In the zone, hitting your stride, hyperfocused, nirvana—whatever you call it, the coveted flow state is the feeling when you’re completely immersed in an activity. The conscious mind subsides along with any sense of time and even physical needs. The task at hand becomes your main focus, and performing it becomes enjoyable and rewarding. Participating in an activity that you enjoy, and one that you are fairly skilled at is the main trigger for the flow state. But even the most talented writers don’t achieve flow every time they write. Some days are harder than others, but there are a few key tips to help your poetry flow through you.
This may sound counterintuitive, but reaching flow isn’t about relaxing necessarily. It’s about engagement and concentration. To achieve flow, you want to reach a sweet spot between feeling confident and challenged. If a task is too hard, it can be difficult to find a rhythm and we may even become frustrated. If a task is too easy, we might get bored. A great way to prime yourself for flow state is to engage in writing warm-ups that both challenge you and boost your confidence. Games that play with alliteration, rhyme, and meter are great ways to start. If you feel like you’re doing well and having fun, jump into your current project and bring that energy with you.
If you’re not familiar with meditation, it’s important to note that this isn’t a quick fix. Meditating for the first time ever right before you jump into a writing session won’t guarantee uninterrupted flow. However, regular meditation can help you reach a flow state more easily. Learning the art of mindfulness through meditation can improve your ability to focus and move beyond distractions. It encourages us to be aware of our thoughts and feelings without being caught up in them and improves our ability to work freely without judging ourselves as we go.
Check your motives
To achieve a flow state, it’s important to truly care about the task at hand. Are you writing because you care about the topic, or because you’re trying to meet your weekly writing hours quota? If you feel empty or detached from what you’re writing, it will be much harder to find your flow.
Remember: Process over product
You know the whole “It’s the journey, not the destination” cliché? Well, it’s true. Don’t focus on what this work will become, who will read it, what they’ll think, and so on. Keep your mind centered on the act of writing, and savor every second of it. This is where you learn, grow, and achieve new heights in your work.
Create a ritual
We’re creatures of habit. Much like how a bedtime ritual can prime you for sound sleep, a flow time ritual can help you reach your flow. Create a series of actions or positive triggers to let your brain know what’s about to begin. Whether you go on a walk, make a cup of tea, meditate, read, or even arrange your pens in a certain way, these little things can help send signals to your brain that something good is coming. Think of it as a pavlovian response, but for you and by you.
The last thing you want to do is realize you need to use the restroom right as you slip into flow. Be well-rested and well-fed to minimize the number of physical needs that might interrupt you. Have some water (or whatever you like to drink) at the ready. Format your page margins, test your pens, or whatever you need to do to prepare to write. If you’re easily distracted by it, leave your phone in another room or in your bag/backpack while you work. The key is to limit the number of distractions and interruptions so you can stay engaged during your flow.
Identify your peak hours
Are you an early bird or a night owl? When does your mind feel most naturally at its full speed? Take advantage of these peak hours and try to schedule your writing sessions during these times. Working with rather than against your body’s natural clock will make reaching a flow state much easier.
Accept that flow state isn’t a guarantee
The more you do it, the easier it gets, but don’t be upset if you don’t feel an easy flow every time you write. Some days, you’ll have more distractions than others. That’s natural! Pressuring yourself to feel a certain way will only push the flow state further out of reach. Be open to flow state if it comes, but remember that you can have a perfectly productive writing session even without it.