How to Focus on Your Writing

I believe in the power of coaching. Obviously – as a creativity coach myself. :-)

And that means that I also engage coaches in my own life, for different reasons. I have one for business, one for fitness, and one for writing.

A Recent Coaching Story

This week I was at a group coaching session on Zoom where a new friend of mine was being coached. She’d had someone approach her with a paid opportunity that she was excited about, but it was something that would direct her away from her creative passion.

Full confession: my friend sounded so excited about this new opportunity, so my instinct was to say “Yes! You should try to do it. Find a way to fit it into your life along with your creative work and everything else.” And I said as much, as the first person to speak after she explained the situation.

Meanwhile, another friend in the session (there were just 3 of us, plus the coach) was shaking her head and kinda losing it a little bit in her Zoom box.

When our coach, Kwadwo, spoke, he asked a question which completely floored me. His question was:

How much can I pay you to give up on your passion?

And my friend said: Wait, what?

Kwadwo repeated his question a different way, saying:

How much is it worth to you to not succeed at your dream?

I got goosebumps as the power of this question hit me for the first time. (These kinds of questions are why coaching is worth every penny to me!)

My friend said, “No, you don’t understand. I’ll just do this new thing ON TOP OF the creative work that I’m passionate about.”

(Oh, did I mention my friend is also pregnant with her second child?)

At which point my other friend in her Zoom box went from shaking her head to putting her head in her hands in despair. When she spoke, she said she was “apoplectic” at the thought of this new opportunity because following that path would necessarily be a new direction.

And for a while, the friend who’d raised the issue was insisting that this wasn’t a problem, that she could do BOTH things, follow both paths.

But as the conversation went on, I came to realize two things:

  1. The illusion of being able to do it all is VERY strong.
  2. Every shiny new object has a price.

You see, one of the consistent themes coming out of this coaching experience over the past year – for all three of us – was the power of focus and consistency. All three of us have big dreams in our creative lives, we’re ambitious with what we want to achieve – which is why we signed up for the coaching experience in the first place. 

And when I buy a service like coaching, I believe in listening to what my coach says. Because otherwise, I’m wasting my time and my money AND staying stuck in my old patterns.

My friend saw this too. Our coach insisted that in taking on the new opportunity she would be losing the focus that was allowing her to make consistent progress with her passion project.

How to Focus on Your Writing

This lesson is a hard one for me, I have to admit. I’m someone who likes to take on many projects and do ALL OF THE THINGS! I’ve always lived a busy life, and when you live like that, people tend to ask you to do even more things. (Want something to get done, ask a busy person, right?)

But I know it all comes with a price. And that price is FOCUS.

If I want to finish my book and have a writing life that is rich and rewarding, I have to focus on ensuring that happens. It means looking at new opportunities and all of the options I have for filling my time and saying NO to most of them, so that I can say YES to my book.

This week, that meant I had to say no to attending my regular fiction group so that I could work on finishing my poetry manuscript. I couldn’t do both, I had to choose one and focus. I missed out – missed connecting with my writing friends, missed some fun discussions – and I honestly felt like I was missing out as well. I didn’t want to have to choose, but I knew it was necessary.

Because the truth is that we all have a certain baseline of necessary life activities: paid work, childcare, elder care, time with family, basic life maintenance like laundry and cleaning (ugh). Our writing time must then fit in and around these commitments.

Maybe you’ve experienced something like this as well. Perhaps you say you want to write, or to finish a particular project, but then you let it slide. Just this once, just this week.

And if you’re like me, you’re probably really good at justifying that choice, because life is so full and you just deserve a break. 

But then…

How many times have you been jolted by the fact that you actually haven’t written in weeks or months?

We say we want to finish our novel, but then we start a new short story.

How much is it worth to you to not succeed at your dream?


You see, my friend’s new opportunity wasn’t a well-paid one and she already had paid work. This was new and extra, on top of other things. It was a focus-killer in disguise.

Your focus-killers might not be paid work. (After all, a girl’s gotta eat! And buy notebooks.) But maybe your focus-killers look like…

  • Saying YES to that volunteer gig because it feels good to be asked to take on a leadership role.
  • Saying YES to another night with Netflix, when you could spend just 1 of those 4 [ahem!] hours with your novel.
  • Saying YES to scrolling through social media for 45 minutes in bed in the morning, instead of getting up early to write.
  • Saying YES to driving your teenager to her friend’s place (when she could take the bus!) because you secretly want to avoid the hard work of revising the draft of your memoir.
  • Saying YES to everything else in your life so that all your hours seem full, instead of scheduling your writing time into your days like an appointment you can’t miss and maybe even doing that first thing before everything else encroaches.

Make no mistake, these are all active choices. And every yes in that list is a NO to your writing.

If your creative work is important to you, you’ve got to find a way to FOCUS on it.

This month in The Writer’s Flow Studio, we’re playing Flow BINGO – it’s fun and there are prizes involved (of course!), but it’s also a way of ensuring focus. Studio members check off activities on their BINGO cards as they do them. Activities like attending one of our community co-writing sessions, or watching a mindset masterclass, or scheduling in a Short Time writing session for themselves. It’s a game that promotes actively choosing writing, deciding to focus on our writing dreams in consistent and meaningful ways.

I’m so freaking proud of everyone posting their BINGO cards this month because every block is an active choice to focus, to choose their writing dreams over everything else. And I want to celebrate the heck outta that!

And how about you? How are you finding focus? And what are you saying YES to in your life right now that is actually a NO to your writing?

Here’s a small challenge for you: this week, cancel something. Say no to something you previously said yes to, in order to free up time for writing. Then schedule that time in your calendar so you’re actively choosing FOCUS on your writing life instead. 

If you want to know how to plan our your week to ensure you can focus and get more writing done, be sure to grab a copy of my Writer's Weekly Planner. It's completely free and it will show you how to fit writing into your busy life.


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