Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mastering the Focus

As a teenager, I was heavily involved with A cappella groups and often sang solos. One vocal instructor gave me a tip that, ironically, has affected the way that I write.

When sustaining a note for several measures, to avoid losing your breath or faltering on pitch, imagine a bouncing red ball in front of you. It travels from left to right, on a straight line. In your mind's eye, follow the ball as it bounces and focus -- not on the note you are singing -- but on the ball.

I received that advice at age 16, and it's funny how often I return to it. Lately, I've been practicing a lot of yoga, and I've also applied it there. While bracing myself for a tree pose -- sole of the foot against the other knee -- I focus on one point in the distance, and I envision that bouncing red ball. I never falter on the pose, as long as I keep that bouncing ball in sight.

Now when it comes to writing, this sense of focus is sharpened when applying this approach.

This week, I had some personal circumstances that really threw me emotionally. And as someone who scores as "Feeler" on the Myers Briggs personality test, a week like this hampers my ability to concentrate in a profoundly negative way. I had two stories to finish. Tuesday, my entire day was shot. I didn't write one word.

Then yesterday, as I waited in a pediatrician's office with my child, it occurred to me to recall the bouncing ball. And I realized that if I used my favorite go-to music as backdrop, it would achieve the same result as when I had to sustain those soprano notes.

I plugged in my earbuds on the laptop and pulled up the copy, focusing completely on the rhythm of the music and taking everything else that was bothering me out of my mind. I finished the story within 45 minutes -- one that had me churning for eight hours the previous day.

If you need to focus, try to figure out what will put you in that "hypnotic" state and then employ it as a tool. Even if you just sit quietly for a few minutes and imagine that bouncing red ball with your eyes closed, it has a remarkable effect on clearing your mind so that you can create.

Have any ideas for ways that you break through writer's block? I'd love to hear them! Post a comment.

No comments:

Post a Comment