Saturday, December 26, 2009

Flow again

When I AM enjoying writing, which I’m not always, what I love most about it is the feeling of total concentration. I’m alert, but completely relaxed, too; trying my hardest--but it feels effortless. Nothing else matters -- hours and hours can go by without my thinking about anything else at all, even going to the bathroom or eating are unwelcome interruptions (sometimes when I get to the kitchen I forget why I’m there and just go back to my desk).

Psychologists call this state flow. I have the same feeling when I’m riding well: everything is easy, effortless -- we canter on a long, loose rein, moving together; or jump with perfect timing and control, completely relaxed.

Lately, I haven’t been in flow when I write and I haven’t been riding at all, for the same reason, one that is all too common to those who try to make a living in the arts: money.

Now I’m making enough babysitting to pay my rent -- and my ONLY writing goals are to write every day (even if it’s only for 15 minutes!) and be in flow when I do it.

Doing it every day is simple, if difficult: the good old BIC (butt in chair, thank you Jane Yolen). But how to get into flow, concentrating completely on a task? 

 Csikszentmihalyi says you can concentrate on a task when:

*you have a clear goal

*you believe you have a chance of completing the task 

*you get immediate feedback

Chance of completing a novel, getting immediate feedback on it, having a clear goal? HAH! But if I structure things so that EACH DAY I DO have a clear goal, I will have a chance of completing it -- and, really, I always know in my heart of hearts when what I’ve written is good and when it’s just junk though sometimes I don’t want to admit it. 

So I CAN be in flow every day! Hmm, just written down, that doesn’t sound like a big deal at all, but to me it was and is. 

Usually (especially when worried about money) I sit down thinking I HAVE TO finish this fast, I have to finish this fast-- and when I think of finishing the whole book, get really overwhelmed -- don’t know if what I’m aiming for is even any good, feel SO far from my goal, blah blah blah. But this way, it’s possible to do what I set out to do, every day, because I’ll be setting a small, specific goal. And then I’ll get the other great benefits of flow:

* deep effortless involvement

* a sense of control

*the self disappears

*time changes


I did try this once before, and posted about it, too, but it’s worth trying and posting about again, too -- especially NOW, when I don’t have to babysit again until Monday, January 4 and thus have every day to write! I will report back and tell you what I accomplished.


Grace Lin said...

Libby, I hope it is working for you! I am trying to get there myself but it is a very glacial movement so far over here!

Libby Koponen said...

Thanks for the good wishes.

Not moving with the speed of light here either but at least I am doing it and I hope to pick up speed. And get into flow!