What makes writing so intoxicating, so addicting? Well it is this thing called creative flow. Creative flow can be your muse, your inspiration, it can also drive you to write to exhaustion. In a provocative article in Psychology Today online, Susan Perry, Ph. D., compares the creative flow process that occurs in writing to sex!
Flow is essential to the creative process. It is defined in Wikipedia as: the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.
Everett Bogue defines flow as follows: a moment in time when you’re both challenged at the activity that you’re doing, and when you also have complete autonomy in the task you’re conducting. Bogue gives you some good strategies for getting into flow and commiting time to having that focus and being open to creativity.
There are a variety of ideas on the web, in articles and books for achieving the state of flow:
- Create your optimal environment for working on your creative projects.
- Each day prioritize your tasks.
- Start creating.
- Continue to push and challenge yourself in your work.
- Set Optimal Flow Conditions
- Game the Right Level of Challenge
- Concentrate Fully
- Get Absorbed in the Moment
- Have Fun
John G. Agno identifies the following as essential to establishing the state of flow:
- Set clear goals: Self-directing people choose goals and directions that fit their purpose.
- Become immersed in the activity: Once our goals are clearly defined and we’ve decided on a plan of action, we can become deeply involved with whatever we have chosen to do.
- Pay attention to what’s happening: Periods of focused concentration set the stage for productive work activities.
- Learn to enjoy immediate experiences
For me the experience of being in “flow” is like a drug, it can be addicting. I believe it can consume a writer. I believe that “flow” can lead to the highs and lows in mood much like the mood swings experienced in depression. Flow can be a god send to a writer who has been blocked, however it can also be a curse if you allow “flow” to control you. I have gone on writing binges that pushed me to write for hours at a time, live on caffeine and feel that I can go on for days with little sleep.
Carolyn Kaufman describes this, using different descriptions from other writers, as follows:
Though everybody’s experience is a little different, there are certain things many people report, including:
- Distortions in the experience of time – You realize that you’ve been writing for 3 hours when it felt like 1.
- A feeling of calm competence or enhanced creativity
- A “softening in the boundaries of the self,” or a sense of wholeness or spiritual unity
- Another mystical experience of some kind (basketball players, for example, will sometimes say that the hoop seems bigger when they’re in flow
Flow is part of the fun and intoxication of writing. It is essential that we understand and use flow to be creative and break down writer’s block!