The Writing Zone
Something I've been thinking about in the last month, perhaps more worrying about than thinking about, is how to get into the writing "zone." That state of mind where the words flow freely and the characters might as well be all around you, acting out a play scripted only in your subconscious that you desperately try to put words to before it flutters away.
For a large part of this first month, I think I've unintentionally stressed myself too much to get to this state. You need some level of stress to write, but too much and you lock up. That's what happened a few times. I had to take a break. I had to distance myself and calm down, and then come back when I could once again look at my writing as something wonderful. Something I wouldn't live as well as I do without.
You might think I'm joking with that last sentence, but it's true. Since I got back into writing, I've noticed a very gradual trend of self-improvement. I eat better, sleep more regularly, my social anxiety tendencies are on the decline. All of that, just because I try to make myself write 1000 words a day. Is there really another word for it than wonderful?
To get back to the topic, though, how do you get into your writing zone? I can spend hours and hours wanting to write, but I end up surfing, checking my mail 20 times, maybe watching an episode of whichever series I'm in the middle of at the time (Re-watching Firefly, at present). And that, really, is the issue.
Writing is communication. It's my preferred form of communication, but when I sit at my laptop, I instantly have many other easier forms of communication at my fingertips. Not as high-level as writing a story is, and that's what makes them easier. Check a forum, check your mail, maybe watch a youtube video and then do a hundred other things on the net. Time passes. All that communication occupies the mind and takes time away from writing.
Obviously, I don't have the end-all answer, but to me, cutting myself off from other communication is the answer. That is how I get in the zone. By "torturing" myself with seclusion until I'm ready to burst. You cut out the noises, the talking, the reading, the instant messaging, emailing, forums, gaming and whatever else there is.
Eventually (Rather quickly, really), the basic human need to communicate becomes so great that all the communication you aren't doing, your imagination is doing for you. Characters and stories come to life and flow freely into words on the page. You're in the zone.
I'm no accomplished writer, but one of my most popular short stories (Note that popular doesn't necessarily mean the writing is good), The Bodyguard, was written when I had just moved to a new town, was alone in an apartment for a week with no internet, no TV and no friends. The first day bored me to tears. The next day, I did the only thing I had left to do with my thoughts if I wasn't to walk around babbling to myself. Sat down to write. I wrote 25.000 words in 5 days. Unprecedented productivity, for me.
Really, I've done a loose tally of this month's writing for a post tomorrow, and I've only written marginally more in this last month than I accomplished back then in a week of noncommunication. That's the power it has. Really, it's sad that when someone asks how to become an author, they're told to write, and then write more, and then even more. They're rarely given tips for the process, merely told their goals and left to flounder on their way there. Writing is often a hard and lonely thing to do, and while we have good intentions, we aren't usually as good at advising people who want to try their hand at it as we should be.