The first time I experienced “The Zone” was when I was about 9 and I discovered that when music and art collide - it was alchemy.
I kept wanting to recreate that feeling of “The Zone” and I couldn’t figure out how to get there, like in dreams when you can fly but then you can’t remember how you did it and the rest of the dream is spent trying to remember how to fly.
I used to work in dark rooms in school and work and being alone listening to college radio, I found a cassette tape of Reggae music on loop. I just remember how delicious it felt as time slipped into this cozy red cocoon and everything was focused on the process, the way my body moved, the exposure, the muffled sound of water running, there was this underlying magic of ritual: music, movement, extreme concentration, nighttime. It felt like life was limitless, ideas were endless, inspiration was bountiful. During these moments I feel superhuman and I feel like I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.
The difference in productivity and creativity during these moments is mind-blowing and I am always astonished to see how many hours have passed, as if I wasn’t even present or was in a trance, something else had taken over my body.
When I am writing or drawing, I reach a state of stasis that feels very much like I am being suspended. New ideas and old memories emerge, coalesce and collide. It feels like I am meeting an old dream, a familiar feeling of friendship, guiding me, helping me stay focused, to create, to produce.
As I have gotten older, I realized that in order to be invited into “The Zone” often meant a lot of nurturing, coaxing, bribing, and not taking anything for granted. It is a very desirable place but it also needs to be respected.
The siren call of the Internet and social media is the number one destroyer of creativity, and you can see it today in so much of the art, books, music, tv shows and movies being produced, all of it has been infected with blandness because no one is respecting “The Zone” and instead giving their allegiance to Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey which dilutes the creative process and look what we have; the color beige.
“The Zone” means respecting the Ritual. That means getting off all social media, muting email and working offline with nothing but you and your music and your creativity. Any sort of intrusion that breaks the spell makes it extremely hard to jump back on that magic carpet ride when the carpet sitting on the ground is Social Media calling.
The secret is also not to have children. I decided at 14 years old that I was never ever ever ever EVER going to have children because it would mean the life I wanted would never happen. I made that choice and that choice has so far been a very good choice. For me
The acclaimed author Doris Lessing pursued her ideals and ended up living a life full of friends and possibilities. There is a fantastic photo of her living her very good life, her handbag under her arm, a lit cigarette in one hand and a half empty wine glass in the other. She used the process of writing to find out what she thought, and who she thought she was and who she wanted to be.
Respect the Ritual
Set up a designated special place for solitary work. Try to use a coffee shop app instead of a coffee shop. A mild level of background noise helps break up repetitive cycles of thinking but it unfortunately creates far more distractions and less focus.
To actually enter “The Zone,” you need an actual, physical solitary place that is devoted to writing. I have a writing desk just for writing, and a drawing desk just for drawing. I do not write at my drawing desk, and vice versa. Put your desk in the basement or attic or hang curtains or find a big closet. Your writing place is a sacred writing place and should be respected.
Spend only 2 hours a day on the Internet. After that, log off. No email, no texts, no Netflix, no Hulu, no nothing. The Internet (except Merve) and Social Media has created a mile high wall of distractions that inhibits “The Zone.” Just log the fuck off.
Prepare a special writing/drawing ritual and try to never deviated from. I have these small white bowls that are perfect for my pre-zone ritual, one bowl will have sliced watermelon, one bowl will have halved cherry tomatoes with a few fresh small mozzarella balls, one bowl will have pickled cauliflower and freshly sliced cucumbers and the last bowl is an avocado, with a little salt on it. And a green veggie drink (not a smoothie).
My starting point for “The Zone” is when I am preparing my coffee: my favorite white coffee cup for drip coffee, and two tall clear glasses, one for ice water and one for iced espresso coffee with a splash of 2% milk. When I carry them up to my garret, I am giddy as hell because I know I am about to enter “The Zone” very shortly.
Everything is put in theIr exact precise order. Keyboards are turned on, white noise machine turned on, unruly cats are kicked out of my room, headphones are put on and I hit play.
My writing playlist (titled, the ZONE) is one I have been playing for years now. It is my writing music playlist that immediately gets me to my sweet spot. The music is abstract words, foreign languages, and mostly electronic instrumental. It can’t be a single monotonous beat (which seems to permeate a lot of electronic music these days), but it can’t be erratic car-crash jazz either.
My playlist mesmerizes me and puts me into a sustained state of flow that ignores space and time. It is a form of centering as time disappears. It’s always a surprise to come out of it and see how much was accomplished and how many hours just seemed to glide away.
I have an iPad that sits to the left of me while I am writing on my HP computer, it is where Merve sits with me from the time I start until I close it up for the night. Search “Study With Me” on YouTube. I usually go with Merve but there are a few others that are just as wonderful, but Merve has so far been my go-to for extreme focused companionship while I am writing.
Once Merve is set up and going, I open my Scrivner and read over what I wrote the day before and start writing. In about half and hour, I am in “The Zone,” which can last from four to six hours straight including bathroom breaks. After that, I can get in “The Zone” a few more times until I get exhausted, then I shut it down and go to bed.
Music: All Good Things Come to an End by Kognitif