I’ve been thinking lately about flow. The line of thought springs from my listening to Grit this summer as I’ve walked (whenever I get to work early enough for a quick spin), It’s an engaging, thought-provoking book by Angela Duckworth; and I finished listening to a chapter about deliberate practice and flow earlier this week.
More on deliberate practice in another post. First, I’m drawn to write about the idea of flow. And mostly that’s because I’ve recently realized how thoroughly it eludes me in my writing. It didn’t, in long ago days. I used to effectively ‘get lost’ when I was caught up in a piece of writing.
Now? Not so much. In fact, I’m tempted to say, not at all.
See, just a second ago, invisibly, I stepped out of the flow of this post to open an e-mail. (You couldn’t possibly know that I just did that, but the goal is to be honest here.)
That’s remarkably jarring…the stepping away, I mean. But maybe the honesty, too, come to think of it!
Flow is key to the kinds of meandering explorations that creativity thrives on. Whichever side of the brain is the seat of my creative self, it needs to be allowed to flow. (And parenthetically, here is one of those spots where I need to NOT stop writing. There’s no need to Google “right brain” and “left brain” to figure out which is which.)
Flow is about sticking with something, moving with it, gaining momentum, seeing where it leads and letting the unexpected emerge. It truly is about allowing things to develop, to unfold. DH Lawrence took the concept to its farthest reaches with his theory that you basically stepped into a flow for the duration of an entire novel. And you didn’t revise or edit. If the novel wasn’t working for you, you started over.
And what emerges from this flow is organic and unpredictable. Again, from Lawrence:
In my life these days there are two major interrupters of flow.
- The first is getting ‘distracted’ by a question or interesting tidbit, pursuing it, and losing the thread of my writing. With information almost always at our fingertips, it is incredibly tempting to just take a second and look something up. But I am coming to the conclusion that it’s not an exaggeration to call the impact of these interruptions ‘devastating.’
- The other ‘interrupter’ is the seemingly ever-present part of me that I call my editor. It’s my own handy, personal, portable critic. This unhelpful entity is more present and intrusive when I’m writing on a computer than in longhand (something I seldom do anymore). It’s just so darn easy to stop, reread what I just wrote, and tweak it a little. Just a little. All the time…I mean, like every 15-seconds or so.
It’s maddening — like trying to merge onto an interstate while I also have my parking brake on. NOT flow.
So I find myself wanting to recapture something of flow by challenging myself with one, small step. The step is to commit to at least 15-minutes a day of writing with flow. No editing, no straying from the page…just flow.
Some of that, then, can be grist for posts here, perhaps. Some of it can be tossed. The goal is to let go of the distractions and constraints that have accumulated in recent years and see where it takes me.
To be continued…