• Elizabeth Bartasius

When the Zone is Not a Good Idea

A magical thing happens at moments in a writer’s life. You’ve likely felt it to in your art or your own individual expression.

The Zone!

That place where everything seems to click.

You have a spring in your step.

Ideas are rushing in through the gates: character names, plot points, bits of dialogue.

All is perfect in the world.

Gratitude fills you up.

Happiness leeks from every pore in your body, like the smell of tequila during a good hangover.

And every two seconds or so, you spread your arms open, widen your fingers as if light beams were going to shoot out of them, and sing, “Jazz hands, baby!”

(Or, is it just me who flashes jazz hands?)

In any event, the Zone is an exhilarating and exciting place.

It’s the grand adventure; an artist’s sky dive.

The goose bumps.

Which is exactly the problem with the Zone.

Not that I’m looking for problems, mind you.

But, I still have to sit down this morning and write.

I have to edit and refine one of the last chapters in the novel I’m currently working on.

For the sake of the project, I need to hone in on one word, one sentence, and plug away.

Because that is how the works gets done.

Word by word. Brick by brick, I build.

And laying bricks can be monotonous.

Laying words to build a whole word house takes routine, consistency, and commitment, no matter what flashy objects call out to me.

Laying words, like laying bricks, is the time for focus, sharpening the fine point, the one point.

After my walk this morning, though, I had ideas for characters and story lines for the next novel I want to write.

Bits of dialogue followed me back to the house and chatted away in my mind while I made tea and eggs.

I even wrote those pesky ideas down on paper to calm them, but more came.

If I let myself get drawn in by the buzz and the chaotic frenzy of idea floods,

I would never sit down to write.

I would never finish a novel.

I wouldn’t get to the next new, great novel.

Being a skydiving affection-ado, all I want to do is ditch the rut of banging out chapters and be lured by the shiny idea.

All I want is to enter that glorious zone of invention.

And so, for joy and sanity, I do give those ruby ideas five minutes of my time.

I say, “Listen here, Ideas, I think you are awesome, but I’m no easy catch. Let’s capture the most pressing thoughts. Let’s put you in a safe place so when it’s your turn, we can remember together and see if you still have the juice and desire to be pursued. We can see if you still want me then.”

“Now,” I say after all that, “I have to go back to my client in the other room. Because I promised her I would. Just like when it’s your turn, I will give you my full attention.”

That is what I do to ground myself in the most exciting place of a writer’s life; the adrenaline rush I live for; the zone.

Because for me, the zone quickly turns into an Arizona sunburn. Too much to take when all I want is a little Vitamin D.

Too overwhelming when I’m in the completion phases of a novel and want to finish what I have started.

The zone seduces me.

Of course, I love a good seduction.

Right now, though, I need to be a closer.

A good one.

Because I’ve promised you a novel.

And I promised myself I’d complete the novel.