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Writing in Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity Paperback – August, 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Writing in Flow, Susan K. Perry applies the theories of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Flow) about the concept of "flow" to the writing process. A writer's being in flow is comparable to an athlete's being in a "zone." "You know you've been in flow," Perry says, "when time seems to have disappeared.... You become so deeply immersed ... that you forget yourself and your surroundings." For this book, Perry interviewed 76 authors--including T. Coraghessan Boyle, Sue Grafton, Donald Hall, and Jane Smiley--about their experiences with flow. How often do they experience it? What does it feel like? How does one encourage it? How does the writing that occurs during a flow state differ from that which is achieved in a more belabored manner? While the book often reads a little too much like the doctoral thesis it once was, Perry has culled some fascinating insights into the creative process from a terrific collection of writers.

Flow happens, Perry suggests, "when our mind or body is voluntarily stretched to its limit." How you experience flow depends on who you are. If you're a deep sleeper, for instance, you may also be more likely able to enter a deep flow state. For some writers, flow occurs during every writing session; for others, it is more elusive. There are those few who neither experience nor court it. "Nothing flows in my writing process," says John Irving. "My job is to make it flow for the reader, and that is a very deliberate, very slow, very unflowing process." But Irving is plainly in the minority. Most of the writers interviewed here cherish the flow state above all else. "It is the possibility of re-creating these moments," says Faye Moskowitz, "that keeps me going as a writer." Flow "seems to me the way life should always be," adds Lynne Sharon Schwartz, "freed from time and petty daily concerns and all forms of self-consciousness except the very deepest." --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Each chapter ends with a page or two of 'keys' that give readers suggestions... Because these tidbits are based on strategies used by real writers, they usually sound fresh, practical, and ingenious unlike the stale, mechanical advice of so many how-to books. Helpful as well as enjoyable to read. -- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Psychology and the Arts [newsletter of Division 10, American Psychological Association], Summer 1999

I highly recommend WRITING IN FLOW. Perry uncovered how 76 published authors arrive at that wonderful place we have all been to, where writing seems automatic and time ceases. -- Write! [Newsletter of Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Writers Association], July 1999

If you are interested in other writers' takes on writing in flow, or would like to know how to enter this state more often, this is a must-read. -- Mariska Stamenkovic, Keystrokes Magazine, Dec. 3, 1999

The good news that Perry offers is that anyone can learn to enter flow more often and that there is not only one way to be in flow. By seeing all the myriad and quixotic ways that writers write, this book can help readers recognize the common elements of flow so they can learn to do and trust what works for them. If one is already motivated to write, Perry's book can help. -- Foreword Magazine, July 1999

This book inspires and explains. It is a must read for every writer, no matter whether you write poetry, articles, novels, or ad copy. -- Dana Nourie, Writer's Guidelines Database, Aug. 9, 1999

Unlike standard academic studies, Perry maintains a connection with the mysteries of creativity. She avoids quantifying the life out of the writing experience, while presenting an objective study of subjective experience. It's a fine line, and she walks it with the grace of a high-wire artist. . . . If you find strength in the company of writers sharing experience and insight, WRITING IN FLOW is a necessary treasure. -- Nessa Flax, Freelance Success, Dec. 1999

What I like most about this book is Chapter 8, where I can compare my own experiences with those of the 'rich and famous.' WRITING IN FLOW explains, in glorious detail, the what and why of flow. It also offers a ton of 'insider info' on how you can develop your own method of getting into this highly productive state when you write. If you're interested in how the creative mind works, you'll like this book. -- Writers' Exchange, Aug. 17, 1999

