What Can Set You Apart: Your Ability to Focus

In an excellent interview by Dan Blank, Christina Katz talks about practices and skills of successful writers. Here’s a brief (edited) transcription of the opening message of the conversation.

There’s a lot of confusion out there for writers. Writers are being overwhelmed with messages telling them you gotta do this–no wait, you gotta do this.

That sounding the alarm would be difficult for any kind of creative person. I’m not saying put yourself in a bubble, but … There’s all of this yimmer-yammer going on constantly—calls for action.

So my job as a writing instructor is to say: Look, yes, there’s change in the publishing industry, but this is good news for writers, so there’s nothing to panic about.

The most important thing is: What’s on your plate? How are you going to get your work done? How are you going to organize your life so you can proceed in an orderly manner, and how you are going to buffer yourself from all the insanity going on?

(I highly recommend listening to the first half-hour of the interview for more great insights.)

I agree with Christina that there’s a cacophony of voices in the writing and publishing world, and trying to make sense of it all (much less stay current on it) can be counterproductive to getting real work done.

And I must admit to being one of those distracting voices, though I hope, to some extent, my link roundups, and other posts, help point to the most important information or advice to be aware of.

But, as Christina says, you have to focus on what’s most important to getting the work done, and not allow yourself to get distracted from building the skills to move your career forward.

I’m curious how you decide which sources of information are worth the time or energy to follow (whether online or off), and if there’s a point at which you eventually stop following a particular source? How do you put up filters?

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5 thoughts on “What Can Set You Apart: Your Ability to Focus

  1. Tracey Baptiste

    What I liked most about Christina’s comments was that the writing is at the center of what you do. Then it’s connecting to readers. And the connection takes work. That’s where the platform-building and good business practices come into play.

    I’ve also been reading a lot of J.A. Konrath’s blogs and it’s clear that even for a guy who does have good business practices, sometimes what you do is hit or miss. What really works is being consistent, being patient, and continuing to try to build your business as a writer, while you spend most of your time writing those stories.

  2. DazyDayWriter

    Ah, yes, filters, Jane … the thought has crossed my mind frequently these days. For me, I look for sources, writers, or people who offer one of these things: courage, wisdom, encouragement, understanding. By surrounding myself with kindred spirits with these qualities, my work as a writer is easier … there is collaboration, often unseen, yet there. And there is an exchange of positive energy to fuel my work and theirs. My creative spirit is the foundation of everything I do, so if I care for that, keep it healthy, other things will fall in place. That’s how it seems to work anyway …

    So here’s to getting the work done on the wings of friendly and inspired forces! Enjoy the day, Daisy @ http://www.daisyhickman.com

  3. Dan Blank

    Jane, thank you so much for sharing Christina’s insights! As usual, she had so much great advice to share.

    Personally, I have been adding filters to my Twitter consumption. I am focusing on people whose voices lead to direct action in my life, be it a retweet or shifting how ibwork with writers, etc. People like you and Christina!

    Have a great day!

  4. Bob Mayer

    I agree there are too many voices to sort out. What a writer has to do is figure out where they stand on the Three P’s. Platform, Product and Promotion. That gives you eight distinct types of writers (although an infinite number as the scales slide). What’s right for one writer isn’t for another. http://writeitforward.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/platform-product-promotion-the-authors-three-ps/
    However, as the blog says, there are things a writer can do on their own, regardless of the voices, to make themselves the best they can be. Good information.

  5. Christina Katz

    Oh, shucks. Honored!

    But one thing I never said is: Stop listening to Jane Friedman.

    In fact, I rely on her (I mean you, Jane) to round up the best of the buzz for writers in her weekly tweet round ups and her great blog posts, both here, in her own blog, and over at Writer Unboxed.

    It’s people like Jane (you), who make the job of focusing easier.

    So my response to the question would be, to save myself time and energy, I go to people I know and trust, who can provide me with the highest quality updates that take the least amount of my time.

    And now back to that book I’m writing. 😉


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