You have finite time and energy. The world has infinite distractions. How, then, can a writer stay true to his calling?
I began writing my first novel when I was 13. Every day, I sat at my beat-up second-hand laptop and wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote until I was done. Then I went to bed, got up and did it all over again. When I wasn’t doing homework, studying or tending to other activities, I was writing. A year later, I had a 300-page manuscript.
The year after that, I completed a shorter novel in nine months. This year, I wrote the equivalent of three full-length novels, each over 120,000 words long.
I strive to be mindful in my writing, to develop and maintain moment-by-moment awareness throughout the act of writing. When I write, I write with the union of mind, body and soul, racing to the moment when consciousness implodes into a singularity of being, where the story and I are one and the same.
This is a state of flow. It is energised focus and total involvement, enjoyment and wonderment that goes bone-deep, a thousand seeds blossoming into ideas and characters and actions and turns of phrase. It is the hand of the muse and the voice of God working through you.
The best stories come from the place of eternal stillness within. It is the throne of the muse and the palace of the soul. It is where your subconscious processes and integrates every idea floating in your head, spinning threads of pure gold. In that place there is no room for distraction or excess motion, only the truth of your vision and the truth of the world. From this stillness comes flow, and from flow comes mastery.
To reach that place of stillness, you must emulate it.
Approach writing as a ritual, with all the sacredness that entails. Block out a time and place for writing, when you are sure you will not be disturbed and have the time and energy to write. This may be early in the morning, during lunch, late at night, or whenever it pleases you. Set yourself a writing goal, be it to write for a set period of time or a set number of words, and get to it.
Once you begin writing, do not blaspheme this region of spacetime with the noise of the world. Brook no distractions. No chatting with people, no switching to YouTube at whim, no wandering down Wikipedia articles, no people coming in and disturbing you. There should be nothing in the background; every additional stimulus saps attention, energy and time from your work. Sink yourself fully into your work. Where attention goes, energy goes; where energy goes, mastery goes; where mastery goes, success goes.
The exception to the rule is if that stimulus helps you write better. Some authors work best at a standing desk or on a treadmill. Some find inspiration in music, others in the chatter of a lively cafe around them. If such background stimuli engages your brain and helps produce better work, then seek out and create these conditions. As for myself, the sight of words appearing on the screen, the texture of the keyboard and the clacking of keys is more than adequate simulation to propel my fingers along.
You may find yourself distracted while working. That is fine. The fact that you are aware of yourself being distracted means that you are being mindful. Simply redirect your attention to your work carry on. Do not let your thoughts linger on self-recrimination; the emotional energy is more profitably spent on your work.
You may not always meet your writing goals. You may occasionally exceed them. Neither event should leave much of an emotional impact on you. Allow yourself to feel regret or jubilation as appropriate, then reconcile yourself with the fact that the time has slipped away and there will be more opportunities to write in the future. Approach these sessions as lessons: if you have failed to meet your goal, think about how you can improve; if you have exceeded your goal, see what you did right and do better. No matter what happens, the computer, the desk, and the page will still be waiting the following day. There is always a story waiting to be written.
When you are done, walk away. Return to your mundane life, absorb fresh ideas from the world, and re-energise yourself. Energy is wealth and energy is limited; if you do not recover, you cannot create.
Mindfulness leads to flow, flow leads to productivity, productivity leads to success. Cultivate mindfulness, create and sustain the conditions for flow, and produce the best work you can.