Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.
Once in a while, I get a guest comment that is both similar and different to others about writing and blogging. It sparks my curiosity and gets me thinking about my writing process so that maybe I can answer the question.
In this case, the question also involves coping strategies for focus, anxiety, or writer’s block. Maybe it will also answer some other guest comments with similar questions. Everyone’s writing process is different and unique to them. But here is my strategy.
My mind is often full of thoughts and writing ideas. In the middle of the night, my alter personalities share ideas with everyone. But I don’t remember them the next morning. They come back when inspiration strikes, during meditation, or as I practice some free writing.
Most common example is Word Association style. Pick a word at random. Write down the first thing that comes to mind. Then continue writing about it until you feel more relaxed – i.e. the words start to flow easily.
Then go back to the topic you want to write about and try the same exercise.
There are other options for free writing exercises. Maybe try a few others to see what works best for you.
Refocus Your Thoughts
Sometimes, my thoughts are scattered and confusing as I sit down to write. Usually because there is something distracting me. Other times because I feel scared about the topic and am avoiding it. Once in a while, the anxiety overwhelms me and fear blocks the writing.
I use grounding and distraction coping strategies when this happens. Meditation and deep breathing may help, but it won’t stop the other ideas and so on bouncing around in my mind fighting to get out. Maybe this is true for you as well.
When you use a grounding technique (and no it does not have to be sensory grounding), you are bringing yourself out of wherever you were and into the present moment. The moment where you write about a specific topic.
Some other grounding techniques:
- Remembering facts about yourself (birthdate, graduation date, parent’s first name, last name, etc.)
- Remembering facts about the day: specific date (June 28, 2020), specific day of the week (Sunday), location (living room), time of day and so on
- Remembering life milestones: college graduation 2004, first real job, 2006, first decade of recovery 2014, move across country 2016, and so on.
When you use a distraction, you have the opportunity to let out all the other stuff in your mind before you start writing. It’s a way to express whatever is stopping you from wiring about a specific topic.
Some quick distractions:
- Practice a hobby: get creative and choose something that allows you to express yourself. Often, I get distracted by emotions or memories or associations my mind makes with the topic. So finding a way to express them helps
- Make a drink or a snack and use it as a mindfulness exercise before you write. And if you don’t want to eat or drink, find something else you can use for a mindfulness exercise to clarify your thoughts
- Get up and move: physical activity releases endorphins and helps you feel more connected to all parts of yourself. You also get the benefit of self expression here too. It doesn’t have to be long or fancy as long as it feels right to you
- Change your location or routine. Try writing somewhere else or at a different time of day or different day of the week.
Be Kind to Yourself
Give yourself a break. Writing is difficult business, vocation, passion – whatever you want to call it. Lots of people have opinions about “how to write” and “what makes a writer” or even “how to be a writer/better writer”. They are both correct and incorrect because what works for them, might not work for you.
Maybe the 10-15 minutes you spend writing about other topics is part of your writing process. It’s how you clear your mind so that you can focus on your topic.
You can experiment with that idea by extending and shortening your dedicated writing time. Add 10-15 minutes. Try free writing. Then turn to a new page and start on your topic. Or end your writing time early.
Remember that you are a writer and successful because you put in the hard work to practice and improve your craft. Congratulate yourself for being where you are now and for how hard you work to be a writer.
Remember not to be so hard on yourself either. That is something I constantly struggle with because there is only so much in a day that:
- I want to do
- I need to do
- I can do
Personal Story example:
I have a goal to write one blog post a week for my new blog and continue writing weekly posts here in between aromatherapy/herbal studies experiments, work, getting my business started, and self care.
But last week, I didn’t have anything to write about for my new blog.
This week, I don’t have anything to write about either because my experiments are still in progress. My rose petal and chamomile infused oil will not be ready until next week. The elderberry infused honey has 3 more weeks to macerate. I’m still testing the “soothe my skin” healing salve with homemade arnica infused oil to help with pain and scars.
And the conflict is: maintain my schedule by writing something low quality and maybe not useful. Or skip some deadlines until I have results and something interesting/useful to write about to create high quality content.
I’ve decided to skip a few deadlines so that I can deliver quality content with photos.
The ideas above are some ways I work through the focus problem as I write. The rest of it is simply this: first drafts are always messy and never reflect the final product – at least for me. So I give myself a break when writing something new.
When I am continuing on something I started a while ago, I will re-read and review what I wrote before to remind myself of what’s already been written.
But to be completely honest, I am not sure if my main strategy will help you at all. You see, my alter personalities do a lot of the writing for this blog. They compose many articles and so on inside my mind without ever putting anything in writing form. They do all the revising and drafting, etc. inside my mind.
Then, everyone decides what gets written down and published here. I/we type up the post in WordPress and then do some light editing/proofreading to catch the major stuff.
And publish the article as is. Whatever errors, etc. you find here are all ours.
So, if you have alter personalities and coexist peacefully with them, maybe consider letting them have a journal (or a few journals) and tools to express themselves before you start the rest of your writing. And if you don’t have alter personalities, it’s always a good idea to express whatever is going on inside to help you relax and focus on your topic.
Because feeling relaxed, confident, and present are the best tools to help you focus and concentrate on a task.
Thanks for reading.