Friday, November 20, 2009

Finding Your "Zone"

No, this is not gonna be an adult-themed post, I promise!  I think you fellow-writers know what I'm referring to ... that time/space/mentality (somewhat akin to nirvana) that you somehow reach - when writing becomes pure (or close to pure) joy, as opposed to a loathsome task that depletes your self-esteem.  I believe the key to finding your "zone" is by getting to know yourself as a writer, and this takes trial and error.  

I want to digress for a moment (but this digression will lead back to my main topic) and talk about Nanowrimo.  As you may recall from an earlier post of mine, I credit Nanowrimo with kickstarting my writing "career."  I had been boring my friends to death for over a year saying, "I really want to start a novel."  The problem was, I didn't know how.  I'd had several "false starts" since college ... cracking my knuckles and sitting down to the computer to feverishly tap out 10 or 15 pages, which I would then revise, despise, and promptly dump.  This seemed to be my destiny - to be a mouthy, wannabe-writer with nothing to show for it.  

And then Nanowrimo came into my life ... it revolutionized my way of writing because it went against all my instincts.  "You're telling me I just need to sit down every day and write?  No time to stop and critique, cry and self-flagellate?"  It kinda sounded like a crazy waste of time, because surely all I'd produce under such an intense schedule would be drivel, right?  Well, yes, sort of.  But I also produced some kind of brain chemical (adrenaline, maybe?) that popped me out of bed every morning at 5:30 and powered me through my 2+ hour daily writing frenzy.  By the time I met my 50,000 word goal (the LAST DAY of November), I had gained several things:
  1. 25,000 words-worth of somewhat interesting writing, which would later be developed into my first finished (unpublished) novel;
  2. an amazing work ethic I didn't know I was capable of ... okay, that's not quite true ... I'd just spent 6 miserable weeks (11 hours per day) the previous summer studying for the New York State Bar, so I knew I was capable, but perhaps it taught me that I was capable of diligent work when the deadline was arbitrary; and
  3. confidence in myself.  Shortly into the process, I realized, "Hey, I'm doing it.  I'm actually writing a novel!"
As I continued working on my WIP after the contest ended, I carried the skills and discipline I'd developed during Nanowrimo with me, tweaking them to fit into my normal daily life ('cause, as all you Nano veterans know, there is no way you can keep up that break-neck pace and stay out of a mental institution!)  So now, two years later, I still get up early in the morning (even on days when I'm not going into work) because I know that's when my mind is freshest and most creative.  I no longer hold myself to a word count goal, because my own inner motivation sees to it that I don't slack.  

Bringing us back to today's topic, it's thanks to this "zone" I've created that I can proudly announce the completion of Part 1 (15 chapters, 36,000 words) of my novel rewrite.  The next step is to give it another revision, and then ... gulp ... send it out to my (ever-growing list of) Brilliant Editors for the first big beta!

FIGURING IT OUT AS I GO:  What's your "zone"?  Don't try to force a routine that doesn't work for you, because it'll ultimately end in disaster.  Go easy on yourself if you're having a bad day - give yourself a break and take a day off from writing.  But just remember how good it feels when you get into your rhythm.  So if the bad day becomes a bad week, try to revisit your writing as soon as possible, before a grand funk sets in ...


  1. That's fantastic progress! It's so exciting to finally send it out to beta readers and get some good feedback. I hope it goes great!

  2. Thanks, Natalie! I've never done a beta mid-write before, but I think it'll be quite helpful (the goal being to nip problematic themes/characters in the bud early on!)

  3. Your organization and tenacity are very impressive and inspiring... and that's great progress you've made. Bon chance!

  4. Beta reading is the best thing that ever happened to my story. I hope your experience goes just as well, if not better. :) I agree about NaNo. It's a good jumpstart but I wont beat myself up if I cant keep up this pace. :)

  5. Good Luck with the Betaing! The pace for NaNo is nuts! This is my first one this year and I can tell you... I would never be able to do this every month. It's great practice though!


  6. I tip my hat to all you awesome Nano writers! Even though I didn't do it this year, I've been "living" many of your experiences vicariously. ;-)