Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Creative Flow

I've been developing a set of procedures to help me easily attain a mental state of flow so that when I sit down to write in earnest (as opposed to blogging about writing) I'll be able to sink into that gorgeously ecstatic, effortless, ego-less rhythm that is my favorite writing mood. During these times, I'm able to forget the outside world and forget my ongoing biological processes. I've been known to spend hours at work on a single project without remembering to eat. But research is key. If I have to stop writing to look up what the exterior of the Student Union looks like, for instance, I'll be dumped right out of my flow state. I have to know what I'm writing, be able to imagine it as clearly as if it were my own memory, before I can translate it into language. That's not to say that the creative dynamo set loose during a flow cycle doesn't sometimes surprise me. I've veered wildly from my outline in such times, always with fantastic results.

But I'm absolutely developing a set of procedures to help get me into flow more reliably than I've been able to achieve it in the past. I'm also trying to find a distinctive scent that I can associate with this set of procedures. Hopefully, with prolonged application, I'll be able to hotwire my mind to recognize the scent and steps and fall directly to writing.

Understanding the neurobiology of flow has been of great importance. Over stimulation kills flow. This has been what's been tripping me up. I've been trying too hard, attempting to force it. Also, I've been expecting results too quickly. My research to date suggests that it takes at least 15 minutes of concentration on a challenging (but not overly difficult) task to achieve the optimum neurobiological conditions for entering a flow state and another 45 minutes to get locked in so that distractions can't reach me.

So I'm working on a procedure.

Today I pushed my mental outline further into the future, into the realm of a second book, possibly a third. I'm still struggling with a few first chapter questions that need to be resolved before I go back to writing on them. For instance, how often should Claire allude to her past experiences? Should she just suspect her abilities or should she have absolute faith in them? How big of a role should Dr. Feigner play? How often should David's mother visit?

But I need to stop asking myself questions and start drafting questions for my generous volunteer!

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