(They probably aren’t what you think…)

You know that feeling when you sit down to write and it feels like your brain has been replaced by a herd of cats hissing and fighting and running in all directions at once?

(Or is that just me?)

Recently I’ve been taking more proactive measures to quiet those kitties in order to improve my mental focus and increase my productivity so I can use my writing time more efficiently and get more accomplished in a shorter period.

Here are the three tools that I’ve found to be most helpful in quieting those kitties and honing my powers of concentration:

what's on your mind - SMALL


I’m not kidding… this fall I’ve made a concerted effort to go to bed earlier and ensure I get at least 7-7.5 hours of sleep. And the impact this has had on my energy and writing has been HUGE.

In the past, I would frequently get only six hours of sleep and would drink way too much coffee the next day to over-compensate. Together, the tiredness and the caffeine would short-circuit my brain and make it really hard for my to concentrate. And then I’d have to deal with a post-caffeine crash in the afternoon which made it even harder for me to pull the words out of my brain.

So if you often find it difficult to figure out what you want to say or get your ideas down on the page, you might want to increase the amount of sleep you get and see if that makes it easier to get your synapses firing.


Oh yes, I’m going full “hippy dippy” on you 😉 …

Even with the extra sleep, when I first sit down to start writing, I often find it hard to clear my head of all the other thoughts banging around in my brain. One thing I’ve discovered that works WONDERS is to do a quick 5- or 10-minute guided meditation to help me focus on the here and now and bring my full attention to whatever writing project I’m working on that day.

Here are a few free meditation apps I’ve found helpful:

I’ve included the links to the apps in the Google PlayStore but you can also find them on iTunes.


As I write, I sometimes find it to “lose myself” in my writing. The lure of seeing what’s happening on Facebook or checking out the day’s top news stories can be all too powerful.

One way that I’ve found to be really effective in helping me get — and STAY — in the zone is to listen to some of “mental focus” music that’s available for free on YouTube.

The tracks that I’ve found most useful tend to fall under the “binaural beats” or “alpha wave” music categories. This kind of music supposedly increases your brain waves to reduce anxiety and induce a more focused state of mind. To be totally honest, I’ve only glanced at the research and while it seems legit, I haven’t really done any careful study of it. However, I CAN tell you that when I listen to this kind of music, I do feel like it’s much easier to focus on what I’m writing.

(To me, it doesn’t matter if it’s a placebo or if it really is having a noticeable physiological impact on my brain – if it works, it works.)

Here are some tracks that I’ve enjoyed lately:

6 Hour Study Music – Alpha Waves

3 Hours Chi Activation Music

3 Hour Focus Music

8 Hour Focus Music

If you take care of your brain, it will take care of you

These might not have been the kind of free writing tools you were expecting me to write about, but they have had a more powerful impact on my writing lately than anything else I’ve been using.

The thing is, writing is a mental exercise (and a spiritual one, some might argue). In order to get your ideas flowing, you need to be able to easily access the creative part of your brain where all the good stuff is.

But in order to do that, first you need to clear all those “crazy cat” thoughts out of the way. And you need to cultivate the mental fortitude required to concentrate without falling prey to the lure of distraction.

And sleep, meditation, and music that helps you concentrate can go a long way to helping you achieve that goal.

Do you have any other favourite tools or strategies to help you increase your focus and ability to write? If so, please share them in the comments!