The Writing Zone: How to Find it and Sustain It
Every writer has a different way of getting into the writing zone. For some it’s shutting off all distractions: turning off the TV, unplugging the Internet, turning down the music and finding silence. For others it’s wandering around until the mood to create strikes. And for some writers, it’s reading, researching, or creating the perfect play list. Each writer’s ideal writing zone is unique to them. But how do you find that space and how do sustain it once you settle there?
First: Location. It’s time to find a place to settle down to write. Look for some place comfortable. This can be at a desk or table, on a couch or bed, or even camped out on the floor. Every writer will be drawn to different locals. For some being around people, like in a coffee shop, helps stimulate creativity. For others, the isolation of a home office or bedroom is best. The “where” isn’t as important as is your comfort level and ability to focus.You want to look for a place that will comfortably serve you for the hour plus you’ll be hunkered down writing. A place where you won’t be shifting positions every ten seconds or where the sun isn’t shining directly in your eyes. A place where the sounds don’t drive you bonkers. You’re looking for a place that allows you to shut out the world and focus solely on your story.
Next, background noise. If you get distracted easily, turn off the television. Close your web browser. If music inhibits your ability to get words on the page, shut it off. Make your writing space as silent as you can. If you need sound, find something that fits the piece you’re writing – maybe classical for historical scripts or genre soundtracks for your genre writing. Maybe white noise is more your style, like nature sounds or meditation music. In this case, you could consider writing around people, whose voices can create a buzz of white noise perfect for creating.
Now that all distractions have been eliminated (or appropriately added), it’s time to think about food. Hydration and snacks are key. Don’t chug a bottle of water or a venti coffee – you don’t want to be getting up to run to the restroom every five minutes. But do find a beverage that will keep you alert and will quench your thirst. Maybe have both water and coffee (or a nice tea) nearby. For snacks, select something that won’t get all over your keyboard or notebook. There’s nothing worse than having to pause in the middle of a genius line of dialogue or riveting bit of action to swipe wayward crumbs out from between your keys. Also stay away from snacks that will gunk up your fingers, like pulpy fruits or gooey candy. Try dried fruit, nuts, crackers, pieces of cheese (we suggest a nice cheese plate, that covers it all). If you need some sugar to accompany your writing, try candy with coating: Skittles or M&Ms. You get the sugar rush without a sticky mess to distract you.
Okay, now that you’ve found your zone; settled into your space and found snacks that will propel you through the next couple of hours: what next? Try setting yourself a goal. Just one. Write for the next hour. Write three scenes. Plot out Act I. Build a character background. And then get writing. Set those fingers to the keys and don’t stop. Don’t worry about perfection – save that for after the draft or treatment or outline is complete. Just write. That’s what your writing zone is for.
Jenny Sterner is a creative artist and storyteller with an MFA in Screenwriting from the New York Film Academy. She is currently the Coordinator to the Dean of Faculty and Screenwriting Department at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, where she helps develop curriculum and oversees student and alumni relations for the department.