This fall I’ve challenged myself to increase my daily word count for my work-in-progress and complete my third draft by the end of 2013. That means 525 words a day … peanuts to some, but more than double my normal 200 words a day.
To meet this goal, I’m going to have to do a lot more than increase my pace during my normal morning hour of writing. And thus I’ve found myself writing at times that feel somewhat unnatural to me … or at least they did at first. But to get myself into these new habits without the overwhelm, I’ve made it a habit to channel flow.
Flow is a mental state that enhances because you are so engaged in the present task that time, stressors and other distractions fall away. It’s been found to be closely associated to both enhanced creativity and general life fulfillment, so knowing how to tap into it can be powerful.
Here’s how I’ve been getting myself into flow to write more at night in addition to my regular mornings:
Knock off your to-dos.
A large piece of flow is quelling those voices that spit off your to-dos and stress you out. My approach is simple … if I take care of my to-do’s first, there’s nothing left for my mind to protest, leaving me free to focus. With bigger projects, I break the effort down over several days. By taking a step closer to it each day, I can feel I’ve fulfilled my responsibility and don’t need to worry over it.
Control your environment.
For me this means headphones. My husband is frequently watching TV at night to wind down, so if I’m going to focus on writing at the same time, I need to block out the sound. We bought a pair of TV headphones when we moved into our studio apartment, and it was the best investment we’ve ever made. He’s a real good sport about switching over to them when it’s time to write.
I almost always use headphones too though, tuned in to some calming classical music.
Another benefit to writing at the end of the day as been the routines that naturally come before it. After I work out I take a nice hot shower, then slip into my PJs and write in my bed. The comfort of these routines makes it easier to let go of everything else and just do it.
As a side note, sometimes I’ll also have a small glass of bourbon as I get started … after a particularly rough work day it helps me relax and let go. Once a month, maybe. But drinking seemed like an awful tip to give out as a general practice.
These tactics to tapping flow have been absolutely critical in getting me into the habit of writing more each day in a way that is actually sustainable … even at times when my brain would naturally want to be busy with other things. Flow is my number one weapon to keep myself on top of long-term efforts.
How do you tap into flow?