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Going with the Flow
Flow. The zone. Ecstasy. Finding the magic. The writer's high.
Call it what you want, but it's still the same thing. It's that consciousness-altering state in writers that is almost a form of hypnosis. It's a creative buzz, a flow of words and meaning that so takes over the mind, the writer is oblivious to everything -- the passage of time, bodily aches and pains, even nearby disturbances. It's an intense, almost sexual state that causes notable physiological changes. And while it's as common to writers as a love of words, it is difficult to define and even harder to harness. Yet harness and define it are exactly what Susan K. Perry does in her book Writing in Flow: Keyes to enhanced Creativity.
Perry is a social psychologist who teaches at UCLA Extension's highly esteemed Writers' Program. In writing the book, Perry applied the theories of flow developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and interviewed more than 75 bestselling and award-winning authors, including Sue Grafton, Michael Connelly, Faye Kellerman, Jonathan Kellerman, Donald Hall, and Jane Smiley. These authors' thoughts and perspectives on creativity, productivity, and process provide much of the framework for Perry's in-depth analysis of the flow state. Perry then pulls it all together and presents it in a way designed to imbue readers with the motivation, understanding, and attitude necessary to identify and harness their own flow.
The book is organized into three sections. The first, "An Ode to Flow," pinpoints the defining characteristics of flow, its effect on writers, and the results it produces. In the second part of the book, Perry provides her five "Master Keys" to entering flow during writing: 1) having a reason to write, 2) thinking like a writer, 3) loosening up, 4) focusing in, and 5) finding balance in opposites. The keys may sound simplistic on the surface, but Perry's exploration of each is thorough and comprehensive. She supports each point with relevant quotes from the contributing writers and peppers each chapter with Q&A text blocks that deal with some common issues. At the end of each chapter are helpful exercises and provocative questions designed to demonstrate that chapter's principles and concepts. The third section of the book is devoted to making flow happen, as Perry explores such things as rituals and routines, music versus silence, meditation, environment, and writer's block.
If it is possible to capture the essence of flow, Perry has done it. Writing in Flow would be a welcome companion on any writer's bookshelf. The anecdotal support from Perry's vast field of experts not only provides insight into flow, but the vast disparities of their experiences should provide reassurance that there is no one right way to do it, that the writing process is as individual and unique to each writer as his or her fingerprints. So whether a writer needs encouragement, a break out of writer's block, a subconscious tickle to get started in the morning, or simply to improve productivity, this book can do it. It's the perfect mix of inspiration and perspiration.
Beth Amos is the author of several mainstream suspense thrillers, including Second Sight, Eyes of Night, and Cold White Fury.