Thursday, November 12, 2009

Guest Post: The Myth of Being in the Zone by K.M. Weiland

Today I bring you a terrific guest post from up and coming author K.M. Weiland. Enjoy! And be sure to visit K.M.'s website to find out more about her latest release, Behold the Dawn.

Special contest!
K.M. is giving away a copy of Behold the Dawn to the readers of this post. Everyone who leaves a comment today will be entered in a drawing to win.

The Myth of Being in the Zone


At one point or another, all authors have found that delicious groove called “being in the zone.” The Zone is that enchanted land, in which we can do no wrong. Our words flow from our fingertips onto our keyboards with lightning speed, every one of them singing with the perfect expression of our intent, every one of them beautiful and powerful and vibrant. We write for hours, our energy level so high it’s practically bouncing out of the top of our skulls. When we finally tear ourselves away from our story, we’re so pumped that we alternate between wanting to run around the block and resisting the urge to shove our newly minted words under the nose of anybody we can talk into reading them. Without doubt, The Zone is one awesome place.

Too bad we can’t stay there all the time.

The sad fact of the matter is that The Zone isn’t exactly the easiest place to find. It would be wonderful if there were a map, a list of surefire steps, that could lead us there every time we sit down to write. But most of us are lucky just to find our accidental way there once every couple months. Instead, we spend most of our time slogging along, disciplining ourselves to poke out a paltry page or two, groaning at the end of the day with the knowledge that we’re probably just going to have to rewrite it tomorrow.

Joni B. Cole describes it:

…the creative process has two components. There is the fun part, when we are captivated by our own genius and prolificacy. And there is the Are we having fun yet? part, when we feel anything but creative, yet must still fulfill our commitment to write 300 words a day.

Undoubtedly, we always leave our desks after a day of being in The Zone, feeling a hundred times better about our writing than we do on the non-Zone days. But does that mean that our non-Zone writing is worthless in comparison? Very, very happily for us—no, it does not.

My recently released medieval novel Behold the Dawn was one of those special stories that just flowed. I still look back on it with a sense of wonder, reading some of the passages and thinking, I couldn’t really have written this, could I? I had some of the best Zone moments I’ve ever had while writing this story. But I’ll tell you secret: those moments were few and far between.

Zone writing—those high points of inspiration and motivation—is one of the biggest rewards of the creative life. But, surprisingly, its presence is not a determining factor in the worth of our writing. Writing isn’t always about channeling creativity and inspiration; most of the time, it’s about approaching our craft like disciplined workmen who have to get the job done whether they feel like it or not. Because we can’t always ride the high wave of our right-brain creativity, we have to realize that the hard-working, logical left side of our brains is just as important—even more so.

Just because you’re not in The Zone, just because you’re struggling, just because you finish a day of writing feeling like every word you wrote was worthless—doesn’t necessarily make it so. The Zone is far too elusive to depend upon it for our creative worth. Learn to accept the reality of the non-Zone moments and realize that they can be just as effective as the heights of inspiration.

About the Author: K.M. Weiland (http://www.kmweiland.com) writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She is the author of A Man Called Outlaw and the recently released Behold the Dawn. She blogs at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors and AuthorCulture.

About Behold the Dawn: Marcus Annan, a tourneyer famed for his prowess on the battlefield, thought he could keep the secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him find justice for the transgressions of sixteen years ago, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade.

Wounded in battle and hunted by enemies on every side, he rescues an English noblewoman from an infidel prison camp and flees to Constantinople. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.

The sins of a bishop.
The vengeance of a monk.
The secrets of a knight.

Watch the book trailer:

26 comments:

K.M. Weiland said...

Thanks so much for hosting me today, C.J.!

Carole said...

Very interesting post. The writing zone runs away from me as fast as it's little legs will go. Congrats on the book KM.

April L. Hamilton said...

Good points here, KM. This is why inspiration is virtually worthless for a writer who lacks discipline. And I'm not saying I'm always great about discipline, either.

Part of the reason why it's so hard for me to finish my current WIP is that I have the whole thing all worked out in my head, most of the fun, creative part is over. Now all that's left to do is get the words on the page and begin the dreaded cycle of workshopping and rewrites. Now, it's down to work. ='P

K.M. Weiland said...

@Carole: I think my zone has big, long legs, 'cuz it moves away pretty darn fast!

@April: I'm a detailed outliner, so I always know what's supposed to happen before I actually sit down to write it. But for me, knowing how it's supposed to go only adds to the fun. It frees me from the pressure of making sure I get it all figured out right - and just allows me to let the words flow.

Kat Heckenbach said...

KM, you always bring things into a unique light! I loved this post (are you getting tired of me saying that?). This is just so true!

I noticed that when I began my writing journey, the zone seemed an every-present force. But now that I have gotten farther along, it doesn't come around as often. The good thing is, just when I think it has left the premises completely, it will jump out of hiding and pounce :).

