How to Maintain Focus When Writing

QuillAs a blogger and writer, I must admit that there are days when I’m just on a roll. I’m able to achieve significant output. I’m able to manage my time wisely, and I’m generally productive. But then there are also those days when I uselessly stare at the computer screen for hours on end, never able to come up with anything sensible enough to publish.

The difference between these two scenarios is focus. I’m that kind of person who needs to really concentrate in order to accomplish what I start.

Most of the time, I can best focus when there are no outside distractions. This is mostly attainable very late at night or in the wee hours of the morning when everyone else is asleep. However, just being alone in silence is not an assurance that one can focus. I, for one, often have a lot going on in my head. Sometimes it’s the internal distractions that are the bigger deterrents to focus, and not the external ones.

When producing content, such as blog posts, articles, contributing to online discussions, and the like, here are a few things I like to do, which oftentimes make it easier to focus and concentrate on writing.

Research beforehand

I must admit that a lot of my blog posts have been based on information that I happen to have chanced upon. These are more difficult to write than content that I’ve been able to do prior research on, though. This is because I tend to open too many windows and links when I simultaneously write and look for information. I tend to navigate away from the main task at hand, and before I know it I’ve already forgotten to finish what I’ve started writing.

When one gets all the information ready before even starting the first word in an article or blog post, then all that’s needed is to refer to the source information every now and then, which will not take time because these are already available readily. So when you find something interesting to write about, you should already spend the next few minutes learning all about it, before even saying your own piece.

Have all your tools ready

Just like a soldier marching into battle without ammo, writing without the proper tools would require you to keep marching back to base for supplies. You would never accomplish anything this way, though. So it’s best to have your tools ready. And I mean anything that’s related to your writing, and anything that helps you along the way.

In my case, I like having a freshly brewed mug of coffee beside my keyboard while writing, so I can take sips while I compose thoughts and sentences in my head. It’s one of those habits that one cannot do without. If I find myself without a very hot (or very cold, depending on the weather) beverage beside me then I find myself rushing to the pantry to prepare something. Along the way, I would’ve already lost focus and the drive to finish my piece.

These tools could include your favorite word processing software, your favorite browser, and any other tool that you directly or indirectly use when writing. If you often write on a portable computer, make sure you have enough battery power for your writing session. If you need to publish a blog post, you’d better have a live Internet connection. It just isn’t the same saving a post offline and publishing only when you get the chance to connect.


One of the more popular posts I’d written on in the years past is about maximizing windows. Some people prefer maximizing the current window so they can focus on the document or whatever application they are working on. This definitely helps reduce sources of distraction. Among other things you can do are turn off your IM client, switch your phone to silent mode, and generally try to reduce distractions in your periphery. Also, try to resist the urge to check your email inbox every two minutes or so.

Take a break

Sometimes, maintaining focus requires taking a break, too. Marathon writing sessions are great as long as you can keep the energy and focus up. But standing up and stretching every thirty minutes or so can surely help with circulation. Try to do breathing exercises, too. Or just walk around for a couple of minutes. These can help clear the cobwebs up in your head. If all else fails, sleep on it. You might be able to develop on your ideas better in the morning. Sometimes, you will realize it’s an idea not worth building upon at all.

Everyone has his own preferences, and his own notion of a productive environment that’s conducive to creativity. The common denominator here is that one often needs to be in the zone to be productive. For a writer, that’s where the magic happens.

image credit: flickr/b1gw1ght

5 thoughts on “How to Maintain Focus When Writing

  1. I am new to blogging and am trying to begin a writing career. Focus is an issue since I’m easily distracted. I have recently been laid off as an RN for health insurance industry, and am searching for avenues to write and/or have an online business. I really appreciate what you have written and will follow you.

  2. I can definitely vouch for the research beforehand tip. My best posts that don’t take too long to write have been when I do some research a couple days before I actually write the post. During the research, I take notes so by the time I write the post, I simply refer to my notes and flesh them out into paragraphs to finish the post.

    I’ve found that this two part process of research and then writing makes blogging much easier and less daunting especially if you want to create more substantial, comprehensive posts.

  3. Really recognize myself. I like how you position coffee as a working tool. Now I don’t feel so guilty! Have to admit that I need more discipline in proactively addressing the distractions you identified. For me, e-mail and the lure of the Web can have me chasing rabbit holes if I am not careful.

    One tool I plan to use is setting aside time each week for editorial planning. I think knowing how a particular article fits into my overall strategy will provide me a framework and help me focus. Not always easy to stay on task without an overall strategy. Doesn’t preclude jotting down ideas for future articles, or adjusting the editorial. Just having a starting point for the week seems motivating.

    But so far, this is still hypothetical. And while I know what works for one person doesn’t always work for another, I am interested to know what others do on this front.

Comments are closed.