Thursday, February 11, 2010

Writing in Flow

It has never been my intention when I sit down to write a blog post to give out advice to anyone who comes across these words. I don't know a whole lot about fiction writing, and what little I do know is intensely personal and probably only helpful to me. I know about writing research papers, response papers, poetry explications, annotated bibliographies, and any other kind of paper that involves a works cited page, but that's not what this blog is about.

I don't plan my posts out in advance. Sometimes I'll get a thought stuck in my head and say to myself, "maybe I'll blog about that tomorrow." Most of the time I either end up writing 2 blog posts in a day, or I'll write something completely different the next day. This not-planning may be a detriment, but at this point in the game, I'm not a professional writer. I'm not really networking, I'm just trying to make virtual connections to people who have the same interests as I. And it's fun. I check my blogger dashboard thingie every morning while I eat breakfast. It's my new ritual, and I really enjoy it.

A lot of the blogs I and many of you follow give out a lot of advice, and that's wonderful, because those people are way ahead of me in the game. They've written MSS, queries, researched agents, played the waiting game--that's the kind of advice that's actually helpful. They're the people you turn to when you need some reassurance that this business really CAN pan out.

I'm just here to write some random thoughts and indulge a purely selfish need to entice others to read what I have to say. I try to make it worthwhile, try to make it funny, and try to make it widely appealing. Hopefully I'm doing a decent job of that...

Anyways, the point of this ridiculously long preamble to introduce some writing advice that we all could use. This comes from a great book I used in my first creative writing class called Writing in Flow, by Susan K. Perry (Ph.D.) It's all about cutting out a special time to work on your writing and how to make the most of that time.

So here are some thoughts from this book:

How Flow Occurs
 Theory states that you enter flow state when the following requirements are in place:

1.Your activity has clear goals and gives you some sort of feedback.
2. You have the sense that your personal skills are well suited to the challenges of the activity, giving you a sense of potential control.
3. You are intensely focused on what you're doing.
4. You lose awareness of yourself, perhaps feeling part of something larger.
5. Your sense of time is altered, with time seeming to slow, stop, or become irrelevant
6. The experience becomes self-rewarding.

So how often can you say that you're in flow for any activity, not just writing? Personally, the only time I can really relate to this idea is when I'm reading a great book. I'm that person who becomes deaf and blind, much to my husband's irritation. I've only come close to this state a few times when writing, but it's something I strive for every time I open my MS, and something I hope that we can all someday accomplish.

I'm meeting my brother for dinner at 5, so I have 4 1/2 hours to try to write as much as possible. I'm shooting for an additional 2,000 words, which means I won't be able to keep taking email, blogger, and facebook breaks...

Flow, I'm coming for you!


Shelley Sly said...

Thanks for this great post on flow. Flow is something I learned in my psychology classes in college as just a general principle, and it wasn't until later on that I applied it to writing. In a perfect world, I'd get in the state of flow every single time I write, but that doesn't happen. The times it does happen, though, it's magical. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Looking back at my manuscript, I can actually tell where it flowed for me. Those are also the areas where my publisher requested the fewest amount of changes. So maybe Susan is on to something...

Unknown said...

Good Luck!!! I also don't feel the need to give advice unless I had just learned something that I thought others might like to know as well! I am more of the person that asks the questions... feels it out, decides whats best for me. Selfish as well I suppose you would say!!!

I like the idea of the writing flow, I've experienced quite a few times luckily enough, but now I know what to strive for each time I write!

I hope you make your goal!

Anonymous said...

I'm the guy that gets absorbed in books like that. Much to my wife's irritation. :)

I find music helps filter things out, and gets me inspired to write. For me, music is flow.

Raine Chasing said...

My blog is not really designed to give advice, but I do share my experiences I've had as a freelance writer and creative writer. I share books that have helped me, etc.

My blog didn't start out like that though. It actually started as a place to vent about my writing and slowly has turned into me learning from my mistakes. I guess I write in it to show and help others with mistakes that can be made in the writing world.

Kimberly Franklin said...

Great article! Thanks for sharing. I love reading good advice. I never give advice on my blog either, mostly just my attempts at trying to figure the writing game out. : )

Swimmer said...

I totally get into a book like that to. My friends find it funny and annaying at the same time. Also I tend to fing a "flow" for about a page or two and then poof its all gone. It is so aannoying because then the writing after it is not to the standard of the "flow" writing.

Anyway Good Luck!!!

Susan K. Perry said...

How lovely to see my book mentioned on this blog! Some of you might also be interested in my own blog, Creating in Flow, which happens to talk most often about writing (because that's what interests me most). You can check it out at

Happy writing, everyone.
Susan K. Perry

Summer Frey said...! Wasn't expecting that, but cool! I'll definitely be checking her link out!

Hannah said...

I experience the flow when reading or writing. It's a great feeling. It's one of my favorite experiences.

Hannah said...

I read all the time but I've never come across that blog! Where have I been?

Guinevere said...

I definitely get into that flow when I'm reading, but I only intermittently find it when writing. It's like the runner's high to me -- elusive but amazing. It's nice to see steps to take to help get into that flow.

Unknown said...

Hi Summer, I'm a new follower, just found your blog this morning. I'm a beginner, too - have always loved writing but am actually working on my first novel for the first time... and loving it! I blog in much the same way that you do, not advice, just really the thoughts I'm having during this experience. And other random stuff. :) I enjoy your blog!

Sarah Ahiers said...

I love when you get the flow in writing. I also get it in reading, but more than either of these activities, i used to HEAVILY feel the flow back when i played violin in an ochestra.
When in the flow you'd flawlessly play through passages that always tripped you up. it was almost like sleep walking (sleep playing?) and you'd find yourself on the other side of the music not even remembering how you got there and just knowing you did some of the best playing ever