Getting in the groove

I have taken some time off work, to write. For six months my family and I will be dribbling by on half a long service leave pay packet, freeing me up to spend some time at the computer, to walk my eldest to and from school each day, and to maybe see a movie with my wife once in a while. I am already a month in and am relieved to report that I have written every single day, easily surpassing the 1,000 words a day the internet tells me might be a reasonable goal.

But I’m not a word count kind of guy. Previously my approach has simply been to fill any and every spare moment with words, slowly emptying the novel from my head to the page. For each of my first two books, that was a labour of over a year. And it was a patchwork effort. I would write in dribs and drabs, peppered with the occasional long bursts of hectic inspiration. Then I would have to meld the scraps together, trying to blend it all into a cohesive story. Another year, at least.

But now that has changed. With a set time and place to write every day—door closed—the words are coming out different. One month in, and I am finding the ebb and flow of writing much less effortful. I can pick up and put down my writing with ease, starting each day without the clunky where was I up to again? blanks. And I am just as easily putting it down again—even mid-sentence—knowing I can (and will) pick it up again the next day.

It is also easier to find immersion. When writing, I have this delightful ability to forget I am at a computer, in a house, with a washing machine whirring away in the background. It is as though I am in the story itself, can see the world I am creating from the characters’ perspectives (or from the readers’). Previously, this state has been hard to come by—it takes uninterrupted time and clear head space to get there—but now I find I am hitting that zone nearly every day.

And I don’t feel so harried. In the time Before, I would experience great, itching frustrations as I could not find space to write down what burned in my head and Needed To Be Written. The inspiration was there, but the factory was closed most of the time, and it could take days, weeks, even months to find itself on paper. And, of course, there was that underlying panic, that undermining belief that this just might not be good enough. And if a sliver of an hour was all I had, then what I produced had to be perfect, right?

Now I have the space to say: screw perfect. I’ll just write, let the words out and see if they breathe. And you know what’s weird? My writing is better for it.

It is still hard work, of course. Shutting out the world feels like a guilty indulgence, and on some days I am tired, or rushed, or would prefer to be watching the footy or pushing a toy car back and forth while lying sideways on the ground. But the new routine guarantees me this: I will always be back at the desk, and the story will continue.

Which, now that I say it, is probably what I should be doing right now. I’m currently scribbling Blood Artist (working title – read a synopsis here) and can’t wait to see how Detective Darragh solves the murders.

Now, what was my trick for getting back in the zone?