How To Stay Focused When You Feel Like Quitting

By Lukas Neasi on Unsplash

Have you ever woken up with the sunken feeling that you are yet again behind with your work?

That’s the way I have been feeling lately. I wake up with the thought of a million and one things I must do to progress my writing and I begin to panic. My heart begins a slow thump against my chest. I break out in cold sweats. My hands become clammy.

To make matters worse, I have to get ready to go off to my 9–5 job, even when I feel like going back to bed to watch Steve McGarrett strut his stuff in reruns of Hawaii Five-0.

On days like this, I wonder whether I’m cut out for it. When I started writing, I knew it was because I enjoy writing. I also knew that I wanted to make an extra income to augment the family’s income.

So, in quick succession, I wrote two romance novellas and one non -fiction and self-published them. I sat back and waited for the money to come in. Nothing, nada, zilch came in. Well, not exactly. I made a few pennies. After about one year, I accepted the following:

  • The books were probably not good enough, even though I received some good reviews, from people who are not family members.
  • I did not promote them properly. I am learning to be a marketer now because it is important for writers to be marketers as well.

I was disappointed and hurt. My self-confidence nosedived. I stopped writing for a while.

But then, my love for writing beckoned again. This time I decided to change tactic. I started a blog and enrolled in a writing course because I believe investment in education is important. I have also recently started publishing in Medium. Why? Because I want to be better at writing.

It can, however, be overwhelming and mind-numbing, even scary, to see many good writers with many followers and thousands of claps against their articles.

As writers, you want to wake up one day to find that you post has gone viral because it has resonated with so many people.

You also want to remain at the top of your game without feeling overwhelmed.

Sometimes, this can be difficult.

As a wife and mother, I multi-task every day- cooking while cleaning the house and rushing over to the dining table to help my youngest with his homework. As a parent, you understand this type of multi-tasking. It works on many levels. It helps us move forward with our daily chores and run the home reasonably well.

As writers, you can’t however, multi-task in this way. When you do many things at the same time, it affects your productivity and quality of work. This is what I have been doing with my writing recently.

I now understand that multi-tasking your writing projects does not always translate to productivity. In fact, it can harm your productivity. If you can effectively work on many projects at the same time, and come out with stellar content, then, that’s fantastic. There are probably many experienced writers who can do it. I can’t.

If you are anything like me, you probably have many projects all half completed. Currently, I have about 12 unfinished articles I have to get ready for publication. Two ebooks still at the editing stage. My old ebooks are going back for further editing, this time, professionally.

For me, these projects are all important, but how important they are, is the crux of the matter. I needed to decide which project to complete first.

To help me remain calm, I decided to step away from my writing and reassess my situation. Rather than get to the stage where I am panicking, I am focusing on my love for writing and the good work I have already accomplished.

There is no point in worrying. I am on a journey after all. No point in rushing it, right? To make it easier and sustainable, I am approaching my schedule of work from a different perspective.

How?

By scheduling my priorities as opposed to prioritizing everything on my schedule.

To be productive, you must prioritise.

It is easy to confuse what is important with what is not.

If you do not set priorities you are likely to be spending more time dealing with minor tasks which do not advance your writing. Such tasks will often leave you exhausted at the end of the day without you accomplishing much if anything.

So, when next you sit down to write, ask yourself these two questions…

  1. How important is this piece of work?

To answer this question honestly, you must reassess all the items on your to-do list and decide which pieces of work are important or rather, more important than the others.

Remember, the important work will progress your writing from Point A to point B.

Then from the list of important work, prioritize them. Don’t confuse your priorities with the activities you do. Look at them in terms of when you do the work.

Timing is the key element in setting priorities.

2. How do I get to work?

Now that you have identified what’s important and when to do it, it’s time to get to work.

If you have read any of my articles, you will know that I advocate for writing anywhere, whenever you can, including when commuting. Unfortunately, in such circumstances, you don’t have control over the environment. You could be facing or be interrupted by a range of different factors.

If you are, however, lucky to find yourself a quiet spot and time to write, eliminate distractions by switching off from all social media, TV, phones etc. for the length of time you have allocated for that piece of content.

I have used these simple strategies to refocus and prevent burnout and self- reproach.

Take Away…

As writers, we challenge ourselves all the time. And that’s okay. The trick is not to allow it to overwhelm us to the point of panic. Be flexible, so that when life happens, as it often does, you won’t be discouraged or go into a meltdown.

If you ever find yourself struggling with writing as I have been, step back and take stock. Reassess the strategies you put in place to see if they are working for you.

And remember, the key is to ‘schedule your priorities.’ Thanks to Stephen Covey for this advice.

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