How Do I Stay Focused?

The short answer is that I don’t. I try to stick to a daily schedule of things that I do, writing answers to these silly prompts being one of them, but sometimes, I’m just not up to the challenge. Every day is full of potential to do everything or nothing. It all depends on how I roll out of bed in the morning.

It’s no secret that I write – therefore, technically, I suppose I am a writer. I have at least a dozen unfinished projects. I’d like to say that not finishing things is a new phenomenon, but it isn’t. When I was a fine artist – fine not as in quality, but as in creating art with paint or charcoal – I had the same dilemma. The last piece I did is huge. It’s the biggest thing I ever attempted, clocking in at over four feet high. There was something wrong with it, something I couldn’t quite pinpoint. So, I hung it in its unfinished state on my wall so that, whenever I passed by, I’d look at it. Eventually, I figured out what was wrong with it, but did I ever go back and fix it? Certainly not. It’s still messed up, unfinished and now, it’s rolled up in my closet. It hasn’t seen the light of day in two years. My writing is much the same way.

I started my autobiography, memoir, life story, et cetera in 2007. I wrote about 10,000 words and then didn’t touch it for a couple of years. Last year, I got a bug up my ass and decided that I just had to finish it. I wrote on it every single day, save one, for months on end. I would go to work, come home, write, go to bed and repeat the process. I hardly went out at all. I was afraid that, if I stopped, I’d never start again, so I just kept going. My friends were worried, but I finished it. I actually finished it. Have I gone back and refined it since? Hardly. It’s figuratively tacked up on my wall so that I pass by it all the time, but I haven’t done any editing on it. Parts of it are very good the way they came out, but most of it needs a lot of refinement, which is, as of yet, still unfinished.

I started a comic book roughly half a decade ago which is still hardly written at all. I completed the character sketches, the research, several versions of an outline and all the story arcs, but I’ve only written one or two issues. I got an idea for a story about a mental hospital where I wrote a very detailed outline and fleshed out all of the characters, but that’s as far as I got. I haven’t written even one word of the actual story. I started a science fiction novela that’s about halfway done. I started a young adult’s book that has five out of roughly fifteen chapters completed. I went great guns on a story about a serial killer for a while. I wrote on it every day and finished nine entire chapters. It’s my most finished story yet. Then, one day, I just stopped.

All of these projects are nagging at me. They are all niggling little presences in the back of my mind, trying to claw their way out into consciousness again. I keep telling them to be patient. One day, I will dust them off and finish them.

When you ask me how I keep focused, I don’t have an answer. The thing is, and I tell this to you, the person who is reading this right now, and to all of my unfinished stories, it will come when it comes. One day, the words will come swarming around my brain and I’ll have no choice but to write them all down, but until that day comes, they will have to wait patiently in their unfinished state. There’s just no forcing creativity.

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