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