This is a reprise of a post I wrote some years ago and I share its 2022 version here. It’s exactly what I’ve been thinking about lately with regard to writing in general, and my writing in particular.
I’m drawn to write about the idea of flow because I’ve recently realized how thoroughly it continues to elude 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 that almost never happens.
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.
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, moving with the 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 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 the impact of these interruptions is hugely disruptive.
- The second is the part of me that I call my editor. It’s my own handy, personal, portable critic. She’s more present and intrusive when I’m writing on a computer than in longhand. 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.
And that’s not to say there isn’t a place for editing. In fact, I love editing, but it needs to take place later, after I’ve truly allowed myself to ‘speak.’ To be continued…