Archives for July 2013

The Watery Writing Zone

waterHere’s a tip that many of you probably know already: Use water for inspiration! No, I don’t mean look at a picture of water, or even get out and look at real water. I mean get into the water—the bath, shower, pool, lake, or ocean—and let it work its magic.

Since a lot of people already know this trick, what prompts me to post about it? Last week I was recovering from the flu and thinking that maybe, later, if I had the strength, I might consider some topics for this week’s posts on WRITE IN THE ZONE and THE SOUL OF SELLING.

I staggered out of bed, huddling into myself against the chill in our San Francisco summer air, and decided I’d better slip into the tub to warm up. I lay there, barely capable of thought (running a temp, or even having run a temp, slashes a good 80 points off my IQ), staring into steamy space. Suddenly, both posts downloaded into my mind! Not just the topics, but the whole posts! It was uncanny, and unnerving.

Then I remembered how, when I didn’t know where to go next with Chasing Grace, I would often slink off and just stand in the shower until the answer came–often in the form of a movie in my head that I ran to the computer and transcribed wearing a fluffy terry cloth robe.

This experience showed me several things:

  • There is a whole lot more inside us than we know.
  • Just relaxing sometimes slides us into the Zone, where we can access all those good things.
  • We should all get into the bathtub more often, and not listen when our un-Zoney minds tell us it’s too much trouble, that we can’t take the time, or that people who use water for inspiration are lazy, depraved, or at least not normal.

The motto here is WWWW: Why Water? Whatever Works!


don't want to writeSome of my best and most enjoyable writing has come when I didn’t even want to sit down at my desk, let alone turn on the computer. I was tired, or cross, or confused, or just oatmeal-brained—but something was due, so I sat down and did it anyway.

Those writing sessions often became incredibly pleasant and productive, much to my surprise. How could this be?

Bottom line, who knows? But since forces beyond my ken seemed to take over, slide me into the Zone, and deliver great copy—and because I am always on the hunt for ways to avoid discomfort—here are some guesses…

  • Maybe I didn’t expect much from myself, took the pressure off, and that relaxation (oh yeah, and stepping out of my ego for a few seconds) allowed the Zone to catch me. Sometimes I think the Zone is constantly looking for us, casting about with a huge etheric arm to snag us, and only our own resistance to ease and our insistence that we are the ones doing the writing keep it at bay.
  • Maybe writing is just an inherently creative, and therefore fun, activity–and the very act of doing it jollied me out of my bad mood or mental fatigue.
  • Maybe it was just dumb luck.

I don’t think that “Just do it” is a universal solution—but when it comes to writing, it may be a good guideline. Whenever I’ve sat down and just done it, I’ve been less likely to let my ego slime all over the process and more likely to hope (maybe even ask) that something bigger take over.

Once I actually start typing and the words begin to flow, I’m humbled and grateful for whoever or whatever is doing the work.

When I’m really smart and really lucky, I remember to apply this lesson to life as well.


EnterOh boy. There are so many ways to write our way out of trouble! Writing should be recommended by all therapists and court-appointed for anyone who even gets a traffic ticket.

I’ll talk about writing our way out of writing trouble in a moment, but first let’s look at the many ways that writing can save our time, money, and sanity.

Journaling can lead me out of almost any confusion and solve almost any problem I encounter. “Why would he say such a thing?!” Three pages later, I often have a brutal, and then perhaps a more compassionate, understanding of why he might have said such an awful thing–as well as a fairly accurate (if much briefer) analysis of my own part in it.

Sometimes when I’m truly down under, and I don’t mean Australia, I’ll write down the meanest, most venal thoughts and temptations swirling around in my mind. Once they’re down on paper, or safely ensconced in a Word file, they are somehow out of me. When I’ve “said them out loud,” they seem to lose their power.

Writing Chasing Grace: A Novel of Odd Redemption saved me tens of thousands of dollars in therapy. Leading my protagonist through thirty years of looking for grace, healing, love, and wholeness in all the wrong places was a tiny big exhausting, but it was also extraordinarily healing.

My solution for almost any life problem is to write about it, but can you “write out” a problem with writing itself? Yes!

I sit down to write and instead of feeling the “ping” or the “swing” of the Zone, I feel the “ding.” Uh oh.

