Choose Flow

Sometimes, I sit at my computer to write, like I’m doing now, and my keyboard may as well be a block of cheese. And my screen may as well be an oil painting. There have been days when I have written, re-written and edited the same article only to delete the whole uninspired lot an hour (or two) into the less-than-rewarding process. Fortunately, those times are few and far between these days.

Most days, the ideas and words come with relative clarity and ease but having said that, writing something worth publishing (in an ever-expanding sea of online literary garbage), and more importantly, something worth sending to seventy thousand subscribers (especially when readers have so many options), still requires time, energy, creativity and ongoing commitment to the cause. Do we have a cause here?

And then, some days are magic.

Some days the words come faster than I can type. Literally. And, in that moment, I worry that some of the words might spill over the top of my memory bucket and down the literary drain. Never to be seen again. It’s like I’m trying to pour a litre of water into a half litre bottle in world record time without losing a drop; an impossible assignment.

But I do my best anyway.

And while I can’t tell you exactly where those words come from, I can tell you that they don’t come from a particularly logical or intellectual place. Quite often, I have absolutely no idea where a certain insight or understanding has come from. At all. It just arrives like an unexpected parcel at the door. I don’t remember consciously learning that particular lesson (or truth) or having had an experience that would lead to that insight, idea or awareness being front of mind.

Or even back of mind, for that matter.

Sometimes, when I’m being my cerebral ‘clever’ self, I over-think the crap out of every word, sentence and message; with the net result being contrived, safe, typical delete-able personal development rubbish. Ironically, when it comes to writing, the less I try, the better my work seems to be. ‘Not trying’ in this case, not to be confused with laziness. For me to write well, it must be a creative experience, more than a methodical process.

Which is pretty much the opposite of what you might learn in ‘Writing 101′.

Being in flow, it seems, is less about banging on the door and more about opening it. In a very real sense, sometimes it’s my job to simply get out of the way while an article writes itself. I know that last sentence might sound like wanky-psycho-babble fluff (to some of you) but for me, it’s totally true. It’s my literal experience.

This state that I periodically find myself in is my version of literary flow; the place where my passion, my excitement and my new-found insight all collide in the same time and space. And when it does happen, I experience a combined sense of joy, excitement and urgency. Like something special might happen if only I don’t f*ck it up.

In kid-speak, It’s like some totally awesome person has come unexpectedly knocking on my front door and I can’t wait to get them inside to meet you all.

This phenomenon that I have described is called different things by different people but for today, I’m calling it ‘being in flow’. And while there’s no universally-effective ‘flow recipe’, I can tell you that what works best for me (as both a speaker and writer) is to disconnect from my ego, my fear and sometimes, from my intellect. Ironically, there seems to be some kind of inverse correlation between how much I think about and plan a piece of work and how engaging, empowering and authentic that work might be. My experience is that people are most responsive to my messages (be they written or spoken) when I am being less cognitive and more creative and instinctive.

If you’re like me (on some level), then maybe it’s time for you to open the door and stop banging on it.