In conversations with other writers, this topic comes up a lot. What is the “zone” anyway? I think it’s that sweetspot of productivity, to where your efforts, even if they are garbage, just seem to cut through time. You almost sit outside of yourself as you write and everything just comes together.
How do I get into the zone?
Eliminate all distractions.
This is accomplished at home usually over a period of several hours. Say I decide to spend the day writing and it is 9a.m. I might not actually put my butt in the chair until 1 or 2pm. I’m working on shortening the time of this ritual, but right now, it’s a system. Not saying it’s a very good system, but it is a system.
At home, my distractions are generally things like house chores. Dishes. Laundry. Even tedious things I wouldn’t do unless someone put a gun to my head like reorganizing the spice cabinet or cleaning the drip pans on the stovetop.
A few weekends ago, I cleaned the house, reorganized my cabinets, and did a ton of laundry. Once all of those distractions had been eliminated, I was not only sick of doing them, but during the time I was folding clothes or scrubbing the tub, I had time to think about the story.
In my opinion, thinking about the story is writing, and whether it is sitting with my butt firmly planted in the chair in front of the keyboard, or up to my elbows in Comet, scrubbing grout, I’m working on the story in my head.
Staying off social media is so important. I cannot begin to express how important this is. If you need to check Facebook or Instagram, limit your time in doing so to about 20 mintues, otherwise, you will just find you are creating more distractions and perpetuating the act.
Pro-tip. Limit time on Facebook to when you are using the bathroom. Let your friends know that if they see you on Facebook, you are probably sitting on the toilet, checking your feed with your phone. Letting them know you do this will shame you into staying off social media, because your friends don’t want to talk to someone while they are dropping a deuce.
Don’t be afraid to take mental breaks.
I sometimes stop while I’m ahead and grab my notebook and go for a walk. Or I will take a nap. Make a snack. Watch a couple episodes of TV or just stop for the day. I cannot shift gears yet and work on fiction and then take a break working on paid blogs and other work just yet.
Sometimes I write for about 20 minutes until I hit a break point and then I put on some music for background sound. That usually buys me another 30 minutes or so. Sometimes building playlists can inspire me. Sometimes they are a terrible distraction.
Once in a while, I will actually take the time to bake bread or make a nice dinner. This might also let the mind wander and pick up new ideas in the process.
Don’t worry about missing out. It’s the Fear of Missing Out that really gets me. If I think other people are off having fun, or I shouldn’t be neglecting people, I have to remind myself that they also have the ability to contact me. If they want me around, they know how to find me. In the meantime, I am doing something that very few people understand, which is sitting there, dreaming up stories and attempting to put them on paper. Most people would rather…not do this.