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Finding the “Zone”

The other week I posted a list of some of literature’s opening sentences as writing prompts.  Sometimes getting the first sentence down is all it takes and from there it’s “all off to the races.” I love when that happens. It is one of the joys of writing.

Fellow reader, writer and blogger, Pam Williamson, participated in the opening sentence prompt challenge and wrote a wonderful piece that she admitted was something very different from what she usually wrote. I am glad she took the challenge because what she shared was original and engaging. I got the sense that it came out in a rush and was not wholly premeditated. You can read her contribution on her blog, Snap Shot of the Whole.

in the zone
The same thing happened to me as I pulled together my own attempt to write to one of the sentence prompts. I was more than happy with the results and I sent it off to short story contest.  We’ll see if it is a prize winner. Here is a sense of how the process went for me:

The prompt I chose (prompt # 8) artfully described a gray sky. That led to my thought of having the protagonist getting caught in a pummeling downpour that soaks him to the skin.  I recently found out that my cholesterol is a bit high and my weight is up so I have been eating sensibly (which means starving myself) and exercising more. All of that has left me hungrier than usual so it was no surprise that my mind drifted in the direction of food.

Our very wet protagonist bursts into a diner run by a woman he has a romantic crush on, as well as fully developed appreciation for her “killer sausage gravy and biscuits” (my son mentioned recently how biscuits and gravy are available every day at his college dinning hall and thus became instant inspiration).

After spending 25 minutes in the gent’s room drying his clothes with the blower of one of those wall mounted electric hand driers, the less soaked protagonist emerges to find an unexpected situation in which he becomes entangled.  I continued to use the food theme to the protagonist’s advantage as he and his love interest concoct a way to get out of the mess they are in. If you missed it, you can read my whole story found at the bottom of my November 29 post.

The words, the dialogue, the descriptions and situations came tumbling out of my head (also fueled by a rumbling stomach) and fell in all the right places. In less than 2 hours I had 1200 words on the page and it took very little tweaking to polish the story. Quite frankly I was as surprised and pleased as (I hope) the readers were.  From sentence to sentence the story evolved taking on a life of its own and forming at breakneck speed.

As Pam Williamson asked, “Where in the world did that come from?” I can’t answer that question, but every once in a while I stumble across that hidden place where inspiration and perspiration collide and I revel in the joy of discovery each time it happens.

Question: How often do the planets perfectly align to grant you access into that magical place where nothing seems to go wrong? What is your experience of finding yourself “in the zone?”

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4 comments on “Finding the “Zone”

  1. Thank you for the mention! What a nice surprise this morning! I appreciate it. 🙂 You are right, my story did come in a rush and I didn’t plan it. It just emerged. It’s exhilarating and exciting when that happens. Ahhh, that every story, every day, would be so easy and fulfilling!

    I enjoyed you story very much. I hope it wins, it should, it was so entertaining! Everyone should take the time to check it out. I couldn’t wait to see how it would turn out! I’ve never had “killer sausage gravy and biscuits” before but it’s on my list now to try them.

    Thank you for this line… “every once in a while I stumble across that hidden place where inspiration and perspiration collide and I revel in the joy of discovery each time it happens.” Well said and so true!

    • Pam- Thanks for the kind words. I wanted to highlight your piece because I thought it was a wonderful piece as well as a great example of what can happen when that elusive muse takes ahold of the reigns and takes the writer for ride. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Not often enough, but it’s brilliant when it does happen. Usually I start wondering if I’ll have anything and 1k words later I’ve written something that turned out neat. But like I said, it doesn’t happen often enough.

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