As a writer, I make my best work when I am absolutely saturated in content. I need to be in a mood, in a feeling, in the right state of mind. If I am consistently in that place, I can always come up with ideas! I am not one of those writers who can sit down for just a few minutes before going out and write a little, by any means. So here are a few things I do that help me stay “in the zone” as a writer!

Create or find a writing playlist.

Nothing puts me in the right mood to write like music does. I have songs for everything I’m writing, down to the character I’m writing about. I listen to them whenever I am writing, outlining, or even brainstorming, and I highly recommend doing the same. You won’t believe where a song can transport you. Here are some examples:

Joe Hisaishi is an absolute wonder. He composed most the majority of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies. They can set moods like nothing else. I love putting the soundtrack to Princess Mononoke on when I write or think about scenes with Hagador or general battle scenes. I also listen to The HU when I write about Hagador and his people, called Ovis, who live in advanced tribes in the very cold northern tundra of Bovidae. They are a Mongolian band who sing using the traditional throat singing technique. Listen to my favorite of theirs Yuve Yuve Yu here.

I have my own writing playlist that I’ve been adding to over the past year. I promise it is not just Ramin Djawadi. There is everything from the Outlander Theme Song to songs from Sea of Thieves, Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Howard Shore, The Witcher Soundtrack, and even Korn! Check it out below:

Go outside and be an observer.

I once read that no one ever wanted to go on walks with J.R.R. Tolkien because he would stop and look at a tree for 20 minutes. Be Tolkien! Go outside and observe how the sun looks different on certain leaves at certain times of the day. How does the air smell in the morning versus at night? Watch people and their mannerisms; are they like your characters? How would you describe them?

If you’re writing a lengthy series and large world like I am and like so many before us (Tolkien, Martin, etc.) you are absolutely going to need different and unique ways to describe every day items and occurrences; the weather, food, common facial expressions, the sound of voices, etc. This will help!

Watch nature and travel shows.

This is the way I see it: we are trying to create worlds that don’t exist with only a world that we barely scratched the surface of as reference. A unique, sometimes alien world with religions, races, traditions, policies, food, culture, and more.

My favorite way to brainstorm culture and world building, basically anything that doesn’t have to do with plot and character development, is to watch Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, which is finally available in it’s entirety on HBO Max!

This show, if you haven’t seen it, touches on not just what you’d find in a history book or a quick search on the internet. It shows the struggles of war torn nations, the architecture of cities once under British rule, the traditions of tribes who have never been on camera before.

While I watch, I take mental notes (because I’m usually cuddled up in bed and don’t want to take actual notes) about what aspects I liked and ideas I have.

I do these things every day! Sometimes I just leave my writing playlists on in the background through the whole day and find myself drifting off into an inspiration. I obviously also read and play video games every day, but I try not to do those when I am really struggling to figure out my story. I think that I run the risk of inadvertently pulling elements into my own story! So instead, I go outside, listen to music, or watch non-narrative shows for inspiration and stay “in the zone” as a writer!

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One Comment on “How I Always Stay “In the Zone” as a Fantasy/Sci-Fi Writer

  1. These are really great tips! A documentary series I’ve found really useful is Alien Worlds on Netflix. It’s a bit science heavy but it takes principles of our natural world and theoretically applies them to what life would look like on other planets. It’s super helpful for coming up with key details for extreme fantasy landscapes.

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