The Importance of Focus

Today’s post is geared for writing as a business.  (For those who are writing as a hobby, you may want to skip this one.)

Over the years, I’ve been reading magazines and blog posts dedicated to entrepreneurs, especially small business owners, and I have come away with one main theme that seems to emerge.  That theme is “focus”.  More importantly, it is focusing on the one thing you are most passionate about.

I came across this great post the other day, and it reminded me of those articles.  Then, I thought about how this applies to writing.  Specifically, how does it apply to writing if you have a business mindset.

Some people may see writing with the goal of earning money as “selling out”.  I don’t.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to make money doing something you love.  Most writers I come across love writing.  They have always loved it.  It has been a big part of their lives ever since they can remember.  I might not have caught on to this until I was in high school, but I honestly can’t think of anything I’m more passionate about than writing.  It is the one thing I can do all day long and not get bored.  The best kind of job you can have is the one that feels like play.  Why?  Because then you’re never “working”.  You get paid to play.

But sometimes the dream of doing something we love can get sabotaged when we lose our focus.  I once read a post years ago from a writer who asked, “How Badly Do You Want It?” I can’t find the article now, but it has stuck with me through the years.  So, how badly do you want to make a living as a writer?  What are you willing to give up to make it happen?

Too many times we let distractions get in our way.  Anything that doesn’t matter to the business side of writing is a distraction.  (Yes, set aside time for family and friends, but make this business your priority.)  Today, I have some tips on how to do just that.

importance of focus post first things first
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1. Write the next book. 

This is the most important thing you can be doing today.  Without a book, you will have no product to sell.  In order to make a living as a writer, you need to think beyond one book.  You need to think beyond one series.  You need to be prolific.  It’s just the way it is. Each time you publish a book, you should see a rise in income.  But that rise is temporary.  Sales are up and down in this business.  You can’t predict how things will go from one month to another.  All you can do is get another book out and hope it gets you through until your next book comes out.

As a quick note: not all books will sell the same.   Some will probably sell better than others.  The trick is to find out why you sold one book really well and do what you can to tap into the elements that worked for that book into your future books.   For example, I noticed my marriage of convenience romances sold better than the books where the heroine pursues the hero.  You have to get creative on spinning a plot trope so you’re not writing the same story over and over again, but it is possible to do many spin-offs from one idea.

focus blog post customers
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2. Write for your audience.  (This is writing with focus.)

If you aren’t writing the kinds of things your target audience wants to read, you will probably not sell as well as you would have if had tailored the book to them.  This is why finding your target audience is important.  The key to this is finding an area you’re already interested in writing in and then combining it with something your audience wants.  Find out what character tropes and plot tropes are popular in your genre, and then write your unique spin on it from there.  It will still be a fresh brand new story.  It’s just one that is geared for your audience.

focus and time management
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3. A wise use of time.

There are a lot of distractions that will pop up in the day.  Every single day you will be given a reason not to write.  (I’m all for taking a day or two off each week to rest.  There’s nothing wrong with that.)  But when we haven’t written our next book in weeks or months, there is a problem.

Sometimes family and friends will get in the way of your success.  If you had a job outside the home, would you drop everything to do something with them?  No.  You would wait until you’re done working for the day and then take care of them.

Sometimes our pleasures get in the way of our success.  If you had a job outside the home, would you take time off just to sit and watch a movie?  No.  You would wait until you’re done working for the day to watch it.

Sometimes laziness gets in the way of our success.  If you had a job outside the home, would you call in and tell the boss, “You know, I just don’t feel ‘inspired’ today.  I’m taking today off.”  No.  You would go to work and press through the day, even if you end up watching every minute on the clock as it slowly ticks by.

My point is that writing needs to be a job.  (Yes, it’s a job you love, but it is work.)  You need to treat it with the same dedication that you would treat a job outside the home.  There are no shortcuts.  You can’t dillydally with it.  You have to be serious about it.  You need to focus on what needs to be done and do it.

focus blog post balance
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4. Watch your writing to promotion ratio.

Yes, you do need to get your name out there. You need to build up an author brand so  people know what to expect when they pick up your books.  I know this is daunting for a lot of people.  (I’m an introvert, so it takes a lot for me to even answer emails.)  But how is anyone supposed to know you have books if you aren’t out there?

I don’t know what a good rule of thumb is for how often you should be engaged on promotion.  I consider emailing, blogging, setting up pre-orders, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, You Tube, updating your blog/website, running ads, participating in groups, etc to be promotion.  I don’t have a rule for how much time should be spent on this stuff, but writing the next book needs to take up the bulk of your time.

Personally, I aim for 80% of my work time to go to writing.  About 20% goes to promotion.  I do work at home.  My hours are usually from 9:30am – 7:30p.m. at night.  I take a break to make meals for the family, do laundry, dishes, and other thankless chores that probably take 2-3 hours total away from my working time.  Unless I’m sick or on vacation, I average six days a week.  Sometimes I will take day #6 to do promotion all day so that I can give 95% of my work time solely to writing.  (I consider edits to be a part of writing.  It’s just not the fun part.)

I don’t know where you will find your ratio, but I highly advise that at the very least, you spend 60% of your time writing and 40% of your time promoting.  That’s just a ratio.  So you take the available time you have and figure out what those hours will look like.  Obviously, not everyone can write the same hours I do.  Some of you have sick family members who need constant care.  Some of you have day jobs.  Some of you have second jobs.  Some of you have babies and young children.  Some of you have health issues to contend with.

Personally, if I had a limited time to write, I would spent 90% writing and 10% promotion.  The less time you have on hand, the more important it is to write.  But I have found it’s not how much time people have that matters as much as how they choose to spend it.  There are people who have plenty of time and are able to work, but they keep finding other things to do instead of writing the next book.

~~~~~~~

Remember, keep your eyes on the prize.

That is why focus is so important.  Without focus, you’re not going to accomplish as much as you would otherwise.  And it all boils down to the simple question, “How badly do you want it?” I understand that sales like they were 2012-2013 when self-publishing seemed to be at its peak.  But if you don’t take control of your time and focus on writing, you’re not going to have the chance of getting to where you want to be.  That’s what I’m talking about.  Having a chance at your dream.  You need focus to get there.  (And it goes without saying that you need a compelling story that is properly edited, a good cover, and a good description to go with each book.)

 

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Lorna Faith says:

    Really helpful post Ruth! Timely advice for me. Just the reminder I needed… thanks for this 🙂

    1. I needed it, too. 🙂 I usually write these posts to give myself a kick in the pants.

  2. This post was great timing for me. As soon as the kids go back to school I need to get focused on my final edit. I especially like the writing/promo ratio, that’s probably my biggest downfall!

    1. It’s far too easy to get distracted. My kids are home for a school break, and I have gotten so little done. My ratio has flipped. 80% promo and 20% writing. This is not good at all. It takes so much discipline to be good. 🙂

  3. P. C. Zick says:

    Wise words but implementation seems nearly impossible at times. I need to find the balance.

    1. Depending on how much you have going on in your personal life, it can be a daunting task. 🙂

      1. P. C. Zick says:

        Yes. Those interruptions are rough.

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