Monday, January 29, 2007
In The Zone
Recently, a member of our goals group posted that she had written 22 pages in one day. Though this excited her, she was mostly enthralled with the euphoria of getting lost in the story, the connection to her characters, the feeling of time slipping away as she immersed herself in the writing process.
You could call this "The Zone."
It is the yearned for state of slipping into our created world, where the words rush so fast you can barely keep up with them. Though many outsiders think this is the way writers always operate, we authors know that this phenomenon can often be hard to find. It only occurs when everything falls into place to create the right atmosphere for it. I can certainly say it doesn't happen as often as I'd like, though I'm hoping to be blessed with it through practice and perseverence.
This reminder made me think about why and how authors enter this enviable state. I'm learning there are a few things conducive to allowing a writer to enter "The Zone":
1. You must be loving your characters and thoroughly connected to them.
Just as your love for your spouse deepens as you get to know him intimately, so it is with characters. And I find that the closer I come to knowing them, to being able to get inside their heads, the easier it is to get lost in the story. Now, non-writers are probably saying, "Huh? Why would you write about characters you don't love?" Well, believe it or not, sometimes characters can be aggravating. Like real people, they don't always want to cooperate. They don't feel like talking. Or they clam up because I'm just not paying them enough attention. Or I may just be momentarily out of love with them because I'm having a bad day. Trust me, it happens. Which leads me to my next point....
2. Everyday life affects our ability to get lost in The Zone.
Have you ever tried to read a book in peace with a child coming up to you every five minutes to ask a question that you MUST answer? Multiply the feeling of frustration this situation provokes by about 100 and you'll be able to imagine writing while the same thing occurs. The phone ringing, a major crisis, pressing errands--life in general is a distraction. I, for one, can't seem to ignore it enough to fully immerse myself in the story with predictable regularity. I might slip away for a while, but the immersion isn't complete. You can't imagine how many times I've wished for a cabin far in the mountains where I could transport each day to write in peace and quiet. (Actually, if you have kids, you probably can.) Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade my children for anything, but I do occassionally give them away for the blessing of utter silence. :)
3. Writer's block.
Now, some authors claim there is no such thing. But if you've ever tried to write during pregnancy, you'll know in your heart they're wrong. There can be many contributing causes to writers block, and the cures can be just as complicated. But the most frustrating part of it is knowing you are as far from the Zone as you can be. Like having experienced a high point, but knowing you can never have another. You must forever after live in a valley. I shudder to recall my one true bout of it. I would do just about anything not to ever experience it again.
4. Somewhere along the way, something went wrong with the story.
One mistake can throw everything else off track sometimes. This requires backtracking to find the problem, then implementing a solution. The good thing is that you normally can tell when things are back on track because the story once again starts to flow.
I'm sure there are many other aspects to this exhilirating phenomenon that I haven't touched upon, but these are the most important ones for me. And though being in The Zone doesn't happen as often as I'd like, it makes all the hard work worth the effort.
If you are an author, what things or situations do you think help contribute to "The Zone"? If you are a reader, have you found other areas of your life where you encounter this same phenomenon?