Finding the flow state in any creative endeavor feels like hitting the jackpot. You can’t really plan on it, you can just keep striving toward it, putting in the time and effort hoping that it’ll pay off. And then WHAM–FLOW STATE. Time ceases. Things hang in the mix, clouds emerge, floating happens, stars twinkle, a distant cow moos. And then you blink and you’re back in reality with no idea how you just spent four hours at your computer without one pee break or even a single snack, for god’s sake.
Flow State. That’s the shit, right? Sometimes, practicing your craft doesn’t result in the flow, but sometimes it does. That’s what the practice is for, after all.
In Ashtanga yoga, one focuses on their drishti (focal point, like staring at the wall or your toe, for example), and controls their breath (pranayama). The combination of these aspects with the postures, or asanas, produces a meditative state. Which is just another flow state, literally.
And that’s the interesting part. There are so many ways to reach flow state. Structured, routine physical movement is one way (Ashtanga), just as spinning poi, knitting furiously, or writing novels are others.
For me, hitting my writing flow means that certain patterns follow, like a dog after the scent of meat. Routines emerge, strange consistencies crop up. And that’s what I want to take a look at today: the patterns that populate the flow state.
Since I’ve started writing novels again, like from scratch, I’ve noticed that they occur mostly at random, after an appropriate period of build-up. Something sparks me and BAM, I start writing. I have most of the story in my head, at least a feel for the emotional arc if not the general gist of what’s going to happen.
Once I start writing, it flows pretty easily. If I could write all day every day during this period, I might finish it in two weeks. Writer’s blocks don’t tend to occur. Some nights, I’ll surpass 10,000 words.
And this is where I begin to fantasize, constantly, about my WIP. I’ll wake up thinking about it, lull myself to sleep crafting scenes. I’ll even enter meditative states during long car rides and write half the damn novel in my head. Scene after scene, along the chronology of the novel, reveal themselves to me in the form of dreams, day dreams, fantasies and more. I can’t help it, I can’t control it, and god help me, I don’t want to change it.
The other pattern that emerges, apart from the relentless writing and the near-constant fantasizing, is the soundtrack-on-repeat. A song becomes the hook of the novel, the actual epicenter upon which my emotional arc is triggered. I play the song, and I am immediately in the heart and soul of that novel. Sometimes other songs accompany the emotional groove. This isn’t uncommon for writers, and I like that some authors post the soundtracks that inspired or helped along certain novels (I think I’ll start doing this in the future!).
But seriously. I will listen to the Indicated Song up to ten times a day. Multiple days per week. And it never gets old. At any rate, this song can sort of act like my drishti, or focal point, for the duration of the novel.
Once the novel is written, and I begin to emotionally disengage, so too disappear the fantasizing and the repetitive song listening. My work with that piece has come to an end. My focus moves elsewhere.
I like these patterns; it’s thrilling to be caught in the throes of writing a novel, even if it feels a little psychotic after the 24,562nd time listening to the same damn song.
What are YOUR patterns when you write a novel? Can you identify with mine? What has been the craziest one to accompany writing your novel, or flow art? Is there anything else you do to reach the flow state?