February 3rd, 2021

Fact or Fiction: "Flow" Improves the Writing Life

by Kris Maze

My last post at WITS went in-depth on the aspects of Flow and how to use the psychology of writing to get into the Creative Zone.  How does that apply to our misconceptions about getting into the mood for writing?

Here are a few scenarios common to writers.  What do you think? Do you agree?

Take a look at this video, if you want a quick refresher on How to Enter the Flow State . If you are ready for a mini quiz, see how Getting Into Flow can get you past these common writing issues.

Pop Quiz Time!  Let’s see what your opinions are on these typical writer ideals about getting into the Flow Zone.  Fact or Fiction?

1. Writer’s Block doesn’t really exist.  It’s only in your mind.

FACT

The parts of the brain that use to function daily can trip up our flow in many ways.  Research shows that we override our self-consciousness, worry and anxiety, and social expectations, we are more likely to experience Flow than when we sit at our desks with those thoughts competing for our mental bandwidth

2. Writers are creatures of habit and need a perfect writing space for optimal flow.

FICTION

According to the studies on Flow, it turns out that having the perfect setup isn’t as important as we may think. The way to get into Flow is to understand what makes your mind relax, focus, and find a balance between the task at hand and the skills you apply to it.

Some authors are very successful at catching a creative wave spontaneously and can tease out the words on the spot. But when a creative burst doesn’t drop out of the sky into our literary laps, we can and should intervene to create those circumstances. 

We all relate to when the words are just not flowing.  Consider this mini-checklist of common factors writers can use to optimize their chances of Getting into the Flow:

____ Healthy Snacks on hand

____ Warm or cold beverages near by

____ Slight caffeine boost

____ Ambient music or white noise

____ Sound cancelling headphones (a new favorite of mine)

____ A ‘do not disturb’ sign on the literal and digital door

3. When writers stick to one genre or type of writing, they experience more flow.

FACTION Yes, both. Let me explain! This can depend on a few factors.

FACT

There is a reason genre fiction writers seem more prolific than their literary counterparts.  Writing within the constraints, tropes, and requirements for the genre can free the writer's mind of some of the heavy decision making.  The framework has been largely created for them and they are carefully constructing new stories from those rules.

Literary novelists, who by contrast may take years to produce works have more pieces of the creative puzzle to solve in order to create something new and palatable to readers.

In an article on Creative Blockages, assistant professor of Psychology, Baptiste Bardot, describes well-known authors and how prolific they are.  For example, horror writers like Stephen King and Anne Rice have limited choices as to themes, setting, and plot.  Their literary counterparts have fewer formatting constraints leading to more solutions to resolve in their novels.

FICTION

Creativity by definition is not just creating new ideas, but the novel creation of ideas that make sense. Creativity requires lateral thinking and when writers tackle new types of writing they approach the new rules and constructs in ways that expand their thinking.

This study by Arne Dietrich, dives into the types of thinking writers use.  They may be deliberate and follow prescribed steps or follow decisions made in a more spontaneous way. This may sound more familiar to those who consider themselves Plotters of Pantsers, since those preferences demonstrate a writer's favored type of thinking.

The key to using flow to be more creative is to understand that writing lots of words does not equate creative output.  There are several computerized idea generators available to writers, but these apps cannot craft best sellers without the gifter authors who knit plots and characters into meaningful works of art.

4. Writers should feel the emotions in order to write a convincing emotional work.

FICTION

According to the research on Flow, emotions can block a writer's access to Flow since emotions are one of the cognitive processes that can detract from unfettered thinking that characterizes freedom of thought.  

Other ways emotion blocks our writing are due to possible affliction from one's inner critic. It can also project one’s self more onto the page, which has an adverse effect on using Flow.

Channeled emotional energy can help a writer if they are able to “make sense” of the words and build up the rest of their work. If it does, add that spice and make it naughty or nice.

How did you do? Did you agree with all of these?  I hope your writing life is productive and fulfilling, but if not I hope you find ways to get back into your writing groove soon!  What hacks and helps do you have for our writing community today?

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Kris

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Kris Maze is an author, freelance writer, and teacher. She enjoys writing twisty, speculative fiction with character driven plots.  After years of reading classic literature, mysteries, and thrillers, she began to write and publish her own  books. She also writes for various publications including a regular post at the award winning Writers in the  Storm Blog. 

When she isn’t spending time with her favorite people and pets, Kris Maze is taking pictures, hiking, or pondering the wisdom of Bob Ross. You can follow her author journey at her website at KrisMazeAuthor.com


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My Free short story, The Detour, has had a makeover! Not only has the text version been updated and beautified, there is now an audio edition.

Many of you have joined the newsletter to try out the audio version. If you prefer the PDF and haven’t gotten it yet, this link will take you to your free PDF download.

14 responses to “Fact or Fiction: "Flow" Improves the Writing Life”

  1. Gwen M. Plano says:

    Very interesting, Kris. You have me pondering, a good thing, especially since I'm struggling with a particular scene. 🙂

    • Kris Maze says:

      Reflection in the writing life is useful, especially when working out tricky parts of a scene. I'm glad the post was helpful, Gwen. Best of luck on your writing!

  2. Love this! Thank you for looking at the research. I have always believed that "writer's block" does not really exist, that it is simply an emotional reaction to self-doubt, etc. My advice to new writers is first and foremost be kind to yourself. Nothing kills creativity like negative thoughts and self-talk! This is a lesson learned from my grandmother who was a marvelous seamstress. When frustrated with a creative project, she advised one to put it down, walk away, and do something else for awhile. When you felt calmer, return to the project. By giving yourself a little space from the problem, you allowed your mind to subconsciously solve it.

    I also am so glad to see that I am not a weirdo in that I can write in any environment, including riding on long car trips. I have always been a little embarrassed when I am asked about my writing space and habits because they are all over the place! Now I can proudly tell the truth and cite your information as support!

    • Kris Maze says:

      Thanks, Linda! I agree that creatives tend to be harder on themselves. Your grandmother was a sage!

      I wish I could write (or read) more in a car, but I just couldn't get past the tendency to get car sick. Writing in a car may be like writing in a living room - the people you know around you, doing familiar things. Writing is hard work, but it may feel easier when you are surrounded by your people, pets, and places that inspire you.

  3. Ellen says:

    Great post, Kris!

    Maybe we can rename writer's block to writer's quandary.

    Linda's grandmother had it right, step away from your work and return with fresh eyes.

    I need quiet to write. I really need to pick up some noise cancelling headphones.

    One odd quirk. I cannot write with my back to a door.

    • kmazemke says:

      So, interesting that doors bother you, Ellen. I like facing the action if I'm in a busy room, too.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Ellen, I can't bear to create with my back to the door either. I need a wall with no window behind me. I don't care if the door is on that same wall, but I must be able to see it without turning around.

  4. Last weekend I wrote a chapter for my novel in which I was totally in the head of my antagonist. I was so excited about the piece I wrote. Unfortunately I forgot to save it. When I tried to re-create it yesterday, the results were less than satisfactory. Then this morning -- your post! Excellent, Kris. Thank you!

    • Absolutely the worst to lose work that way. It's happened to all of us. It is one of the reasons I use Scrivener as it saves your work automatically. Google docs, does as well.

  5. kmazemke says:

    Hi Patricia,
    That completely stinks that you lost your chapter - that's painful. Glad my post could ease you back into writer happiness. Good luck!

  6. dholcomb1 says:

    Wonderful way to look at things.

    denise

  7. Great post. I'm going to share over at my blog as well.

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