Daily Archives: November 10, 2008

Getting Schooled: The (twilight) zone

Now that we’ve left boot camp and hell (bonus side trip!), we get to enter the zone. If you’re familiar with the term re: athletics, Butler uses it much the same way. It’s muscle memory, only for writing, it’s dream space or sense memory. You perform (or write) without thinking. It’s all from the unconscious.

So, cue the music: Y’all ready for dis?

I thought so.

But getting into the zone is difficult. We don’t want to go there in the first place (hell, remember?), so NOT going there is far more tempting than actually going there. Until we actually get there, that is. Because when you’re writing in the zone, it’s great. You’re on the literary equivalent to a runner’s high.

So, getting there? Well, here’s Butler on that:

You may not be ready to write yet, but when you’re in a project you must write every day. You cannot write just on weekends. You cannot write this week and not next; you can’t wait for the summer to write. You can’t skip the summer and wait till the fall. You have to write every day. You cannot do it any other way. Have I said this strongly enough?

So … is he saying we should write every day?

He suggests writing in the morning (going from one dream space to another), but most importantly, using something–a cue, a routine, anything that says: I’m writing now.

This alerts your imagination that it’s time to get busy. So, light your aromatherapy candles, cue up your Yanni album to track three, and set your word processor’s font to GirlyGirl.

Whatever works. Although Butler isn’t talking about pampering so much as routine. He relates how he wrote four of his novels on his train commute from Long Island to Manhattan and had a terrible time when he moved to Lake Charles, LA during the middle of his fifth novel.

Butler also talks about what happens when you don’t write. Unlike a lot of writing gurus, he does believe writer’s block can happen. Again, unconscious = scary place = no writing. You know something is off, you try to write, but you’re thinking too much and nothing’s there.

He relates it to having insomnia. I’ve coined the term “writer’s insomnia” and I think it perfectly describes the state. I know I should write; I really want to write. I try to write.

I got nothing.

It can really turn you into a Cranky McCranky Pants. (Not to be confused with Hottie McHottie Pants. Two totally different things.)

Butler describes the self-loathing that accompanies this: you’re both a worthless human being and a worthless writer.

If this is the only message I take away from this course, it will have been worth it.

Because I’ve been Cranky McCranky Pants for the past couple of months. It sounds crazy to have a book sale, with that book coming out in eight months, and not be able to write. But there you have it. I’ll spare you my self-loathing.

The remedy is deceptively simple. You write. Sure, it’s scary, and there’s all those side trips Butler wants you to take. But in the end, you-to borrow an overused but athletically appropriate phrase-just do it.


Filed under Getting Schooled, Writing