Tuesday, November 23, 2010

8 Tips for Writing in the Flow

What is the flow? The flow is the special state when you let go of brain chatter, worries, and yourself so you can simply write. Your mind becomes an instrument that plays.

1) Don’t Think – Don’t Edit: Writing in the flow requires that words stream out of your ‘No thought’ mind. Our inner voice, AKA executive function, AKA ‘Should I write another line about the poodle?’ will stop the flow dead in its tracks. Stopping to think about a word, or a whole paragraph gets you out of the flow and into the slow. Save all of your editing for when you have finished your writing session or better still when you have finished your manuscript. Another roadblock to creative flow writing is distraction, such as day dreaming, pondering, and worry. Let it go.

2) Passion - Get Angry: One of the most important aspects of writing in the flow is having a steady stream of ideas at the ready to pour out of you. High emotional content stores energy and links memories. Anger is one of the best emotions for ramping up brain energy that wants to burst out. Think of a social injustice or a personal injustice until you feel your ire peak and then let it rip. Anger at a situation in your novel or even a character can also serve to charge your brain with a flood of ideas. Additionally, any emotion that gets you to feel passionate will get you writing from the gut. In a passionate state you will be typing as fast as you can as the ideas race into your mind.

3) Calm: The Alternative to emotional writing is getting calm, word Tai Chi. The idea here is that without stress and worries to clog your creative juices you will be able to flow. The key is keeping anxiety and other brain blockers at bay. You want to let go and flow. Do it in words.

4) Music: Having music playing while your writing has at least three ways to help get and keep you in the flow: First, music itself flows and the background sonorous environment helps carry you along with musical flow. Second, music is a great way to block out noise distractions. I play it loud enough to block out even the phone. Third, music helps reduce stress and tension, which are the arch enemies to flow writing.

5) Spell Checker: Most people write in MS Word, which has the feature to check spelling and grammar while you type. Helpful? Not for the flow. Turn the feature off. You do not need red or green underlining constantly saying ‘Wrong!’ while you write. It almost forces you to edit as you go, which is a no-no.

6) Space and Time: Crucial to being able to flow write is feeling secure about your writing time and space. The best way to do this is have a designated computer that will be free of other uses during your designated time. Having a nice writing environment (Music, Plants, Pictures, Windows, etc…) is all conducive to flowing. Knowing you have a block of time set aside takes pressure off, especially if it takes you a while to get in the flow.

7) Read in the Flow: What is flow reading? Just like flow writing you do not use your executive function for judgment. You just read. No daydreaming, no criticism, no pondering. Save that for the end of the chapter. Why? You want your brain to build a store house of literary building blocks. Subconsciously you are remembering humorous constructions, modes of suspense, dramatic tension, etc…You do not want to copy the work but learn from it to help you flow. When a thought does pop in your mind about the book or anything else that is fine, make a note if need be, but then jump back into the flow reading.

8) Write, Write, Write: The one obvious mandate is writing and writing a lot. Nanowrimo is an excellent exercise for writing in the flow. Write often and consistently. If you find yourself out of the flow by thinking, worrying etc…just dive back in until you forget who you are. Being in the flow and writing without the ego or self will result in your best work. So flow.


  1. Thanks! I have trouble with this type of "freewriting," so your post was very helpful.

  2. I don't have any problems writing with the flow. My challenge is to keep that flow at the 22nd edit. ( yeah, it might be that many - I've lost count)

    You can see if I've succeeded if you like. Ch 1 of my YA fantasy Lethal Inheritance is up on my blog.

  3. I like #2- Get angry. Some of the manuscripts I get for critique aren't angery enough!

  4. Great post!

    Darn those you-spelled-this-wrong squiggly lines. Those things are always sticking their big feet out to trip me. Then I have to spend ten minutes listening to orchestrated music before I can find the "flow" again.