Sunday, January 15, 2012

Find Your Focus to Win Your Game

I recently attended a mystery writers workshop where authors shared their dirty little secrects for producing a ploethora of pages. Several described elaborate writing rituals of being in sacrosaint chairs with morning stimulants – coffee, tea, jelly beans. A few explained how they play a fifteen minute game: Write a thousand words in fifteen minutes or less, then get a reward. I revealed my trade secret for winning life’s games by using these handy three lines: Goal Line, Outline and Deadline.

Goal Line

American Football is simple in concept. Carry the ball across the goal line to gain points and win. All the players understand the purpose, are filled with passion for the game and motivated by awards, fame or money whether it’s salary or future endorsements.

To write a mystery novel, Tasteful Toast or any other project, follow the same steps, which are similar to constructing a vision board. What is your overall goal? Write an award-winning blockbuster thriller-mystery novel. Why? Because you love suspense stories and want to be independently wealthy and see your book made into a movie. Dream BIG!


To reach the endzone the quarter back (that’s you) must have several plays to go the distance. While you can complete one hundred yards in a single hail mary pass, most football games are won by inching along ten yards at a time.

Most project, writing or otherwise, will have an outline – some more detailed than others. I’ve noticed the most successful people have a written outline opposed to, “I’ve got it all in my head” authors. Once the hashmarks are on paper there’s a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and pride. Often there is a need to edit. Adjustments are good and move the entire process forward.


Football is a game with a definitive timeframe. The referee helps administer four quarters lasting fifteen minutes that provide additional motivation – an urgency to beat the clock. Deadlines move the ball (and the world) toward the goal line. Newspaper reporters must meet or beat a deadline to file their story of who won the Super Bowl by a specific time or it won’t make the front page.

Whodunit’s have a ticking clock, too. A race against time or it’s curtains for someone. And if you don’t have a deadline for the next item in your outline, you’ll miss out on the victory dances from first down to touchdown.

My favorite Vince Lombardi quote, “The price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal is worthwhile.”

Find your focus and establish your three lines: goal line, outline and deadline. Put your game face on and work on the first three items listed in your outline and soon you’ll be crossing the finish line.

A New Year’s Toast:

Every year it comes around

Resolutions can be found

Have a vision, have a dream

It's easier than it seems

Avoid the worry, avoid the fear

Time to get yourself in gear

Your Turn: What are your New Year's goals?

Michael Varma is an award-winning instructor, professional magician, and once was excused from jury duty... by his cat. He has authored a series of educational puzzle books (Mental Blocks), created games (Arithmesticks), earned his Distinguished Toastmaster designation and penned his first mystery novel. Michael frequently performs at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California.

Yes, you can email Michael for a free guest pass to the Magic Castle ~ and you don’t need to subscribe to his funny and informational blog…but it would be worth it.

Contact Michael Varma, the author of Tasteful Toasts, for permission to reprint this article. Copyright January 2012 Magical Concepts.

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