Writing Zen – 23 ways to get into the zone

Finding time to write is precious, so when we do finally get those fragments of time, we want to make sure we get straight into the writing zen, and don’t allow our minds to become cluttered with other tasks and obligations.

Writing zen occurs when we are almost in a meditative state while writing, we are in ‘the zone’. The words flow and the experience is energising rather than exhausting. In order to find your writing zen, you must first clear your mind of all clutter. Every writer is individual, but here are some easy ways to find your writing zen. Now don’t attempt to cover them all, but if you find yourself in a writing funk, you could try one of these.

Writing Zen - how to get into the zone

Find the Writing Zen in:

  1. The colour blue – light shades of blue are found to be the most inspiring colour for creativity, also pale or greyish greens, creams and whites.
  2. Notebooks – switch off the harsh computer lights, and switch to scratching words on paper. Cream or natural coloured paper can be particularly inspiring.
  3. Pens that write smoothly. I like fine-point markers in various colours.
  4. Meditation – meditating, even for just five minutes, before writing can help clear your mind and allow you to focus on the task ahead.
  5. Free-writing – spending anywhere between three to ten minutes writing without pausing or lifting the pen from your page can be quite meditative.
  6. Centre-based goals – if you write with financial gain, or even publication in mind, then your are not entirely focused on the task of writing. Make your goal to create, to explore, to tell a story. Don’t think beyond that. The writing is the goal, not the end product.
  7. Clean environment – clutter around us adds clutter to our mind, even if you just clean the one room to write in, it will make you more focused.
  8. Flowers – fresh flowers, or even a vase of herbs can be soothing and inspiring.Finding inspiration to write
  9. An empty to-do list – don’t give yourself twenty tasks to complete, try to clear your list and have only writing as your focus.
  10. Walks – taking the dogs for a walk is good for the dogs, for you, and for your inspiration. Walking is a great activity for thinking out plot problems.
  11. Wearing a freshly ironed shirt – there’s something about a crisp shirt to make you feel like a professional writer.
  12. The Cinema – a visit out to see a special movie will inspire and energise you for writing. Of course, just switching on the telly and moving to the couch is not the same.
  13. The shower – so many authors claim to get their best inspiration while in the shower.
  14. Herbal tea – mint or lemon will activate your mind, it also smells lovely (and smell is a strong trigger for memories). Lay off the caffeine. Lots of water is a good idea too.
  15. A good novel – try rereading one of your all time favourite novels. The love of the words on the page will entice you back into writing.
  16. YOUR stories – reread some of your own stories, or novels. Take pride in your creations.
  17. Routine – writing everyday at the same time will become habit.
  18. Chat with writers – either through a writers’ group or by catching up with a writing friend, inspire each other to move forward with your projects.
  19. Take a break – from everything else, work, home, internet; get away from the house, give yourself a holiday just to write.
  20. Writing guides – read a writing manual and attempt some of the exercises.
  21. Good sleep – don’t be foggy-minded, get a good night’s rest, and hopefully some creative dreams.
  22. A window – being near a window to gaze out upon the world can prompt ideas, also natural light is easier on the eyes and mind than harsh fluorescents.
  23. Zen in the Art of Writing – soak up the inspiration in Ray Bradbury’s collection of essays on writing.

Zen in the Art of Writing Ray Bradbury

21 Easy Ways to Make Time to Write

If you tried the activity in the last post: Finding Time to Write – without the guilt, you’ll have worked out what you would LIKE to be doing with your time. Perhaps it was cooking, travelling or maybe, like me, you wanted to make time to write.

It can be a difficult process to move from goal to action. Listed below are many strategies you can implement to write more often. Choose the ones that will work for you.

