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The Key to Unlocking Creativity

January 16, 2012


Author Elizabeth Kyne talks about trying to hit the magic zone

from where great stories flow


Have you ever had one of those moments where you get lost in your work? Where, somehow, your brain becomes detached from your body and is absorbed into whatever you’re doing. You don’t have to be a writer to experience this, you could be a painter, a model maker or even a dancer. People will often say, “I lost track of time” and that’s because they were so in tune with their task, it’s almost as if it controls them, not the other way round.

As a writer, it’s those moments I strive for. It’s like my inner self has a connection to the page without being manipulated through the filter of my conscious mind. I can tap into my emotional core and express that through my characters, whether they are experiencing love, loss, anger or joy. It’s a very freeing experience and something that – when it happens – gives me that buzz that makes me want to come back for more.

Not as if everyone agrees with me. Some theories of writing great fiction state that every single word should be sweated over; that each sentence needs to be expertly crafted before it is committed to paper. The classic Irish writer James Joyce subscribed to this theory and is said to have a told a friend he had a good day working on his novel as he had written “three sentences”. Clearly, this approach has led to some highly regarded and influential works of literature, but is not the way I want to work or the sort of book I want to read. Indeed, I tried to read James Joyce’s Ulysses once and gave up half way through.

What I want from a book is a good story, characters with real emotions and to have a bit of fun. This, I would argue, comes from tapping into the inner self and letting that creativity roam free on the page. Because, deep inside me, are memories of all the books I’ve read, all the films I’ve seen, all the things I’ve experienced and all the emotions I’ve had. Where else should fiction come from?

Tapping into that creativity, however, is not always easy. These are some of the tips I try (but don’t always succeed) in following:

  • Distractions: Don’t have any. It’s obvious to say, but not always simple to implement. You can’t enter the creative zone if you’re constantly bothered by the email or the phone. This is why some writers chose to work in the dead of night. Personally, I like my sleep too much, but whatever works for you. When distractions are a serious problem, I sometimes use a program like Write or Die which fills up the whole screen and nudges you when you’ve stopped writing. Others recommend Freedom for Mac or Windows, which turns off the internet on your computer.
  • Dare to be bad: Don’t fret about every single word, sentence and paragraph. Just write it. If you start worrying that you’re writing is a load of rubbish, you’ll stop writing entirely and never find that link between your creative mind and the words on the page.
  • Don’t worry about it: This sort of follows on from ‘dare to be bad’, in that the most important thing is maintaining the flow, getting into ‘the zone’. So what if it’s bad? Bad can be improved, whereas nothing is still nothing at the end of the day. Also, don’t get hung up on details. For example, don’t spend half an hour trying to think up a name for your new character, just call him John or something and make a note to think of a better name later. Similarly, don’t stop to do some research. Make a note to check what Paris airport looks like or what type of gun a farmer would have in 1914 (or whatever it is) and keep writing.
  • Have a plan: This is somewhat counter intuitive to the above, but for me I’ve got to know what I’m going to be writing before I start. If things are going well, my plan might simply be a sketch of the scene I’m about to write. Eg., “Fred gets involved in a pub fight and breaks his arm”. If I’m struggling a bit, I might sketch it out in more detail: “Fred goes into pub, meets old girlfriend, gets a bit amorous, her new boyfriend turns up…” etc. I can then launch into writing my planned scenes for the day without having to stop and break the creativity.


If all is well, you will slip into that magic zone where the words flow, and you may surprise yourself at what you can write.

I say it like it’s easy, which isn’t always the case. Like many things, the theory is all very well and good, it’s not so easy to put into practice. Nevertheless, it is something to strive for, and something I continue to strive for every day. Sometimes I get hung up on details I shouldn’t be worried about, sometimes I take phone calls or check my email when I shouldn’t. Other people may have different distractions (I have great admiration for people who work at home while looking after small children, for example). The knack is to put them aside for your allotted writing time (be that as short as fifteen minutes or as long as a whole morning) and try to get into the zone.

Because life in the zone is amazing and what can sometimes come out of it is better than when you’re sweating over every word. When everything comes together, it seems like the novel is writing itself and, when you step away you have something which you know has come from somewhere special inside of you. That is what your creative brain has done, it has funnelled your instinct, your experience and yourself into the words.

Like the mountain climber, I try to reach it every day, and like a human being I do not always make it to the summit. But, for the days I do, it is worth the struggle.


Rachel re-invents herself when she moves back to her home town of Aylesbury; with a new job, a new house and a new haircut. But people’s eyes glaze over when she tells them about her life as a forty-something singleton who works in accounts. So why not spice things up a bit? Why not tell her new hairdresser and her new friends about her fantastic husband? Everyone wants to hear about Darren, the man who cooks her amazing meals, cleans the house and takes her to bed for orgasmic sex three times a night! What a shame he doesn’t exist…

…Until she comes home one night and finds Darren sitting in her lounge. And everything she said becomes true: from his sensuous food to his skill in bed. So real, that she believes it.

Not as if living with a perfect is man is… well, perfect…

She can’t find anything because every time she puts something down, he tidies it away. Then there’s the shock of the credit card bill from buying all that gourmet food. Not to mention the sex! Three times a night is great at first, but sometimes all she wants at the end of the day is a sandwich and some sleep.

Then Rachel decides that Darren has to go – and that’s when her troubles really begin.

Elizabeth Kyne takes the absurdities of the modern woman’s quest for love and turns them into an enjoyable romp. She finds the comic in everyday situations, from buying a dress to experimenting with hair dye at home. While, underneath, she comments on the pressure to find the perfect husband and how that quest is doomed for us all.




Elizabeth Kyne trained to be a radio journalist and spent her early working years reading news bulletins and writing for magazines. Later, after learning the meaning of “mortgage” and “gas bill”, she decided to do the sensible thing and drop the freelance lifestyle to get a proper job. The job, however, all went horribly wrong and she returned to her first love of writing, and worked on several novels before finding success with “If Wishes Were Husbands”.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. adrianakraft permalink
    January 16, 2012 7:06 pm

    Thanks so much for stopping by, Elizabeth. This is fabulous advice. Some people think maybe the zone is a magical place that only very special people get to visit, but as you so clearly outline, there are steps we can take to maximize our chance of experiencing the magic. Great post!

  2. January 18, 2012 3:48 pm

    Thanks Adriana! Thanks for allowing me to be your guest. In fact, I had to reference this article myself as I started to write a new novel this week. It takes practice, that’s for sure – something I wasn’t doing while doing my tax return last week!


  1. Unlocking Creativity | Elizabeth Kyne

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