Don’t you love it when work just FLOWS? Everything you do falls right into place, like magic. Some people call it inspiration. I just call it “the FLOW”.
Then there are those other times. Depressing, frustrating times. Things just won’t fall into place, and trying to force them only makes it worse. That’s the opposite of FLOW, AKA “being stuck”.
What makes the difference?
I won’t completely deny the elements of luck and inspiration, but in my experience – in most cases, when work doesn’t flow, chances are you’re not letting it. As usual, it’s very much about the process.
Here are 4 questions to help you figure out if your working habits sabotage your creative flow.
Do I edit myself too much?
Flow comes from being loose and letting your work happen almost by itself. If you keep judging yourself as you go along, or worse – if you keep going back and reviewing what you’ve done, or WORST – if you start editing yourself while in the middle of CREATING – well, that’s a very powerful anti-flow gun that you’re using.
Instead, try to think of a creative pass [read more about passes] as a kind of stage performance. Made a mistake? You don’t stop the show and start fixing it. The show must go on! Only here you actually get to go back later and change it in the next pass, so that’s good. Let it flow, and fix stuff later.
You know what? If you let it flow, you’ll be astonished at how little fixing it really needs.
Am I too hooked on my plan?
Creativity is a strange thing. When done right, it takes a life of its own. It will surprise you. It can defy you. That’s part of the fun in FLOW.
Plans are great, but you really need to take them with a grain of salt. You need to be flexible – not let the work control you, but also not kill that thrilling spark of independent LIFE. There’s an art to nudging it to behave roughly within the plan’s boundaries, without actually controlling it. Keep your plans in mind, but be flexible and let your work guide you as much as you guide it.
In an article I wrote for The Write Practice blog, I talk about doing this in animation as well as in writing – and even if you do neither, I think you’ll get the idea. Have a look – it’s in tip #3: Let your writing flow through your outline.
Am I letting details distract me?
As I said, FLOW is like a stage performance: it’s a living thing. You can’t PAUSE it – pausing the flow is killing it.
I used to have huge problems with my writing because I would suddenly get stuck trying to remember a specific word I knew I was looking for. I’d actually start looking in dictionaries and browse through synonyms trying to find that specific word I wanted (seriously!). By the time I was ready to write again, the flow was gone. Here’s what I SHOULD have done: mark the spot, get on with the flow, and come back to it later.
Do you get fussy over insignificant details along the way?
Am I doing too many things at once?
Pausing the flow to for a detail is bad enough, but pausing it for just random stuff is just plain crazy. I see so many people watching TV while they work, or halting everything to answer the phone, or they get that GLING from their Facebook app and they just NEED to check it out.
You do that and BANG! You just shot your flow dead.
Let me say this one more time: being in the flow is like a doing a stage performance. One does not simply answer the phone on stage! (although I actually did see someone do that once… It was an old jazz player in a small club, and he just answered the phone while the band was playing. We were stunned but it was also kinda funny :)).
To keep the flow alive, you must give yourself completely to your work.
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