No, seriously. Bear with me a second. (har har). And for "you" below, read "ebear." I tend to talk to myself in the second person when I'm telling myself something I don't wanna hear. *g*
I'm not talking about getting in "the zone," although that's a part of it--because (see previous post) sometimes you have to force through even when the subconscious is balking. But it's more that as you improve, each aspect of writing has to be learned on a conscious level. And then--internalized to the point where you don't really notice you're doing it.
I'm struggling with this plateau right now, and I realized what plateaus are. They're that period when you've (maybe subconsciously) identified something you're not doing right yet, and you're struggling to learn it, rationalize it, and internalize it. So everything becomes incredibly hard, because you're passing from this stage of conscious incompetence to conscious competence, and from there you can subsume it and make it part of the things you do by reflex.
My last big one of these was in January of this year. It was my sentence-level writing epiphany, the point at which my writing really clicked and went from "pretty good" to "muscular." In my humble. Or not so humble. Anyway. I had consciously known many of the things that suddenly went *bang* on me in January. But I had to do them on second or third draft before then, when I had time to think about it, or if I tried to do them on first draft, other things would suffer, because they required all my concentration.
And writing fiction is one of those things where you have to be able to do so many things automatically and without considering them, so you can focus on the very conscious choices that make the story what it is.
It's possible that some people can handle all of these things automatically. (I seem to have come with the ability to characterize as part of my core programming: everything else I've had to learn.) People who don't start off with that stuff intact have to sweat over each piece (plateau) until they grok it. And then they--as if by magic--start writing better.
It's like driving a stick shift, only far more complicated. If you actually *think* about clutching and shifting and braking and steering and watching the road and watching the mirrors and blinker-mirror-blindspot...
...you're gonna drive under a semi, because you're going to think about clutching before you brake.
And writing is even more complicated than that. So likewise if you're thinking, constantly, "Gotta ground. Gotta characterize. Gotta add setting. Gotta get kinetic. Gotta internalize." It's not going to flow because you're going to do each of those things as a separate action.
Which is okay. Really, it's okay. It's a learning step, like figuring out just *where* to take your foot off the clutch when you give it the gas.
But long erm, it's gotta become reflex. And the only solution is reading, awareness, and practice writing--writing--writing, I think. That infamous advice--"How do I become a professional writer?" "Write for ten years. If that doesn't work, write for ten more." Or Stephen King's variation--"You have to write a million words of shit."--is unfortunately extremely accurate.
Writing is still hard. Film at 11.