K.M. Weiland said...

Nope, I never getting tired of hearing that! ;)

I agree completely. It's kind of like falling in love. At first, *everything* is wonderful. Even the ordinary, every-day colors seem brighter. Then, as time passes, the rush fades into a comfortable, mellow familiarity - but still shot through with moments of excitement!

Trudi Rose said...

While I'm not a writer, and really can't add anything to the discussion of being in the "zone." I love reading about the writing process, as it makes me appreciate the work behind all the books I read. I think this book sounds like such a fun read, so would like to be entered in the contest!

K.M. Weiland said...

Thanks for commenting, Trudi! Good luck in the drawing!

WriterWiz said...

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Rachel said...

Thanks for sharing! Lovin' it all, as usual! :D

K.M. Weiland said...

Thanks, Rachel!

momishome2 said...

Good thoughts! Thanks for sharing the need to press through even when the zone is but a distant memory. Your thoughts echo a blog (??) I read recently that pretty much said, "Write anyway." I thought that was a good mantra, too, since most of us can't afford to wait until the zone or the mood or the quite house descends.
~ Bethany L.

K.M. Weiland said...

I often spout the Peter de Vries quote, "I write when I'm inspired, and I make sure I'm inspired every morning at 9 o'clock."

Koala Bear Writer said...

Great article on the Zone! Especially for those of us who haven't been there in a while. :) The book sounds fascinating - I love medieval history, so I'll have to check this one out.

K.M. Weiland said...

Thanks, Koala! Glad you got something out of it.

frustrated writer said...

I believe that K.M. Weiland is a "self published" author. I would prefer to hear advice from professional writers who have actually been published. I have seen K.M. pop up on other writing blogs and she is really in the same boat as the rest of us would-be writers. I appreciate her thoughts but would like to hear more from people who are real authors. Am I wrong here?

C.J. Darlington said...

I appreciate your comment, frustrated writer, but being published by a royalty publisher doesn't constitute a "real writer" in my opinion. If you write, then you're a real writer. :)

C.J. Darlington said...

I'm all for learning from everyone, though it is true that sometimes more weight can be placed on those who have more experience. Just not always.

frustrated writer said...

That is true...it's just that if I were to self publish my own work then there is nothing to say how good it really is. My friends and family will buy it (they have to!) but it doesn't give me much in the way of professional credentials. It would just be nice to have advice on tried and true methods of writing and being published. Anyone can self publish if they have the money. But I do know there are good writers who aren't published either.

K.M. Weiland said...

@frustrated: The publishing industry is changing ridiculously fast these days, and options are opening up all over the place. I truly believe that one of these days, self-publishing will become a valid alternative to the traditional industry. Will it be as prestigious? Will it pay as much? Probably not. But that doesn't automatically mean it's an illegitimate route to sharing stories with readers.

Not all books, no matter their quality, are going to find a home at traditional houses,and being self-published isn't an automatic stamp of substandard work. Self-publishing, as it continues to validate itself, is starting to bring quality to the table and wipe out the long-held stigma of poor writing.

As for the quality of my own writing, I'll leave that to my readers (other than my family and friends, of course! ;) to judge. You can judge for yourself. The beginning chapters of both my books are available on my website, along with three free e-stories.

And I couldn't agree more with C.J. Publishing - whatever your venue - isn't the ultimate purpose of writing; it's just a stop along the way.

Lorrie said...

Great post!! Loved the book trailer too.. first time I've been able to watch it. I'm away from home and have a high speed connection :-)

K.M. Weiland said...

Glad you got a chance to see it, Lorrie1

Liberty Speidel said...

How'd I miss this guest post, Katie? :)

Great stuff. I adore it when I get into my zone, my groove. Things are clicking away and I can write 1,000 or 2,000 words (occasionally more) without giving it a second thought. Unfortunately for me, these moments only seem to come at the high intensity moments. I rarely have a fight or climax do anything but flow. Everything between these points drags and I eke out a page or two at best at a time. (Although NaNo is helping to increase that to 4 - 5 pages...)

It's reassuring to know that the times when I'm barely making it through, when I'm thinking everything I've written in the last X number of days since my last 'groove' is junk, that it's usually not. It may need some attention--okay, a LOT of attention--but it's still workable.

K.M. Weiland said...

Glad you found the post, Liberty!

I find it highly ironic (and encouraging) that most of the time when I leave a writing session feeling like everything I wrote was junk, I'll read it the next day and be pleasantly surprised to find it better than I thought it was. Of course, that also works in reverse sometimes!

C.J. Darlington said...

And the winner of K.M.'s book is Koala Bear Writer!!! Koala... e-mail me at cj at cjdarlington dot com with your mailing address. Thanks!

K.M. Weiland said...

Congratulations, Koala!