In Search of the Zone

By Daniel via Flickr’s Creative Commons

Last week I wrote about by desire to re-enter the writing zone.

My intention was to have a resolution list ready to go on January 1. Things I’d do in 2019 to help me “get there”—back to the zone—but here it is January 15, and I’m just sitting down to capture my new year’s writing resolutions.

I keep an “everything list,” I update every month or so (most recently at the beginning of this new year), everything from decluttering closets to finding more vegetarian and vegan recipes to catching up on all the things I didn’t do in 2018. None of the things on this list will necessarily bring me closer to my writing goal.

Enter List 2. Ways to bring back the writing zone. In addition to continuing to go to the therapist, here are the things I’m planning to do to try and recapture the writing magic.

  1. On the top of this second list is the nebulous goal to “do new things.” This is similar to how Julia Cameron suggests going on “artist dates” with yourself: “a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you.” To ask yourself, “What sounds fun?” I’m hoping introducing new things into my daily or weekly routine (though not necessarily always festive or artistic) will spark ideas and creativity.
  2. Another of Julia Cameron’s suggestions: morning pages. I have not been particularly successful at this in the past, feeling inhibited as I write, perhaps worried I’ll be upset or self-conscious when I read things later? (I’m not sure about why, to be honest.) The editor I’m working with suggested I shred the pages after I write them. I’ve done this a few times and it really helps me write more freely. My goal is to write pages every morning.
  3. Regular exercise—a tried and true method for kicking my creativity into higher gear—has fallen by the wayside as 2018 got busy.
  4. Write regularly. As in a daily word count for fiction. This has worked for me in the past; I’m hoping it will work again. Also, blog weekly.
  5. Read more.
  6. Less screen time. Specifically, less social media.
  7. Use my “happy light” every morning for half an hour or more. The Mayo Clinic says light therapy may help “if you typically have fall and winter depression, you may notice symptoms during prolonged periods of cloudy or rainy weather during other seasons.” Maine winters are notoriously long and dark—the county I live in ranks 2,622 out of 3,111 counties in the country for solar radiation. Mind you, this is an annual average, and during the summer we get a lot more sunlight. In the winter, it starts to get dark a little after three. BTW, curious where your county ranks for natural happiness light? Check out this cool map.

Most of the things on my writing resolution list are things I like to do as soon as I get up (exercise, write morning or daily pages, write fiction). My energy for these things fades as the day goes on. I’m thinking of using the therapy light later in the day to see if I can emulate the early morning hours, to see if it stimulates more creativity.

That’s my plan. It has not escaped me that I’m approaching the recapturing of a very untethered feeling (the writing zone) in a very structured manner. This does and does not worry me because whether it’s by design or through some mysterious alchemy, it doesn’t really matter, I just want to get back there.

To that end, at the end of last year, I started to feel tiny sparks from time-to-time, sensations of writing days past. These glimpses have become more frequent. Maybe this will morph into the writing excitement of days gone by? When the twinges first started, I felt sad—they seemed so out of reach—now when I get these feelings, I’m more excited . . . and curious. This makes me hopeful that a breakthrough is getting closer.

I’ll keep you posted. Do you have a new year’s writing list? I’d love to hear! We’re all in this together!

Finding My Way

Photo by Julia Munroe Martin, all rights reserved

Last year was a tough year full of change. And I didn’t do much writing because of it. I’ve written about some of these transitions here and on Writer Unboxed, too, as I figure out how to move forward with my writing.

Toward the end of last year, after one of my Writer Unboxed posts, I started to work with an editor—to develop some of my fiction ideas and to edit some of my past works. She and I have been working together for about three months now, and I’m happy to say that I’ve made a little progress.

But . . .

Not enough. Don’t get me wrong, she has been wonderful. Our weekly Skype sessions are not only helpful but also very enjoyable. I respect her opinions, and it’s great to have someone to bounce ideas off of. And I’ll continue to work with her.

But . . .

Something is missing. I still haven’t recaptured the feeling of being in love with writing. I’d almost describe it as feeling as though my writing is locked inside. Even when I have an idea that I love, I can’t seem to pursue it. I no longer feel the breathless excitement for writing like I used to; a lot of my enthusiasm is gone; when I do write, the flow or finding the zone, is almost impossible.

Do I want to give up?

Absolutely not. Quite the opposite. I want to re-find the zest I used to have. I miss it and long for it daily.

Blogging to the Rescue, Part II?

When I started this blog, I posted every day. And while I’m not sure I want to go that far, I do want to start to blog again (certainly more than three times a year like last year and the year before). My original intent for blogging was to kickstart my fiction writing (it worked: I finished one novel and wrote five more with many more partial manuscripts); I’m hoping blogging will do the same this time. For a while now, I’ve also planned to redesign my blog.

One of my long-time blogging friends Nina Badzin just added a subdomain to her main site, for her friendship advice column:

“I made a new site–a subdomain of this site–and that will be the home for all the friendship posts I’ve written since 2014 and all the friendship-related posts I will write in the future. You guys, I made the site with my bare hands.”

(By the way if you haven’t looked at Nina’s friendship advice posts, you should. She’s really helped me and taught me a lot about friendship. Invaluable advice!) But to the point today, kudos to Nina for making the site herself. She has inspired me to take a crack at redesigning my own blog. I had planned to hire someone—and still might—but between having some free time and a background in the tech industry as well as a husband who’s a software engineer (MEH—My Engineer Husband—for those of you who have known me for a while), I’m willing to at least give it a try.

In a way, spending more time blogging is like returning to my roots.

But . . . That’s Not Enough

I’m not so naïve to think that working with an editor or deciding to increase my blogging is the answer to coming out of what I need to admit is a writing slump (I can’t and won’t go so far as to say I’m blocked—I’m not a fan of that expression anyway).

So, I’ve also started seeing a therapist. I sought out someone who works with creative people. My goal is that she will help me find my way back to “the flow” I once felt while writing.

Talking with her has given me the chance to name my feelings and give them space—sometimes I don’t acknowledge I have a right to feel the things I feel. The therapist pointed out that in 2018 I dealt with a trifecta of life changes, and said it’s understandable how those changes would impact my ability to focus let alone my ability for writing to flow. Just talking with her, hearing her acknowledge my feelings and fears, has brought me a sense of peace and acceptance I haven’t felt in a while. And I’m hoping it’s just the beginning.

I know I have a long way to go, but the fact that I’m acknowledging that, and that I’m writing a blog to do so, is encouraging me. I know it’s just one step in many I’ll be taking this year as I find my way with my life and with my writing.

That’s what 2019 has in store for me—I’d love to hear what you’re up to!