The Zone



What a busy week!  I had to finish a travel anecdote I had barely begun, complete four critiques, redraft two chapters, plus get out and enjoy this beautiful Colorado weather.

Back in 2006 I was only writing the one novel . . . and working four days a week.  Along with the usual:  vacuuming cat hairs off the sofa, roasting chicken and chasing ground squirrels and deer from my lettuce.  And cussing the gopher holes in our front yard.  And digging stubborn thistle and ….

In those days, I knew what I liked when I read it, but had no idea why, or how to write it.  One lucky day I was in Magpie’s in Durango and picked up a copy of “The Writer” magazine.  There was method to this madness of writing!  I wouldn’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get an MFA, only well under one hundred for a subscription and a number of recommended books.  And spend time writing.  And writing and more writing.  Every day.  That instruction was a constant:  Write every day.  Even if you only write fifteen minutes, do it every day.  Did I repeat that often enough?

.Write every day.


For the same reason swimmers swim and runners run.  Guitar players play and painters paint.

To get into the zone.  A lot of work is required to get into the zone–that place that’s hard to describe because there are no words to describe it clearly.  People try:  “Everything’s right; everything works;  I don’t think, I’m just there.”

The zone is the place where a runner finds the last breath and strength to run that last mile.  The zone is that place a guitar player goes when his fingers play seemingly without his direction.

The zone is where a writer goes when the words flow onto the page, where one is so deep into character that the present world disappears.

You become surprised by your own writing.  How easy it is.

You want to write.  All the time.  Writing is you, and you are a writer.

Does the preceding sound a little “airy fairy” to you?  Consider this:  Everything we think, everything we do either causes or is caused by nerve pathways carrying messages throughout our bodies.  Those messages flash from one nerve to another by macroscopic bridges called synapses.  The more we exercise any one pathway, the stronger it gets, just like a muscle gets bigger and stronger.  The more you exercise your writing skills, the stronger they get.

Maybe you have experienced what happens when you stop writing for days, a week, a month, and then try to start up again.  I have.

Getting back into my story was nearly impossible.  Start, stop.  Start, stop.  “I can’t write.  Did I think I could write?” I no longer had feeling for the story or for the characters.  I had to sit down, force myself, and write shit.  Every day.  For three weeks until I started to feel I was writing again.  Even now, four months later, I am not writing as well as I did before.

Whatever you do, don’t stop writing.  Even if you only write for fifteen minutes a day.  Write something.  Exercise those nerves.

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