Writing in Flow

Sometimes, writing is hard. Often times it is, and like other creative pursuits, it’s a quiet process that turns into a Flow experience.

It’s like the times when writing flows out of you like a river running downstream. Without having to think, the words arrive, you love them, and they keep showing up. Time passes quickly, minutes into hours, and the zest for writing does not wane.

Psychologist Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has defined this situation as Flow

Flow is a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work. You experienced Flow even if this phenomenon is a new concept to you.

Think back to times when you were immersed in an activity. It doesn’t matter what it was—playing baseball, playing the piano, writing a play, coordinating project activities for your work team. If you felt a loss of time, that when you were done it felt like you had been engaged for only minutes instead of hours, if you felt fully satisfied at what you had done, and could have continued if that had been possible, you experienced Flow. It feels beautiful being in Flow.

Writing is a worm hole opening for Flow.

I say worm hole because the act of writing is often disparaged, and talked about in nasty terms, and the term worm hole sounds a little cranky. Few people like worms. Virtually no one thinks them cute unless they look like cartoon inch worms and they talk like people. Kids think those sorts of worms are adorable, and they are, but I’m referring to the ones in nature. The squishy ones that make people squeamish. Yes, those kinds of worms.

In physics, and as defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (online), Flowa worm hole is a hole or tunnel in outer space that some people believe connects two very distant places.

Let’s talk about this in metaphorical terms when it comes to writing stories—personal, business, or creative. It doesn’t matter what form of writing or genre, either. Just good old fashioned, let-your-mind-go writing. The kind that envelopes you with a certain warmth, a feel-good experience. Out of it comes some damn good prose or poetry, too.

I see that Flow as entering the worm hole. Okay, maybe you wouldn’t agree, and this is just my opinion, but I hope you get what I’m saying—that taking the courageous commitment to putting words on paper (this always means tapping words into your computer, too) can be more than just a futile exercise, but something bigger and better. More enriching. More fun.

Would you agree, then, that in your best, most Flow-like writing experiences that it felt, at least sometimes, like you were connecting two very distant places? Perhaps the details of your story reflected this principle, or your mind became so flexible and expansive that it felt like you were cruising the universe with very little effort (and without the need of oxygen tanks), heading from here to wayyyyy over there?

Would you prefer not to be exhausted by writing, but enlivened by it instead?

Yes, that is the way to relate to writing—like an old friend who’s happy to see you after many years, and the two of you talk like no time had passed in between visits. Writing can draw on the depths of who you are, and feel like such a satisfactory exercise when completed.

I used to be a technical writer for the DuPont Company. Writing in Flow was just about impossible. I mostly wrote how-to manuals for biomedical equipment, so the writing wasn’t free writing or creative writing, but the documentation of procedures. I loved, though, learning how something worked and defining the steps precisely. You can acquire a lot of satisfaction from doing that, if that’s a talent of yours. Don’t disparage technical writing, or procedures writing—there’s a market for those skills.

But it wasn’t creative writing, which I knew it wouldn’t be. The worm hole was absent. It wasn’t until I got home from my day job at DuPont and started writing one of the many magazine articles I sold as a freelance writer that the opportunity to enter the worm hole showed up. It was so much fun, querying magazines with article ideas, getting assignments from that process and earning money from my creative efforts that after two years as a corporate writer, I left to pursue the freelance writing full time.

Consider the worm hole, and allow yourself the time to write. I hesitate to call it a luxury because many of us work hard and luxuries seem so unattainable. We become unwilling to stop the practical day-to-day work we do to enjoy the luxury, so instead of viewing writing time in that way, consider writing for your business a lovely necessity.

Schedule time with your muse so you and she can enter Flow. Connect with two different places in the universe of your business through the act of writing. You will be so glad you did.

Are you making an appointment to write today?