Writing the Wild Within: Part 5 – Why Fly when You can Soar?

Lean your face towards the sun.  Watch them.  They circle round and around, flying higher and higher.  That’s what they do.  And it’s most natural to them.

Red-tail hawks fly in thermal air currents.  Because it’s easy.  After all, why beat your wings, expending precious energy, when you can soar high in the heated, rising air?

And no animal likes to expend precious energy when there is an easy way to go about things.

There is an easier way to go about the tasks in your life.  And like the hawk, you can soar in the current of your writing  with the greatest of ease.  All it takes is a little practice.

This psychological state is characterized by feeling a state of bliss as you are immersed in the task of writing.  In fact, writing can hardly be called a task when you feel like this!  You lose all sense of time, and everything moves along effortlessly and unobstructed.

No.  You don’t have to take any kind of drug for this.  But I’m sure if chemists could invent a safe drug for this state it would be all the rage.

This blissful state of losing yourself in a task is called a flow, an idea pioneered by the psychologist Mihaly Cskiszentmihalyi.

He states that flow tends to occur when a person faces a clear set of goals (non-ambiguous) that require appropriate responses for their execution.  In essence, you can enter the state of flow by doing any activity: skiing, playing a musical instrument, reading a book, and of course, writing.

According to Csikszentmihalyi:

Flow also happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable, so it acts as a magnet for learning new skills and increasing challenges. If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can return to the flow state by learning new skills.

Perhaps the state of flow can help keep us younger by keeping our minds more flexible.  It has been said that if you want to keep your neurons happy and healthy as you grow older you should continually learn new things.  Your neurons will grow by continually making new connections to other neurons.

Csikszentmihalyi found that in a survey of typical Americans roughly one in five respondents will say that this happens to them as much as several times a day, whereas around 15 percent will say that this never happens to them.

How can we enter into this state of flow in our writing projects?

First, do not listen to the editor in your psyche until you are done with a project.  The editor acts as a predator and will keep you from saying what you need to say.  The editor should be utilized at the end of a project where it can act first as Bob the Builder:  rearranging and restructuring content as need be, and then as a Pacman:  getting rid of all that verbiage that is not grammatically correct.

Second, thoroughly master the form you are pouring your writing mind into by reading, reading, reading, and more reading of this form.  If you want to write a novel, exhaust your favorite genre.  Likewise, if you want to write memoir, read good memoirs and bad memoirs.  Especially the bad writing.  A bad book is worth the price of a hundred writing workshops.

Personally I don’t believe perusing the Internet while you are writing is conducive to the state of flow.  Flow requires concentration, not jumping around.

Do you ever enter a state of flow?  And if so, how do you prepare yourself to enter into this state of consciousness?

Photocredit: © Ellen Wilson

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The Butterfly Effect

Monarch Butterfly, copyright Ellen Wilson

“Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.”

Henry Adams

If you want to live, embrace the unknown.  Stay in the now, and let life do life.  All too often we become mired in the fear of the future, or the regret of the past.  We want to nail things down and have it all laid out in a GRAND PLAN.

Sometimes our plans go awry, and we still have to pick up the pieces and go on.  For instance, let’s take writing.  Writing is hard work, and it sometimes doesn’t go as planned.  So I really don’t know exactly how this piece will turn out, but I can only give it breath to spread its wings.

Brett Legree, author of 6 Weeks, recently wrote a post about the Butterfly Effect.  I said I would like to go on with that idea, and he said that would be great.  I could put my own personal spin on it.

The blogosphere is a big world.  A choatic world.  I met Brett over at Men with Pens, as I have other great writers.  Writers who are beginning to weave their words, or practice their art.   I admire these people and champion their efforts.

Because it is all about interconnection.  Otakuyeowasin.  Chaos is not something that happens in a vacuum, we all touch eachother somehow, though sometimes it is impossible to say just how.

But I do know this.  Recently Brett posted an article about a friend of his whose brother won a Canadian medal of honor for saving his mother, while losing his own life, in a burning house.  The trouble is, no one really cared about this person before this medal.  But suddently this so called medal, this badge of honor, made this person someone everyone could reflect on.  As if the medal made the person.

This story hit one of my sore spots.  And after reflecting on this article, I had some psychological revelations of my own, which caused me some pain, but was good for my growth.  And we all know about growing pains.  Unfortunately we still get them after we grow up.

The butterfly wing touched me gently, and the winds of change blew on.

In flies Friar, who feels like an ugly duckling blogger.  Of course he is a swan, but he is new to blogging and feels like he is swimming in circles, in chaos.   Friar is a great artist and is practicing his craft in the blogosphere.  He is finding his way.  I admire his spirit and the fact that he can embrace chaos and practice his art.   Friar is the author of The Deep Friar.  Check out his crispy words, tasty tidbits and wicked sense of humor.  He’s got a lot on his mind.

Because out of chaos springs life.

I was going to go one about the scientific implications and structure of the Butterfly Effect and Chaos Theory, but my post did not evolve that way.  All I need to say now is that it is all contingent on the sensitive dependence of intitial conditions – meaning of course, it all starts somewhere and evolves into something…

You get my point.  You are the butterfly that makes the change of all our interconnections.  Spread your wings and see where they take you.

Photo Credit: © Ellen Wilson

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