Ways to Make Time to Write

  1. LOVE your WIP. Seriously, this is the best way to make time to write. Your passion will drive you to the pages every chance you get. What if you’ve gone luke warm on your novel? Start thinking about your core message again. What you were trying to convey? Get excited about sharing that message.
  2. get your novel writtenPRIORITISE. Stop thinking you need to find ‘spare’ time to write. There is no spare time, everyday only has the same 24 hrs. Start deciding to write before you take on daily chores – this is why it’s called make time to write.
  3. MORE HOURS. You could get up half an hour earlier, or go to bed half an hour later – or both! If you do a half hour sprint you could easily add 300-500 words to your manuscript each day.
  4. NOTEBOOKS. Take one with you everywhere, you’ll be amazed how many words will add up when you add a few on the bus, waiting in line at the supermarket or sitting in the pub waiting for your mate to get back from the bar. There’s also something about scrawling words across the page that can help you to fall in love with your manuscript and be motivated to make time to write again. Tech freaks – yes, you can get an app for that.
  5. DON’T COMPARE. It doesn’t matter how many words another writer is reaching. Comparing your achievements to others can lead to disappointment.
  6. MINIMUM LIMITS. What if you just aimed to write ONE good sentence today? By having a small, achievable goal, you’ll meet your target; of course once you get that one sentence, you’ll be motivated to write more.
  7. REWARD. Have celebrations and rewards for each milestone, reaching your daily word-count, finishing a chapter or reaching the end of a draft. Acknowledge your progress and treat yourself.
  8. BETWEEN TASKS. Whether you are at work on a huge business project, or at home cleaning up, work on your usual daily tasks by breaking them into chunks. By working in, say 20 minute bites, you’ll be a lot more focused and productive. In between those 20 minute routines, have a ten minute break. You could use that time to write in sprints.
  9. WORD QUOTA. Set a daily minimum word quota (500 seems to be popular). Keep a note of your highest number of words too, you HAVE to reach your minimum, but you might feel like aiming for a high-score some days.
  10. GET OFF THE INTERNET. Don’t just ‘say’ you’ll ignore it. No Facebook, emails, Farmville, Twitter or blog-visiting until your writing quota is DONE. If you can’t resist temptation, turn off the computer and use a notebook and pen.
  11. BE ACCOUNTABLE.Make an appointment with writing friends or join a critique group. This way you’ll have to produce something to share with them by your scheduled date.
  12. SPRINT. Give yourself  small block of time to sit and write as fast as you can, if you can carve out one hour per day you could get a scene or 1,000 words added to your story.
  13. PROMPT. There are thousands of prompts available online or in writing texts. You can use short writing exercises to warm you up before hitting your manuscript, or try completing the prompts focused on your characters and you may be able to insert your results right into your story!
  14. CHALLENGE yourself. Each day record your word-count. Instead of setting a minimum word count, your goal is to merely beat yesterday’s high-score. When you ‘win’, put your word-count up on your whiteboard (what? you DON’T have a whiteboard? Fine, put it on a piece of paper and stick it up on the fridge), and  maybe bake some cookies. I like cookies.
  15. RANSOM. Hold your day to ransom. Write first. The house is a mess, and you better get onto it or you are a bad parent/wife/neighbour (not really), but … you are not allowed to put those dishes away until you’ve done a ten minute writing stint or you’ve written one page. This method works well to motivate you to work quickly, especially if you have visitors due to drop in.
  16. DREAM. Record your dreams. They may not seem relevant but there is usually a spark of an idea that can be merged into your WIP.
  17. SLEEPY WRITE. Last thing at night, in bed, before you nod off, grab your notebook and pen and scrawl down your thoughts and ideas. There are some who swear this is when we get our best ideas.
  18. PLOT. When you find it really hard to make time to write, try just plotting out your story in your head while you complete menial tasks. You can mull over particular problems in your story. You’ll be motivated to get to the computer to record your progress with your story’s plot.
  19. Make time to write

    This gorgeous image by: Pascal Maramis
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/pascalmaramis/

    SCHEDULE. Some people write well late at night, others, like myself, do better early in the morning; maybe you’re more focused after lunch? Find your own natural flow; make time to write at that time of the day.

  20. FREEWRITE. This is a great method when you only have short a little time available; don’t waste it wondering where to start! Just sit down and write ANYTHING that pops in your head. Don’t let the pen stop moving across the page (or your fingers pause on the keys), set a timer and speed through your thoughts until it goes off.
  21. RECORD. Simply can’t make time to write? Then don’t! Use a recording app on your phone or computer and dictate your story while you work, travel or exercise. You could write your novel every time you walk the dog. There are programs to convert voice into text (not perfectly, but you can edit later), so you won’t need to type anything.

Finding Time to Write – without the guilt

Busy, busy, busy – is that your mantra? So many obligations, projects, commitments, tasks… you want to write, you really do. You tell yourself you’ll write as soon as you get time. But when is that going to happen? Finding time to write is as likely as finding the novel that ‘writes itself’.

Finding time to writeAnd yet, we manage to lead ourselves to believe that elusive ‘spare’ time is just around the corner…

I’ll find time to write once the kids start school.

As soon as I finish the housework, I’ll sit down and write.

Once we get this project up and running, I’ll be able to cut back at work.

Any of those sound familiar? Add to that, ‘once the holidays start,’ or ‘once the holidays finish,’ and many more. Writers can become obsessed with the idea of finding time to write.

Finding Time to write

Here’s the truth. There is no time. At least, not in a tangible way, lying around, maybe hidden down behind the couch, just waiting for you to find it. You might find a few hairballs, the remote, and enough loose change for an ice-cream, but you won’t find time.

Why not? Because time in the future does not exist. Nor does time in the past, not anymore — it’s gone. The only time there is, is now. Right now. If you want time, you’ll have to grab this time.

So how can you give yourself time to write, when there’s so many other things that need doing?

The Myth of Multitasking

Multitasking seems like a good approach to finding time, but it’s really just a promise not to do our best. When you multitask, you are acknowledging each task does not have your full attention. If you only give 50% focus on a task, then you’ll only accomplish 50% of the result possible.

You’re passionate about your writing, so it deserves your complete engagement. When you start writing, commit to giving it 100% of your focus.

Finding time to write is too passive, take action, prioritise your writing.

Make Your Own Priorities

In their book More Time for You, Tator and Latson guide the reader through approaches to discover what they should be spending their time on. One key question the text asks is:

If money and time were no issue, what would you spend your time doing? Free-write for two minutes and create a list of everything you’d choose to do.

Did you choose finding time for writing? Or did you choose to just BE WRITING?

Now, it’s easy to work out what you want to do, but how do you convince yourself you need to do it?

Here’s the gem in More Time for You

More Time for YouYou in One Year

What will you want to have accomplished over the next year? How do you want your life to look in one year?

Imagine you have travelled forward in time and already accomplished those goals. Write down what you’ve achieved. Feels good huh?

Now plan for those accomplishments, what resources, strengths and skills will you need?

What benefits and opportunities will come your way once you accomplish these goals?

What obstacles will you need to overcome to reach that goal?

Finding Time to Write – Right Now

If your goal involves publishing a book, then you know you HAVE to write it. This future you is possible, you’ve already seen it happen. You just need to take the steps to get there. Now that you know how good it will feel to achieve those goals, it’d be just too sad if you don’t because you’re prioritising doing dishes, socialising online or feeding children (okay, still do the last one).

No more finding time to write. Go write. Right now.