The Flow

“Once I sat down the story just sort of wrote itself.” I was minding my own business, waiting for my latte when I overheard a woman make this statement. I almost laughed out loud. Almost. I have some self control. Sometimes. Although I may have had to remind myself that punching someone in the throat is not okay, even when they’re being insufferably smug.

As someone who is seriously struggling with two novels currently in progress it got me wondering. I’ve published two novels so far and neither wrote themselves. Have I been doing it all wrong?

It stings like a slap in the face for anyone who has to work for their story to hear those words. My inner devil’s advocate suggested that it’s just what they say when describing their own version of Flow. It isn’t meant to be smug, just vague. But come on, what the hell did she mean by that? Did it not take time? Sacrifice? Battling with her inner editor? Nothing?

I define Flow as that timeless inertia wherein one is so totally engaged in what they are doing that the rest of the world seemingly ceases to exist.

There has never been a point in my writing life when a brilliant idea organically and effortlessly became a final product. Sure, I have been bursting with excitement at a new idea I can’t wait to start on. I have experienced those times when my fingers struggle to keep up with the flow of words from my imagination onto the page. But these are mere moments compared to the overall time spent creating a finished novel.

Flow is something that occurs, hopefully frequently enough to spur one on enough to endure the rest of the hard, tedious work behind a finished story. It is the buzz—the inner resonance of some greater aspiration that this will be the idea that translates from a great idea into tangible reality. That one’s vision will be realized and seen.

I’m not actually angry at this woman’s statement. It’s too ridiculous for that. I have learned a lot about how I write (and how I procrastinate) and am able to laugh off the absurdity.

I’m writing this because I think that careless statements like this can discourage the countless people who desperately want to write a story. They are already struggling to find the courage to take on their internal and external critics. The don’t need to be made to feel inferior when their idea doesn’t “just write itself.”

And honestly, anyone who knows what it takes to transform that idea into a fully fledged novel would never believe for a second that it wrote itself. A book is written with tenacity, grit, procrastination, self-doubt, perseverance and always, one word at a time.

So for anyone out there who is struggling to find your own Flow, just know that you are not alone. Not writing in a constant state of Flow is not a sign that you should give up. All it means is that you are human. I’m with you. Ease comes and goes, so keep putting one word after the next and get your story out however it comes.

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