Returning to writing after a couple months away is like going back to the gym. It’s hard. “The zone” has disappeared, and I have to search for it, work for it, find it again. It’s not fun. I don’t like it.
I pick a day. Then warm-ups help.
Read somebody I like, preferably something I’ve read many times — this morning, Somerset Maugham; old, fusty to some, but restful, rhythmic; a short novel about place and characters who are not in the beginning introspective, and then are forced to be.
Read something I’ve written; read it aloud, and don’t change a word; just listen.
Write a twenty-minute free-write on something banal. Say, ripping off pantyhose. Or fishing a mouse out of the pool. How’s that? Lift the spirit, get down, work the muscles, let the words run from the right brain through the fingers and flow onto the page. Feel that? Wow! I have an occasional smile now.
Ah! Read John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story for inspiration, for wisdom, for craft, or just because he makes sense. How does anyone write without a good, recent dose of Truby?
Then the day’s real work-out: read the scary story, the one I’m working on, the dark monster, the one where the middle’s a muddle. Read it from beginning to end, read it aloud, punch up Verdi in the background, keep some distance, put one little checkmark next to each jarring bump-in-the-road. Read on. Read on. And don’t frown.
Have veggies for lunch. Check the Weather Channel for Hurricane Irene. (Are the Outer Banks safe? Should I stack the lawn chairs, bring in the wind chime?) Look out a window. Follow the chipmunks and the hawks. Take a walk around the yard — left, right, left, right. Move.
Then, start with the next chapter and write. One word at a time. “The zone” returns slowly. As does the joy.
Staying in “the zone” means no more month-long breaks. And it’s good to be back. But getting here’s a bitch.