How to ‘get in the zone’ when writing

The time you’ve set aside time for writing has arrived at last. You’ve been looking forward to it all day; pen and paper are before you, a cup of tea is brewed. Nobody is around so you can concentrate.

And yet you can’t.

You just can’t focus on writing, for your mind is firing off a hundred messages about anything but writing – what you need to do when you’re done writing, planning for the weekend, images of that good looking guy/gal who smiled at you in the coffee shop…

Bringing pen to paper, you try to focus on writing. A sentence comes out. Good. Then comes those distracting thoughts again.

You want to slam down your pen in frustration. How difficult can writing be?

What you really seek is to be “at one” with your writing, in which you are fully engaged in your writing, in which you know exactly what to write next and how to write it in the best way possible. You seek fluidity.

How do you achieve this merging of action and awareness, this intense, undivided focus on writing?

The first step is to write at a time when you are most creative. That time is different for everyone. For me, it’s the hours between breakfast and lunch. For others, it’s at night, for some the hour after they wake up. Experiment to figure out what that time is for you and then stick to writing during that period of the day. If you write when you are most creative and productive, you’ll be better able to remain focused during it.

Next, you must ensure that you have something to write about, that is, something to focus on during your writing session. What you choose to write must fall into a sweet spot between your skills and what is challenging. Sitting down to write a novel cold turkey probably is too high of a challenge. You may be able to handle writing a description of a setting or a character, however. Now select a random picture of a landscape or of a person and write a description of it. Your unfamiliarity with the photo makes this is a challenge yet descriptive writing is within your abilities. The result is you will possess a sense of personal control and a feeling that you have the potential to succeed.

Before you start writing, focus yourself on the present moment. Do this by taking three deep breaths and thinking about how writing makes you feel alive and powerful, of its pure enjoyment. This helps quell any anxiety you may be feeling yet also heightens your senses.

Then begin writing. As doing so, train your mind to focus. Write for a minute; write anything, no matter its quality. The next day, write for two minutes, again remaining unconcerned about the quality. The day after that, write for three minutes. Keep adding a minute every day after that until you’re able to focus on nothing but writing during the time you’ve set aside for it. You may initially find that much of what you’ve written isn’t particularly great, but that’s all right. You’re goal is to train yourself to focus. Besides, you may find that various ideas from those sessions lead to several new stories that you can work on during future sessions, making focusing easier.

You’ll know that it’s working when writing becomes effortless. Time will slow and nothing will exist but you and the words you write. Yet, when you’re done with the session, you’ll be amazed at how quickly time passed.

When not writing, you still can prepare yourself to get “in the zone” during your sessions. Meditate daily to develop a sense of mindfulness. This gives your brain the ability to manage distractions, to be more self-aware so you can identify your true skills and what will be a challenge, all while growing your confidence. The end result is that during your writing session, you will feel uninhibited and somehow going beyond yourself. You will feel in tune with your writing and with the universe.

The fact is we’re happiest when in the flow because nothing else matters to us – not our stress, not the distracting irrelevant thoughts, not the inner negative voice that creates anxiety. We are in a positive mode filled with purpose and confidence.

And who wouldn’t want to be in that state when writing?