Writing In Flow Is The Opposite of Writer’s Block

QUOTE:  Mihaly Csikszentmihályi and his fellow researchers began researching flow after Csikszentmihályi became fascinated by artists who would essentially get lost in their work. Artists, especially painters, got so immersed in their work that they would disregard their need for food, water and even sleep. Thus, the origin of research on the theory of flow came about when Csikszentmihályi tried to understand this phenomenon experienced by these artists. [1]

QUOTE: Dr. Csikszentmihalyi became fascinated by artists who were driven not by money, praise, or promotion but by the intrinsic reward of creation. He studied artists who for hours effortlessly focused specifically on creating a single painting or sculpture, only to forget about it completely once it was finished. This same intensity of flow can be observed in surgeons, athletes, writers, parents, computer programmers, and dancers, to name just a few. Flow occurs when someone with an aptitude and appreciation for an activity finds, engages in and ultimately masters that activity. It emerges when the doer does something that he or she really connects with; it cannot otherwise be forced into existence. The experience of flow appears to be universal—people of all nationalities and backgrounds seem to enjoy and benefit from the experience of flow. The experience of flow is also universally appreciated. It feels good to flow. Flow leaves people feeling more confident and competent and promotes a sense of well-being and vigor. [2]

QUOTE: The first trouble here is in defining terms. And to understand the term “writer’s block” it’s helpful to understand that creativity exists on a scale. On one end is the proverbial impasse, on the other is what psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi calls a “flow state.” In his book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” Csikszentmihalyi describes it this way: “being so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter: the ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” What he’s describing is the merger of action and awareness and when this happens to a writer, the work is effortless. It feels less like writing than it does like channeling. I wrote the last 70 pages of my last book in a flow state and it took less than a week and required almost no rewriting before publication. And every writer I know has had a similar experience. And this is critical because it allows us to define writer’s block as something concrete, as a total absence of flow. [2]

NOTES: Flow is a rewarding experience of high excitement, pleasure and challenging action while in a state of great relaxation. It is like a combination of play and meditation. I want to write in flow. In flow, the words flow the way a stream flows. This has multiple implications.

First, flow is about downward. It is the force of gravity that causes flow. Water seeks a way to move forward and downward in order to fulfill the purposes of gravity in creation.

Second, flow is about abundance. There is a larger supply of words upstream. There is no drought or lack of what is needed for creativity.

Third, flow is shaped by channels which provide a downward path in which flow moves. Flow will create a channel, just as the Colorado River created the Grand Canyon. The channels provide the direction for flow, while gravity provides the power. Human beings can shape the channels – what else is the Hoover Dam? – but God provides the energy of gravity. Channels also allow the current to be used for a human purpose, to generate power as water flows through hydroelectric generators.

Fourth, flow does not wait for the writer. Flow is an ongoing natural phenomenon, always there, always on.

Fifth, the writer is like a rider, riding the current downstream. A variety of images come to mind, from inner tubing on a rural stream to hot air balloons that are carried along by a river of air. What image is most useful for illustrating flow for the writing? Eventually I came to believe that the most helpful image is that of a writer on a blobsled, making a run downhill.


QUESTIONS for thinking it through:



[1] Flow (psychology), From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psych

[2] Resilience: Mindfulness and Flow, El Paso Emergence Health Network, at http://info.emergencehealthnetwork.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=5790&cn=298

[3]  “Overcoming Writer’s Block: How To Never Suffer Writer’s Block Again” by Steven Kotler, The Playing Field blog, posted Apr 21, 2009 at  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-playing-field/200904/overcoming-writers-block

The photo “Hoover Dam – Explored :-)” is by Airwolfhound and is from  https://www.flickr.com/photos/24874528@N04/14044773428/ courtesy of the Flickr.com Creative Commons license.

Any Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted in Blogging 101 Thinking It Through. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.