Tag Archives: focus

FLARE! Like a beacon

27 Jul

I’ve got a confession: when I first started thinking about our power word this month, all I could think about was the movie Office Space.  You remember the TGI Friday’s knockoff restaurant where the employees had to wear a lot of “flare” on their suspenders?  It still cracks me up.  But that kind of flare didn’t inspire me to write.

Then, I thought about a flare being a beacon.  A beacon helps people find their way.  That’s what I needed.  To cut through all the clutter of ideas in my head and focus on reaching a single point.  To stay true to that goal. Right now, that goal is a middle grade novel.  I’m tempted to get sidetracked now that I’ve hit the murky middle.  When I sit down to write and I say “I don’t know what they do next,” I’m tempted to get up and walk away. But I will not.  My FLARE is a beacon burning in the distance and I’m staying focused on it.

What are you focused on this month?

DIVE! at your target

30 Jun

I must make a confession: I just came up with what DIVE! means to me.  And it’s the end of June.  So much for it being my power word for the month.

A power word is supposed to be a mantra I can use to focus and motivate myself.  I’ve gotta feel it deep in my gut.  All month, I’ve thought about different forms of diving – scuba diving, sky diving, springboard diving, cliff diving. None of them spoke to me.  Actually, they did, and they all said, “Meh…”



I went to Hawaii on vacation and thought I’d find inspiration for my metaphor there.  But even there, I never dove!  The pool, the pond at the bottom of the falls, the snorkeling lagoon at the hotel, they were all too shallow.  We took a surfing lesson, which was way cool, but they advised us not to dive off our boards because it wasn’t that deep and there was a reef scattered throughout the waves.  Of course, Hawaii was gorgeous and fun and I can’t wait to go back.  But I still couldn’t find the meaning of DIVE!  What my brain kept saying was relaaaax, wander, enjoy…  

This is largely the approach I’ve been taking to my writing as well. With predictable results.

Then, this past weekend, I went on a writing retreat with some great writer friends. It was fun, we met some other great people, shared our writing and got some great feedback.  Yes, I can’t stop saying ‘great.’  It was.  For me the most important benefit was getting some feedback which helped me focus and motivated me to pursue one particular project like a hawk.

Coopers Hawk (William H. Majoros - CCA-SA)

Coopers Hawk (William H. Majoros – CCA-SA)

Now, like a hawk, I’ve got my prey in my sights and I’m going to DIVE! until I nail that sucker.

ZOOM! The Sound of Progress

16 Jan
I can ZOOM! Really I can. I'm just driving a smaller car, so it takes me longer to get there.

I can ZOOM! Really I can. Maybe I’m just driving a smaller car, so it may take me a while to get where I want to go.

ZOOM: How can one word mean two seemingly opposite things? I wondered. Etymology has become one of my passions since embarking on writing a story that takes place 300 years ago. I love how learning the origin of a word gives precise, seductively nuanced clues as to its evolved meaning.

ZOOM is what’s called of echoic origin. It was first derived from the onomatopoetic sound it makes, starting in the late 19th century as industrial machines–and the very world itself–were getting faster. The word became more commonly used during the Golden Age of Aviation in reference to the sound pilots heard as they made an accelerated turn or ascent.

Change and speed remain the essential elements. A ZOOM climb requires full throttle. Anything less, and you might stall or even fall.

The invention of the ZOOM lens in the late thirties began the word’s alternative connotation, seemingly contradictory yet actually congruent upon closer inspection. When we–our vehicle, our lens, our minds–move quickly, we get closer to destinations once far away. That then allows us to focus in with microscopic clarity.

DSCN0019There’s a time and place for both ZOOMs. For example, planning and rough draft phases require a powerful rapidity of movement. Heavy throttle.

This is a challenge for me. I tend to search for shapes in the clouds while I’m trying to fly. Editing and playing with words is what I love best. ZOOMing in. But I’ve found that I simply can’t do that and make the progress I want at the same time. When I try, I just don’t reach enough speed to ever lift off the ground.

Throughout this month’s power word challenge from the Muse so far, I’ve been chanting ZOOM! to help me focus on one important task at hand before jumping to others. It seems simple, but it really has helped me check daily things off my to-do list in priority order. Yet even more, ZOOM! has been and will remain my 2013 mantra to counter my obsessive detail binges with complementary doses of accelerated ascents, blissfully blurry and unfettered by the stalling impediments of perfectionism.

Which is the greater challenge for you? To go fast or to focus? When we balance both in our projects, our lives, we can truly move. And to this slow-moving Muse-seeker, more progress with my novel in 2013 would be music to my ears. Or to paraphrase King Solomon and The Byrds:

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to ZOOM up, a time to ZOOM in 
A time to go fast, a time to look close
A time to fly, a time to land
A time to progress, I swear it’s not too late

ZOOM! Fast Forward or Full Focus?

2 Jan

Our power word for January is zoom! (yes, with an exclamation mark).  How can I apply it?  What kind of a mantra is it for me?  In staying true to myself, I will not pick one interpretation, just as I can never settle on a favorite color.  I will use zoom! in two ways:

remote closeup

1) Fast forward – to remind myself that a new year is a time of new action, of renewed energy.  I have many projects ahead of me this year, and I need to give myself a fast start, to give myself the gift of momentum. When I start finding myself being weighed down by perfectionism, by indecision

, by doubt, I will repeat this mantra to myself and zoom! past all of that.

camera pic

2) Full Focus – to remind myself that focus is required to accomplish what I want to accomplish.  There is a difference between being open and creative versus being distracted.  Though focusing will be slightly easier for me now that The Voice is over for the season, there are still many shiny objects in my life. When I need to focus in on my immediate goal and ignore the mental clutter, I’ll repeat this mantra to myself and zoom! in, pushing the distractions out of my viewfinder, at least temporarily.

What these mean for me creatively is that I’ll commit some focused time preparing for the SCBWI conference in January, so I can be prepared to chat about (or pitch!) my projects on a moment’s notice if the right opportunity presents itself.

What does zoom! mean to you and how will you use it?

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