Thursday, March 26, 2015

Getting back in the flow of writing

What do I like most about writing fiction?

The activity takes me aware from the little things in my life as I lose myself in the greater concepts of imagined worlds and people. When I finish a writing session, I feel great about myself and close to euphoria. The release resets my spirit and helps my enjoy life.

I recently came across the concept of "flow" as defined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In 1975, he identified a heightened state of awareness that he dubbed flow.

I learned about this in the book "Driven to Distraction at Work" by Edward M. Hallowell, MD. He summarized Csikszentmihali's research like this:

"In flow a person becomes so immersed in what he is doing that he loses self consciousness altogether. He gets so into what he is doing that he merges with the action he is involved in, becoming one with it. He loses sense of time, even awareness of biological needs and drives."

I appreciate the phrase "merges with the action" because that's how I feel when I write fiction. The action is right there in my head, like I'm watching a mental movie and making my best efforts to describe the scene with text.

Dr. Hallowell went on to write:

"In flow a person experiences life at its peak, its most joyful, its most intensely fulfilling."

This explains why I feel so good after a fiction writing session. I'm fulfilled and joyful about my accomplishment.

The purpose of Hallowell's book is to help people reduce distraction and focus so they can return to a productive state. He goes on to say that the skill of entering flow can be cultivated. I agree. As a daily writer who endures many distractions, I've developed the ability to move in and out of fiction writing. When it's time to do it, I segregate myself and do it. Maybe my Muse does not always answer, but she's pretty accustomed to taking my call and not sending me to voice mail.

According to Dr. Hallowell:

"With practice you can learn to enter flow regularly. The key is to engage in some activity that both matters to you deeply and is challenging, so that you have to stretch."

Right now I am reviving my skill of entering my fiction writing flow. For numerous life reasons, I've been prevented the last nine months from doing what I love most. But I have been pecking away slowly at a new fantasy story. For the last three days, I've engaged in daily writing sessions. Blissful satisfaction greeted me at the completion of each session, and I'm determined to make time in my life again to write more novels.

Dr. Hallowell wrote that writing is an activity that lets some people enter a flow state if it matters to them and they want to meet the challenge. He also said the professional athletes enter flow as well. It can happen to all types of people in any number of circumstances as long as they are engaging deeply and want to achieve something.

If you're struggling with focus and perhaps worry that you're letting your gadgets screen suck your time too much, I recommend Hallowell's book. It contains insights and great advice.

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