Archive for 'focus'



Time to Pick It
by Jessa Slade on September 19th, 2011

Currently working on: Revisions
Mood: Persnickety

I’ve been in a funny place recently. Not just a place-place as I mentioned in last Monday’s travelogue, but in my writing. I’ve been all over the map — literally and metaphorically — and it is time I settled down to ONE thing.

This is a good time of year (in this part of the world anyway) to settle to a project. The weather is closing in. School has started and focused energy is all around. Even my garden reflects the need to pick. It’s harvest time!

But how do I pick my next project?

1. Flip a coin.

I’m not being flip when I say this. I find that flipping a coin helps me refine my preferences. If I flip and the answer comes up that I want, sweet. If the coin says I should choose some other thing… well, suddenly I realize that thing isn’t the thing I wanted. So I switch. After all, I don’t have to abide by the decisions of a coin.

2. Try a few things on for size.

Like new school clothes, the right story need to fit me this year; not have too many holes; and reflect the writer I’m trying to become. And if it is purple and sparkly, that’d be cool too.

3. Ask my sounding board.

Sometimes I can’t decide. But when I talk out my options with someone else, often I start talking myself into a choice, even if my listener never gets a chance to speak. (That happens around me occasionally.) Even if I can’t hear an answer coming into focus, the other person will no doubt have an opinion (other people always do). I guess this technique is very similar to the first technique except most people don’t appreciate being flipped.

If you haven’t read Malcolm Gladwell’s BLINK, I highly recommend it. He talks a lot about the power of instinct in decision making. Then you can read THINK by Michael R. LeGault, who prefers a more rationed approach. They provide some interesting points/counterpoints. Do you have favorite ways of making choices?

Note: Speaking of picking, we’ll be pulling a giveaway winner from our newsletter subscribers soon.
If you haven’t signed up yet, use the link at left.

Soft focus
by Jessa Slade on June 21st, 2010

Currently working on: A free-read short story from the Marked Souls
Mood: Murderous (in the storyworld, not real life!)

Writers write.

It’s one of those sayings that frustrated writers lob at each other like a water balloon full of lemon juice and razor blades.

But sometimes it isn’t always that easy.  (Kind of like that metaphor.) 

Writers write. 
Writers try to write. 
Writers at least sit at their computers.
Writers at least sit at their computers with their fingers on the keyboard.
Okay, writers at least blog.

The hardest part of writing, for me, is focus.  When I write, distractions are like… like the ants that are currently marching around my office window in search of… I really can’t tell.  Hold on while I go look…

Apparently the ants want Monster Girl’s mostly-chewed cow thigh bone.  This bone has been in my office for nigh onto two years now, along with enough other pieces of cow to reanimate most of a bovine, given enough electricity and mad cackling.  Although if I count correctly, this particular cow would have five legs.  Whatever.  (I do remove the bones when we have houseguests, because nobody likes to sleep on an inflatable twin mattress in an abattoir.)  Why the ants would want this bone now…  Probably they are distracting me from something else they really want.  Like my bucket of cookie dough.

Speaking of distractions, see how easy it was to get distracted from this post on the hardest part of writing?

(In case you were curious, the ants are odorous house ants.  (Tapinoma sessile. Subfamily: Dolichodorinae.  I Googled it just for you.)  They earned this name from the scent of rotton coconuts they emit when crushed by a wildly wielded cow thigh bone.  Or, obviously, any other blunt object.  This infestation does not indicate that I’m a failure at housekeeping (although I am).  All of Portland is built on a giant anthill.)

Aside from the ants, one of my most common distractions is, not surprisingly, books.  I have a lot of books around me.   A lot of good books.  It’s a hazard of the job.  A lot of good books within arm’s reach.  Which is a hazard of a small office.

Why, look, this good book just fell into my hand.  It’s a signed copy of the first book in Ava Gray’s Skin series, SKIN GAME.  The second book, SKIN TIGHT, came out this month, and you do NOT want to be left behind.

SKIN GAME starts like this:

Kyra held the guy’s balls in the palm of her hand. Literally.

Just for a second as she brushed by him, but it was enough. His eyes widened, and she knew he took the touch as a sign he’d get lucky after he won her last hundred bucks. The crumpled bill lay underneath his, weighted by a cube of pool chalk.

Poor, stupid mark.

See, THAT is why I was distracted.  Leave a comment about what distracts you most often and you’ll have a chance to win the signed copy of SKIN GAME.

Now what was I… Right, distractions. 

I first learned about writing in flow (a focused — emphasis is mine –timeless state where creativity comes “easily”) from reading Susan K. Perry’s WRITING IN FLOW.  Perry writes a creativity blog for Psychology Today online.  I sometimes go read that when I’m feeling distracted.

The book reads like a fairy tale to me, a tale of princesses whose words fall from their fingertips like rose petals and diamonds.  I even love the word “flow,” the way it sounds and the way it looks.  Flow…  Flooowww. 

I’m easily distracted.

Back to the ants.  These are actually scout ants.  So they do a lot of backtracking and wandering in circles and…  Seem familiar?  Yeah, to me too.  Can’t quite place it though…

You know who would like my ants?  Mark Moffett, called the Indiana Jones of entomology by the National Geographic Society.  Who wouldn’t want Indy to come steal all the ants in her office?  I heard Moffett interviewed on NPR (he’s pimping a new book ADVENTURES AMONG ANTS) and his ants are way cooler (also meaner, bigger and did I mention meaner) than my ants, and also more focused.  They can skeletonize large dead things, like cows, which would no doubt impress Monster Girl.

Sadly, I don’t have a signed copy of Moffett’s ant book to give away, but remember to leave a comment for SKIN GAME.

So anyway, it’s not that I’m always distracted, it’s just that