IT NEVER CEASES to surprise me, how difficult putting one word after another can be. Sometimes the words fly onto the screen so easily it’s disgusting, as if my hands are operating independently of thought. I swear my brain might be in my hands.
Then there’s the times, when putting a sentence together seems like the most complicated struture known to mankind, that even a team of engineers would walk away from, terrified and confused at the syntax, the vocabulary and everything else possible, shaking their fists at you, calling you a semi colon, the c-word of all writers putdowns.
That brings me on to the concept of flow and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a topic I’ve touched on before. Despite having the most difficult last name to remember in human history, a spelling bee nightmare, Mihaly fathered the concept of flow, or the mental state of being in the zone. In writing terms I’ve been there, where every touch of the keyboard is in perfect harmony with the mind, and the story, poem or article comes out voluntarily, apparently ecstatic to be released. It’s such a strange phenomenon though. Why does it occur sporadically? One night I wrote 1000 words and couldn’t have been happier with the result, needing no editing beyond spelling. Tonight I wrote 2000 words and while not dissapointed, the story didn’t appear on page as I’d like, an idea I’d had for some time too.
Despite the difficulty, I still feel happy that I’ve written something, but not as happy as if I’d written something that seemed more organic. But as the saying goes, no writing is bad writing. In Hemingway’s words “sometimes it’s like drilling rock then blasting it out”. And while that is exceptionally true, those times I trip and stumble over words, when I go back, there never seems to be the same magic there, no matter how much I edit. Is that just the way it is? Ultimately, not every creative output can be classic, or exceptional, or necessarily anywhere near it, and dealing with that is key to moving forward and improving for me, as much as anything else. One thing Mihaly doesn’t say is that you can be in the flow 100% of the time. So that rules that out
What are your thoughts on drilling the bedrock, or being in the flow? Is it just a case of writing twenty things and at least a couple will be good?
Some food for thought:
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi