Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Writing in "The Zone"

Number one: There is no such thing as writer's block.

Number two: If you've told yourself you have writer's block, you're just not writing in The Zone.

Number three: Stop what you're doing to try to force yourself to write. Do something else, completely unrelated.

Number four: Expect the Muse's visit anytime now.

Pretty much, this is what I tell myself every time I'm staring at a blank screen or struggling to put two words together.

There are different reasons we hit that "block." For me as of late, those reasons are related to stress and fatigue. Unfortunately, in our American Puritanical-cultural-way-of-thought, we employ the worst method possible to force ourselves to write: We tell ourselves that we're being lazy if we move to another activity and if we don't SIT THERE until we get our perfect lead or paragraph or story spin.

Pardon the French, but all of that is Bullshit.

I'll tell you a secret about me that may come as a shocker:

My best writing is done while I'm taking a shower.

Or drying my hair.

Or putting on my makeup.

Or sitting at a stop light or in a traffic jam.

Or unloading my dishwasher.

I call this, "hypnotic time," or ... "The Zone."

What is The Zone, exactly?

It's that time of day when you are physically engaged in one activity, but your mind is wandering all over the place. You know what I'm talking about ... You're driving along a road and you hit a stopping point like a busy intersection, and you realize you've been driving along thinking about things. You don't necessarily remember the actual path you took or what was happening around you when you took it, but you successfully drove from Point A to Point B. All the while, you were engaged in something else -- brain matter.

That's The Zone.

Now the secret is ... harness that time. Seize it for yourself.

You DO NOT have to sit in front of a computer screen or at a desk to create. In fact, I think that's one of the worst places to come up with beautiful prose.

There have been plenty of times when I've been under the gun with 13 stories to write in one week, and I'm so tired that I can barely keep my eyes open.

You know what?

If you're in that situation, GO TO SLEEP. Get up 30 minutes later and then do something in The Zone, like ... water your garden. While you are engaged in that other activity, think about what it is you're trying to create or communicate. Get lost in it. Look at the surroundings -- the trees or sky -- listen to the surroundings -- the birds or a siren or a barking dog -- feel the surroundings -- the grass under your feet or the sweat beading on your forehead.

And then sink into the story.

You'll hit The Zone, I promise.

And when you do, the words will flow.

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