If you’ve written anything on a regular basis, you have the experience where something takes on a life of its own.
I was writing the end of a novel one time, and in my outline, I killed a character. But while writing the scene, he wouldn’t die. Seriously. I couldn’t kill him. It was weird. So he lived.
In those moments, we talk about things like a muse or the creation being its own thing, and I can relate. But I put it in different terms. I call it writing “in the zone.” And more often than not, it is a mistake to question whatever happens in the zone.
I used to play basketball on a regular basis. Like, every day. Both for school teams, rec teams, and even for fun. I played a lot of basketball through my time in high school.
And there were times, however rare, where I would get into the place athletes call “the zone.” I would make the right move, the right pass, the right shot. It was like I could take any shot and hit it. It was pure instinct. Sometimes I could play like that for a whole game, other times there were glimpses and moments within a game. But I know that feeling well. Strange, but when I watch someone playing basketball and they start playing like that, I can notice it. I’ll turn to my wife or someone else in the room, most of whom don’t seem to care, and say, “That dude is in the zone.”
But I could get to that place not because I picked up a basketball once or even had any talent but because I had spent hours and hours a day over years playing the sport. I did drills over and over, shot the same shots over and over.
It is the same with writing. We get “in the zone” when we write, but it is more a product of spending hours upon hours writing and writing and using our imagination and putting words to the images and feelings of our characters. And so I don’t have to spend as much mental energy on certain things like grammar or spelling or typing or whatever. I can focus on the story I’m telling, and my brain can get “in the zone” and make decisions I don’t even realize I’m making.
The encouragement to writers? You have to write a lot to experience this. Seriously. A lot. Write when you don’t feel like it, on a regular basis. You’ll find “the zone” more and more. See glimpses of it and you’ll start chasing it. It’s fun.
By the way, the more you write, the more ideas come to you at inconvenient times, as well. That might be another blog post, though …