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Step 7

The Dreamer’s Manual:
16 Steps to Achieve Your Creative Goals

Step 7: Focus

Life becomes more complex as you age, and it takes both awareness and effort to focus your attention on what you want to achieve. Focus allows for clarity, discipline, efficiency, and progress.

Imagine your goal is to become a short story writer, and you are currently working on the following projects:

  • A novel
  • A poetry collection
  • A short story
  • An editing project for another author
  • Homework for a writing class
  • Writing copy for an ad agency

These projects may improve your writing skills, but splitting your energy is also slowing your career progress. If having your stories published, and selling them in large quantities, is your goal, it is being undermined by the fact that you are not devoting enough time to writing stories.

If your average story length is 20 pages, and you have to rewrite a story four times before it’s ready for publication, then you must produce 80 pages of writing to create a finished story. If you write at a rate of two finished pages per hour, that means it will take 40 hours, or a full work week, to produce a single story.

The projects you’re currently working on take up the following amount of time each week:

ProjectHours
Classes:10.0
Ad Copy:5.0
Editing:5.0
Total:20.0

This break down shows half your work week is devoted to other people’s projects. In addition, you are working on the following writing projects:

ProjectHours
Novel:5.0
Poetry:5.0
Stories:10.0
Total:20.0

Taken as a whole, this schedule shows you are only spending a quarter of your forty-hour work week on the task you’ve identified as the most important part of your career: writing short stories. Your schedule is currently “unfocused,” in that there is no clear focal point.

If you spend less time on other projects, you will finish your stories faster. This doesn’t mean you cannot work on your other projects. It simply means you must figure out how long it will take to get your primary project done, and budget your time accordingly.

Your current, unfocused, schedule only provides enough time to write one one story a month. But here’s how your schedule would looks if you changed it to focus on your writing stories:

ProjectHours
Classes:3.0
Editing:3.0
Ad Copy:3.0
Novel:3.0
Poetry:3.0
Stories:25.0
Total:40.0

Now your schedule has a clear focal point: story writing. You have more than doubled your story writing time to 25 hours a week. With this schedule, you can produce at least two stories a month. The graphic below illustrates both schedules.

Nothing moves you toward your goal faster than focusing on it.

Step 7: Focus