When Writing Becomes Part of the Flow

When do you lose track of time? When you are playing with your kids? Networking with other business professionals? Digging into a tough problem at work? What about writing? Professional development professionals call being in the zone like this “flow.” For bloggers, writing becomes part of the flow, but only if they get the distractions out of the way.

This is part 3 of a blog series based on my experiences with the Build Institute‘s Basics workshop.

Read More:
Week 1: Getting Personal to Create Sustainable Change
Week 2: Be Clear About Expectations, With Your Partners and Yourself

The session started with an important question: What are you doing when you experience flow? After all, the benefit of being a business owner is getting to do what you love. So what is that thing, and how can you build more flow into your day?

Flow Comes Naturally When You Do What You Love

Flow is that experience of being totally engaged in a challenging task, and making steady progress. In his TED Talk, “Flow, the Secret to Happiness“, Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi described flow as that feeling of being:

  • Completely focused and concentrating on the task at hand
  • Set apart from everyday concerns, sometimes even bodily functions (Csikszentmihalyi called this “ecstasy”)
  • Competent, and up to the task set before you
  • Clear on the process of what needs to happen next
  • Serene and without internal or external distractions
  • Timeless, or disconnected from the passage of time
  • Intrinsically motivated by a clear purpose of being part of something larger than oneself.

In other words, it’s that feeling of “I got this” and then doing it.

Challenge vs Skill and Finding FlowEvery person has strengths and passions that move them toward flow. Csikszentmihalyi explained that flow happens when a challenge and skill are both high. When you are experienced in what you do, and the project at hand pushes those boundaries, you are more likely to dive into flow.

Remove Distractions to Achieve Flow

But everyday distractions are like rocks in the river – they interrupt the flow. For lawyers, those distractions could be anything from client calls to anxieties about an upcoming hearing. For everyone, self-doubt and uncertainty about the process can set up obstacles to achieving flow and getting things done. Achieving flow requires a commitment to freeing yourself of distractions to focus on the challenge at hand.

Finding the Right Environment to Channel Flow

For many, working into a writing flow depends a lot on the environment. It doesn’t automatically mean shutting yourself away in a room with noise-cancelling headphones. Sometimes, that just opens up space for our inner distractions to come to the fore. Particularly when your flow comes from writing, you will need to take some time (and sometimes money) to find or create your ideal environment to channel flow.

For me, flow can come from writing an interesting blog post, or diving deep into a complex research task. Those flows come easiest in different environments. The hum of a coffee shop keeps me focused on the flow of writing and drowns out concerns connected to my firm. But when it’s time to hit the books, the sound of the espresso machine will knock me off my game. For research, I need to be in my office, door closed, with just enough music to drown out that inner monologue.

What to Do if Writing Isn’t Your Flow

Not everyone finds flow in the same places, or the same tasks. But if blogging (or brief writing) are part of your business plan, you need to find a way to write. So what can you do if writing isn’t your flow?

Sometimes, the problem isn’t a lack of interest, but a lack of confidence in the process. If you find yourself getting stalled by grammar, paragraphs, structure, or SEO, ignore them! That’s what a first draft is for. Get the words on the page first, giving yourself permission to make a mess. Then, once the flow has come and gone go back and clean up. You may need to rearrange, edit, or even rewrite, but the second draft will be easier because you already broke through your writer’s block and found your flow.

For other people, there is no amount of practice, or mental self-talk that will make them comfortable writing. And that’s okay. In those cases, it may be better to hire a ghost blogger or contract attorney to do the writing for you. You can dictate your thoughts or put together a bullet list, and let the wordsmith make it pretty. If writing simply isn’t where your strength lies, you business will be better if you delegate the task and focus on tasks that get you into the flow.

Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She provides blogging and writing services to lawyers and small businesses. If you need help finding your writing flow, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.

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