Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


The Zone is my favourite place to be.

When I’m in The Zone, I’m in my element, doing what comes naturally.

I’ve most often reached this mythical place through writing, but any artistic or athletic endeavour can get you there…if you’re passionate about it.

Throughout time, people have associated The Zone with muses, because once you’re really in it, the work gets so easy that it feels like someone else is doing it for you. The book is writing itself. You’re not looking at the clock. You’re not worrying about everything else you have to do that day. You are completely focused on the task at hand.

Once you’re in The Zone, the worst thing you can do is take time off. If you leave that blissful state, it’s really hard to get back in. So sure–take a weekend or a brief holiday, but don’t take a week or two. The only bad thing about The Zone is how difficult it is to get there.

Five Tips For Getting Back Into The Zone:

1) Whatever you’re using to reach The Zone (writing, art, basketball, video game design), do it consistently. Spend the same amount of time at it every single day. It may feel like pulling teeth at first, but it will start coming easier and easier. If you put in the time, The Zone will find you.

2) Treat this practice time as sacred. Do whatever you can to avoid distractions. Shut off your phone and your email notifications. Ask your lovely and well-meaning spouse not to call you at that time. Gently guide all children and pets out of your office. This time is dedicated to your art, and you need to focus.

3) Do something. Obviously with athletics, this is a little easier. If I want to train to fight again, for instance, I can start by going back to the dojo tomorrow. It’ll be ugly at first, and exhausting, painful, and gruelling, but my coaches will guide me. My part will be to listen and then do what they tell me.

If the arts are your passion, it can seem difficult, because you can’t force that creativity. But the good news is, you actually can. The secret is to not beat yourself up. If you have a writer’s block over the novel you’re working on, switch it up. Write sketches of your characters. Do some journaling or free association writing. Write a short story. The trick is to actually do something with your practice time, even if it’s not what you’d most like to be doing.

4) Commit to doing the same thing every day (or almost). I take weekends off, but that’s it. I’ve learned from painful experience that a long break is the worst thing I can do for my writing…and my sense of well being. As I get closer to the end of a novel, I’ll usually write on weekends too.

5) Make sacrifices. Life is important. You don’t want to miss out on everything because you’re constantly holed up in your studio, but it doesn’t take much time to get into The Zone and stay there. Could you give up an hour each day? Half an hour? What is it worth to you?

You’re going to have to give up something, whether it’s an hour of sleep, an hour of television, an hour of Internet surfing, or an hour of video games.

What is success worth to you?

How do you get in The Zone?

This is one of the best videos about success I’ve ever seen. How badly do you want it?

Thanks to everyone who supported me and visited this blog during the A to Z Challenge. I hope to see you here again!

Thanks for reading!
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  1. Stephanie Faris

    It’s tough to explain that to non-writers. “No, I can’t leave the house today. I’m writing.” They think it should be something you do whenever you’re doing nothing else!

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Almost everyone has something they’re passionate about. If you can draw a comparison, maybe they’ll understand. Or do your hour (or whatever), and then get out with them and have some fun. 🙂

      If anything, my friends pester me about getting published, so if I ever didn’t see them because I was writing, they’d be thrilled.

  2. Bish Denham

    I go long periods without writing. Then I have huge spurts where I’ve very prolific. I’ve been like that all my life. I used to think it was a bad thing that I didn’t/don’t write every day, but I don’t any more. It’s just the way I am.

    • Holli Moncrieff

      That used to be my routine too, Bish. The long periods would be very, very long sometimes, and I always felt really guilty when I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t as happy, either.

      If that works for you, that’s great. Everyone is different, and my tips will still help you get back to it when you want to.

  3. Lisa

    I’ve enjoyed the A-Z blogs and although I haven’t commented I have read every one…

    As for the zone…when I was marathon training I used to get into the zone at about 10 miles into my long run…I could lose entire miles….Part of me really misses those days…

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks, Lisa. I totally get what that feels like. I’ve been that way with kickboxing training before, and certainly with writing. It’s awesome!

  4. Chrys Fey

    All great tips, Holli! I’m not much of an athlete, but I love it when I get in the zone when I’m writing. 🙂 I get in the zone by listening to music and just letting my mind go, my story take me away.

    I’m glad to have gotten to know you more through this Challenge. I’ll definitely visit in the future. 🙂

    Congratulations on making it to Z!

    • Holli Moncrieff

      You can listen to music while you write? I’m so envious! I have to have silence or I can’t concentrate. It’s pretty lonely sometimes.

      I’ve enjoyed getting to know you better too! Thanks for all the support during A to Z. I’ll make sure to keep up with your blog as well.

  5. Susan Scott

    Thanks so much for this sage advice … when you get it, hang on to it. No excuses. Being consistent is key. I’ll watch the video later … I need my zzzz’s. Congratulations on finishing the A-Z! It’s been quite a ride.
    Garden of Eden Blog

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Congrats to you as well, Susan! Thanks for all the support during this month. It is much appreciated. It’s been great getting to know you. If you do watch the video, I’d love to know what you think.

    • Susan Scott

      Great video Holli thanks – I’ve just watched it. Pursue your dreams – and work on them. That’s the message I get – ACT on your dreams and WORK is essential.

  6. Rhonda Parrish

    Interesting to see this post come up on the day I decided to sleep in with Jo rather than get up and write at my usual time. A good reminder that I need to not make that a habit. 🙂

    Congratulations on finishing A to Z Holli, as you said on my blog, we rocked it 🙂 *high five*

    • Holli Moncrieff

      See, my blog is speaking to you. SPEAKING TO YOU. We’re psychically linked now. Yeah, that must be it.

      We totally rocked it! * high five back *

    • Rhonda Parrish

      LoL that must be it.

      I wrote today. Like a good little writer. I feel better for it, too 🙂

  7. debi o'neille

    This is an excellent post, Holli. I’m going to share the link on Facebook, because there are a lot of writers who’d like to read this. Congratulations on getting to the finish line of the A to Z.
    I’ll keep in touch.
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks so much, Debbie! That’s so kind–I really appreciate it. I hope you do keep in touch. I’ll keep up my end as well. I can’t believe how ambitious your theme was!

  8. Frank Powers

    I have heard the advice in number 2 many times and I never really understood it until a little over a week ago. My house is generally quite. My children, the youngest being almost 17, occasionally get loud but it’s playful and acts more as a background music for me than an interruption. I think I write better when I hear their laughter.

    Until a little over a week ago. My wife was at work and my son was playing a new game on her computer. All was well until my oldest son got home from work and decided to sit and watch his brother play. They were so loud and distracting I had to stop writing and take a short break. They were just having fun so I let them continue but as I take this more seriously, I will be taking #2 a lot more seriously.


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