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7 Psychological tips for getting in the writing zone

These days most entrepreneurs are blogging (if not, why not?) and all business owners regularly have to write other significant *stuff*. Just the other day, I helped a client write a job advertisement (using psychological tricks) to attract super-awesome candidates, for example.

Writing is important. It’s one of the most significant and common “acts of business” we have to perform. We all have varying levels of skill as writers, but we can learn better strategies at any point.

Despite the importance of writing and despite the ease of up-skilling, hardly anyone knows how to get in the zone to produce top quality written material. This is about having the state of creativity (or productivity, or whatever is relevant) on tap… ready to go, when ever you need it.

Sound like a skill you’d like to master? Use these 7 Psychological tips to flip the switch and turn on top-notch writing at will:

1. Find your ritual

Everyone has a ritual, like a set of emotional anchors, for accessing the perfect writing state (where things just flow). All good athletes have a ritual for getting in the zone – sometimes as simple as a quick bounce of the tennis ball, for good luck. Everyone who writes has a ritual for writing performance, but most people are not aware of them.

Have a think about last time you wrote in that perfect way… and remember the little things you did (environmentally and behaviorally) right before you got started. Find your ritual.

2. Have a clear outcome

So many people start of writing projects (especially the more creative ones, like blogging) without a clear outcome in mind. Then, they start deleting whole paragraphs saying “what rubbish!”.

The question is, how are you measuring what “good writing” looks like? What is your intention behind writing this piece? What would it look like, when finished? How would the reader respond?

These are all questions that clarify your outcome. It’s much easier to write successfully, when you know where you’re headed.

3. Find a creative environment

This one is simple and probably eye-rolling obvious. Thing is, few people understand the significance of the psychological implications of a bad writing environment.

If you tried to get good writing done at, say, a nightclub… imagine your mental state! Your unconscious mind anchors certain states and behaviors to specific environments. Therefor, having a special, reserved “creative space” is useful… and, attempting writing in regular, everyday environments will tend to focus you on everyday, distracts thoughts.

4. Get inspired by awesomeness

Want a shortcut to getting in that hyper-effective state? Go read something written by a genius.

Chances are they were in that “zone” when they wrote it and that’ll come through, between the lines. Your brain will pay attention and vicariously feed off the creativity of others.

5. Clear your head

Don’t try and transition from filing your taxes (or hanging out on twitter) direct to working on some creative project. Take a 4 minute break to just sit and be. Clear your head and then bring a decent game-face (and mind) to your writing.

6. Write at the right time

Inspiration, creativity and motivation tend to naturally ebb and flow. For me, it probably has more to do with my blood sugar than I’d like to admit.

Seize the day and write when your brain wants you to write. Disclaimer: Don’t write and drive.

7. Create your state

Above all, recognise that great writing isn’t dependent on some mysterious, external force. Your state, above all else, is what will determine the quality of your writing. We’re talking emotional state-of-mind. Your state is yours and yours alone. It is up to you to maintain it. After all, who else would you want to be responsible for your state?

When you own your state, great writing can happen whenever you want it to.

What do you think? How do you get in the zone for writing?


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  1. Hey Peter,

    I was just working on a post about a very similar topic. I think the point about top athletes and getting a zone is a very interesting one. I’m an avid surfer and usually all my best ideas come when I’m in the water or just gotten out. The strange thing is I’m not consciously thinking of an idea for a post, but usually in a flash when i’m riding a wave something will come to me that turns into an idea for a blog post. The state of mind I”m in after lends itself well to writing.

  2. Hey Srinivas!

    That’s really funny – I was talking with a client about the difficulty of recording great ideas in the car… surfing would be a whole other story!

  3. This took me two days to process. Good stuff.

    I am easily frustrated by the fact that incredible ideas cross my mind while I’m driving. I tend to do a lot of driving and find that it is a glorious time to let my mind wander, but I don’t yet have the perfect solution to capturing ideas. I’ve tried a million and none seem to work well enough to take hold. It’ll happen.

    My most creative writing is done long-hand. I think because it forces my mind to slow down and process on the words I use rather than just spewing ideas through a keyboard (I type very fast). If I’m lazy and don’t take the notebook in which I’m working with me from place to place, I find that as ideas and thoughts about the project hit me, I lose them because I’ve sabotaged myself by not being able to review what has come before … so, in my frustration, I just don’t write. That was an easy fix. Bought a bag that holds the notebook.

    There’s a delicate balance for me between necessary and unnecessary distractions. When my mind fills up with words and they are exploding to get out, sometimes I have to completely distract myself so that I can tamp them down enough to let them flow. A few minutes of reading anything else will give my mind time to sort through what’s trying to happen up there and then I can focus. But, it’s really easy for me to go too far with those distractions.

    To be honest, ‘awesome’ writers intimidate the heck out of me because I know that I can never compare myself to them. Wow, I can be hard on myself.

    And lastly – I’ve been waiting to see what types of colloquialisms you would share. “Have a think” is not a part of America speech, so that was fun for me!!! 🙂

    Thanks for this post – and though it looks like I’m going to miss you for time while you restructure the site, thanks for all of your writing!

  4. Hi Diane!

    Thanks for the great comment and for sharing. I love typing (I too type fast) but I do a lot of self editing while I type… I’ll have to experiment with long hand to see how that works.

    I think, just like for Srinivas, recording those ideas are critical. It’s those little lightbulbs that make writing easy!

    “Have a think” isn’t part of the American dialect? Maybe it should be – introspection is a wonderful thing 😛

  5. Thank you so much for this post! This applies to so much more than blogs, and I find it very helpful for my creative writing.
    I do seem to have an issue with “finding a creative environment.” I usually turn on my music, that way my environment disappears. It no longer becomes relevant to my creativity. However, the issue is that I’m not always able to listen to my music, as I don’t have a headset or headphones available. (I play my music very loud and I don’t wish to annoy others)
    Would you be able to suggest a few other ways I could go about things?

  6. I am a Sir, I watch anime and I really enjoyed this article, it really inspired me to get in tune with myself and watch some more anime. I just want to thank you Peter for getting myself on the right track.

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