Isn’t it great when you write in the zone? Articles and stories pour forth with ease. Most writers don’t stay in that happy writing place, though, and sometimes their muse can’t be found.
I’ve been writing, well, most of my life, but professionally since 2007. Initially, my writing zone evaded me at times, but I had to learn fast. I could sit and wait for my muse to come back from vacation, or call her home immediately and write to pay the bills.
Like me, maybe you don’t want to hang around and prefer to charm your muse. Here’s how to create the perfect environment to help her thrive.
Discover when you write best
I used to follow a strict writing schedule. I’d be at my desk by 9am, have a coffee break at 10.30am, lunch at 1pm, and another coffee break at 3pm, and finish writing at about 5pm. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it?
Trouble is, my brain connects with my muse when it wants rather than when I think it should, so I had to change. I kept an eye on when I was most productive, found it didn’t correspond with the times I was at my desk, and adjusted to suit my natural creative flow.
Do you write only during office hours like I did? You don’t have to graft from nine to five. Perhaps you write best in the middle of the night, or at dawn.
Experiment to discover when you are at your creative peak and most likely to enter the zone.
Anchor the zone
Before I turned to freelance writing, I trained as an NLP practitioner. It seems a shame to let my knowledge go to waste, so I apply it to writing and you can use the same method I use to increase zone-time.
Anchoring is an NLP or neuro-linguistic programming term that refers to creating a strong association between a mental state and a cue to make the state reappear.
You’ve probably heard of Pavlov’s dogs. Pavlov trained dogs to link the sound of a bell ringing with being fed.
Whenever the bell rang, regardless of whether the food was present, they would salivate because they had forged a positive association between the cue and the food.
In your case, you want to create a connection between being in the writing zone and a signal that can be replicated.
First, you need to access the mental state of flow when it’s simple for you to write and you’re enjoying doing so.
You can wait until you are naturally in the zone to create an anchor, or use a memory of being in a similar state.
If you’re recalling being in the flow, wait until you reach the tip of your experience when you remember feeling extremely focused and then apply a cue.
A cue can be physical, such as rubbing two fingers together or tapping the end of your nose, but it mustn’t be an action you carry out generally.
Alternatively, you might light an incense stick or play a piece of music that helps you focus and make that your anchor.
As soon as the peak of the experience drops, stop applying the cue and do something else for a few minutes before restarting the exercise once more. In the future, when you want to access the zone, repeat the signal.
Create an organized workspace
In the early days of my writing career, I kept non-writing gadgets in my office space. It was fun knowing I could reach for a book or go through my pile of mail when I fancied.
Pretty soon, though, I realized keeping too much unrelated paraphernalia close at hand distracted me and meant I spent time messing around when I should have been working.
I learned my workstation needs to be organized and stir me to write. Now I keep what I need on my desk, or close by, and don’t bring non-writing materials into my workspace.
My desk is tidy most of the time too, because mess stops me thinking straight — I know, maybe it’s weird, but it helps to make sure my workspace is neat and clutter free.
I got rid of distractions and trained — yes, trained — my friends and relatives to stop phoning me or popping over for a coffee whenever they felt the urge simply because I was home.
Develop helpful habits, even if they’re quirky
My muse loves brainwave entrainment to aid focus and creativity in the morning. I listen with headphones while I check emails and organize my day before I do anything else.
She’s also fond of essential oils. Other than that, she’s not too demanding, so I placate her with a scent to aid clarity like pine, rosemary, or peppermint placed in a diffuser.
Identify whether your muse has any quirks too. Appease her, and you’ll visit your writing zone more often.
Jot down ideas
When I think I’ve run out of ideas, I recognize my assumption is only a state of mind. I get them flowing by using a spider graph.
When you aren’t in the zone and feel blocked, tell yourself you’re just going to write about concepts. Think of a single topic you might have written about if you were in the zone and create offshoots from that subject.
Let’s say container gardening is the theme. Write container gardening in the middle of a blank page and draw lines sprouting out from the center.
At the end of every line, write something relevant like unusual planters and window boxes. Before you know it, your muse will appear, and you’ll be eager to write.
When you want to be in the zone, inspire your muse. Create a terrific workstation that makes writing comfortable. Write at the best time for you and shut out distractions.
Also, anchor the zone, so it’s easy to reach. If all else fails, generate a spider graph around a central theme and watch your ideas grow.
Copyright © 2019 Bridget Webber. All rights reserved