Key #3: Loosen Up

This Key-3 step is designed to help you get fully involved with your writing. [See the previous three blog posts for the introduction to flow and the first two keys.]

Writing in Flow author Susan Perry says, “To allow your creativity, your insights, your inner stories, to spill over onto the page, you’ll need to work out—consciously or not—some way to loosen yourself up so it can happen.”

If you already have a looser, laid-back, easygoing personality, you may find it easier to get into the flow state for writing. However, if you’re more like me, don’t despair! Even control freaks can loosen up.

I will give you some ideas below, and hopefully one or two of them will work for you. Not all of them work for me, but we all have different personalities. What doesn’t work for me may be exactly the idea that will help you.

Ways to Loosen Up

ONE: Most writers develop certain individualized routines and rituals that seem to ease their entry into “flow,” that timeless state where writing is a pleasure. By using specific daily rituals or routines to ease into the writing, it helps you make the shift into another state of consciousness, something like when you fall asleep. My daughters both created multi-ritual night time routines, each step done in the same order, to help their babies transition from playtime to bedtime. Some babies need longer rituals than others to make the transition, and some writers need more time and more rituals to make the transition into flow writing. Experiment until you find the routines that work for you.

TWO: Some writers suggest that it’s helpful to bring a sense of play into your work. Ask yourself, “How can I make today’s writing fun?” Try whatever comes to mind. Yes, trying new ways of writing may feel risky. Just remember that early on in the process, there is really no risk. It’s an illusion. There’s no need to censor yourself yet. No one needs to see your writing until much later—if ever! “If you procrastinate over your writing,” Perry says, “it may be because you believe on some level that your first drafts have to be excellent, perhaps even perfect.” Instead, tell yourself (out loud, if necessary), “It doesn’t matter!” Or as Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, allow yourself to write “%&#$@*^ Rough Drafts.”

THREE: To get into flow, some writers try nothing at all…they say they simply stop trying and wait for words to bubble up, knowing this is what it takes for their own minds to loosen up and get into the flow.

FOUR: I wouldn’t have believed this next tip would work—except that I found out it did by accident. Doing your e-mail works to loosen up some writers and helps them slide smoothly into their “real” writing. I found e-mail to be helpful in a different way. I was babysitting at my daughter’s one day, and the baby took an unusually long nap, but I hadn’t brought my writing with me. So I got on my daughter’s computer and wrote an email to myself! There is something about writing e-mail that lets you go with the flow. With e-mail, you don’t worry about word choice or impressing someone usually. You just write off the top of your head. The day that I decided to do my writing at her house, but email it to myself, produced some of the easiest writing I’ve done in years. Other writers say that e-mail gets them to the computer, which is the biggest hurdle they have to overcome.


Take time to experiment with these rituals and routines. See which ones work for you. “There’s something about rhythmic, habitual, routine physical activity,” says Perry, “that relaxes and loosens both the body and the mind, thus preparing it be creative.”

FIVE: One last tip: “trivialize the task.” Very few writing sessions are that critical all by themselves. Each day’s writing is only one part of the whole. Each part you write is small and just not that important in the larger scheme of things. Knowing that no one piece of writing is that critical may help you gain perspective and loosen up.

Do you have a favorite ritual or practice or routine that you follow that helps you loosen up and get to your writing? If you do, please share!

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