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On Staying Focused and Doing the Work

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve had a lot of trouble focusing on the day-to-day in 2017. Right now it seems like everything in American politics requires big-picture and large-scale thought and action, and as a politically-involved individual, those issues are dominating my headspace. It’s hard to read manuscripts or get together a grocery list when I’m trying to keep track of what the government is doing and what I can do personally to affect change.

If I were independently wealthy maybe I could afford to dedicate my life to those big-picture problems (though honestly, I think I would miss this job too much), but—like the vast majority of people—that’s just not my reality.

So I’ve had to find ways to show up and get the work done, and I’ve noticed I’m not the only person who may need help in that area. Several of my clients and a few others have talked about being distracted from their writing. And honestly, this issue isn’t even remotely limited to 2017 or current events. Individuals are distracted for one reason or another all the time.

So, while these may be common sense, here are the top three strategies that I’ve found helpful in Showing Up and Working when my head is somewhere else:

  1. Remember that you can impact people and affect change while doing your job or creating.

Okay—this one is a little more specific to current events, but: I truly believe that stories create empathy. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement has been doing excellent work for years, and that work is especially needed right now. I have a beautiful group of authors who write about diverse characters and issues, and I’m always looking for more. By being here and doing my job, I know that I am helping these books and these authors find a stage. That matters. Write the change you want to see in the world.

  1. Set Goals—both short-term and long-term.

Jessica Faust talks a lot about goals in her blogging, so if you haven’t you should just go through the backlog and check out what she has to say. I’ll just add that crossing things off your to-do list (whether big projects or tiny items like “sort the office mail”) can make everything seem more manageable.

  1. Carve out time for whatever is distracting you.

Whether it’s an hour at the end of every day, a full day on your day off, or five minutes here or there, give yourself time to Do That Thing or Read About That Issue. It will weigh on you less, and will allow you to keep balance. Balance is important, and so is routine.

Good luck to us all! I’m back to work.

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3 comments

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I had no idea others were facing the same dilemma as I am since the election. It’s been particularly difficult for me because after writing for a dozen years, I finally landed a publishing contract. I’m thrilled about that, but for obvious reasons, I truly need to focus on the edits for my manuscript and give this company a wonderful book they’ll be proud of. Indeed, politics has proven a distraction. As writers, we’re rather isolated, and until now, I hadn’t really thought about how this political climate affects editors and agents, as well as their writers. Thank you again for your honesty. I appreciate your tips and will certainly take them to heart.

  2. I feel like every idea I come up with for another novel isn’t “big picture” enough. That’s a very dangerous trap to get into. I’m trying to stay focused on just writing what I feel compelled to write without worrying if it will impact the world. One never knows what will impact the world anyway.

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