Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Writing Zone

Every now and then, my husband catches me staring off into the distance, paying no attention at all to what’s going on around me. The Vanasse Zone, he calls it.

Actually, it’s the Writing Zone, where we writers yield to the creative happenings inside our heads. When you’re a writer, the Writing Zone is the place you most want to be. Ideally, it happens while you’re at the keyboard, putting words on the page. Ways you’ll know you’re in the Zone:

·         Words flow so quickly your fingers have a hard time catching up. You don’t second guess every line. You simply write
·         As you go with the flow, you’re excited about the discoveries that are unfolding in your work. But you don’t stop to laud them. You keep writing.
·         Unintended inspiration shows itself. Snippets of what you’ve read and experienced make their way into your project without any sort of planning.
·         After your writing session has ended, the ideas keep coming. You run back again and again to your notebook to jot them down.
·         When you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, you’re wearing a goofy grin. You’re in the Zone. What could be better?

Our best work happens in the Zone. How to get there? It’s not all that hard:

·         A short opening ritual helps. Prolific novelist Alexander McCall Smith plays background music of a different type for each of the series he writes. You can read about my ritual here.
·         Quit trying to sound writerly or brilliant or important. Let the authentic voice for your project lead the way.
·         Nix the perfectionist. There will be time later to assess and revise. For now, just write.
·         Ditch your linear expectations. If you get stuck in the middle, jump ahead and write a scene or section. Write a few. Then go back and connect them.
·         Once you reach altitude, find your cruising speed and stick with it. It’s all about the words on the page—in the end, that’s the only way to get and keep momentum.