In the Zone

 It’s wonderful when the magic happens.  You’re lost in your writing.  Your fingers fly over the keyboard as your creative forces flow, driving the story forward.  Description, action and dialogue fall into place as if they were happening in real life.  distractions fall away as if the real world didn’t exist.  You’re on fire.  You’re in the zone. 

     Notice that I wrote the previous paragraph in second person.  Maybe because, for me, writing in the zone happens less and less frequently these days.  Recently I heard something that might explain this.  A new brain study has shown that as people age their ability to filter out distractions and focus on one thing lessens.  In other words, those of us who are “over the hill” are paying attention to so many things at once that it’s easy to lose track of what’s important.  Makes perfect sense to me (Excuse me, the UPS truck just stopped by, left me some cute new shoes and a sweater, just had to open the box and try them on.). 

     Now let’s see, where was I…?  Oh, yes, distractions.  In my early writing days when I was dealing with a full time job, children at home and a floundering marriage, writing was a welcome escape.  Going into that other world was often the best part of my day.  Now that I’m retired and live alone, distractions are like seductive sirens (My 20-pound kitty boy just stretched out across my wrists; time out to love him for a minute).  Still, every now and again I hit that zone and it’s exhilarating.  Just wish I could do it more often. 

     Getting in the zone is easier with other things.  When I’m in my yoga class, the workout is so intense that I don’t think about anything else.  Or when I’m doing a presentation for the local zoo, showing an animal to a classroom of wide-eyes kids, I’m totally there.  Likewise when I’m dancing or reading a really good book.  But after 31 books, writing just gets harder (Hey, is that a rosy finch on my feeder?  Where’s my bird book?).  At the climax of the recent election I just had to give up.  All I could do was stare at the TV.                                                                                                 

     How about you?  For those of you who write, is the zone an easy place for you to get to?  Do you have any tricks for getting there?  Things that distract you?  What other activities put you in that magical zone where the world goes away and you’re totally in the moment?  I’d love to hear. 

     Click on the small book below to purchase it on Amazon.com. 

 

    

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I'm an internationally published romance author, coming up on 40 novels and novellas. Most of my stories have been Westerns for Harlequin Historicals, but I set stories in other times and places as well. I'll also be writing contemporary stories for Harlequin Desire, with the first release in January 2013. You can learn more on my web site.

25 thoughts on “In the Zone”

  1. Hi Elizabeth!

    Getting in the zone….wow, how long has it been since I’ve been there?

    You’re right, distractions are, well, distracting and debilitating.

    Still, we plug away at it.

    What else can we do?

    I’ve been in an editing mode for so long, I sometimes doubt my ability to write something new. In fact, yesterday I surprised myself by writing 1000 words on a new wip while at work!

    Exhilirating though.

    Great post.
    PamT

  2. Hey, congratulations on your 1000 word day, Pam. Maybe being at work is the secret.
    I know people who rent little cubicles or go to the library or Starbucks to write. But the things at home that distract me are the things I love.
    Sigh.
    Thanks for commenting.

  3. Elizabeth,
    Great post. It’s a topic I’ve wondered about for some time. Why is it harder to get into the zone than it used to be? Why does it feel like HARD work? I have to answers only questions so I’m looking forward to magic answers from others. Someone? Please.

    BTW I just finished your book The Borrowed Bride. What a good story.

    Linda

  4. Thanks, Linda. So glad you enjoyed Borrowed Bride.
    And hey, I’m looking for answers, too. Part of the reason for this post.
    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was some kind of magic mantra and somebody would tell us….?
    🙂

  5. Elizabeth, I know exactly what you mean by ‘in the zone’. Sometimes you just know exactly where you want to go, exactly how you want to get there and exactly the words to use to make it all happen.
    I love it when writing flows like that.
    I am often distracted by shiny objects however. 🙂

    And pretty birds.
    And I just remembered another blog I need to read after this one before I start writing…

  6. Mary, you strike me as someone who often writes in the zone. You seem so focused and you get so much done (not kidding here).
    Can you imagine Nora Roberts at her computer, the sheer volume of her work, all of it wonderful? That woman has to be in the zone when she writes!

  7. Hi Elizabeth!

    I know what you mean, but studies also show that our food has less and less nutrition in it, which is a contributing factor to brain function.

    For instance, there are few Omega 3 fats in our diet and these are directly related to brain function. There are also a lack of a full complement of minerals in our soil — 60 years of chemical fertilizers and not putting back real minerals into the soil, has a price to pay. There’s also the issue of eating dead food — all the enzymes are gone — thus stressing our bodies to produce the enzymes needed to not only digest food, but for every single other function of the body. This too influences the brain.

    I’m getting up there in age, as well, and I’ve noticed that since I’ve started juicing my veggies (eating them live) and getting rid of the fiber that’s so hard for me to digest, that my ability to focus, my energy level and my ability to understand more easily, has become better and better and better.

    There’s more info about that here: http://www.juicefeasting.com — it also helps one to lose weight, by detoxing and getting rid of build up in the intestines.

    Anyway, thought I’d pipe in here with the data that I know is working well for me. : )

  8. At last, somebody with some answers! Thank you, Kay. I try to eat in a healthful way, but probably don’t take it far enough (not unless chocolate and coffee are good brain foods) 🙂
    I will check out the site. Thanks again for some very sound advice.

  9. Hi Filly sister!

    You hit the nail on the head today. It’s extremely difficult for me these days to get into any kind of zone. Like you, I live alone and welcome distractions to keep from going bonkers. The house is too quiet, the silence deafening most of the time. And I’m old. Boy, I have three strikes against me!

    But, like you I muddle through and manage to get my pages done. I just pray that I’ll be in the zone next time I sit down at the computer and my fingers will whizz over the keyboard. 🙂

    I picked up a copy of “Borrowed Bride” at the bookstore but I haven’t read it yet. I’m anxious to delve into the story. I know it’s wonderful.

  10. What a fabulous, en pointe blog, Elizabeth! I get distracted so bad I thought I have ADD. Well, maybe do…sounds nicer than old age 🙂

    Of course now that I hang around with a two-year old (almost) grandson, it’s hard to do anything for longer than three minutes.

    But yesterday I did ten pages. I did have a number of time-outs though LOL.

    Kay, does eating veggies “live” mean the same as raw? I kinda see them wiggling around right now…:)

    Thanks as always for a great read, fillies and friends.

  11. I hear you, Linda (and I have the same three strikes against me). Much of the time my stereo is on while I write (right now it’s playing classical guitar). Sometimes it helps, sometimes it’s just one more distraction. And because there’s no one here to say, hey, why aren’t you writing? I catch myself just wandering around the house. At least it’s nice to know I’m not the only one.
    Hugs

  12. Thanks for your comment, Tanya. Glad I’m not the only one with a focusing issue. Have wondered about ADD myself.
    But ten pages!! Wow, that’s impressive anytime.
    Have fun with the two-year-old. My little granddaughter (the diva) just turned three so I can relate. Enjoy–they grow up way too fast.

  13. Getting in the ZONE reminded me of this quote from Nora Roberts. Maybe I heard it here first. 🙂

    “If you need to believe in the muse, let’s say, fine and dandy. Whatever works for you. But don’t tell me you can’t work today because the muse has left you. Go track down that fickle slut, drag her back, chain her to your keyboard, and GET TO WORK.”

  14. Hi Elizabeth – I find it’s harder to get in the zone too, but I attribute it to MANY more distractions now than when I wrote on my word processor.
    An not AGE. We are NOT aging- I keep telling myself!

