How Writers Do It: Getting Into the Zone

For the second part of the the lovely Cory Jackson's How Writers Do It series, I'll be discussing "Getting into the Zone". This week, I actually have the awesome Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, because it finally came in the mail. I haven't been disappointed in any way!

On to this week's question:

What goes into the creative process of writing a novel?

That's a totally general question, right? Luckily, Cory gave us some guidance. Her examples included the author's mindset and the writer's environment. So here I go.

Goldberg talks a lot--and I mean A LOT--about this very topic. In fact, I find that almost every one of her chapters has something covering our mindset as a writer and the environments where we choose to write. So what does she say? I'll take a few of excerpts from the many I've highlighted and discuss a bit after each.

In order to improve your writing, you have to practice just like any other sport. But don't be dutiful and make it into a blind routine...Don't just put in your time. That is not enough...Otherwise you are just mechanically pushing the pen across the page and intermittently looking at the clock to see if your time is up.

I've had a lot of advice from different people about how I should write a certain amount every day just to make sure I'm writing. In the same vein, I heard that you should set aside a block of time and just write. Well, I think this is good advice, but personally, it hasn't been working for the exact reasons Goldberg gives here. She goes on to say that if this is you, if you're just writing along because you told yourself you'd write for an hour, but you'd rather be doing something else, STOP WRITING. For a week or a month, whatever. It seems to be the equivalent of burnout. I found this hit especially close to home. I think I may be like this, a writer who writes in massive spurts then takes a break for a while to get the energy and excitement back up. Not everyone needs this, but I found it incredibly satisfying to know that when I feel this way, I'm not some total writing loser. Goldberg is giving me permission to keep thinking about writing, take a break for a bit, and come up refreshed!

Okay. Your kids are climbing into the cereal box. You have $1.25 left in your checking account. Your husband can't find his shoes, your car won't start, you know you have lived a life of unfulfilled dreams...you lost your favorite pen, and the cat peed on your current notebook.
Pick up another notebook, take out another pen, and just write, just write, just write...
Finally, there is no perfection. If you want to write, you have to cut through and write. There is no perfect atmosphere, notebook, pen, or desk, so train yourself to be flexible.

I laughed quite a bit when I read this. Then I stepped back and was sobered by how true this rings for me, especially recently. For a while, I had the symptoms of the burnout discussed above. But now, I have this story simmering in my head, permeating my body until I have to talk about it all the time. Am I writing? No, not really. Why? Because I have a 1,001 things to do and life sucks and I'm hungry and there's this great TV show on and I don't have anywhere to write and and and... None of those excuses matter. What matters is that there's this creative energy bursting to get out of me, and it's not going to rest until I cut the crap and make myself sit down somewhere--anywhere--and get it down.

I don't need the perfect room or a kitchen table that doesn't wobble when you walk near it or chairs that aren't close to busting every time I sit down. I just need a plug, some headphones to block out the husband's video games, and maybe a cup of tea. Tea helps me think. And, you know what? I love that Goldberg has given me all this freedom! Or maybe it's that she's given me the permission I thought I needed to not confine myself to what I was told I should be doing. Maybe I can find what works for me. Maybe if I feel like writing in bed one day and on the couch the other (which is exactly what I end up doing, by the way), it's okay, as long as I can write.

And, I totally forgot that you can visit Cory's blog and comment to win a book!!! Plus, don't forget this:


Check out the other writers participating in this blog series!!

8 comments:

corrinejackson said...

With all the advice in the world, it comes down to finding a system that works for you. I'm glad you're finding yours!

Kate Hart said...

Writing every day doesn't work for me either. The minute I have a "set" schedule, I start looking for ways to avoid it and see it as a chore. It's really interesting to see everyone's different methods!

houndrat said...

I love how what Natalie says totally contradicts some of the other books, lol--just goes to show you there's no one "right" way. I've been thumbing through her book Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer's Craft. I like how she approaches things very organically, from a place of zen. Cool. :)

Karla Nellenbach said...

Well said. and I love the that first quote...very spot on.

Jamie B said...

Okay. Your kids are climbing into the cereal box. You have $1.25 left in your checking account. Your husband can't find his shoes, your car won't start, you know you have lived a life of unfulfilled dreams...you lost your favorite pen, and the cat peed on your current notebook.

--somebody's been spying in my windows!!! Stupid cat!

J.S. Wood said...

Burnout - nice to read that someone has has that and has put it in a book :)

Leila Austin said...

Great post!

I love Writing Down the Bones. I especially like "there is no perfection. If you want to write, you have to cut through and write." Oh, how many times have I had to remind myself about that? ;-)

Tahereh said...

dude you guys are awesome. it's so fantastic that you're taking the time to write these posts! so informative!

thanks for sharing!!!