One of my writing goals for 2015 is learning how to recapture the “fun” of writing. I love having a writing career and being published, but sometimes I long for the days when it was more enjoyable to write.
I remember the days of getting into my fiction simply because I loved the character and I wanted to tell her story. No deadline. No contract. Just a story to tell. I’d get immersed in my fictional world, lose all track of time. Then I’d hear a baby wake up crying, and be shocked that ninety minutes had passed!
Getting into the Flow
In order to recapture this “timeless state of writing,” I’ve read books that make many references to “flow” and the “flow experience.” It reminded me of a book I read years ago called Writing in Flow by Susan K. Perry, Ph.D. I think the topic is so important that I’ve decided to do a blog series on it.
We all want to be more productive as writers and make the best use of the little writing time we have. And many of us want to ENJOY it more. We want to relax and lose ourselves in our writing. This is true if you’re a student working on your first lesson or a much published writer in an established career.
What is writing in flow? According to Perry in Writing in Flow,
“You know you’ve been in flow when time seems to have disappeared. When you’re in flow, you become so deeply immersed in your writing…that you forget yourself and your surroundings. You delight in continuing to write even if you get no reward for doing it…”
Apparently we writers have a lot more control over getting into this “flow state” than I used to believe. There are habits and rituals that can help you get into flow. We don’t have to wait for the muse to appear. I’ve been trying the author’s advice this month on how to write in flow more often, and it works for me. There are things to watch out for and avoid, too, so that you’re not jerked out of flow once you enter it.
One condition to be aware of resonated with me. Apparently I’m not alone in needing to get through an entire draft or two before showing a manuscript to anyone.
“The optimal conditions for creativity (and thus for flow entry) include a condition of psychological safety from external evaluation,” Perry says. “Tell yourself that no one has to see this, that you can decide afterwards whether to show it to anyone. Make a habit of putting your finished work away for a while before looking at it again.”
Is It Important?
Another condition for getting into flow has to do with value. “One of the most powerful combinations of motivators [for getting into flow] is the sheer love of writing and the belief that it matters.” I know that most writers–including me–struggle with this at times. We ask ourselves, “Does what I want to write really matter?”
The answer to that is a personal one. It will be based on your belief system (what you believe is important in life), and only you can answer that. Some examples…
- If your belief system says that writing for children is important and they need good role models for solving problems in our complex world, then you’ll have trouble feeling like your writing matters if you take an assignment that violates that belief.
- If you believe that kids really need to stretch their minds, your nonfiction pieces that do that will reassure you that your writing matters.
- If you believe the world is crying out for humor and good entertainment, then writing this type of story or book will be something that matters to you.
What Motivates You?
Do you write because something inside you drives you to write? Or is your writing these days motivated by external rewards only (money, a prize, fame)? More from Susan Perry:
“Researchers have found again and again that work feels like play when you’re motivated intrinsically, that an intense involvement in an activity for its own sake, with little or no thought of future rewards, leads to positive feelings, persistence, creativity and flow. It’s also been found, however, that when extrinsic rewards or motivators, such as competition or the pressure of being evaluated, are thrown into the mix, the desire to do the thing for its own sake may be undermined.”
What does this have to do with flow? When you are writing ONLY as a means to an end (to pay the rent, to meet a deadline obligation, to please someone else) you’re typically less intensely absorbed by and engaged in the task itself. This reduces the likelihood of being able to write in the enjoyable flow state.
Steps to Finding Flow
In Writing in Flow, Perry talks about the “five master keys to flow entry in writing,” and I’d like to talk about these five keys in the next five blog posts. They will be overviews only and won’t come close to replacing reading her excellent book. However, I hope to share with you how you can have considerably more control over your writing frame of mind than you may now believe.
I’m always looking for ways to be more productive, but also to ENJOY the writing more. These keys to writing in flow have helped me, and I hope they will also help you.
The five master keys to writing in flow that we’ll discuss are:
- Have a reason to write.
- Think like a writer.
- Loosen up.
- Focus in.
- Balance Among Opposites
Her book also includes a lengthy section on “making flow happen,” which includes specific techniques (many of them!) for “luring” flow into your writing life. There is also a section on how to “flow past blocks.” I will highlight a couple of her ideas, but I don’t want to plagiarize her excellent book. The upcoming blog posts will give you enough information to know if you want to buy the book yourself.