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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Barrier


What is it made of? That undefinable slip between the mental fortitude a writer needs to sit down to write and the timeless, boundless overdrive where the world slips away? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyl, a psychologist famous for his studies of the creative mind, discovered and labeled this phenomenon for writers. Flow. The mental state when concentration peaks, the writing is neither easy nor difficult, and the words are powerful and fascinating enough to suspend time.

Flow is liquid and hot, gravity and flight simultaneously conspiring to create something beyond the writer. Thoughts snatched from some nebulous plane, which when placed alongside the words we struggled with, laced with worries of marketability and POV and character arc, we barely recognize as our own.

Flow is the reward. The creative pull stronger than any self-medicating dark chocolate or dry martini or the nth episode of SVU. It's what keeps writers coming back each and every day, hoping to breach this barrier into our subconscious and the story world it has created.
Daily, ritualistic writing weakens this barrier, like a hand stretched through silk stalkings, easily penetrable. Each day away from the barrier strengthens it, layer upon layer until a writer, desperate for the creative high, believes it takes a magical key to open the post-thick door to their imagination.

For me, flow is realizing the cat curled up on my lap and I never felt him. Forgetting to eat a meal. Darkness descending where there was day. And once, only once, the sweet notion of fallen tears I hadn't remembered surfacing. Flow is a perfect time machine, fully accessible if we let ourselves go and find that place we discovered before we realized there were rules and the worries of the writing life weaved this barrier.

What does flow mean for you?

2 comments:

Andrea Geist said...

Great post! While I hadn't thought about it this way, when I am in my zone I:
forget to eat
don't hear the phone
day does turn to night or visa versa

Sandra Ferguson said...

When it just happens.

Sometimes when we're very lucky, something just happens. No explanation, no understand, but it's pure bliss and all the more so because of its unexplainable state.