Tuesday, July 18, 2006



Merriam-Webster says:

Main Entry: focus
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): fo·cused also fo·cussed; fo·cus·ing also fo·cus·sing
transitive verb
1 a : to bring into focus b : to adjust the focus of (as the eye or a lens)
2 : to cause to be concentrated <focused their attention on the most urgent problems>
3 : to bring (as light rays) to a focus : CONCENTRATE
intransitive verb
1 : to come to a focus : CONVERGE
2 : to adjust one's eye or a camera to a particular range
3 : to concentrate attention or effort
fo·cus·able /-k&-s&-b&l/ adjective
fo·cus·er noun

I find particular value in the third definition of the intransitive verb: to concentrate attention or effort. Writing is my friend. Books are my friends. Poetry and I are becoming friends. And in that vein, I've treated my relationship with the written word much like how I treat my relationship with friends. Casually. I relate to the craft of using and reading the written word when I feel like it. If I need pleasure or release or solace or companionship in written words, then, in that instant of need, that's when I grab a pen, or curl up with a book, or venture to an open-mic or poetry concert or slam. If I don't feel like it - if I'm otherwise preoccupied, I know that the affection I have for reading and writing is constantly there, and ready to flow like water from a tap when I need it. In that way, my casual friendship with words is even better than the one I have with my living, breathing friends who are sometimes needy or unavailable or disappointing.

Now, there's nothing wrong with having this casual approach towards the written word. However, if I have dreams of being able to write things and have my words spread out beyond my physical reach, to eyes and people that I may never even see, then I am entering another world. A world of measurable predictors of attention and financial success. Whether I edit and bind my book(s) myself or whether I have a major company do it, there are considerations of supply and demand, target audiences, marketability, production costs and profit margins, shelf space - things I know precious little about. It's a whole 'nother world. A world where a casual relationship alone just won't do. It's business, not casual. And a business relationship means that I can't tell the written word, "I'll see you when I see you," or "I'll be around when I get a chance." A successful business relationship takes a concentration of attention and effort. It takes focus.

This is why it is important that you love what you do. I intend to invest my attention and my effort into the written word every chance that I purposely make. I have to. This is business. And because my nose will constantly be stuck in a book or alternatively, my eyes will always be on a computer screen as I type or read, and I know my fingers will often be scribbling writing ideas on post-it notes or forcing the poetry of my mind into my black and white composition notebook, whether or not I think I have anything to say, or whether or not I've been christened with the sweet nutritious water of inspiration, I had better like - LOVE - what I'm doing. This is how I know I'm doing the right thing for my spirit. In a perfect world without bills, I know I would quit my job to do this full time - no, scratch that, more than full time - just to get it done and done well.

Remember when I was blogging every day for the discipline of it? When I slacked off, I was not as personally fulfilled, and it took me a while to get my rhythm back. I learned from that. Focus will help me to be a more prolific writer with a better sense of my strengths and weaknesses. Focus will help to keep folks coming to my blog because they'll know I won't disappoint them by posting erratically - and that's important to me because their comments give me food for thought and keep me writing. Focus will get me closer to my dream of having something between two covers that I wrote, with my first name and my parents' last name on it. They can take it to work and say, "See this author? This is my child." And my children can take it to show and tell one day and say, "See, my mama wrote this book. She writes all the time - she says focus is important. She writes me stories from my ideas, and she writes for grown-ups too. We see her books in the bookstore. And that's her picture in the back. My mama is a writer." That's what focus can give me.