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The Comfort Zone

Posted on May 8, 2018 in Uncategorized

“Writers are the most important part of the making of a motion picture.” ~Irvine Thalberg, head of MGM 60+ years ago. He added, “And we must do everything in our power to prevent them from finding out.” *1

As with writing a novel/short/play or screenplay (script) a writer needs to have his *2 own time to write. He has to create a place where he can feel comfortable. Each person is different and we all make time for writing. Many people drag themselves out of bed at god-awful hours and write for 1 or 2 or 3 hours before:

a) returning back to bed

b) getting ready for work.

c) getting the rest of the family ready

For me, it is not like this at all. I prefer being awake late at night and writing. The only difference is holidays, where I spend most of the day writing. My previous place of employment took most of my time from 9AM to 1230AM six days a week. Not having enough home time for writing, I was forced to find time during the working hours. I did find the time (small breaks here and there) but I never actually got a lot done during those times (on the odd occasion I did hit the flow) as I wasn’t comfortable there for writing.

We all need our comfort zone. Mine at the moment is a small spare room I use as an office and reading room when we don’t have a guest staying the night. There is a laptop on the desk with external keyboard and mouse. A small shelf with three dictionaries. The walls are bare. There are two large soft chairs in the room for reading time. I like my office. It has become my comfort zone. This is where I can write for hours, listening to the same MP3’s as my fingers (hopefully) dance a jig on the keyboard.

The Comfort Zone is a place where you as a writer must find. I cannot help you with that, nor will I even try. The place doesn’t have to be quiet. I know a writer who writes after work in the living room. His imagination battles with the TV, 3 small kids, a wife and a cranky mother-in-law and a dog. This is not his place of choice–it is his only place. And his muse accepts this location. There is no choice in the matter. He has now become so used to this location he cannot concentrate at a cafe or park or other place.

I know another write who can only write in total silence, with no one around.

Once you have this place, it is up to you to make it a habit of writing there every day. Some people say you have to write at the same time, every single day without fail; others claim setting a word count is best, or a page count (one page a day equals one book a year), while other writers/artists say, “Only work when you are inspired.”*3

I think it is up to the individual person to find what works best for them.

Do you have the will power to set a time and stick to it no matter what happens? Can you block out the sounds around you to clearly hear your muse? Are you inspired on a regular/daily basis?

If you can achieve this…great. If you can do it long enough so it becomes a routine — a habit — excellent! That is totally awesome. You rock! *side note* Once you create a habit, you’re all set for writing because as we all know habits are damn hard to break. Take smoking for example: I believe it is 10% addiction and 90% habit. I have been smoke free for almost 5 months now, yet I still get the twitchy fingers and the sudden urge to lite-up. And according to Net research it could be up to or longer than a year before I start to forget. This can be for writing as well. If you have a habit, a routine that you have stuck with for over a year or more, and you are suddenly forced from it for more than a day or two — something feels wrong with your day, doesn’t it. Something is just not right.

You must create this habit if you want to pump out book after book or screenplay after screenplay. I used to use a word count. I never left my desk until I reached it. Sometimes it was hard and other times it was easy, but I kept my butt firmly planted on the chair until I reached the magic number. Often times I would receive an Instant Message from a buddy and I would spew the writing day woes as I still tried to work to that number. My IM Buddy would say, “Take a break/go for a walk/relax a bit/watch some TV and then get back to it.” Alternatively, My IM Buddy was telling me to write when I’m rested and inspired. I’m sorry buddy, but I have X amount of words to write everyday and I will force my way though it.

*side note* This works for me, may not work for everyone. My word count was 2000 a day or ten pages. I am hoping to return to these magic numbers now I am getting settled at my new place. My butt is adjusting to this firm chair with a broken backrest and the ideas are starting to return.

All I need to do now is to make a new routine. Routine? Didn’t you just say you didn’t use a routine–you used a word count?

That’s correct, I did say that. But note that i also said that I have X amount of words to write every day. When I wrote Shadow of the Moon/Gonzo Girls/The Last Church/Sixth Dimension, I wrote after work every evening for 2 solid hours Mon-Fri and for a few hours every Saturday and Sunday (this was a long time before my last teaching job). I used a Time Routine with a fixed Word Count Requirement.

Now that my fingers are hurting*4, let’s re-cap:

1) find a Comfort Zone

2) set a time and word count

3) never stop until you reach that word count or time frame or both

4) don’t write when you feel inspired–write every damn day.

Have you heard of Dean Koontz? How about Stephen King? Well, they both have a set writing routine. Koontz writes in the morning 9-12, east lunch and then from1-5 he edits what he has just finished writing. King on the other hand, writes in the morning, takes a nap, goes for a walk and then writes again.

We need to set up this consistency. Writing is a job and it is one of the hardest professions out there. You wouldn’t call your boss and say, “I don’t feel inspired to work today, see you later.” No. You’d be fired, right.

You need to write every day. Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” I don’t believe this (a discussion for another time), but you must get that first draft done. And to do it, you may need to find a Comfort Zone and think, what if…?

*1 Source: Julius J. Epstein, screen writer, Casablanca. FOREWORD How to Write a Selling Screen-play ~ Christopher Keane (c)1998.

*2 I will often use the masculine form when writing articles. I do not wish to offend, just simplify.

*3 If I only wrote when I felt inspired, I would never have finished my first book, not the 4 which followed.

*4 😉