The Myth of Being in the Writing Zone

The Myth of Being in the Writing ZoneAt one point or another, all authors find that delicious groove of being in the Writing Zone.

The Writing Zone is that enchanted land, in which you can do no wrong. Your words flow from your fingertips onto your keyboard with lightning speed, every one of them singing with the perfect expression of your intent, every one of them beautiful and powerful and vibrant.

You write for hours, your energy level so high it’s practically bouncing out of the top of your skull. When you finally tear yourself away from your story, you’re so pumped you alternate between wanting to run around the block, and resisting the urge to shove your newly minted words under the nose of anybody you can talk into reading them.

Without doubt, The Writing Zone is one awesome place.

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

The Writing Zone Is Tough to Find

The sad fact of the matter is that The Writing 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 you there every time you sit down to write. But most of us are lucky just to find our accidental way there once every couple months.

Instead, you’ll spend most of your time slogging along, disciplining yourself to poke out a paltry page or two, groaning at the end of the day with the knowledge you’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.

Ditch the Idea That You Need the Writing Zone

Undoubtedly, you’ll always leave your desk after a day of being in The Writing Zone, feeling a hundred times better about your writing than you do on the non-Zone days. But does that mean your non-Zone writing is worthless in comparison?

Very, very happily—no, it does not.

Behold the Dawn (Amazon affiliate link)

My 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 Writing 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 your 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 we 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—maybe even more so.

Just because you’re not in The Writing Zone today, just because you’re struggling, just because you may be 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 your creative worth. Learn to accept the reality of the non-Zone moments and realize they can be just as effective as the heights of inspiration.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! How do you keep your motivation strong on days when you’re not in the Writing Zone? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Hmm! I sure hope my zone would come more often 🙁

  2. For me, it all feels like “The Writing Zone” is like a football end-zone, something you earn your way towards. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there’s a lot of groundwork involved in getting into the clear where you can run with all your heart.

  3. I confess, I’m complicated.

    I want things to be perfect, but the more perfect they need to be, the more anxious I get about them.

    Those anxieties drive me towards the things that I am good at and comfortable at doing – and away from things that are new, appear difficult, or need to be perfect. Yesterday I feared opening emails from clients because I didn’t know if they’d be good or bad.

    And that leads to be obsessive/compulsive. My brain will push em towards things that I dive into, giving all my energy – even when it’s not what I’m supposed to be doing (I’m at work now as I type this.)

    I often amaze myself at how much I have accomplished given the low percentage of the time sitting in front of the computer that I actually suppress my fears and do something constructive.

    What drives me best is deadlines. When someone else comes to me and gives me a date, I can overcome those inner roadblocks and buckle down and do the work. So I’d say, regardless of how easy it is for someone, it comes down to willpower. Make a schedule and commit to it, blocking everything thing else out for at least that determined amount of time.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      This is a great example of why it’s important for each of us to know our strengths and weaknesses–and how to hack our weaknesses so they don’t take over our lives. Good job!

  4. Sometimes I think that like a good football team we have a sturdy goal line defense. Unfortunately it seems to be against our own goal. Being a poet I have a different set of limits and problems. However, here is how I try to defeat the zone theory.

    1) Try starting either large or small. I sometimes look only at one phrase or one line and develop from there. Sometimes I look for one subject and write multiple poems to explore my feelings and observations on it.

    2) I put myself on time in vs time out. I sit down with all needed items and make myself go into author mode. I write, if I can’t write I read of edit. I do housekeeping of my writing files or format for printing.

    3) I bring to the front what I am doing now and what I want it to say on all levels. Much of writing is connotation and therefore this introspection is good. Here I am, what do I want this scene, this verse, this sentence to say then work outward from there.

    4) When I have written something and a word seems off I go to online sites for word selection.

    5) The best way to defeat zone defense is to mix up the plays. We never know what will get us into the zone, but not trying won’t.

    • My biggest problem is getting started. It’s easier for me to edit than create.

      If I can get myself going, I can get on a roll. Get something down, as extemporaneously as possible, then fix it up later.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Great approach. I definitely concur with the “start small” adage. I like to start big projects with ridiculously low goals and very slowly add more and more as time goes. Painless!

  5. Something I’ve noticed with my writing is when I read back through a completed draft, I often can’t tell the difference between the “zoned” writing and “hard slog” days. But I sure notice it when it’s happening LOL

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      This is really true. If anything, I sometimes think my Zone writing isn’t quite as good as the other. :p

    • I get that way sometimes when deep down I know something isn’t right. I had a recent scene that was all outlined but I couldn’t get myself started on. It looked good, everything fit together logically, but I wasn’t excited. I stewed on it for a week or so and then the light flipped. Some small changes, lots of subtext hints, and now I love it.

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