The Flow

by Mimi Sebastian

I suffer from constant writer’s block and flow issues. A while back, when starting the second book in my necromancer series, I sat down and expelled the first ten pages of the book. It was truly amazing. I have yet to repeat such a feat. Now, the inspired moments tend to produce about two to three pages, but I’m not complaining.

What is the flow? In this podcast from the Accidental Creative, Steven Kotler (link to podcast below) describes it as an optimal state of consciousness where the self vanishes and creativity is amplified. In typing those ten pages, I felt like I was dictating words flashing past my brain. I think many writers would describe the flow in the same way, just dictating. Somehow, when the flow happens, we’ve deactivated the frontal cortex which controls the pesky and sometimes nasty inner critic.

But is the flow something that happens by chance, the ship passing in the night, or can we trigger it somehow? Well, good news. The answer is yes! (according to Kotler).

Kotler describes the three phases of the Flow:

First Phase: research phase in which you’re taking in new information, doing research. He also calls this the struggle phase. I found when I first started writing books and taking classes, meeting other writers, my writing process was much more inspired.

Second phase: relaxation where you take your mind off the problem, allowing your mind to move from the conscious to the subconscious. Taking a break to let all the new information and research sink into the brain.

Third phase: make connections, the “high” phase. Memory and learning consolidate. Can be blocked by stress. Boy, do I get this, all the time. I have so much going on in my life between my day job and family. But when the brain clicks and the words do flow, it’s amazing.

Falling out of the flow or the “high”, often leaves you in a funk. I’m quite familiar with this somewhat bi-polar writer trait. One day, I’m depressed about how I can’t write and my writing sucks. The next day, I’ve written 1,000, inspired words!

Flow triggers:

Rest after coming out of the flow then dive back into the struggle phase.

Create that link that leads into phase two. Do research.

Risks, something with high consequences, lead to greater flow. Some things a writer can do are write in a style not your own, not copying the words, but using the same structure and punctuation. Or write a scene in a different POV.

Introduce novelty in your life, a complex environment. Change the environment you’re writing in. Sometimes if I go to a coffee shop, that helps. Recently I was on a work trip and convinced myself to go down to the bar and have a glass of wine, which for me, was both a risk and novelty. I don’t like hanging out in hotel bars by myself! But I got my glass of wine, sat down, and wrote the opening of my second pirate book. I was dictating and it felt fantastic.

Here’s a link to the podcast:


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