Don DeLillo, “The Art of Fiction No. 135,” The Paris Review 128, Fall 1993
Athletes — basketball players, football players — talk about “getting into the zone”. Is there a writer’s zone you get into?
There’s a zone I aspire to. Finding it is another question. It’s a state of automatic writing, and it represents the paradox that’s at the center of a writer’s consciousness — this writer’s anyway. First you look for discipline and control. You want to exercise your will, bend the language your way, bend the world your way. You want to control the flow of impulses, images, words, faces, ideas. But there’s a higher place, a secret aspiration. You want to let go. You want to lose yourself in language, become a carrier or messenger. The best moments involve a loss of control. It’s a kind of rapture, and it can happen with words and phrases fairly often — completely surprising combinations that make a higher kind of sense, that come to you out of nowhere. But rarely for extended periods, for paragraphs and pages — I think poets must have more access to this state than novelists do. In End Zone, a number of characters play a game of touch football in a snowstorm. There’s nothing rapturous or magical about the writing. The writing is simple. But I wrote the passage, maybe five or six pages, in a state of pure momentum, without the slightest pause or deliberation.