Writers at any level of experience will benefit from Perry's insight into creativity and the mental process that occurs during the act of writing. This is not another 'how to' book that serves up a rehash of common do's and don'ts of how to be a writer. This book gets right into the heads of 76 regularly published, successful writers. Perry picks their brains, like a scientist with tweezers, extracting gems of wisdom from the gray matter. . . . The style is comfortable, warm, and very readable. . . . the feeling of relaxing over coffee with the author or eavesdropping on her conversation with all the best writers of the day. -- J.B. Justice, RestStop Writers' Newsletter, Nov. 1999 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; New edition edition (August 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582970866
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582970868
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,491,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By H. Grove (errantdreams) TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"You know you've been in flow when time seems to have disappeared. When you're in flow, you become so deeply immersed in your writing, or whatever activity you're doing, that you forget yourself and your surroundings."
Susan Perry, a social psychologist and writer, decided to do her doctoral dissertation on the subject of flow. She conducted interviews, sent out questionnaires, and collected previously existing information. She wanted to know how writers experienced flow, how they got into flow, and whether their experiences could be generalized to help other writers find their way into flow. The author believes that writers can and do have at least a certain amount of control over whether or not they enter flow, and she presents five "master keys" for achieving flow, along with supporting anecdotes and details.
Even if the author had stopped with those five master keys, this book would be very useful. But she goes on to present much more information. You'll find more material on flow within the context of a writer's life. Frequently asked questions are answered in sidebars throughout the text. Specific techniques for luring the flow state are discussed (ritual and routine, clutter and lack thereof, timing, music, silence, meditation, tools, and more). The author also discusses the concept of writer's block, and, more specifically, what that means, how it affects flow, and what you can do about it.
On the one hand, the wild mix of perspectives is fantastic and extremely educational. There's also the amusement value of seeing several writers self-importantly declare that writing must be done a certain way, only to see several others contradict them. This really is a good lesson in the fact that almost no writing advice is entirely universal.
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Format: Hardcover
Whatever your writing problem -- whether you're nerving yourself to start, kicking yourself for stopping, or simply praying for some control over a skill as mysterious and unstable as witchcraft -- there's something in here to get you into the creative state of "flow" that's the nirvana of all successful writers. What helps this book enormously (particularly the initial section, in which Dr. Perry helps you profile your own demons, blocks and tics to get an idea what kind of writer you are) is the vast cornucopia of quotes from, and direct interviews with, some of the world's most famous and accomplished authors -- who themselves seem to have overcome a startling variety of quirks, mindgames and outright derangements just to function. Do you obsess for months before managing to write a word? (Tom Wolfe takes years.) Or do you write lots only to fear -- or know -- that it's all useless garbage? (So does Michael Crichton.) And what about working hand to mouth, facing ridiculous deadlines, and the slings and arrows of outrageous critics and authority figures, real and imagined? (Join the club.) Fortunately, all the horror stories and clinical self-anatomization lead in a very straightforward way to customized programs of self-improvement and personal liberation that are precise, well-thought-out, and convincing (author Perry is a PhD social psychologist). It's also a charming touch that, while interviewing and analyzing all these bestseller and poet-laureate types, Perry also analyzes herself as a paradigmatic non-fiction author struggling with a vast and elusive subject -- and, in my opinion, nailing it.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been sporadically hobby writing for about 30 years. This is the first time I am reading about "Flow" from others who really know how to describe it with an accuracy that makes tears come to my eyes. My wife thought that I finally lost it when I started yelling, "Yes, Yes that's it!" When I have read about flow in the past, it was always from one writer's personal perspective. This book took a different approach. The author was not primarily a creative writer and as such, did not intimately, routinely experience flow. She interviewed many types of writing professionals and described their experiences.
At first, I was taken aback by the idea of having a person who was not intimate with flow, describe it. After much thought on the matter, and many chapters of this book later, I realized that it is much closer to the scientific method. It helped to not prejudice the outcome with a lot of preconceived notions. As such, the author accepted each of the writer's experiences, that she interviewed, as valid. This had the added benefit of not alienating the reader who had a different flow experience and widening the definition. This approach includes so many types of experiences that I am sure that there is one or more of which any creative person can identify with.
Before reading this book, I had no idea that flow could be experienced in so many different ways as described by each of the writer's that were interviewed! I had only my personal perspective and I felt that it was the only way! I found myself entering flow while reading this book! I consciously tried to read it slow and suck out all of the content and absorb it. I was only able to read one chapter at a sitting before I had to run from the room and write something!
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