Friday, March 26, 2010

The Tao (and Flow) of Writing

Every morning while I'm getting ready, I like to read a page from 365 Tao. (You can find a podcast of the readings here.) Today's reading was about retrospective, how teachings that you have to struggle with in the beginning become automatic over time. I think that applies to many skills in life, including writing. The more you work at it, the better you become at using grammar correctly in your first draft or choosing the right words or dealing with larger issues. Taoists say that when things go this smoothly, one is in touch with Tao.

I think the Tao is another name for the "flow" state, when you're so immersed in what you're doing that it works like magic. I first noticed how writing got me into the flow state when I was in high school taking essay exams. I'd come into the classroom armed with a brain full of knowledge, a process of how to turn a thesis statement into an essay, pens, and a tissue to wrap around my left hand (so the ink wouldn't stain it). As soon as I read the question and figured out how to answer, off I'd go, not to resurface until I was done.

These days I have so many distractions it's hard for me to reach the flow state, especially since I have so little time to do it on my lunch break. I know surfing the net and playing Spider Solitaire don't help, but they've become a habit. Sometimes it helps to go somewhere, like the bookstore, with the specific intention to write. If I can set aside a large chunk of time, it's more effective.

What do you do to reach a flow state, whether that's in writing or some other activity? Do you feel that the flow state comes more frequently with practice? Please feel free to answer in the comments.

I actually have some fun personal things planned for this weekend; they may even make it to the blog. Enjoy your weekend!


Robin of My Two Blessings said...

Things flow when I write first thing in the morning and don't turn on the computer and get distracted. Usually early morning, before James or hubby have gotten up, sit down with notebook and start to write. It helps to write in head first which usually ends up happening when I wake up in the middle of the night.

Yes, flow does come with practice. The more you sit down and open your mind and just let it flow through your pen or keyboard as the case may be, the easier it becomes.

The instances in which its hard to get things to flow is when I know my time is limited.

Maria Zannini said...

Flow happens when I clear my head.

I find doing mundane tasks like washing dishes, painting or scrubbing frees my brain to wander. Before I know it, the story is half written.

--then I have to rush it write it down before I forget. LOL.

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