On more than one occasion my husband has come home from his overnight shift to find me curled up on our couch, pounding away furiously on my laptop, eyes glazed and various snacks and drinks discarded around me. On those occasions I look up at him totally confused. “Why are you home so early,” I ask.
“I’m not, it’s 4 a.m. Did you sleep at all?” Voice thick with annoyance, disbelief, and love, he shakes his head at his silly writer wife.
It’s a tricky little bastard. You hunt and hunt for a way in, only to be turned away by that big burly bouncer known as Doubt. But then, on those rare occasions Doubt takes a nap on his bar stool, you sneak past the velvet red rope and run in head first.
The rest of the world fades away.
Time stands still.
It’s as if you’ve cut a hole straight down to your heart and soul and the words are pouring out faster than your fingers can type. The characters aren’t just talking to you, they’re shouting, laughing, living through you. You aren’t struggling to come up with the next bit of conflict to push your plot forward, you’re simply recording the events as they happen.
The zone is a high you’ll chase your entire writing career. You can feel it lurking around the corner, just out of reach, with no GPS to help guide you there. But once you find it, you grab on tight, not leaving for anything. Not even for silly things like sleeping and eating.
But as fast as it comes, it slips away. You turn your back for one minute and it disappears.
How do I get it back! I need my next hit!
It won’t be forced though. Hell, you even try to romance it. Set the mood; music, lighting and coffee at the ready. You do everything in your power to coax it’s fickle doors open to you, only to be shut down again.
It will worm its way back to you at the strangest times. I once went to jot down a single line that popped into my head at target, and ended up standing in the office supply section for fifteen minutes writing furiously leaning against the cart handle. The cashier was beyond confused when I handed her a notebook already creased open with writing in it and an open package of pens. Then I dashed to the in-store Starbucks and sat scribbling away for another forty-five minutes, oblivious to the world.
Try Googling “How to get into the zone for writing” and a plethora of results will pop up. But really no amount “ten ways to…” articles are going to do the trick. It’s writer specific. For me, I really can’t control it. I just have to keep plugging away, writing even when it is a struggle (and seriously, it’s a struggle sometimes), and then I stumble into The Zone without realizing. It may be lost to me for days, even weeks at a time. But eventually it will come, I just need to be patient, and savor it when it happens.