Self-care is a buzz phrase these days, and you’ve probably read that it encompasses more than just bubble baths and spa days. If we truly care about ourselves, there are many things we’ll do to ensure our well-being. These include eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, saying no to extra hours of work if we are not up to it, not pressuring ourselves to be perfect and so on. It’s a whole-being endeavor.
What happens when you don’t take care of yourself? Your concentration goes out the window. Your desire turns into drift.
Lack of concentration can show up in the following ways:
You can see how all of these would affect your ability to get the writing done. Lack of concentration can have physical, mental or emotional causes due to circumstances beyond our control. This post will focus on those things we can control so we can get the writing done.
Get enough sleep
If you want to kill your concentration quickly, sleep less. I’ve had some rough nights lately and ended up with four or five hours of sleep. In the morning after those nights, I found myself nodding off at my desk. Many of those symptoms of impaired concentration kick in almost immediately when we don’t get enough sleep.
If I can get myself into a writing trance after such nights, I can get some work done. But that’s a big if. Also, sleep deprivation has a cumulative effect. It makes you feel worse and worse each day.
For the most part, I try to get seven to eight hours of sleep. It makes a difference. Those nights when my mind is overthinking or ruminating on the past, I need to address it. When I don’t, I don’t sleep well.
It’s important to have a bedtime routine that includes relaxation as well as journaling to help you release any angst or get all the rumination out on paper where it won’t stop you from sleeping.
Feel your feelings
Unprocessed feelings were mentioned above as a reason you may not be sleeping well. It can also directly interfere with your ability to write.
If you’re worried about something or angry or sad, it has a direct effect on your ability to concentrate. Feelings can be consuming. Instead of trying to ignore your feelings, feel them and address what’s going on within. Journal about what’s going on in your life to understand it better. Getting it on the page gives you some distance to gain insights. And simply feeling your feelings helps you move through them. On the other side you may find your concentration again.
You may also feel you don’t know enough or aren’t good enough as a writer. Journal about it to discover how to let these feelings go. Please know that these are just thoughts that are causing your feelings. Process the feelings and realize you can get better at writing and that you deserve to live your dreams.
Ever try writing on an empty stomach? It’s not easy. Every grumble is a distraction. We can train ourselves to ignore the hunger pains as many a starving artist must have done, but why torture ourselves. And in the long run, our health suffers, and that contributes to an inability to concentrate.
We can also ruin our ability to concentrate by eating too much junk food. It’s important to take the time to give our bodies and brains the proper nutrition. Increased concentration, which leads to being a more productive writer, is the result.
It’s known that exercise can sharpen our ability to think and concentrate. It also improves our mood. All of this helps make us better writers.
Sometimes when I’m working on a writing project, I go days without exercise. Increased anxiety and a feeling of sluggishness follow. My concentration goes down some because I don’t feel well. Long term it would probably worsen.
And exercise doesn’t have to be jogging or going to the gym. I walk four to five times a week and lift small weights twice a week. I also try not to sit for more than an hour at a time. I just get up, move around and stretch. It helps to wake me up and refocus if needed.
Our ability to concentrate is key to our success as writers. If you find you have trouble concentrating, take a look at your life and see if you can improve concentration by improving your well-being. Sometimes our concentration is impaired by something more serious than lack of self-care. Be sure to get help if you need it.
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I love words. I love their sounds. I love their meanings. I love how they can be used to communicate ideas as well as create art. They are the medium we as writers work in. It’s important to not only know as many words as possible, it’s important to know how to choose the right ones for the greatest impact.
Here are four ways to choose your words wisely.
Know you audience
The greatest impact comes from knowing your audience. Writers need to know who will read their work. If it’s an academic audience, not only do you have to use the right vocabulary, you need to know how to structure the book or paper. If you’re writing a novel, you need to write at the level of the age group of your readers. There are many things you need to be aware of regarding your audience.
The marketing tool called a customer avatar will help you get to know your audience. Basically, you imagine an individual reader of your work. You describe them in great detail. What do they like to read, watch, etc.? What age are they? Where do they live? What do they do for a living? You can list some basic likes and dislikes. It’s like creating a character for a novel. Use these details to help you understand the vocabulary and structure you need to use to best communicate with your audience.
Use words that work for the project itself
You also have to choose wisely based on the work itself. This is especially true of poetry. The art forms in which you use words as your medium often have internal needs not attached to who the reader will be.
A particular genre of fiction may have its own vocabulary. Be sure to read a number of books in the genre you plan on writing to make sure you understand what is needed. This is also true of nonfiction. You will need to know the vocabulary of the topic you’re writing about.
Listen to your words
For me, writing is all about sound. Even when I don’t read out loud, I hear the words in my head. I have to for them to make sense which is why I could never pick up speed reading.
Whether this is true for you or not, the sounds of words are important. Certain groupings of words can sound clunky and hard to read. Don’t do this to your readers. Take the time to hear what you write. Read it out loud. If a line doesn’t sound good, pick a different word or rearrange the words until you get something that flows.
Pay attention to multiple meanings
Sometimes you write something meaning one thing, but a reader takes it to mean something else. As a writer it’s your job to communicate well. Make sure the words you choose convey exactly what you mean. Sometimes we don’t always catch these problems. Have someone else read your work on go over your own work very carefully.
In poetry, multiple meanings are a great thing. You’re playing with words and ideas in a way that is meant to open up the reader. To write better poetry, it’s helpful to be aware of the multiple meaning of words.
Words are the lifeblood of a writer. Learn to use them well and to choose wisely from the vast word-hoard available to you.
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