One of the great things about associating with other writers is we learn many of our idiosyncrasies are "normal," for writers, that is. For instance, in a recent newsletter post by David Farland, he talked about the writing zone. I know exactly what he's talking about, only my family "lovingly" refers to it as "spacing out." So many, inappropriate times, I find my mind wandering toward whatever writing project I'm working on. Like while my family's watching a movie or commercial on television and say, "Mom, did you see that?" and I have to tell them "no." I was staring right at it, but I didn't see it. Or even hear it. I was in "the zone."
In truth, I'm soooooo pitiful when it comes to zoning out, and though I'm really trying to learn to control it, especially when my family and friends are talking to me, I still do it far more often than non-writers understand. One of my favorite, anonymous quotes is: "I will not live like a normal person. I am a writer." I bet Mr. Anonymous was another "spacey."
This zone has its good points, however. Because my stories/characters/settings etc. seem to hover over everything I do, my mind is constantly gathering facts and truths that enrich my writing. For example, one of my favorite scenes in my current WIP was inspired by an event that happened with my family during a thunderstorm when the power went out. And then last night, I had a vivid dream of a beautiful, "hidden" place that I knew, as soon as I woke, I wanted to use in my next book.
What I'm trying to say is that a writer's mental "zone" is a vital strength, but it's also connected to an obsessive-like weakness. Our challenge? To harness it. Some of the ways I try to do this so I don't have to keep focusing on ideas that come to me are:
1. Keeping a file box of 3x5 cards where I keep "truths" I read/hear/come to understand.
2. Keeping a notebook next to my bed to record vivid dreams and sudden thoughts that often come just before I fall asleep.
3. Always keeping paper and a pen nearby so I can write ideas and even phrases that come while I'm doing dishes or sweeping the floor.
4. Finding ways to not only be fully awake but also completely alone when I'm actually writing.
As far as trying to control the "weakness" side of it? I haven't yet reached the point where I can say I've gained control over it; but the one main thing I'm currently trying to implement is to fully listen and concentrate on what others are saying to me. If that means looking away from the computer, then so be it. As I've implied, this is not easy for me, especially when I'm in the middle of writing a suddenly flowing scene, but I'm trying.
Please don't misunderstand me. Some writers have encouraged others to help their families realize they need time to be alone and to "zone out" in order to fully utilize their mental, writing capacities, and I agree with this; but for me, I'm at a point where I must make sure my family and friends know they are more important to me than my stories.
This is where I'm at in the writing zone process. Where are you?