Getting into ‘The Zone’ for Writing


Prague Castle by night

Prague: city of cobbled streets, Gothic architecture, absinthe and cheap beer. I’ve been dying to go to Prague for ages and this past week, I got to spend a magical seven days exploring this wonderful city. It was unfortunate timing writing wise, as I was just starting to make serious inroads with the WIP and didn’t want to be distracted from it. But then Prague happened and I learned something valuable about the where of my writing.

I could have written. I had a few hours at the airport either way to get some writing done, there were evenings we spent relaxing in the apartment after a busy day of walking through the tourist sites, ¬†I could’ve woken up earlier and written for an hour before breakfast, but I just… could not write.

At home, I usually write at my desk, or sometimes on my Chrome book if I want a change of scenery and head onto the balcony for a writing session. Regardless of where I write at home, I always have the WIP’s soundtrack playing and I resent any distractions. My current WIP is heavy on the character development and I’m writing first person so it usually takes me a few minutes to really get into character, to become my MC and start feeling all the story emotions as he would. I couldn’t do this in Prague.

My story takes place in panhandle Texas: dry, arid, prairie, big blue sky, pump-jacks, roadkill, vultures, scorpions, dusty roads, tiny towns, Native American spirituality etc. It was impossible¬†to transport myself to Texas while sitting in an apartment in the middle of Old Town Prague listening to the rain patter against the window and horse hooves clatter on the cobbles. The ambiance was too different. Even with the music I usually play while writing, I just couldn’t get into the zone.

I live in Finland: forests, lakes, snow, rain – not exactly conditions conducive for writing about northern Texas, but because that’s my home, it becomes mundane and I can filter out my surroundings and immerse myself in the story world. Despite trying several times, I just couldn’t do the same while in Prague. It felt wrong. The setting felt alien. The characters distant and detached and not even mine. And now, I hadn’t been imbibing absinthe, it was just that the change in physical location had messed up my story GPS too.

This taught me that music isn’t always enough to get me into the zone, to transform me into the character I want to be. I need the familiar to be able to transport myself to the story world. If my surroundings are too exciting, I want to be where I am physically and not in my imagined landscapes. In short, the world around me has got to be boring or otherwise I won’t be able to immerse myself in the world I’m creating on the page.

Despite losing out on a week’s worth of writing, Prague was truly amazing and inspiring (attack of the Shiny New Ideas!) and definitely worth another visit.

Where do you write? Do your surroundings ever affect your writing?

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