Friday, April 10, 2009

Zoning In

There are so many aspects of The Element (Sir Ken Robinson) to comment on but I will zero in on The Zone to start with. I first heard this term nearly 10 years ago during the inaugural Muskoka Three-Day Novel Marathon. As the event name would indicate, you go to a venue – empty storefront, coffee shop, community centre, it changes from year to year – and try to write a novel in three days and three nights. One of the founders, writer, poet and teacher Martin Avery, used the term to describe the state of mind you had to get into in order to speed-write your story. In The Zone, you are able to concentrate and block out distractions. But even more importantly, you are in a region of the imagination that enables you to gather momentum, generating the forward movement of your characters through the world of your plot, and pushing your writing to snap out images, description and evocative dialogue, hardly aware of the pages scrolling in front of you on the computer screen.
Sir Ken describes this as being, “deep in the heart of the Element." (p. 86) He adds, “We become focused and intent. We live in the moment. We become lost in the experience and perform at our peak… our minds merge with our bodies and we feel ourselves drawn effortlessly into the heart of the Element.”
I realized the other evening when I was writing to the TLLP team members about ideas for our final report that, once again, I was in the zone. I had not ever made this connection before – that the zone of fiction writing is similar to the zone for project planning. When I think of how much I enjoy writing proposals and reports, and devising new unit plans, I now realize that it’s the zone that makes me feel that I have transcended even the other enjoyable aspects of my job, and there are many. But for me, trying to set out the big ideas and map out the progress of projects or units is a special pleasure. It’s the zone, for sure!

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