What to do? Go for a walk, do the breakfast dishes, or sort some socks? Maybe. Sometimes just walking away from my desk and coming back even five minutes later gives me a whole new way of looking at what I’m writing. If I keep these little forays to under five minutes, they often work. If I let them extend much beyond fifteen minutes, I start double-dipping—adding guilt to the writing difficulty, so that I have two problems instead of one.

Another solution is just to keep writing, remembering Annie Lamott’s admonition to write “shitty first drafts.” If I do this, one of two things usually happens:

  1. I write some bad stuff, and then suddenly a solution appears. My inner Catholic schoolgirl argues that I’ve been rewarded for good behavior, for sticking with it. My Advaita Vendata Hindu self argues that I’ve earned good karma. Who knows? All I care about is that I’ve moved through the “ding” into the “ping” and “swing” of the Zone.
  2. I write some bad stuff, and have something to edit the next day instead of having to start from scratch—and on top of that, beating myself up for having abandoned the project the day before.

Life and writing will always offer challenges. That’s why we love them. We may moan and groan, scream and cry, but deep in our hearts we know that embracing what they serve up, and finding within us whatever we need to meet those challenges, is the making of us.


Did you know that I also blog on selling—how to enjoy it, get the results you want, and serve people in the process? To check it out and sign up if you like, go to




the zoneDon’t you sometimes wish you could just go to the grocery store and buy some Zone? Or get some at the ATM, or even exchange Zone hours for hours logged at the gym? I do.

One of the first things we learn as writers is that these purchases and trades are not possible. And here’s where we often take a wrong turn.

We assume that because we can’t buy or trade for the Zone, we have no control over our access to it. We leap to the conclusion that it involves some kind of magic that may or may not descend, dripping with glitter dust and delivered by small, ephemeral beings with big smiles and bright wings.

This is so not true. In fact, we have more control over our relationship with the Zone than we do over most areas of our lives.

Where exactly is the Zone? This is kind of like asking, “Where is heaven?” Up? Down? Over? The Enlightened say that heaven is within us, and that’s my best guess about where the Zone is as well. So there’s not far to go!

But how to get at it? My best answer: Whatever you do to reach a place inside you that is peaceful, calm, confident, open, and suffused with a desire to share your thoughts and yourself.

I get there by meditating, by picking up my cat Frankie, or by watching a sunset. If I’m practicing going to the Zone regularly, I don’t even have to wait until sundown, or until Frankie happens to stroll in from a nap in an undisclosed or inaccessible location, or until I feel like sitting in one place for fifteen minutes. I can just “think Zone” and go there.IMG_8405

Oddly, I don’t always do this. Sometimes I spend a whole morning, or a whole day, struggling with what I’m writing or reverting to my Default Distraction, Bejeweled Deluxe. For some inexplicable reason, it never occurs to me to stop the music, get centered, and “think Zone.”

In these moments, I’m tempted to beat myself up and wail, “I coulda had a V-8! I coulda had a great day of writing and gotten a lot done, and instead I wasted the whole day!”

This is the moment of truth, where I can either get back on track without a lot of drama, or double-dip into disaster by topping off the unproductive day with guilt.

I have learned through aversion therapy that double-dipping dooms me. I’ve learned to turn the day productive by making it a lesson, a reminder of the wonderful truth that the Zone is an inside job, available whenever we remember to reach out for it—and that this is true whether we are writing or living.

What do you do to call up the Zone?


4th of julyHappy Fourth of July! As we celebrate independence, I’m reminded of how writing—and especially writing in the Zone—gives us a huge dollop of that precious freedom.

No matter what our situation, writing can bring joy. Whether we make our living as writers, dabble for fun, or use it to escape, writing opens our hearts and gives us a way to express our thoughts.

It can be a guilty pleasure, a serious intellectual pursuit, a lifeline to sanity, or all of the above. When we write something—whether we hope the whole world will read it or make sure we hide it completely—we do ourselves a favor. We give voice to something, release something, create something, make room for something new to emerge. All of these things are good.

I remember vividly the moment when, as a young child, I first understood that I could think whatever I wanted and that nobody could see inside my mind and read my thoughts. I was probably a bit more transparent that I imagined—but still, that moment was a milestone. It freed me to think bigger, to think more broadly, and to be more of myself.

Today, writing gives me those same freedoms. Whether writing a novel like Chasing Grace that I want everyone to read, or a particular section of my journal that I intend to delete and hope that even an encryption expert couldn’t access, writing gives me the freedom to be and express everything that’s within me.

It almost feels like Thanksgiving!