Timers to Boost Your Focus


It’s always a treat to get together with Stefania, my beautiful, interesting, big-hearted friend who founded the Blue Heron Foundation to help Romania’s abandoned children (and now those of the Republic of Moldova) attend university.

Our conversation always ranges widely across our full lives, including our creative endeavors. Months ago, stuck, I mentioned having a hard time either finding the time for, or getting back into, writing flow. Stefania encouraged me with a strategy she was using to translate her book into English: “Take just 30 minutes to work on it daily. 30 minutes on the clock.” Of course. 30 minutes is short enough so that it’s not overwhelming, and almost anyone can find that much time. Yet 30 minutes daily, over time, will advance many an important project.

Though I could have used my phone or a clock, sometime around then, I saw a mention of Focus Booster. The app has fancy bells and whistles to help with productivity tracking. For a monthly fee, you can create labels, clients, timesheets, reports. Or you could download the Starter plan for free.

I chose the latter, and used Focus Booster’s default on-screen countdown timer: 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off, with a ticking sound that starts each session (you could choose to have ticking throughout, and adjust the length of the working/break sessions, etc., even with the Starter plan). When I’d see the green background that starts off each session (the colors change as time ticks away), my brain indeed went into focus mode. Oftentimes, I started second, third, or even more sessions, as my focused brain now wanted to keep writing.

Recently, Focus Booster has changed its free plan to allow only 20 sessions a month. This limiting, and the new requirement for users to login, is sending me back to my phone timer. Still, I’m grateful to them for that green screen that so often had taken me into “the zone.” And even more grateful to Stefania for her small, doable, effective suggestion.

So what tool(s) do you use to keep yourself focused when you write?


April Is the POEM Month

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower-2Large-Blue-RGB-National-Poetry-Month-Logo

I have this… umm… This…well, let’s call it my little problem. Books. Sometimes, despite great intentions, books can derail me. My younger sister knows to grab a good hold of me, in order not to lose me, when we pass by libraries, Friends’ bookstores, or those enticing carts set outside secondhand bookstores. You know the ones I mean?


Today I met with writing buddies at a library I seldom frequent. I was going to be GOOD. Write only. Not look at books, oh, no. Especially as last time I checked out a book there, it took some doing to return it without fines.


But… April is National Poetry Month. Did you know? If I had, I’d forgotten. The library had a table displaying poetry anthologies as well as works by solo poets. Glancing down on my way in, I thought, Oh, yes, I’ve always meant to read Beowulf. Someday. And more of T. S. Eliot, and Dylan Thomas and Edna St. Vincent Millay, Tennyson and Christina Rossetti… But not now, I don’t have time. Someday.


I greeted my friends, opened my laptop, took a swig of water, and began the bit of journaling with which I sometimes ease into writing proper. I noted things I needed to do afterwards, including something Writerly as part of my 100 Day focus. Like read some Shakespeare, or more poetry. POETRY!


Ray Bradbury, among others, whetted my appetite for more poetry in my life when I read his Zen in the Art of Writing:

Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don’t use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand.”
So, there it was. Someday could be Today. I would read lots of poetry this National Poetry Month. Or, anyway, in the ten days left this April. Maybe even a different poet each day, half an hour’s worth.


I left my friends, went back to the poetry table, and gathered up a good stack of books. Tiptoeing to my chair, I set down my finds unobtrusively. My friends noticed anyway and laughed. “Busted!”


This evening, I began with poems by Dylan Thomas, because the cadence of his The force that through the green fuse drives the flower” echoed in my mind, from all the way back in my English major. I read some of his poems, then listened to Thomas himself read others.


What poet do you want to read more of soon?



Let the 100 Days Begin!


“What could you do with 100 Days of Making?” designer, painter, and general all-around creative Elle Luna asked a year ago.

I heard the call and decided. I would write 100 poems from the point of view of Domnica, the heroine of my middle-grade historical novel. The poems didn’t have to rhyme, or even be any good. They just had to be written. If I managed four lines even, I’d be a success. But I had to do it 100 Days in a row.

Most 100 Day Project participants create visual projects, and Elle Luna encourages posting on Instagram. To keep myself honest, I joined Instagram and posted deliberately blurred bits of my writing. The idea for now was to create, not to publish.

Reader, I met my goal. Most days I followed through just before turning in at night. But I wrote my poems. Many were plebeian. But some surprised me with insights into the mind or world of my character, and a few wrung my heart. Because of the gems, and because I stuck with the project, I considered myself a huge success.

The 100 Day Project has rolled around again, and I want to dive into a bigger goal: Continue becoming a writer. So, for 100 Days, I eagerly commit 1) to working for at least half an hour on one or more of the following:

Reading poetry or classics of English or Romanian-language literature
Reading books on writing
Developing the business of writing
Connecting with other writers
Sharing thoughts and developments via this blog

…As well as 2) to WRITING for at least half an hour on one of my two main writing projects, my middle-grade historical novel and a non-fiction work for adults.

So here’s to 100 Days pushing through with my Writerly Becoming. Come along. What project of your own might you advance, with tiny, but faithful, steps, for 100 Days?