By using these straightforward techniques, you can consistently attain a writing flow state.
“Everything flows”, said Heraclitus, referring to nothing less than the primal principle of life. In life, the philosopher said, we are like rivers. We are in constant motion, pouring into the streamlines of time. And when we are in the flow, we flow trustingly into the vast ocean of life.
The principle of flow is still familiar to us today. Although today we encounter flow more in the workflow of an office or the flow of a yoga class, we have not forgotten how to flow. Like the river, in the flow state we move towards a goal, without compulsion, without pressure, completely in the flow of our own tempo. In the flow state, we feel neither the flow of time nor the flow of the world. We are in the flow ourselves. When we are in flow, we succeed in everything. And we succeed effortlessly. It is almost as if we had drunk a measuring cup full of the famous Felix Felicis, the liquid happiness from Harry Potter. Because in a state of flow, everything comes easily to us, even the novel we’ve been putting off for years.
The writing flow theory
The self-forgetfulness we experience in a flow state is also called an autotelic state. The term originates from the Greek and describes a state of complete self-purpose. Not the goal, but the path is the goal. Suddenly, the creative process gives us immeasurable joy and we are indifferent to whether and how we reach our goal or not. Free from pressure and excessive expectation, we flow through the purpose of our being.
The happiness researcher Mihály Csíkszentmihályi is considered the creator of the flow theory. He observed the phenomenon in doctors, athletes and thought acrobats. People in a flow state approached their tasks playfully, with the ease of a child. Classic characteristics of a flow experience are deep, long-lasting phases of concentration, a higher capacity for attention, self-confidence and feelings of happiness. People in flow merge with their task, they forget time and space. Even feelings such as hunger or thirst are blocked out. Physiological processes, such as heart rate, can change for the better.
Writing in a flow state
Especially for writers who are often inhibited by self-doubt or writer’s block, flow is a desirable state. That’s why we at novum publishing have been inspired by the rivers and have researched five techniques that might put you in a state of flow. Maybe, because nothing can be forced in the flow state. If in doubt, just do it like Paulo Coelho and be “like a river flowing silently through the night”.
A river always moves towards a goal. But it knows nothing of its destination as it flows. It just flows. So, do as the river does and set yourself a goal. Write it down and internalise it. It is important that you formulate the goal clearly and without inner expectations. So, if you are tempted to scribe “Write a bestseller”, scrap the phrase and write instead: “Write my book.” Your goals should create joy, not frustration. If you succeed in achieving the flow state, you will forget your goal and move towards it through the pure joy of creating and being.
Stay realistic. Flow on the riverbed of facts. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi has found that we achieve the flow state primarily when we match our work to our abilities. The key to finding the right balance lies in the level of aspiration. An activity should neither under- nor over-challenge us. In addition, work that requires criteria such as variety and autonomy promotes the flow experience. Realism starts with planning: Your ambition in all honour, but 200 pages per day is certainly not a realistic goal. Start with ten pages. In ten days, you’ll already have a hundred.
A river flows, poetically speaking, out of the pure pleasure of flowing. The river neither wants to fulfil expectations nor perform a service. It simply wants to flow. Devote yourself to an activity that you enjoy. The flow experience is determined by our intrinsic motivation, not our extrinsic motivation. If you write for money, paint for recognition or play music for applause, you may be successful. But you will only reach the flow state if you are frugal and intrinsic happiness is motivation enough for you to do your work.
The flow state is like a meditative state that can be compromised, especially by external factors. So even before you start working, create an environment that promises calm, peace and, above all, focus. Switch your mobile phone to airplane mode. Deliberately occupy yourself with only one activity. Stop multitasking and feed the cats. Maybe put on some music. The next few hours are all yours.
Accustom your body and mind to a state of absolute inner peace and balance. If you meditate daily, it will be easier for you to switch from a state of operation to a state of flow in your everyday life. Make your writing flow!
What tools and techniques do you use to put yourself in a state of inspiration and endurance? Tell us your secret tips in the comments!
Let your fingers roam freely over your keyboard!
Your team at novum publishing