The Inevitable Tangent

The Inevitable Tangent

It’s happened to me on many occasions. I sit down to start working on a project and I get distracted. I find myself going off on a tangent. It’s easy to do. Hell, most of the time I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I feel like a cat sometimes, easily distracted by something shiny or interesting.

I once started to work on a writing project and thought, “I’ll just check Facebook really quick and get right to work.” Yeah, that worked out. Two hours later, I’m reading posts about people’s cats, ads about miracle drugs and laughing at memes. I got trapped in the “look it’s cool” loop and was completely sidetracked from the original task of writing. Does that ever happen to you? I bet it does. At least, I hope I’m not alone in this.

Focusing isn’t always easy. You can use charts, reminder notes, music, dry erase boards with checklists and all kinds of things to keep you on task, but they don’t always work. Sometimes, they only add to the background clutter and you just lose focus on them. They fade away as Twitter pulls you in, Facebook steals your focus or Pinterest drags you down. It’s as unstoppable as the tide. Or is it?

It can be defeated, but it takes discipline and dedication. You just have to tell yourself, “not right now.” Make time for the Social Medias that you like, enjoy those Pins, Tweets, Posts and memes… just make sure they’re not taking the forefront when it’s time to write. I know, easier said then done. Well, not necessarily. You can do it. It just takes work. Anything you want bad enough is achievable with hard work and perseverance. That’s the thing, though. Most people refuse to work hard… at almost anything. If you want to be a successful writer, you have to write. It’s just that simple.

No one achieves true success without hard work. No one is going to come to you and hand you success. You have to go after it with a club and a spear. Be aggressive and go after what you want. That takes work and discipline. Self-discipline is the hardest kind to have. No one is going to give you a trophy or ribbon. No one is going to pat you on the back. This is an accomplishment where the only reward is the goal, but one you achieve that goal… the sky is the limit.

I have several Social Media accounts. Some are for fun while others are work alone. I market and promote my books through them. That is something that is another thing you have to juggle. Posting and promoting takes time and you can’t let yourself get distracted by other posts and comments. Focus on finishing one task, then move to the next. If you need to, set a timer on your phone and take a ten-to-fifteen-minute break every hour to just play. When it gets easy to do that, make it every two hours. Then three, then four. Soon, you’ll be focusing on the important tasks and relegating the others to when you choose to do them.

Now, I’m not saying that writing has to be all work and no play. That’s just not the case. I love the time I spend creating stories and tales to share. I love hearing from readers who have read and enjoyed my work. That’s why I do it. It’s to share those stories with all of you. That’s why all of us chose to be writers, isn’t it? I mean, no one goes into it expecting to get rich. At least, I didn’t. I had an overwhelming desire to tell stories.

If readers enjoy them, that’s the icing on the cake. If I ever do achieve that level of sales where I’m making a comfortable living, then I’ve achieved something beyond my wildest dreams. No matter what level I achieve, that changes nothing. I write the stories to share with you. I write the stories because my mind won’t let me stop. I’m compelled to write. When I go any length of time without writing, I feel bad. I feel like I’m not doing what I was born to do.

Are you called to be a writer? Do you feel that call deep down inside? Do you get excited telling stories that entertain the people around you? Then you are a storyteller and that’s your greatest gift you have to share. Some stories are uplifting, some are terrifying, some are beautiful, and others are just strange. But they all entertain us. They impart a sense of wonder and make you examine the world through different eyes.

You see the story that the writer/storyteller created, but you won’t see it the same way they do. You’ll see their vision through your own eyes. That’s the beauty of writing. One of the truly wonderous things about it. I love to hear readers tell me how they envisioned characters and places I’ve written about. Even when they’re vastly different than what I saw, I love their versions too. We see stories through the lens of our own experiences.

When I say the word snake, I immediately think of a copperhead. They’re all over the place in Missouri. Someone from India would likely think of a cobra. If you’re living near a jungle, you might think of a constrictor. If you live in the American Southwest, you’ll probably think of a rattlesnake. Your experience of the world will shape how descriptions in books are interpreted. That’s the amazing part of storytelling. Each story we tell affects others in different ways. It’s all based on how they interpret that story.

While that’s a great topic to talk about, I just got myself stuck on a tangent. I focused on one part of the narrative and forgot the focus was staying on task. I’ve got twenty books in print with a blog, multiple social media platforms, work on two podcasts and I still find myself being pulled away from tasks. It happens to all of us, so don’t be too hard on yourself when it happens to you.

Use it as learning experience and get back to the task you need to accomplish. Focus, discipline, dedication and hard work… they’ll pay off big when it comes to your writing. You’ll find yourself finishing that book, short story, blog post or whatever project you’re working on. Then you move on to the next task. Soon, you’ll have a veritable library of your own work. It can and will happen. I’m living proof of that. If I can do it, so can you.

So, write. Write for yourself. Write for your intended audience. Write for that one special person who the story is intended for. The important thing is that you write. Tell your stories because no one else can. You can give me your best idea for a story, and I would turn out something vastly different from what you see in your mind. It would be my vision of your idea. Only you see your vision and you can never truly give it away. You can share it with your readers and marvel at the way they see your vision. Sharing your vision is the gift every writer gives to their readers.

I did it through sheer determination and being as stubborn as the proverbial “Missouri Mule.” If I can do it, so can you. It’s not impossible, it just takes hard work and dedication. Someone once told me something that has stuck with me for three decades. “Who must do the hard things? He who can.” That simple quote has gotten me through some of the most difficult events in my life. It powered twenty books and counting. It powered my stubborn determination not to let a debilitating back injury stop me from writing.

Who must do the hard things?

You can.


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2 thoughts on “The Inevitable Tangent

  1. This places such a wonderful perspective on writing. Having just graduated, I’ve finally found time to focus on writing stories and sharing them and, to be honest, I very optimistically hoped it might be a money maker. It’s better to focus on the enjoyment of weaving tales and hoping even one person might get some satisfaction from them. Loved the tangent!


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