I love it when I’m able to get into the flow of writing. It seems like time flies and words pour out of me at record speed. When you’re in a “flow” state, you are simply more productive. And when you don’t have a lot of time on your hands to dedicate to writing, learning how to encourage this state becomes very important. In this article, I’ll share different things you can do to set things up for “flow” to happen when you sit down to write.
First, let’s make sure you know what I’m talking about when I say, “get into the flow.” The term “flow state” comes from positive psychology. Also called being “in the zone“, when you are in the flow you are “fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
When I’m writing in the zone, I feel like I’m directly connected to my Muse and the words seem to be coming from someplace outside of me, almost as if they are writing themselves. It is exhilarating! And you don’t have to let it happen by chance. Here are six ways you can increase the chances that you will get into the flow of writing.
1. Allow Time for Getting Into the Flow of Writing to Happen
You can’t rush getting into the zone. So be sure to allow enough time to get your writing done. For example, let’s say you’ve set a goal of writing 500 words for your writing session. How long does it typically take you to write 500 words?
To find out, time yourself at least 3 times, then take the average. You can do this in a number of ways.
- Start writing a section of your book. Time how long it takes you to get to 500 words. If you use MS Word, it will tell you how many words you have written in the bottom left corner. Do this method three times to get your average because it will take you a longer or shorter time if you have to think things through.
- Time yourself writing out 500 words of random text. Pull the words from a document you already have on your hard drive.
- Finally, if you want to reverse engineer your writing time, set the timer for 15 minutes, and write. When the timer goes off, jot down how many words you wrote. I recommend doing this 5 times for your most accurate result.
With this information in hand, you now have a baseline from which to work. You can either adjust your time to fit your word-count goal or your word-count goal to fit the time you have. Allow 5-10 minutes extra for you to slip into flow.
2. Create a Flow-Worthy Environment
To get into the zone, you will need a calm, comfortable, and distraction-free environment to work in. If you don’t have a home office with a door, find another space you can dedicate to your writing. Make sure the chair you use is comfortable. Barring that, there is always the library.
In addition to a comfortable workspace, you’ll also need comfortable attire. Wear something that feels good and makes you feel like a successful — or at least diligent — writer.
Depending on how much time you’ve set aside for your writing session, you may also need to make sure you have a snack and drink and with a temperature that is neither too hot nor too cold by your side. You don’t want to break flow just to get them.
If you have a dedicated space, decorate it with things that make you feel comfortable, inspired, and productive. Perhaps you’ll have a plant nearby or one of those desk-top waterfalls. Make sure you have appropriate lighting, and if the sun hits your desk at this time of day, turn the shades so the sun’s light won’t get in your eyes and distract you.
What other things will help you stay focused and calm? Scented candles? Lyric-free music (I like Gregorian chants, myself). Maybe you want a calendar with the project outline posted on it. Use whatever it takes to transport yourself into the flow state.
3. Focus on the Process — Not the Goals – To Get Into the Flow of Writing
While you are working towards your writing session’s end result or goal, it is essential that you focus on the process itself. Don’t focus on how many words you want to write. Don’t focus on how little time you have. Focus on the writing. Focus on what you are trying to say, the story you are trying to tell, or the information you are trying to impart.
By focusing on the process of writing rather than on your particular goal at the moment, you are able to remove all expectations and restrictive thought patterns so that you can release your creativity and problem-solving skills. This makes it much more likely that you will be able to get into the flow of writing.
4. Get Prepared for Your Writing Session
Remember what I said under “Create a Flow-Worthy Environment”? If you want to improve your chances of getting into the flow of writing, start by getting yourself prepared.
What does that mean? It means making sure you have everything you need before you sit down to write. If need be, create a checklist that you can double-check before starting a session. Here are some things to consider for your checklist:
- Go to the restroom before you start. Don’t let your bladder interrupt your flow!
- Make sure you have all the supplies you need. Pens, pencils, paper, notebook, laptop, files — whatever tools and supplies you will need for that session should be within reach without having to get up.
- Something to drink — don’t get dehydrated! — and a snack.
- Let those you live with you need some quiet time. Tell them when you’ll be done so they know how long they need to refrain from interrupting you.
- Turn your phone to silent — not vibrate — mode. You can put off answering the phone and text messages for the time you’ve set aside to write.
- Turn off notifications on your computer. You don’t need to be reading your email, either!
Prepare as much as you can. Make sure you have all things and information you may need at your fingertips. Of course, that isn’t always possible, as new ideas and things pop up while you’re working, but do your best to eliminate having to stop and look when you’re in the flow.
5. Get Your Head Into the Game — No Mind Goblins Allowed
Getting into the flow is mostly mental. Yes, the outside stuff discussed so far helps, but you can sabotage all the preparation in the world if you go in with a bad attitude. I hate to break it to you, but if you’ve had a bad day and your emotions are negative, don’t sit down to write.
To be in the zone you need to be alert and fully engaged because the flow state is a positive state of being. Negative emotions will only hamper your ability to get into and remain within the flow state. And, frankly, if you’re in a negative emotional state, even what you write outside of the zone won’t be your best.
Perhaps you can create a ritual or process that helps you clear out the negative emotions. Try spending a few minutes visualizing what it feels like to be in the flow. Then think about why it is important to get this writing done. Who will it benefit? What impact will it have? Find some internal motivation to make you want to get this done. That’s when you’re ready to get to work and get into the flow of writing.
6. Practice Makes Getting Into the Flow of Writing Easier
By practicing getting into the zone regularly you will create your own set of rituals and cues that will help you get into the flow state. Over time these will become second nature and your body will respond by getting into the flow of writing more quickly and easily.
Note: This post originally appeared on CarmaSpence.com in December 2020. It has been updated for content.