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A Call for Flow… please…

I have sat here for about four hours messing about with my blog, reading other people’s blogs, installing (and uninstalling) Chrome Extensions, looking at my to do list and generally producing nothing. I feel bad, I feel unproductive and generally miserable that I’ve set aside an afternoon to write a lovely blog post to give some value to the World and I’m stuck. I’m asking for ‘flow’ but somehow, it’s not happening so I’ve resulted to habit.

There are two schools of thought on producing the good stuff. Both useful and both seem polar opposites.

  1. Habit — Sitting down and forcing the words out, clicking about in Photoshop and everything eventually turns out ok.
  2. Flow — When the words type themselves, the photos are edited to perfection and everything just works.

I’ve studied and experienced them both. Right now, I’m doing the habit thang. It’s Tuesday and a blog post will be written that’s meaningful, thoughtful and useful… so why is it so hard to press the buttons on my keyboard to make it happen?

Flow on the other hand is ecstasy! A spark of inspiration, you down tools from all other jobs and just write, edit, design, paint or make. Time is warped, you just ‘know’ what to do, decisions become easy and the result is beautiful.

You see, flow follows habit. The habit is sitting down every day and writing, the flow is the eventual state that you get into that makes the words come out. Today, I’ve discovered through writing this piece that flow automatically follows the habit of starting. Flow doesn’t magically happen, it’s a state that you have to prepare for by getting into the habit of just starting to write. It’s uncomfortable to begin with… yeah, check out the unedited start of this piece, but if you persist, it will turn into flow.

So whenever you feel the pressure of producing, sit quietly, open a black document and write jibberish for 20 minutes. In those 20 minutes, your brain will relax and your body will remember, through muscle memory, how the hell to make things happen. The habit of starting will turn into the habit of writing or editing, or making. It’s not easy, trust me, I did everything to not sit here and start this… see the first paragraph of this post! But in the end, my brain and my body took over and knew what to do.

And there you have it. Proof that a habit of starting and bashing about can turn into something good.


This blog post first appeared on carolynnealexander.com