, don’t we?

  18. baccelliak says:

    Love hummingbirds. As a matter of fact my protagonist does too.
    I know all about lack of focus. It’s been hard. On Saturday with the tragedy that brought back painful memories of my sister’s murder. Then the whole Penn State thing that also stirred yet more memories. I ended up blogging about the tragedy. Today hope to get back to my revision and write. One way to not be distracted is leaving my house. Today I’ll be at the local library. Yesterday I was at a restaurant.
    Also this Friday and Saturday I’ll be at RWA Nationals. It’ll be fun to mingle, go to workshops/panels and get a super charge of motivation/inspiration. Seriously need that right now.

    • Tragedy affects so many people, both directly and indirectly, doesn’t it? Finding new locales in which to write sounds like a good idea, although it doesn’t work well for me… too many new things to distract me.

      The RWA Nationals should give you a great boost. You’ll have a wonderful time there and come back feeling renewed… undoubtedly exhausted, but ready to dive into your writing again.

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