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How To Achieve Flow In Your Writing


by Jennifer on January 4, 2013

This is a guestpost by Mikkel Kongsfelt from whyliving.net

All bloggers experience some degree of writer’s block once in a while. It’s an extremely frustrating feeling to run completely out of inspiration.

The writing process is a creative process and without inspiration you feel lost. But writer’s block can be cured and one of the ways is to work consciously with flow writing.

However flow writing is also of benefit to writers without writer’s block.

Writers block often shows up, when writing about a subject that you find difficult. For example, I recently started a new webpage about insurances. This is a new subject to me and I found it extremely difficult to write about finding a cheap insurance.

I used the techniques below to turn my learning curve into a really good process.

What Is “Flow Writing” Or “Mindful Writing”?

Do you know the feeling of time just flowing and the hours passing quickly by? This is the feeling of flow and it can happen when writing, playing with your children, exercising or whatever you like to do.

This is the feeling we would like to consciously achieve in our writing.

It is a writing process with the words simply flowing from your hands without the need to think too much about it. It’s a more productive and more fun way of writing.

However flow and mindfulness is not necessarily easily achieved and the method to achieve it will vary from person-to-person.

How To Achieve Flow In Your Writing

There is no miracle cure to achieve mindfulness or flow in your writing process, however there are a few simple tricks and exercises that may help you in the right direction.

First of all you need to think about your writing process. You have to make note of what actually brings you to a state of flow writing.

I will encourage you to keep a notebook where you document your writing process and your thoughts concerning it. This will help you to figure out what brings you into flow writing.

Plan Your Writing Process

Planning your writing process is important. There are many steps to planning a writing process and each will depend on the subject you’re writing on and your situation.

Without some sort of planning it is hard to get started and to get into a state where you simply know what you are going to write. These are my ideas of how you could structure your planning and writing process:

  1. Start by planning your time. Make a realistic schedule of your working time and make room for breaks.
  2. Do research—but don’t overdo it. Start out by doing some research, but remember that you do not need to go through every detail in the subject before you start your writing. You can always come back to the research again at a later point.
  3. Start by writing about your motivation along with making some preliminary notes on the subject. This will help you getting into the subject.
  4. Make an outline of your writing. Don’t spend too much time on it. You should, however, modify it along as you progress.
  5. Start writing short paragraphs and remember to take a break once in a while to let your ideas develop in your brain. Only use nonstop writing if it works for you.
  6. Do more research by talking to other people about the subject if you can. Also make sure to go back to your outline once in a while and modify as you get new ideas.

If You Want to Write Nonstop

A really good exercise to quickly bring you into flow writing is to use nonstop writing. The whole idea is that you divide your writing process up in two processes. The first process is getting words down on the paper and the second part is to edit it.

Here is how to do it:

  1. You set a timer for the time you would like to write. Start out with 5 minutes and increase it to 10 or maybe 15 minutes as you get used to the process. And then start to write. You are not allowed to edit anything—not even spelling mistakes. You simply write nonstop what comes to your mind about the subject. Don’t stop until the time runs out.
  2. When the timer stops you are going to edit your text. Sometimes your text will be completely useless, but very often large parts of your text will be really good. Some of it may require heavy editing, but that doesn’t matter as long as you get some thoughts down on the paper.

Often it is very hard not to edit your text while you are writing. In that case you could change the background color of your text editor to the same color as the text. This will force you not to focus on what you have already written, but instead focus on what you are going to write.

Clear Away Distractions and Change Your Environment

A very important issue is to clear away distractions.

While you are writing, disconnect from the Internet, turn of your cellphone and clear your desk. I also use a text editor called FocusWriter. This text editor allows you to completely focus on your text by taking up the entire screen with nothing but a black background and your text in white.

Another trick to regain inspiration, focus and creativity is to get away from your usual environment. Go to a cafe or a library and bring your laptop. This change of environment could help you to regain focus on your writing.

How do you get into a flow state with your writing? 

About the Author: Mikkel Kongsfelt is at blogger at WhyLiving.net. He is currently writing and researching about finding cheap insurance.

Image courtesy of Jordanhill School D&T Dept

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Daphne Gray-Grant January 5, 2013 at 10:34 am

Some interesting suggestions, here, Mikkel. I have two other suggestions. Instead of outlining, try mindmapping. This essential technique keeps you working in the CREATIVE part of your brain, rather than the linear and logical part. Here is a post I’ve written on mindmapping: http://bit.ly/HHN5gb

Also, don’t ever start editing after only five to 10 minutes of writing! That’s way too soon. Instead, try to take at least a day before editing. This crucial “incubation” period allows you to approach your text with fresh eyes. If you’re writing on deadline and can’t afford to take a day, at the very least go and do something else (distracting) for at least an hour. Go for lunch. Go for a walk. Go write a different story. THEN, you can edit!

2 Mikkel Kongsfelt January 6, 2013 at 4:19 am

Thank you for your great suggestions Daphne. I guess that with regards to the mindmapping it very much depends on what state you are at in your work. I like to do mindmapping in the early process long before actually writing something. When starting to write I personally like to do an outline instead. The makes the process of actually writing the bits and pieces for the final text a lot easier.

Your are completely right with editing. But i would write for 10 minutes. Quickly look it through and edit it for 5 minutes. Also to get my mind working the next part to write. Then i would write for another 10 minutes and continue the process until i finish the work. Then… I would leave it for an hour or even days as you suggest before the final editing.

3 Jennifer January 6, 2013 at 8:43 am

@Mikkel Me too. I do use mind mapping as part of my process, but early on to do brainstorming. After that I create an outline to work from because I can’t work from a mind map. While they are very useful for brainstorming, I need more organization to actually do the writing.

4 Rich Furman January 21, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Not only is the post thoughtful and helpful, but the comments as well. From my experience coaching academics on their scholarly writing, I can tell you that one of the most critical mistakes that even highly trained PhDs make is editing while they are writing. While I have no scientific evidence to back it up, I do believe that most functions of writing and must functions of editing depending on different parts of the brain, and most certainly different neural networks. I have seen huge gains in productivity just from not editing until after one is done writing. How does one know when they are done and ready to move on? I think takes practice to figure out, but the guidance of not editing until the following day is good.

I do think though, that one can move into an editing space once they feel as if they cannot “write” any more.

5 Mikkel Kongsfelt April 11, 2013 at 6:30 am

Very good comment Rich, and thank you for the nice words about my post!

I certainly agree that writing and editing is to things requiring, if not a different part of the brain, then at least a different way of thinking about the process.

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