how to achieve flow as an author

“Flow is an optimal state in which you feel totally engaged in an activity… In a state of flow, you’re neither bored nor anxious, and you don’t question your own adequacy. Hours pass without your noticing.”

Susan Cain

Ah, the mystical “flow state” that we’re always hearing about, trying to achieve, trying to stay in, or trying to find time to get into. I suppose it all depends on the way in which you’ve structured your life and your writing habits… and your interpretation of “flow.”

What beliefs do you have about flow?

The flow state? How many times have you been in it? Is it necessary for you to create, or merely an option to enhance it? Do you think it’s difficult to achieve? Or is it something you’ve trained yourself to move into fairly easily? What does the flow state look like for you?

For me, flow happens mostly when I’m writing, and almost always with a pen and notebook. Before I even realize it, some otherworldly force well outside of myself, takes hold of the pen and starts writing for me. That’s the best way I can describe it. Suddenly my hand is simply trying to keep up as the pen flies across page after page, the story flowing from – I don’t know where – onto paper. It really is quite magical and it’s also when I usually create my best work. Can you relate?

How does this magic happen and is there anything at all we can do to harness it as creatives?

Without offering any personal guarantees, I know there are things I do to create the conditions for a flow state to present itself. Read that again – I create the conditions to invite flow to show up. I don’t go into the woods, hunt it down, and abduct it.

How do I create these conditions?

First, I’ve noticed that the more space I can consciously create between my regular life and my writing cave, the better. By “regular life” I mean things like – being online, reactive to the world, in conversations with others, any use of technology really, or generally stressing about life. Anything having to do with being immersed in the fast-paced energy of daily life.

This means calming my brain, evening out my energy, and intentionally designing my writing cave as something to look forward to in the hours leading up to it. After creating that space from my day, I put on comfortable loungewear (okay so I live in that anyway), settle into a comfortable spot with a notebook and pen, light a favorite scented candle, play the right music – all the things that help me relax, put my conscious brain in neutral, and let go.

It’s true, sometimes a writing cave feels like a date with your creative brain.

Since everyone’s writing cave and flow state looks different, the major lesson is this: Find a way to get out of your own way. The flow state is there, the muse is always trying to talk to us. We’re just usually too busy to hear her, with too much going on in our brains, including limiting beliefs, overthinking and self doubt.

Create a process to relax, let go, and get out of your own way – and let flow come to you (versus seeking to find it)!