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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

In The Zone

By PJ McIlvaine

In the past several months, something strange and altogether unexpected has happened to my writing. I’ve always been a pretty prolific writer and have chewed out specs through full time jobs, part time jobs, no jobs, babies vomiting, ear infections, killer strep, moves, funerals and cats with fur balls. However, lately I’ve been tearing up the joint at Captain Kirk warp speed. First drafts that used to take months now pour out of me in days. I’m writing leaner and meaner and coming up with ideas and plotlines that I wouldn’t have envisioned a year ago. It’s almost like being possessed in that often I feel that I’m not so much writing but that I’m merely a stenographer furiously writing down what my subconscious is dictating. I’m just along for the ride, and there are no bathroom breaks.

After much deliberation, I attribute this dramatic leap in my productivity and creativity to two things: my new laptop and being in the zone.

In the old days, when I used to toil on “my” PC (the one that I shared with my husband and kids), the way it worked is that I had to fit my schedule around theirs. I’m sure you can guess how that usually went. More often not that, when I’d sit down in front of the computer bursting at the seams with inspiration, I’d get interrupted by my better half or one of the kids who always needed the computer right then, right now. Since I’m such a good wifey and Momo, I always acquiesced. This was great for them, but not so good for me. I’d do my best to maintain my enthusiasm (and replay those good bits in my head like a movie until I had the computer again), but all that stop and go writing was frustrating and annoying and generally lousy for my appetite and libido.

Another problem apart from having to share a computer is my mother. She lives with us (or we live with her) and she considers the “family computer” the bane of family life. No one talks to each other face to face anymore because everyone is on their computers too busy spamming each other on how to enlarge their penises.

You see, my mother’s only companions are the TV, her cats and me. So, consequently, whenever I’d try to quietly slip away and write, I’d barely get a page or two down before she’d interrupt and repeatedly ask when I’d be “done”. Let me tell you, that’s like being with a guy who can’t perform without massive amounts of Scotch and Viagra yet you badger him about when he’s going to be “ready”. He’ll never be ready, and I was always done.

As things turned out, when I belatedly got a cash infusion, the first thing on my “Honey, I’m Gonna Do This” list was getting myself a new computer. I wavered between a new PC and a laptop, and finally went with the laptop. Without a doubt, it’s been one of the two best decisions I’ve ever made.

I don’t have to hide away like a thief to write. I can be with the family (ahem, my mother) while she dozes on the sofa watching her classic black and white movies and “Monk”. I can write as much as I want whenever I want, and I can start and stop as I please. Oh, the freedom! I’m like a bird that’s finally figured out how to fly. Of course, now I suffer from FAS (Fat Ass Syndrome) but overall, that’s a small price to pay.

The next best thing to writing on my new laptop is when I’m in the zone. It’s like being pregnant and compressing nine months of labor into nine days. It’s intense, it’s a rush, it’s all your cylinders firing at the same time, and it’s out of your control. I can’t think or do anything else and when I try to do something else the only thing I’m thinking about is writing. When it’s finally over, like a bad flu, it takes me days to recuperate. Being in the zone isn’t something I can summon with a crinkle of my nose or the snap of my fingers. It usually comes at the most inopportune times, like death and houseguests. When it comes, I know better than to fight it. I fasten my seat beat and make sure to have the barf bag within arm’s reach.

I don’t quite understand the correlation between my new laptop and being in the zone this frequently (hormones, anyone?). All I know is that since I got my Toshiba, I’ve been writing like a five alarm fire. The only thing better is my marble cheesecake, but that doesn’t help my FAS either.

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2 comments:

Cathy Krasnianski said...

"Hormones, anyone"

Don't discount that. Peri-menopause brings out some interesting things in women - one of which is what I call the "Whirlwind Effect", where there simply aren't enough hours in a day to get all the things you want done.

There is, of course, the other side of the coin, when you have days in which the simple act of getting out of bed is tantamount to climbing Everest - in high heels.

Go figure.

PJ McIlvaine said...

I can get out of bed, all right, but what I do in it is far more...oh, never mind.