Maintaining Focus while Remaining Open

When it comes to writing, no matter where you are in terms of skill or talent, it’s important to keep focused on your own goals while also keeping yourself open to new ideas, techniques, and attitudes.

It is a personal balance between application of knowledge and individual direction. Discernment is a powerful tool for an author for there is never any end to an author’s journey… possibly, discernment is the most powerful tool of the lot.

Just as important though is to seek forward momentum in everything you do.

What this means is to identify psychological tricks and habits that personally help you, as a writer, feel a forward motion into the near-future as well as distance your mind from the recent past. This creates an active space in which to improve, to learn, to create, to build, to cultivate a dynamic relationship with life… basically to be active, to be alive!

I don’t necessarily mean emotions when I’m talking about this. You can feel all sorts of emotions while moving forward. But the sensation of feeling does come into play in regards to: Do you feel like you moved forward? Can you feel that momentum of intention?

Consider this advice commonly mentioned in variations for indie authors (or entrepreneurs in general):

Do one thing for your [writing], one thing for your business every day

Does this actually mean that if you do two things every day, one for your craft and one for your brand, you’ll be guaranteed success?

No. Not even close.

What it does touch on, however, is creating ground for that feeling of momentum. It is a psychological trick to help you feel that you are moving forward. Even the most data-oriented fact-chaser can go “at least I objectively do something every day!” and feel good about their momentum – but it is still a trick because numbers, quotas, and the like are never guarantees that what was done that day was something that actually moved you forward.

“Do things that make you feel like you got something done that day.”

Constant escape from stagnation and depression is a creator’s duty in order to produce things of interest for others.

If doing one thing a day makes you feel like you’re working hard and moving forward, then it is great; but what if it doesn’t? What if you need to do five things a day? What if it changes per week depending on the projects you’re undertaking? What if you need more?

Quotas are landmarks to attempt feeling productive, but a quota by itself is never a guarantee that you are doing what you need to do to move forward. In order for quotas to be effective, there has to be a context of understanding around them. You have to know how they support your intentions.

This is why it is important to maintain focus, but not so much focus that you become locked down and unable to see around you.

Deep focus is great for short-term work. It is great for when you need to smash something out in a day or so. Yet it is also important to balance this kind of focus with awareness of new things to allow into your world.

Being open isn’t always a good thing by itself; moderation is advised otherwise you might find yourself becoming sycophantic to a dogma that may not actually help you cultivate your personal creative capabilities over the long-term.

Frameworks are excellent for short-term exploration to pick up new techniques but the best framework is the one you are constantly building by yourself, for yourself, not generalized ones meant to be applied to whoever.

My thought on frameworks (outline structures, formulas, rulebooks, belief paradigms, etc.) is that they are great to explore and handy to learn from, but I am always working on finding my own framework, building my own understanding of how I create; because I don’t aim to be a generalized whoever-writer.

I don’t know a lot about martial arts or other fighting disciplines, but I assume it would make for a decent metaphor here (maybe something like Tai Chi?) where one has to remain tense, but not rigid, and fluid but not… sloppy.

You can’t snap in half due to any unexpected gust of wind, but you should have enough awareness of your form so that you can stand tall instead of collapsing flat on the ground.

Too much focus and one becomes prone to tunnel-vision. Too little focus and one flits about aimlessly. Too much openness and one becomes vulnerable to easy conversion. Too little openness and well… stagnation and tunnel-vision can also occur.

Anyway, to balance these two forces of focus and openness is to embody an attitude of being able to move quick and move smart so you…

  1. Finish what you start.
  2. Drop failures as soon as you can after recognizing them.
  3. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do and know what that means for you.
  4. Learn from both failures and successes: Don’t strive for perfection and don’t keep repeating the same mistakes over and over.

Let’s go with another loose metaphor: like a ninja sprinting toward a target, if enemies appear or obstacles arise, the ninja must quickly and cleverly deal with them while still moving forward… while still making headway to wherever/whoever they are trying to get to. There isn’t room to stop and wonder, there isn’t time to get hurt and recover either, the shadow warrior knows what must be done and does it without hesitation.

The spirit of creation is no different.

Maintain focus but don’t ignore your surroundings, run forward but know where you are heading and why. Be ready to change course, be prepared for the unpredictable to occur, but never, ever, stop!