Fact or Fiction: “Flow” Improves the Writing Life

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From Writers in the Storm:

1. Writer’s Block doesn’t really exist.  It’s only in your mind.


The parts of the brain that use to function daily can trip up our flow in many ways.  Research shows that we override our self-consciousness, worry and anxiety, and social expectations, we are more likely to experience Flow than when we sit at our desks with those thoughts competing for our mental bandwidth

2. Writers are creatures of habit and need a perfect writing space for optimal flow.


According to the studies on Flow, it turns out that having the perfect setup isn’t as important as we may think. The way to get into Flow is to understand what makes your mind relax, focus, and find a balance between the task at hand and the skills you apply to it.

Some authors are very successful at catching a creative wave spontaneously and can tease out the words on the spot. But when a creative burst doesn’t drop out of the sky into our literary laps, we can and should intervene to create those circumstances. 

We all relate to when the words are just not flowing.  Consider this mini-checklist of common factors writers can use to optimize their chances of Getting into the Flow:

____ Healthy Snacks on hand

____ Warm or cold beverages near by

____ Slight caffeine boost

____ Ambient music or white noise

____ Sound cancelling headphones (a new favorite of mine)

____ A ‘do not disturb’ sign on the literal and digital door

3. When writers stick to one genre or type of writing, they experience more flow.

FACTION Yes, both. Let me explain! This can depend on a few factors.


There is a reason genre fiction writers seem more prolific than their literary counterparts.  Writing within the constraints, tropes, and requirements for the genre can free the writer’s mind of some of the heavy decision making.  The framework has been largely created for them and they are carefully constructing new stories from those rules.

Literary novelists, who by contrast may take years to produce works have more pieces of the creative puzzle to solve in order to create something new and palatable to readers.

In an article on Creative Blockages, assistant professor of Psychology, Baptiste Bardot, describes well-known authors and how prolific they are.  For example, horror writers like Stephen King and Anne Rice have limited choices as to themes, setting, and plot.  Their literary counterparts have fewer formatting constraints leading to more solutions to resolve in their novels.


Creativity by definition is not just creating new ideas, but the novel creation of ideas that make sense. Creativity requires lateral thinking and when writers tackle new types of writing they approach the new rules and constructs in ways that expand their thinking.

This study by Arne Dietrich, dives into the types of thinking writers use.  They may be deliberate and follow prescribed steps or follow decisions made in a more spontaneous way. This may sound more familiar to those who consider themselves Plotters of Pantsers, since those preferences demonstrate a writer’s favored type of thinking.

The key to using flow to be more creative is to understand that writing lots of words does not equate creative output.  There are several computerized idea generators available to writers, but these apps cannot craft best sellers without the gifter authors who knit plots and characters into meaningful works of art.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

3 thoughts on “Fact or Fiction: “Flow” Improves the Writing Life”

  1. Writer’s Block doesn’t really exist. It’s only in your mind.

    Thank God. And all these years, I thought it was in the water.

    • My own reaction as soon as I saw that claim:

      ‘Did they think writer’s block was something to eat?’

      ‘Exists in your mind’ is not at all the same thing as ‘does not exist’. One would be extremely unwise to take any kind of advice on a mental occupation from someone who fails to grasp this elementary and obvious truth.

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