Tuesday 18 March 2014

The Keyboard Is On Fire: Entering The "Zone" - The Creative Process

The Keyboard Is On Fire: Entering The "Zone"

I have a sign on my office door, a list of rules for people who have any kind of relationship with a writer. It has a list of ten rules and number five is: "Leave a writer alone when the writer is actually writing. You have no idea how difficult it is to enter the zone." It's true, we writers have a thing called the "zone" and once you go in there, God help anyone who pulls you out of it.

I mean, it's okay if it's an emergency like the house is on fire or someone fell down the stairs and broke their leg and needs medical attention. That's important stuff and it's fine to disturb the writer with them. But if we're talking about a phone call that isn't important or a certain nine year old who is desperate to know if she can have an extra five minutes on her computer? Nope, do not disturb me, I am in the zone and my keyboard is on fire. I will put whoever it is in my book and kill them off, or shout a lot, whichever works at the time.

Still, there are things that need attention, like certain nine year olds who have to be at Cubs at a certain time, or expect to be picked up from school (the entitlement of kids these days!) and for those reasons, it seems only fair that I should be disturbed because no one else drives and hey, these things have been planned already. It sucks when I'm at a point where I really don't want to stop because if I do, I'm afraid that my muse will bugger off and stop speaking to me. Usually though, I don't have a choice so I have to suck it up and break my concentration.

I don't know how to explain the zone to you, which is weird considering I usually have too much purple prose that my editor takes care of. However, it's this magical place where writer's get to go when they've beaten down the writer's block, locked the door, threatened fictional death to all who enter and have finally written something. It's full of characters and plot twists, new information and puzzle pieces that allow you to join one event to another without having to think about it for three days and worry yourself that you'll never make the connection. It's like a fantasy land for writer's, only instead of waterfalls and unicorns, it has words. Lots and lots of words running around free and you, as the writer, are able to catch them and make them stick to your page.

Basically, it's writer nirvana and once you get inside, you don't want to ever have to come out. Except, you do. This is real life and real life has responsibilities that mean you can't just sit and skip through the forest with the free range words, you have to do things like wash up, make food and ferry around children from place to place. Leaving the zone is awful, you feel like if you could just have one more minute, a second even, then you'd finally get to the point with your story when you'd never have to worry about writer's block again. You may even find the perfect ending!

Leaving the zone is like crashing back down to earth from a great height. It sucks and then you spend the next forty minutes next time you sit down to write trying to find the perfect sequence of events that lets you enter it again. You sit and groan as you struggle to find the right word and you try your hardest to just get the zone to open its doors so that you could have just a little, tiny peek inside. It's addictive too, it's like your own personal high as you rush around and pluck the words out of the zone and paste them onto the page and then when you leave, all you can think about is the next time you can enter the zone again.

So, when you're wondering why the writer in your life is happily typing away one minute and then snarling at you when you interrupt them the next, remember this post. The zone is highly sought after and so rarely achieved for some writers. For others it seems to be their permanent residence, and those are people I envy a lot. Personally, it takes a lot of tea to bribe entry into my office when I'm typing, especially when I haven't even acknowledged the request for tea in the first place. If that ever happens, you'll know I'm in the zone and John Barrowman could stride into my office naked and I probably wouldn't even look up.

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