The Writing Zone: How to Get There, How to Stay There

May 26, 2011

We’ve all been there, that special place where the words just flow, blank pages fill with ink and we can’t write (or type) as fast as our characters tell their story. This has been a week like that for me. If I’m alone, I generally have no trouble finding the zone, but with three guys in the house (loving husband, twenty-one-year-old son and nineteen-year-old son) it’s often difficult for me to get uninterrupted time. The guys are on totally different and somewhat irregular schedules, so I never know when or for how long I will be alone. They are used to me being a short order cook, taking over chores that need done and having friends over at a moment’s notice.

Then of course, there are the outside issues that filter in all day. Telemarketers call.
(I don’t answer the phone, but they are disruptive.) Friends and family call or come by. (I love them all, but I know that some of them think that because I’m home my schedule is flexible and I have nothing to do all day….after all I don’t have a “real” job like most of them. Do I say that too often?) I’m trying to put together a neighborhood watch and there’s work involved there. Then of course there are household things that I usually do and try not to ask the three other adults to help with because they do all have “real” jobs, school and homework.

Things have been different this week. Other than scheduled activities, I’ve written with few interruptions. The boys warned each other to leave me alone because I was writing. My husband hardly called me from work because he didn’t want to interfere with “the zone,” and he’s begun helping with dinner dishes (a radical and greatly appreciated change in my life). And there were very few outside interruptions.

On Tuesday I typed all of my work from Monday and wrote eighteen new pages. Only my dog couldn’t take it. Late Tuesday afternoon when I had been glued to my desk for more than six hours, I suddenly felt a cold wet nose banging on my arm, forcing his head between my arm and my side. Suddenly he pushed through and my forty-pound lab/chow was halfway on my lap, wagging his tail, licking my arm and preventing me from writing. I had to laugh, give him some love, but then I walked him to the door, sent him out and closed the door behind him, NO MORE INTERUPTIONS! 

I’m hoping to be as productive today.

My husband has a four-day holiday weekend. The boys just had finals and—thanks to state budget cuts—there will be no school for them until late August. We also have summer guests coming that I can hardly wait to see. But yesterday, my husband said, “Honey, you don’t have to make special race food for me on Sunday [Indy 500]. I can fend for myself. [This is unheard of and probably means he’ll order a pizza, but I’m okay with that.] I’ll watch the race and let you write.” What a guy! I never write when he’s home, and that extra day is a gift.

My middle son said, “Mom, I can help out more over the summer just give me a list of what you need done in the morning.” (Who are you, and what did you do with my son?) Younger son agreed that he could do this as well. And, new for me, I’m trying to delegate and learning to say “no” to things I would normally squeeze into my schedule.

Hmmm, maybe this is why I’ve had fewer interruptions…everyone is mad at me!

Well, whatever it is, I have to keep it going. It’s 7 a.m. here in Los Angeles, heavy marine layer outside. I’ve got an early start. I’m ready to type my previous work and then write some new pages. The boys who were formerly part of the interruption told me they “have my back” and will field calls on the house phone and outside distractions. (Are they taking my writing seriously?) Truly, I’m grateful. (Did I mention I write the way I talk…in run-on sentences?) My fiftieth birthday is July 10 (Yikes! Did I say that out loud?) and my goal is to have my draft finished before I turn fifty. I’ll let you know how I do.

Well, I’m off to write. Let me know how many words or pages you are getting done each week. I promise to check in…forgive me if I’m slow to respond. (I’m hoping to be “in the zone.”) Let me know what you’re doing to prevent interruptions and how your family and friends help…or not!

Gotta go, I think my pen is bleeding!

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