I’m considering a new writing project, a non-fiction with the tentative title of Focus: life skills for the organizationally challenged.
My least-loved quirk is my inability to orally complete a thought. It drives DH to drink. At least that’s his excuse when he’s sipping a Chevas and water on the rocks.
Alas, this innate ability to lose track of my own words in casual conversation is not endearing, it is frustrating for both DH and myself. However, yesterday I took my loss of focus to a new level. I only made half the bed. Somewhere between tucking in my side of the blanket and the making my way to DH’s side I got side-tracked. Never to return.
“Did you take a nap today?” DH’s question made me snort. As if. I certainly would have made the bed to hide the evidence.
“Have a friend over?” Yeah right. Again, check out the hiding of evidence from above.
“Are you mad at me?” Sheesh, I would have done far worse than leave his half of the bed unmade–like paint a frowny face on the back window of his truck with squirt cheese or decorate the front yard tree with the contents of his sock and undie drawer–depending on just how mad I might be.
Needless to say, I sheepishly had to admit that I simply “forgot” to finish my task. I know, it sounds bad and I’ve been wracking my brains to figure out why I am so inept at focusing. After all, I can focus quite competently during a major project. I can speak in front of people without leaving them hanging and begging for scotch. I can even complete most tasks without getting side tracked. It’s the little things, the daily things, the repetitive things that fluster my brain.
Here’s my conclusion: I can focus as tenaciously as a pit bull when it’s required. However, simple tasks that I don’t need to think about to complete leave room for more fanciful things. And since I have a huge imagination, four kids and a geriatric dog, there is no shortage of fanciful things to attract my attention.
I have learned to clean my house toilet by toilet, floor by floor, mirror by mirror. This keeps me focused. I have established a system of putting EVERY misplaced item on the kitchen counter as I come across them. I no longer put them away in mid-clean, because there is no bigger distraction to me than trying to squeeze a book on a book shelf and realizing the shelf needs straightened to get rid of the stuffed animal that goes in the toy box that’s filled with clothes that go in the drawer in place of the Halloween costume that should be in a box in the storage room next to the Christmas light that are really on the gun cabinet along with the dust bunnies from the dryer that seep out of the cracked vent hose that…
This is why I focus on one thing at a time–in life and during edits. Sure I drop the misspelled words, the lack-luster descriptions or the wrong punctuation on my counter when I run across them, but I don’t ever try to put them away until it’s their turn. Highlights and side notes litter my manuscripts with each pass. Yet in the end, every word is put in it’s righful place and the manuscript is clean from once upon a time to the end.
I have learned to excell at focusing on big projects–such as a weekly whole house clean. And in the end, all the beds are made, the rugs shook out and the windows sparkling floors mopped.
Now if only I could figure out a way to focus on the hum-drum, DH wouldn’t need to check his bed for a status update on our relationship…
How do you stay focused when your mind prefers to wander?
For writers, which part of the writing process requires more deliberate focus for you? How do you maintain control? Share your tips with others.