It's always fun to attend events featuring other mystery authors. One of the things I enjoy is hearing questions from people in the audience. It's helpful to learn what mystery readers want to know.
One man noted that athletes sometimes described being "in the zone," when everything disappears except the play. He wondered if authors every experienced something similar.
Responses ranged from "hardly ever" to "all the time, and it's wonderful." I won't attribute comments to specific authors because I'm paraphrasing from memory, but it was clear that people had very different experiences.
I spent years in the living history world as both an interpreter at an historic site and a reenactor at a variety of parks and battlefields. Reenactors sometimes speak of "the bubble," a moment when everything seems so real that they forget the present. Such bubbles are rare, and only last for seconds, but they are powerful. They are one of the reasons some reenactors go to extensive lengths to recreate a period environment as closely as possible.
|Cavalry reenactors at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.|
|That's me, working at Old World Wisconsin, 1982.|
More often, though, I do enter what has been called a flow state. Wikipedia defines it this way:
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.
For me, Flow means disappearing into the scene I'm imagining. Although I often write in coffeeshops, I don't hear what's going on around me, or see who is coming or going at the next table. When I go on writing retreats, and hole up somewhere quiet, it's even better. Hours can pass before I emerge.
|When I get going, even my cat knows to settle down.|
I'm also working hard on the fifth book. I chose to set this book in places I don't know as well, and at the beginning I wondered if I'd be able to find a good rhythm. Happily, once I got going, the writing began to flow.
As I thought about the gentleman's question, I realized that for me, pushing myself to write even when the words aren't flowing well actually leads me back to that place where they do flow. It's a paradox of sorts, but my advice is this: don't stop because you're not in The Zone. Keep working, keep going, and The Zone will find you.