The Zone

When my friend Catey writes, it’s in the dark. She has her music going, the lights are out, and one solitary candle sits beside her laptop. It’s her zone. And all writers have them. If you don’t…think about it for a minute. I’m willing to bet you’ll realize where your zone is if you give it some honest thought. Sometimes the zone is a physical place, sometimes it’s a time of day, sometimes there are multiple zones and sometimes, depending on what you’re writing, it changes.

Realizing your “zone” is important. You’re going to get the best quality out of yourself when you do. My blog writing zone is always midday, after the coffee is running strong though my veins (you are all probably thinking by this point that I have a coffee addiction. I do. I embrace it). It may get interrupted by the two torpedo-children tearing apart the house, demanding Wonder Pets or asking if they can go creature adventuring, but I can easily slip back into the moment and get back on track with the content.

Today, I asked three friends who all write what their writing zones were. A unanimous chorus of “my what?” was the immediate response. So I clarified and here’s what happened:

Traci: Usually I have to be at my desk with a themed playlist and sometimes a slideshow of images. It has to start with the music. I create character playlists to get inside of their heads. I can really develop my characters through their music tastes or what certain songs evoke; imagery, emotional responses, so forth.

Shauna: Time. My weekends are usually wide open so I get most of my writing done then and zero distraction also helps.

Mary: Security. I need to know I have some money in the bank so I can focus, that way I wont feel like I’m “wasting” my time.

My friend Kristi feeds off of the drama of her married friends lives to produce some very humorous and quality material that I eat up like a deep dish Pizza Hut pizza. Which means I’m also very happy to provide her with some of that drama. If it gets her muse up and running, I’m all for it.

Stephen King, one of my all time favorite writers, has a writing room. It’s in the top floor of a victorian mansion in Bangor, Maine, filled with books, lit by skylights and lacking any form of distraction. No phone, no television….just King, his books and his brilliant mind with a view of the mountains that I will spend the rest of my life envying if I never find the opportunity to see it myself.

My writing zone is between the hours of 9pm and 12am and usually involves some background noise from the television. Very rarely do I pick out music to write to because it becomes almost a hassle to me at some point when I have to continually switch back to youtube to start a song over or my Pandora playlist does not cooperate.

Sometimes I feel like having a place of my very own – a cabin in the woods or a house with floor to ceiling windows overlooking a tranquil lake would evoke a muse unlike any I have ever experienced. Then I think about being alone in a house in the middle of no where and every horror movie I’ve ever watched starts to replay in my head. The wine would be broken out in attempts to take my mind off of possible impending death by psychopath and I would be useless as a writer. Though, admittedly, if I had a place in Maine I could do some substantial damage. There’s something about Maine that draws me and makes me almost thirsty to write. I’ve actually based a one-shot bit of fanfiction on a location in Maine and to this day, it is one of my favorite pieces.

And in the future I may give into the rising fad of “She Shacks”, take a shotgun and go out back to the old school bus filled with lord-knows-what to clean it out. I imagine that with enough work and some planning, it could become a perfect space for solitude.

She Shacks and future dreams aside, I do know that in order to remain focused on what I’m writing, I need a complete lack of interruptions and near silence. In knowing this, I’m able to plan my day around my writing and know how to manage my time.

To get to the meat of your work, to get to the quality that seems to elude you throughout the day, you have to figure out where your zone is, you have to figure out what you need to be the writer you want to be. The moment you do, the moment that lightbulb goes off where you realize there are certain moments, items or music you need in order to tap into that eloquent wordsmith lying within you, you can manage your time around that and come up with quality work that doesn’t make you want to yank your hair out or leave you staring at a blank page while the cursor blinks maddeningly away without producing a single thing.

Excerpt from my piece inspired by Maine:

Maine was gray. It was gray, and on the rough patch of stone and land where Lydia made her home, it was desolate. It was desolate in a way that invited a person to retreat into themselves, to find those secret places that ached and mourned for longer than the battered soul would ever care to admit and allow the suppressed emotions to wash mercilessly over them like the waves washed over the jagged, slick rocks of the coast. There was a rapturous abandon there in the fathomless depths of the restless tide that did not judge. It never made demands, it never asked. It only allowed.

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