by Diana Raab, Ph.D.
One of the issues that arise when working on a longer, book-length project is figuring out how to stay in the creative writing zone. Sometimes there are impending deadlines inspire us to work, but there are also days when we just do not feel like writing. In this fast-moving world, it is all too easy to get distracted by other worries or responsibilities, by the wealth of information streaming at us from all directions, or even by the need to maintain a social network. What can we do to inspire us or get us back into the zone and focused on our project?
Sometimes reading writers we admire can inspire us and spark our own creativity. This does not necessarily mean that you copy their writing style, but it means that their way of expressing themselves inspires and motivates your own work. Some people prefer reading articles and books on subjects connected to what they are writing about, while others prefer unrelated subjects because they are afraid of emulating or copying the writer they are reading.
Meditation offers the opportunity to remove oneself from the rudimentary tasks of every day and enter into a creative zone. Some people enjoy using a scented candle, perhaps one which is geared towards creativity. Years ago, I burned a coffee-scented candle because I heard that they are sometimes used in offices to help people concentrate. Of course, you need to enjoy the smell of coffee.
Turn Off Your Email and Messaging
These distractions can take us away from creative thinking and time. Some people designate early morning hours for creative work and that’s a good time to turn off your connection with others and isolate yourself with the blank page or computer screen.
Keep Your Cell Phone Out of Sight
Seeing or hearing your cell phone ring can be distracting, there is nothing wrong with allowing messages go to voicemail. Even if you have the phone on your desk and do not answer it, the light or vibration will distract you as you wonder who is calling and what they want.
Have a Designated Writing Space
This is important for concentration. Closing the door helps send the message to those outside. Some writers prefer the white noise of working in a library or bookstore, but that’s a personal preference. If you have an office where you work, put a sign on the door that says, “Do Not Disturb.” When my children were younger I was strict about this and told them they can only disturb me in a real emergency or call 911. Sometimes, in order to get things done, it is necessary to train our loved ones.
If you work in a noisy place, headphones might be necessary to keep the noise out. Sometimes inspirational or concentration music is helpful to get you into the writing zone.
Work in Chunks of Time
It is always a good idea to set goals. One way to do that is to have a designated amount of time in which to work. Breaking down your day into blocks of writing time helps you achieve those goals. This works particularly well for those who work best under pressure and deadlines.
Not all these suggestions work for everyone. You need to find what works for you. Plus, one day one way of working might work better than the other. It is important to listen to your heart and your body when deciding on ways to stay or get into the writing zone. Keep in mind, as well, that not all writing necessarily means putting words on page. Letting your mind and body roam freely for a time can sometimes provide valuable creative insight into your current work-in-progress. You will return to your desk relaxed, refreshed, and better able to tackle the task at hand.
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