Friday, September 25, 2009

In the Zone

It happened yesterday afternoon. The zone. I was slogging my way through my wip and suddenly I was away! I couldn't type fast enough. It was wonderful. It was also less than an hour till dinner.


Being in the zone is a rare occurrence for me. Usually I plod away and content myself with a nicely phrased sentence or a witty (in my opinion) piece of dialogue. My output is fairly steady but I'm not an express train. I can't sit down at my laptop and effortlessly pour out 30,000 words. I wish that I could! I pay little attention to word counts while I'm writing. I'll check it from time to time as I reach certain points in the plot but I don't become obsessive. I don't see much point in seeing numbers that coldly inform me I haven't written very much.

Yesterday's writing showed no hints a deluge was about to hit. I pecked away as I moved through my plot at my usual tortoise-like pace. Then boom! The zone reminds me why I like to write. Phrases come neatly to mind, the dialogue sparkles and characters show new facets of their personalities. There should be a rule that if a writer is in the zone someone else takes care of life's minutiae so they can continue to write. Unfortunately my fortune (although ordered) has yet to show up on my doorstep, so I am not surrounded by a large helpful staff. Making dinner is my responsibility and I have noticed that children tend to get cranky if not fed! Reality was I had to stop writing and go make dinner, knowing full well that the zone would not reappear whenever I got back to the laptop.

However, I had visited the magical kingdom which means that it's out there waiting for me again. Maybe it will visit again today. Maybe not. The memory of it is enough to get me back to my manuscript.

How do you deal with the situation of real life interfering with your writing?


  1. Man, I hate it when that happens. Here's the solution. Keep TV dinners on hand. Make a sign that says, "WriterMom busy. Pick what you want for dinner from freezer. Learn to use the microwave, toothbrush and tub on your own. See ya tomorrow. Love you, Mom" Keep the sign handy so when inspiration hits, you don't have to look for it. Grab it, hang it on your closed door. Then write! They'll learn to ignore the laughter and singing coming from your office.

    Straight From Hel

  2. I think writers should have a special key on our keyboards that we could push when we enter the zone. The key would turn on a red neon light around the monitor that everyone could see. When the light was on, they were to leave us alone unless someone was dying or the house was burning down. Unfortunately, I deal with real life the same as you - I get up and make dinner.

  3. I love it when you get in the zone. I think it happened to me once, about three years ago. Lasted about 12 minutes.

    Helen and Carol both have good suggestions--putting yourself in an isolation booth.

  4. All the time! I have a 17-mos. old and she's a busy-bee! I've just found her daycare 2 mornings/week and I write during that. Of course there's other HH things to be done.
    Loved the "tortoise-like pace" that's me too!

  5. I have no excuses and no real life distractions...other than a wife who talks to herself. But, I've gotten pretty good about tuning her out. (Love you Donna.) Uh, anyway, no distractions except my own digital wandering. But, it's kinda mute, I've never been in the zone or a zone, just the pits--HEY, maybe that's a zone!

    Best Regards, Galen

    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  6. Helen; You're a genius. I shall follow your plan.

    Carol; Yes! A special key! It should be sparkly!

    Alan; 12 minutes is better than nothing, but I suspect that you lie.

    Carolyn; Good for you! I tell myself that there's nothing wrong with being slow and steady.

    Galen; I suspect you lie as well.

  7. I love the zone. When it happens, supper (and husband) are required to wait. But I'm retired, the kids are all grown, and husband can always fix one of those TV dinners in the freezer if he gets desperate. Most of my "real life" interruptions are my own fault.

  8. Congratulations on hitting your 'zone' Elspeth, and once it happens, it will happen again for sure. And pretty soon. And most likely when you least expect it to.
    Life unfortunately doesn't have a pause button, so Helen's suggestion seems the most sensible one - be prepared for that 'just in case'.

    And happy zoning again, soon.

  9. My children know to fix themselves "Breakfast for Supper." This consists of Eggo waffles, a bowl of cereal, and grapes from the fridge. :)

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  10. OMG! That oh-so-elusive and wonderful zone! Rare to arrive there and even rarer to return there when you HAVE TO stop for whatever (dinner, sleep, work).

    I have been known to skip meals, cancel appointments and show up late for work when this happens... Luckily it is not too frequent or I'd be scrawny and unemployed!

    Cheers, Jill

  11. Zone writing is so much fun!!

    My real life is very busy. I work 50-60 hours a week (this week was more), plus kids, hubby and house. I can't get to my writing until late evening, and I can usually find some time on the weekends. I just hope my zone hasn't abandoned me when I get to it :)

  12. I sneak in writing at work...but I can only do it on days when there are no pressing issues. I manage a help desk so when we have tech support calls, I have to go. My work is constantly being interrupted. And yes, it's VERY annoying and tough...but I've learned to write in short spurts, where I can grab a moment or two. I'm sure some great work of mine never was put on the page because right in the middle of something, I had to go fix someone's mouse.

  13. Now that it's just me and The Husband, dinner can wait or he makes a sandwich. But when the troops were around I made dinner, and went back to my office. The kids cleaned up. I love THE ZONE. I live for THE ZONE.

  14. I love being in The Zone, too! And of course, one never knows exactly when it will "hit." When I'm in "The Zone" I just try to rearrange the rest of my life as best I can. I don't pick up the 'phone unless it's my husband or daughter, etc... Stephanie has a good point, though, that sometimes, you have to write when you can grab a few minutes.

    Fortunately, I have a great husband and daughter who understand about "The Zone," so they pick up the load when I enter that magical world : ).

  15. Patricia; It is a wonderful place and a good argument for having TV dinners in the freezer.

    Rayna; A pause button...there's a great idea. But I want a delete button as well...

    Elizabeth; Of course you would have such an excellent system already in place! Breakfast for dinner is a great idea. Thank you.

    Jill; Would that I could!

    Jemi; With that busy a life I'm impressed you ever find time to write. Wow.

    Stephanie; I wish I could write in short bursts. Unfortunately I have learned I need a warm-up period.

    Elizabeth; Don't we all!

    Margot; Thanks for dropping by! I hope you'll become a regular visitor. I do have an understanding family, but everyone's pretty used to Mom being around when needed. I think I need to do some re-thinking about this!

  16. Writing in the zone? Is it real? To me it is like hitting the sweet spot on the marathon (never found it) or the rush of housekeeping frenzy before you go into labour (never happened) I'm a plodder. My zone is plodding.'s not true - I wrote one whole play in the zone and several papers in university. No drugs either. something???? maybe it'll come my way again. you've given me hope. And no kids will keep me from it. Everyone in this family cooks something.

  17. Hi Elspeth - not only have we our nationality in common but I co-own a murder mystery entertainment company and have written roughly 300 mysteries with my partners-in-crime at Catchword Productions. We are off to Liscombe Lodge this weekend and the Keltic Inn in a few more to do a bit of killing and sleuthing.


Please leave a comment as I love to hear from you!