Writing from the Vacuum

Recently my father-in-law asked me about my writing. Specifically, how I write about things that I don’t know about. He said ‘obviously you don’t write from a vacuum, it has to come from somewhere’.

And I agreed. I talked about research, and how I could do a little research, and get an idea about something, but that someone who knew better would see the problems in my writing, would know I didn’t really know what I was writing about. (Unless of course I’d done heaps of research and then hopefully I would be able to express myself properly, in a way that would show that I did know my topic as best as I was able, without experiencing it myself).

But then I came away and thought about it. And I think, really, that my best writing comes when I am writing from a vacuum. Though I tend not to think of it in quite those terms.

For me, it’s being in the zone, totally focused, unaware of my surroundings, even the keyboard I”m typing on. Everything is the story. When I have those moments, I can easily write 2500 words in half an hour. Easily. Getting into that zone can be hard work though. Trying to get my children to pester my partner for drinks/snacks/general conversation while I’m writing can be extremely difficult. The other day my dearest daughter took my writing time as a personal offence and kept interrupting me to bring me artwork and cards with “I love you Mum”, and a paper bracelet she’d made just for me, just in case I was angry at her for something. It was so precious and I told her so, and of course reassured her that I loved her too, and was not angry at her, but I really just needed the time to write.

After an hour I had only written about 500 words. The next half hour wasn’t much better, but after forcing myself through the painful process of forcefully extracting words from my head, something clicked and suddenly I was there. In the next half hour I had written well over 1000 words.

I have seen research about this ‘zone’. A TED talk I do believe, and possibly a post on the Office of Letter’s and Light blog (actually I think the link to the TED talk was in the blog… ) If anyone knows what I’m talking about, I’d love the link again, because I cannot find it anywhere!

Anyway, the general gist of the talk was that creative people use a different part of their brain when creating, and when they are in the zone, other parts of their brain do shut down, and amazing things happen.

For me, the story writes itself. The characters do things I had never expected, they reveal aspects of themselves that were never in my outlines and planning. The story veers off track and reveals new exciting paths, paths that usually much better than the one I had planned to follow.

Are you creative in any way? Have you experienced this ‘zone’? Have any thoughts about it?

Feel free to share your thoughts! And don’t forget, I have two more copies of The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton to give away this month, all you have to do to get your name in the draw is comment on any post! :D (For more info check out this post)

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5 thoughts on “Writing from the Vacuum

  1. This is true. I am far from the artsy creative type, but when I have this certain project I tend to focus to it too much that I became blinded about other things. This kind of my personality is one of the reasons why I have gastritis and suspected ulcer – I don’t eat on time. I want to finish the task or project I have in hand that’s why any hindrance will not be permitted. Now, I suffer from stomach pain and hyperacidity when I skip meals 😦

    • Sorry to hear that Monica!! 😦 That’s awful.

      I have a habit of delaying meals when I’m focused on my writing, but with two children running around it’s never delayed for long, lol. They soon let me know if they’re hungry and it’s time for a meal!

      • Oh, I can imagine how the kids strategize to make the meal be served faster. 🙂 You are lucky though. I just finished university and still living my parents and my folks would shout at my door every time a meal is ready. Hahaha 🙂

  2. How does anybody write about things they don’t know about… imagination! It would be lovely to be able to go out into the world and experience every thing for real in order to get a story going, but then you’d not have time to write it! (Also, sadly, a rather too expensive method.) So I think I see that as two separate topics, writing from the vacuum, i.e. making something from nothing, and then the ‘zone’ is a different thing, where you fall into the writing and time stops existing and when you come back out again it’s a bit like waking up. Sometimes I read back over stuff I have written and think ‘where on earth did that come from?’ and I absolutely cannot account for the lines of thought that would have lead to those sections being done, so it feels like reading someone else’s work. And those are things that came from the vacuum while in the zone, so I guess they aren’t two separate subjects afterall!

    • Lol – I can see where you’re coming from, with your first line of thought – but for me anyway, the time when I really access my imagination fully *is* when I am in the zone. And yes, I read over things and think – wow – where did that come from, too! 🙂

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