Keep your focus

When Tiger Woods is on the green, despite all his distractions on and off the course, he keeps his eye on the ball. His goal, sink the ball. A few months ago, at a Sunday monring sermon Rev. Edward L. Hunt, of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Wappingers Falls, used this as a reference about life. He said too many times, we lose our focus and get distracted by unexpected events.

At that moment, I realized I had lost my writing focus. The moment I enrolled in graduate school, I knew that the degree would advance my career. My long-term goal was to publish two novels, a book about journal writing and acquire a teaching position. Then I could create while earning cash. One semester before graduation, I ended up in a newsroom as an editor of two newspapers. Here, I used my three-legged table of talents: writing, design and editing.

The first six months I was consumed with the learning curve: getting acquainted with coworkers, community, and computers. As the months progressed, I spent less time exercising and editing my novel. I was not following the rules of my favorite quote by Jane Yolen, “Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise the muscles seize up.” After surpassing the learning curve, my personal writing seized up. Each day, in the newsroom, after planning content, editing copy, writing editorials, and designing pages I had no more creative energy when returning to my own writing.

Soon, my literary life dissappeared. Or so I thought. I was spending more time doing other people’s work, and not focusing on my own. In 1997, as a freelance journalist for a newspaper in New York City I interviewed a man who retired as vice president of CBS to start his own production company. He said in the interview, one day he noticed all his creative energy was enlarging another man’s dream, not his own and in that instance he began to redirect his focus. Next he said to me, “remember when you have dreams and goals and your life becomes consumed with other people’s work, something has got to change.”

So, on that Sunday morning, after the sermon, I returned home and refocused, planning to write everyday for me first. Then, as God would have it, I received a phone call in August about an adjunct position at a community college. Two days later, I accepted the offer teaching English composition. Six weeks later, I resigned from the newsroom and nine weeks later I accepted the offer to teach a class in the spring and summer.

Now, when I’m not teaching or planning lessons, or grading papers, I’m writing. However, making time to write, everday, always comes first.