    The Internet is key. So many things (and I’m not speaking of games, but business promo that needs doing) that my writing is taking second place.
    I had a great conversation with Barbara Samuel the other day about this. She deletes all emails or saves them for the end of the day. She focuses on writing first. I’m trying to take this to heart but I find I HAVE to check emails every morning to my own sanity. But I am trying harder to stay focused more.
    Great blog!

  15. Elizabeth, boy, you hit the nail on the head!

    I found my distractions and concentration really took a nose dive when I turned 50. Menopause, and all that. Now that I’m an empty nester, I should get tons of writing done, but I don’t.

    But like Tanya, I also have a very active almost-2 year old grandson that I keep a couple of days a week. Throw in a parttime job . . . sigh. All the other things get left to the days off.

    I take Omega-3 Fish Oil pills religiously. I think they work, but am not totally sure I’m concentrating better.

    That said, I do best when I completely clear the calendar, take vacation time from work, and let everyone know I’m going No-mail.

    It’s a mind-set.

  16. I love that Nora quote, Mary. I’ve heard it too.
    Nora is an example for us all.

    Barbara Samuel is one of my idols, Charlene. I love her writing and I should follow her example. Email is a constant distraction for me. Can’t leave it alone–keep hoping I will bring up that inbox screen and see something wonderful there.

    Thanks, sister fillies, for passing on some great advice!

  17. Thanks, Pam. I think Kay suggested Omega-3 also. I try to get it in food but haven’t tried the pills. Maybe I will.
    And your bottom line is right on. It IS a mind set, and I’ve been much too lenient with myself. I goof off because I can. Need to do a Nora and chain my muse (and parts of my anatomy) to the computer.
    🙂

  18. Hi Elizabeth. Boy, I can really relate to those distractions. Especially email. I’m a morning writer, so my brain works best then. Whenever I need to get a certain amount of writing done, I have to ignore my email in the morning and just check it in the afternoon. Also, this might sound silly, but I have a set of earphones I picked up at the local hardware store–to protect construction workers, like men who work with jackhammers. I put those on and the distractions fade. Really works for me!

    I laughed at how distracted you were, writing the blog!

  19. Thanks, Kate. I’m a morning writer, too, and I spend way too much time checking email. Love your headphone idea. I used to put in earplugs when I had teenagers at home.
    And believe it or not those distractions I put into the blog were really happening.
    🙂

  20. Not as a writer but as a member of the older
    generation, I can attest to the loss of focus
    as I age! As for distraction, it doesn’t take
    much to draw my attention from whatever I’m
    doing! (Now, what was I doing?)

    Pat Cochran

  21. So glad to hear I’m not alone. After fifty books, I find it so much harder to concentrate. Now I have an excuse (g).

  22. Hi Elizabeth!! Seeing this cover, I could feel the beauty of it and I have it right by my bedside table here to read very soon. I zone out when I’m reading and I’m so into the book that I even forget that I’m in present time because I’m like a fly on the wall in the book watching it unfold!! This is quite the opposite, but with my environment so quiet (I’m deaf) I do like to have the TV on so that I don’t feel the silence. But I do have to zone out alot like others would with sounds, I have to do with vibrations. Some vibrations are hard to tune out, such as my daughter having the music on loud. Its not just because the vibrations go through even the seat of the couch, but when the vibration is ongoing, it gets harder to tune out rather than one thats short, like a truck going down the street. My only problem with zoning out if that I lose some of my skills or weaken them (like the door knocking, I tend to no longer feel it) but I get to ignore those sales men, LOL. So I literally just get absorbed in what I am doing, and ‘be there’ with it and I naturally zone myself out.

    Congrats on the 50 books! I wished I knew of yours since then.

  23. Thanks so much for your interesting perspective, Caffey. I’ve never thought about the skills you’d need to keep sharp in a world where you couldn’t hear. At least the zone would be easier.

    It’s Pat, not me, who has the 50 books. I have 30-something.

    Enjoy Borrowed Bride.
    Elizabeth

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