How To Cultivate Flow on the Writing Journey
No. 125 | By Christine Carron
I must warn you—if we ever get partnered at a Tony Robbins’ Date with Destiny program, and he is still doing the exercise where we have to embody and name our old, restricted selves and then embody and name our new, empowered selves—I play full out. Startlingly so, evidently.
Let me set the scene: a massive expo center, main lights low, spotlights and disco lights caroming every which way, music blaring, and two thousand individuals expressing physically and vocally (think: yelling, screaming, and howling out) the angst and frustration around what holds them back with two thousand partners watching and cheering them on.
It was noisy. It was intense. It was wild. And I got into it when it was my turn. I mean really into it.
So much so that when I came out of it—a little breathless from my exuberance and the space still filled with general pandemonium—my partner was staring at me gape-mouthed and all the folks around us had taken a step back.
(There was not a lot of free space in that room, so it took some doing to step back. They really wanted to get some distance. I’d clearly out-pandemoniumed everyone around us.)
My partner blinked, I blinked, and then we both busted out laughing. Like full-bellied, doubled-over laughing. I can’t even think about that moment (let alone write about it as I am now) without giggles bubbling out of me.
Here’s a taste of what my partner witnessed, as did those poor, shocked folks around us: me, behaving like a crazed mime trapped inside of a box, trying to break through the sides with a primal panic and fury. A whirlwind of palms-open banging, clawing, pounding, and screaming wildness. Wanting to move, wanting out, and unable to get free.
“Uhm,” my partner said after we both had pulled it together some, “So what do you want to name that part?”
Without hesitation, and with the folks around us still giving us wide berth, the name popped out of me, “Boxed-in Betty.” Which promptly set us off laughing again.
Flow as Spaciousness
Goodjelly’s mission is to help writers build sustainable creative productivity, using smart process, grounded power and inner kindness. So it’s not surprising that when I’m interviewed on podcasts, I sometimes get asked for THE way to get into a flow state, or to get unblocked.
The first time I was asked the question, it threw me a bit. The “THE” was the hiccup. I have never been a one size fits all kind of process person. Indeed my vision for Goodjelly is a world where all writers delight in their creative process. There absolutely are general smart work management processes and patterns that I teach that help writers create flow and get unblocked, but within those patterns there will be customizations and variations that are particular to each writer.
That said, I can (and do) answer the “get flow/get unblocked” question by staying out of the tactical level and taking it on at the conceptual level. Here’s the core of how I answer: If you want to create flow or get unblocked, you have to create spaciousness.
When I think about flow, I think about dance. I started dancing when I was four years old. Dancing is my foundational art form, and for me, dance is the embodiment of flow. To dance you have to have room to move. You have to have space. You have to have spaciousness.
Quite the opposite of Boxed-in Betty energy, so I am also going to propose: When you are out of flow or blocked, there is likely some Boxed-in Betty energy at play.
Some of you may be thinking, “Uhm, sorry, Christine. That Boxed-in Betty bit was a bit out there. I don’t have anything like that going on with me or my writing.”
That’s totally possible. And cool, if so.
Let’s play with it anyway.
When your progress is clunky and you're frustrated, do you feel spacious or constricted, i.e., boxed-in? When your Inner Critic lets loose on you, do you feel creatively spacious or creatively boxed-in—and boxed-in in a harsh way? When you can’t land the plot, or a revision feels overwhelming, or rejections are piling up and tanking your confidence and forward momentum, do you feel spacious or boxed-in? When you think you should be writing more, or faster, or better, or whatever’er—are you feeling spacious or boxed-in?
Based on my own experience and the experience of the writers I coach, constriction and frustration are common companions when we are out of flow or blocked. Boxed-in Betty simply gives that experience metaphorical flair.
Unbox Your Writing Adventure
Giving such (hopefully entertaining) imagery to the out of flow, blocked state we want to move away from adds a bit of lightness to the ways we invite ourselves to move toward what we do want—flow and forward momentum. In the end, Boxed-in Betty showing up on your writing adventure (i.e., being blocked) is just part of the process.
Even a useful part. When we work through a block, we generally have learned something about craft, or our project, or ourselves—and overall that learning will boost our confidence, our resolve, and our gumption. So really, Boxed-in Betty showing up is a good thing: it means a breakthrough—and more spaciousness—is coming your way.
Wahoo! You and your Boxed-in Betty (or Bartholomew) have so got this!