My Quest to Tame the Monkey Mind and Find Focus

Last week our resident authors and guests shared stories of inspiration. We talked about what inspires us to write; how we find inspiration for stories in general and what prompted us to write specific stories.

Bunny courtesy of Moyan Brenn. Some rights reserved.Many of us confessed in our posts that we tend to have a myriad of ideas floating around at any given time. More than one CRC author admitted to being given to chasing plot bunnies. I didn’t discuss this in my post, but I am especially guilty of it. Need evidence? Just search the Novels folder on my computer and you’ll find several dusty, half-finished manuscripts waiting to be completed.

It’s not that I don’t love each one of my poor, neglected works in progress. Nor have I lost interest in telling each story. Rather, a few things are at work:

  • A serious case of monkey mind. Buddha described the myriad of thoughts running through the human mind as drunken monkeys, all clamoring for attention. I’m pretty sure mine are on speed.Monkey Swinging courtesy of Jonathan Khoo. Some rights reserved.
  • Pantsing without a plot. For many years I believed that I was a bonafide pantser. (I don’t need no stinkin’ outline!) Well, I was wrong. I need some structure and a sense of my characters before I write. After that, I let my characters take me wherever they’d like to go. When I jump in and just try to pants my way through the story, I inevitably hit a wall.
  • Acting as if there are 48 hours in my day. I have many interests (see monkey mind above). Most of which are quite time-consuming. Freelance writing, school, volunteering, a family business and…oh yeah…fiction writing. The ambitious me who believes she can do all of this has apparently never met the perfectionist me who won’t budge until I’m content or the procrastinator me who would rather do laundry and mop floors than figure out how to fix a broken plot line. All three of us consistently underestimate how long it will take to complete a project and therefore stuff far too many of them in a single day.
  • Fear. I know that the next step in my career is indie publishing. Yet, as much as the prospect excites me, it also scares me to death. Can you say self-sabotage?

These revelations aren’t new. It’s a battle I’ve been waging for some time. Sometimes I stand atop the hill, victorious. More often, I feel scattered and struggle. Everything gets accomplished, but I’m left feeling anxious and out of breath.

Well, not everything gets done. In the list of priorities, it is always my fiction writing that comes in dead last. Thus the incomplete manuscripts that I fiddle with and revise whenever I have some “free” time.

Tried to Be Good Shirt available on eBay.I feel miserable because no matter how much I accomplish, it isn’t the thing I want to accomplish most–finishing those manuscripts.

Recently I was chatting with a friend about a mutual client. She’s his writing coach; I’m editing his memoir. I was complaining to her about this very topic–the languishing manuscripts that I desperately want to complete–when it suddenly hit me: I need a coach.

It’s an idea I’ve been toying with for about five years. I’d always dismissed it as too expensive. Besides, I’m a published author, and real writers write. I shouldn’t need a writing coach. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself.

But that’s a load of crap.

This is war, baby. And it’s time to call in reinforcements. What matters is results. I want a long career as a successful writer. So I need to do whatever it takes to keep moving toward that goal. As for the cost, I’m worth the investment. 😉

I have my first meeting with my writing coach this week, and I’m thrilled about it. I’ll let you know how it goes. Better yet, I hope to show you.

Do you ever find it difficult to stay focused? If so, how do you calm your monkey mind?

Bunny courtesy of Moyan Brenn. Some rights reserved.
Monkey Swinging courtesy of Jonathan Khoo. Some rights reserved.
Tried to Be Good shirt available on eBay here.


My Quest to Tame the Monkey Mind and Find Focus — 14 Comments

  1. Pingback: Taming the Monkey Mind and Hot M.A.M.A. Land Debut

  2. Good for you for taking the first step in conquering monkey mind (I love that term and I’m stealing it, just so you know). If writing fiction really is the thing you most want to accomplish, then you have to take some drastic measures.

    For me, my writing really took off (in the sense that I started completing manuscripts and selling them, not making big bucks) when I put writing ahead of the long list of things I want to accomplish and participate in. It’s meant that my house is not as neat and tidy as I’d like (who are we kidding? It’s a mess) and my flower garden is weedier than it should be. I also cut back on my paid work and volunteer activities. It’s a sacrifice I had to make because like you said, I don’t have 48 hours in a day. Good luck Reese!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with this, Jana. Cutting back on volunteer opportunities is definitely one of the things that I have decided to do. I’m also considering cutting some paid ops or at least trimming (or re-training) time-suck clients.

    • One of the things we discussed briefly, in prep for our first meeting, is deciding which projects to hold onto and which project I should focus on first. Sounds so simple, but I’ve been dabbling a little bit here and there on two or three projects, with none of them being finished. So, for me, that’s a good start.

    • Samantha, I’m definitely going to write a follow up post on my experience. I committed to working with my writing coach for the next three months, to start. So maybe I’ll write my follow-up post at the start of next year, after that initial period.

  4. Reese, this was a fantastic post. I’m thrilled at the proactive decision you’ve made to go for a writing coach. And you’re right–you ARE worth the investment. Well done! *applauds*

    • Thanks, Stacy! I’m really excited about working with her. I’m even more excited about the prospect of getting these projects completed and giving my poor, forsaken characters their happy endings.

      Congrats on your upcoming releases!

  5. I can relate to so much of this! I had no idea that Monkey Brain was, like, a thing! I definitely have it! I’ve been back and forth between 3 novels for the last year and I’ve been following those plot bunnies down every rabbit hole there is only to discover that I’m being led in circles. Sigh. The life of a writer! I would also be interested to see how the writing coach works out for you. Good luck!

    • Quanie, maybe we should start a I Can’t Figure Out Which Novel to Work On support group. LOL. It drives me crazy. I’ll be in bed or out walking and suddenly all of these ideas come to me, but they are never for the story I should be working on. Ugh! Guess it’s better to have too many ideas than not enough. :-)

  6. Pingback: How to Deal with Plot Bunnies | Quanie Talks Writing

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