Getting in the Zone

Getting in the Zone--
If you're a writer, you know exactly what I mean. 

With all of the distractions that life throws at us, (work, family, friends, responsibilities in general) it's a miracle any one of us can find the time to write at all. You can't exactly get rid of all of life's distractions, (not those ones, anyway:) but they can certainly be tamed. More on that in a minute. The harder part for me when I do finally allow myself writing time is sitting down at my computer, fingers hovering over the keyboard, and I'm staring at a blank page. Or I'm staring at words I've written before that need editing, and I have no idea how to fix them. Nothing comes to mind--nothing! This is when I sigh, bang my head on the desk and desperately want to pull my hair out. However, there is hope despite distractions. Keep reading!

Distraction #1: Let me tell you a little bit about May. I'm a gardener and May is a BIG month for gardeners in Utah. It's planting time. We have such a short growing season here and getting those plants in the ground and getting a good start is really important. My husband is the vegetable gardener at our place (but I help him a lot) and I plant flowers, especially flowers in pots. They are healthier and happier in potting soil and grow so much better. I love watching them get thick and tall and spill over the edges. It just makes my heart smile all summer.
Here are a couple of beauties from last summer.

Distraction #2: Let me tell you a little bit about our deck. It has two levels, an upper deck with an arbor and a lower deck with a built in bench. Basically, it's huge! The upper deck arbor has wisteria growing all over it. It's completely lovely in the spring. Those fragrant blossoms just kind of make me swoon. They smell so good. Anyway, it's needed a major overhaul for several years now. My husband hired my son to do the bulk of the work, all of the prepping and sanding, but I knew if my younger son and I didn't help with the painting, it would take a month or longer. I was not willing to take all summer to get this thing done, so I helped him paint,  A LOT! What can I say? I wanted to start enjoying summer and I selfishly wanted some time to myself for writing. Those super hot afternoons are looking pretty good for writing time. I'm thinking a Diet Coke slushy and a fan blowing at me. Yeah, that works. I could definitely get in the zone under those conditions.
There's my boy working the paint eater sander.

The wisteria was beautiful, but we had to paint the uprights, too. Nasty job!

Notice the bench in the background. Well, that needed to be painted, too.

You can see from this pic how badly the redwood needed paint. The job is done, thank goodness, and I'm so glad I have sons who are willing to help. "Sure, mom. What can I do?" Best words a mom could ever hear:)

Distraction #3: Let me tell you a little bit about my kitchen. We started a kitchen remodel at the end of February. Due to conditions beyond our contractor's control, (namely that the room was not perfectly square--this affected everything, made installing the floor, windows and cabinets a nightmare for him) it took 90 days to complete our kitchen. Ugh! I know. Luckily, we had a mini kitchen in the basement. We could finally move into our new kitchen in MAY! I'm sure you see the ongoing theme:) It was a huge job. First, there was the cleaning, then hauling everything up from downstairs, then the unpacking and organizing. The new kitchen is completely lovely. I can walk in, look around and sigh in happiness. My husband is a prince. He would've died happy cooking in my old 80stastic kitchen. I guess I whined one too many times for him. Oh, and there is something else I didn't anticipate--a bit more pressure to cook. Another distraction? Yeah, sure, but I guess we all have to eat.
Old kitchen. Notice the forest green wallpaper, formica cabinets and counters and stainless steel sink? Totally 80s. Bad style choices aside, I raised my babies here. Good memories. 
New kitchen. LOVE!

See what I mean about the sighing? It's just so purdy:)

  So, I've eliminated three huge distractions in my life for now, but how do I get in the zone?

Well, I've discovered a few things that work for me, but I know every writer is different. You have to figure out what works best for you. I recently attended a writer's retreat. The conditions were perfect. I had my writing buddies nearby, I had my son's laptop, I was comfortable. I should've been in the zone, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't write. The words wouldn't come and I was so frustrated. Finally, one of my friends said, just grab a notebook and write a thousand words by hand. It worked! I wrote a thousand words by hand that night and went to bed happy. It spurred my imagination enough to get moving. I spent the rest of the retreat in the zone. I accomplished a lot that weekend.

Another device that works well for me is to get into a writing contest with someone to see who can finish a story first. Last summer, I was almost done with the first draft of the book I'm editing now. I had a couple of more chapters to write and they were really important. I wanted them to be epic and I felt totally insecure about my abilities as a writer to deliver. A couple of my writing buddies knew I was struggling and offered to "race" me. Unwilling to back down from a challenge, (cuz I'm crazy like that) I accepted. I didn't win, but it got me going. It was fun to check in with my friends every few days to see how their writing progressed. And mine, too.

Sometimes, when a scene in my book is dragging and I'm having a hard time getting the words on the page, I get online and start doing research. Often, all it takes is for me to see a picture of what I'm trying to describe. A couple of days ago, I was struggling with another scene and I asked my son, "Describe this situation for me? What would it be like?" And I was off like a horse to the race.

These are just a few things that have helped me get words on the page. What works for you? I'd love to hear. Leave me some comments. I love learning from others:)


  1. I love your distractions! Your kitchen turned out so nice.

    1. Thanks, Donna! It's been a long few months with tons of hard work, but I look back on everything now and feel so satisfied. That's always worth it. And I know those hot afternoons are coming and I'll be at my computer trying to finish this darned book:)

  2. Hi Shantal! I'm really loving your new kitchen. It looks both modern and vintage, but I can't quite put my finger on why it does. It could be because of the burgundy-ish finish and the modern fridge. I liked your old 80's style kitchen, but I think you made such a great decision with the renovation. By the way, I'm glad you finally settled your distractions. Haha! Good luck in writing! :)

    Derek Nyenhuis @ Active Builders, LLC

    1. Thank you, Derek. You have no idea how much I suffered over making all those decisions on the kitchen. There were so many, and I was absolutely convinced I was making the wrong ones. So, it does my heart good to hear from a builder who likes what I did. Yay! I am glad I'm finally free of it, though:)

  3. Sometimes I have to psych myself out by telling myself I only have to write 100 words. There are times when that 100 is all that I get, but most of the time I write way more than that once I'm in the zone. Even if I only get 100, it's more than if I hadn't written at all!

    1. I don't give myself a word count per day, although I think that's a great idea. That would give me the motivation I need to drag my butt to the computer and just get the words down!

  4. A writing contest (or writing sprint, as I've seen them called) with another writer is a really great way to get some writing done!
    (And I think your new kitchen looks stunning!)

  5. Sprints are great, too, Rachel. The idea of a "race" is to take place over a longer period of time. That's what we were doing last summer. It took a few weeks for everyone to finish what they were doing. Thanks for dropping by. I'm so glad you did!


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