I knew my time was limited—I had a full day of coaching calls ahead of me. I couldn’t move my writing time to a better slot later in the day. And I had a lot on my mind—marketing my new book, scheduling new blog posts, completing a writing assignment, and planning my daughter’s 10th birthday party. With all these tasks and worries competing for space in my brain, I couldn’t focus. I had monkey mind—that horrible condition that hits writers and meditation practitioners alike. Our mind dances and twirls like a whirling dervish. If we are going to write even when we don’t want to or do not feel like it, we need to learn how to tame that wild monkey! Here are five things you can do to stay productive next time monkey mind hits you.
1. Unplug. Shut off the cell phone. Turn off email, the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, and anything else that beeps on your computer to notify you of new content.
2. Create space. Do what you can to create space in your writing environment. Move your calendar and to-do list off of your writing desk. Enlarge your document window so that it covers all of the other junk on your desktop. If you are a Mac user, WriteRoom is an application that provides a distraction-free writing environment. JDarkRoom is another program, this one free and in java, that allows writers to focus solely on their writing. OmmWriter Dana does the same job and gives you a soothing background and calm music, too!
3. List everything you have to do, the ideas that keep popping up in your head, and the worries that are poking at your mind. Often monkey mind happens when I am trying to juggle too many tasks my head. Getting them out of my head and onto paper helps me to let go of them and opens up space for me to think about writing. I often keep a separate document open just for jotting down random ideas. That way, I can leave them there and move on with my work.
4. Brainstorm. When your brain is in hyperdrive, harness the power! Use the extra brainpower to brainstorm ideas for your story’s plot, characters, or setting. In this state, you are likely to come up with some off-the-wall but brilliant ideas. In addition, brainstorming often leads into writing and before you know it, you’ve beat monkey mind and written several pages.
5. Do what you can do. When you cannot focus enough to write, but need to move forward with a project: do anything you can do to support the project. This might include researching the story, organizing files, researching markets, beginning to write the book proposal, and so forth.
Your turn. What do you do to beat monkey mind and write? Leave your comments here. At the end of the week, everyone who comments on this post will be entered into a drawing to win the book Write Faster, Write Better by Tom Fryxell.