The concept of a “runner’s zone” is a familiar one – it’s a state that’s achieved after prolonged running, where your body finds its optimal performance level. Your breathing synchronizes with your movements, creating a sense of being “in the zone”. This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to runners; writers experience it too. It’s that sweet spot where our minds and bodies work in harmony.
When a writer enters this zone, elements like inspiration, imagination, posture, keyboard proficiency, focus, concentration, and even the perfect dose of emotion all align. This alignment allows us to type faster, make fewer errors, automatically correct the errors we do make, and essentially shift into a supercharged writing mode.
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Giotto’s Circle: An Example of the Zone
The renowned 13th-century Roman artist, Giotto, is rumored to have known about this zone and learned to access it at will. When Pope Boniface VIII was selecting artists for commissions at Saint Peters, he sent a courier to all the notable artists for a sample, including Giotto.
Why Giotto Was Chosen by the Pope
Upon hearing the courier’s request, Giotto entered his zone, dipped his brush in red paint, and drew a circle. He handed this to the courier, who was visibly insulted. The courier, misunderstanding Giotto’s intent, reported to the Pope that Giotto had shown disrespect by not using any tools, but simply drawing a large, red circle with a paintbrush.
However, the Pope, being astute, had his people examine it. Giotto had drawn a perfect circle freehand, seemingly without any thought, preparation, meditation, or gimmicks. He was in the ZONE!
But how did he achieve this? That’s an excellent question.
The Four-Step Flow Process
Different writers have different methods and names for this state. Some call it the writer’s zone, others the kill zone, and some simply “the flow”. I have a 4-step process that helps me enter the zone almost every time.
1. Leave Your Troubles Behind
The first step is to let go of everything. To reach a state where words flow freely, we need to stop worrying about mistakes, misspelled words, grammar, or even time. We can fix everything later.
For now, we just write. Once we’re fully immersed, you’ll be surprised to find that you make fewer mistakes. Also, stop being your own worst critic. Let go of everything.
2. Find a Quiet Time and Place
Choose your workspace carefully. Being in the zone is of little use if you’re constantly interrupted. If you need to leave the house to find peace, do so (and leave your troubles behind). I have an office with a lockable door, but I also have a park with a bench nearby. Be creative with your workspace.
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3. Clear Your Mind by Writing
Write about anything. It doesn’t have to be about your current project initially. Even if your mind is blank, just start writing. If you begin to struggle, keep writing as fast and as hard as you can. After a few minutes, it starts to become easier.
The idea is to clear your system of distractions. You’re revisiting step one, letting go. You’re in a distraction-free place and time, and you’re writing. All the elements of being in the zone are aligning.
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4. Pause, Breathe, and Wait for Your Starting Point
You’re writing, you’re not distracted, and you don’t care about anything. Continue this for several minutes until you feel a shift. When you feel it, stop and breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose. Wait for your starting point. Sometimes it comes quickly, sometimes slowly, but it will come if you wait. The moment you find your starting point, start typing.
This self-hypnosis technique helps many writers find their writing zone, or flow, or whatever you choose to call it. It’s also a useful method for overcoming writer’s block.
Finding Your Rhythm
Once you’ve reached the last step and begin to write, the words seem to flow from your mind and your body is completely relaxed. You form a symmetry between them that allows for an excellent writing session without the muscle cramps or aches that can accompany it.
Once you’ve found your rhythm, enjoy it!