We all know the Zone when we feel it. We write with an exquisite sense of ease or “swing,” fully absorbed in the moment, unselfconscious, highly energized, clear, spontaneous, effortless, and creative. It can be a magical, even mystical experience—as if someone or something way beyond our ken were actually doing the work.
Sometimes we just seem to fall into the Zone, but what about those times when we don’t? How do we get there? Can we activate some kind of internal Zone GPS to track it down?
THE ZONE’S GPS
Tracking down the Zone can feel a little like stalking your kitty when it’s time to go to the vet and she’s figured out that you didn’t just take the cat carrier out of the closet because it looks so nice in the living room. It can be elusive at best, hiding-under-the-bed at worst. Here are some tricks I use:
- Breathe. We rarely arrive at the Zone with a frown on our faces.
- Jump in. Don’t wait for the Zone to descend. When we can’t write from it, we can at least write toward it.
- Remember the Zone-ward virtues of persistence, mindfulness, openness, humility, gratitude, and surrender.
- Use physical prompts like candles, incense, decals of shiny red apples, or whatever works for you.
- Start small. The thought of finishing an entire essay, poem, chapter, or blog post can be overwhelming and create stress, which can act as a Zone-repellant.
- Be imperfect. Follow Anne Lamott’s dictum to write “shitty first drafts.” Take the pressure off so you can lean back into the arms of the Zone.
- Write down any negative mental chatter, or Monkey Mind, in your journal with the intention to release it and enjoy your writing session.
- Get support. I have several friends whom I can call and say, “Help! The Monkeys have taken over! Talk me down, please.”
Finding the Zone is like learning to use a GPS; we all have to discover what works for us. If yours starts chanting, “Recalculating…” each time you swerve to avoid a bicyclist, you might want to upgrade. Try new tricks, focus on the joys of the Zone, tap your ruby slippers together and say, “There’s no place like Zone,” and you may find yourself there before you know it.