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Have you ever been so engrossed in writing that you look up and are astonished to find it is 3am? Or miss a meal? Once I forgot to meet my daughter's school bus....
Experts call it being "in the zone" or "in the flow." Long recognized, but not well physiologically explained, the "zone" is that sense of pleasure, heightened awareness, and cognitive efficiency that we derive from performing an all-absorbing task. Elite athletes tap into it to enhance their performance (think - Tiger Woods); artists of all kinds seek it to increase their creativity; and writers yearn to enter the "zone" too for, once in it, writing is effortless, ideas pour out, and the product is excellent.
Recently, brain research has shown that the "zone" is indeed a collection of neuro-physiological phenomena that writers can employ with good results. Arthur Marr of Benecom Technologies (In the Zone: A Biobehavioral Theory of the Flow Experience) postulates that the zone develops when intense attention is coupled with high investment for an outstanding outcome. Marr also suggests that short bursts of activity in the "zone" throughout the day will have enough momentum to span the intervals between. The skill lies in accessing it.
Here are some of the things I find helpful:
- no distractions whatsoever (e.g. let your answering service pick-up your phone calls; only do your email at the beginning and end of the day)
- deadlines, otherwise I procrastinate
- big fee!!
- the topic must be something I am passionate about
- lots of time - I need about an hour of focused activity and then a few hours free of "must-dos" (e.g. when my husband is out-of-town; no apppointments that day, etc.)
Have you experienced the zone? What was it like? How did you get there? What did it feel like? Can you click into it like flicking on a light switch?
Send me your answers and experiences - I will compile the results and post them here.