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Writing in Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity Paperback – August, 2001
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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.
Top customer reviews
Alas, what I found instead were interviews with dozens of writers mainly explaining what flow is. Chances are, if you don't know what flow is then you probably wouldn't be interested in the book in the first place. In fact, the first 40 pages or so are spent entirely with defining "flow". The rest of the book is variations of the same theme.
While she does reveal working habits of writers, she admits that just because something works for someone it doesn't mean it will work for you. I could have figured that out for free.
I think Ray Bradbury summed it up much more succinctly in his essay "Zen in the Art of Writing" - "Work. Relaxation. Don't think!". That advice from a master will go much farther in helping you get into flow than anything Susan Perry has to say in her book.
Building on the concept of Flow as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, using extensive research and intensive interviews, Susan K. Perry explores how Flow works through writers and what their various relationships are with it.
While this makes fascinating reading, what is most important about this book is that Perry in examining underlying patterns of writing in Flow has found, explored, and charted, how the altered state, however it is experienced, is achieved and related to by writers.
She suggests particular techniques that are helpful in achieving flow in writing and provides Five Master Keys for achieving this state that has been described as transcendent, expansive, timeless, and connected to something, or to All, at a deeper level than normal awareness.
If you are thinking of being a writer, if you already think and work as a writer, Writing in Flow holds the key to the answers to many questions you have probably puzzled over, as well as the keys to unlock flow to an extent that you may not have dreamed possible.
Whatever the degree of control you like to have, or would like to have, over your writing, the timelessness, depth, and yes, longing, she touches in this beautifully researched work, will help take you where you have dreamed you might go, and perhaps, beyond.
Otherwise, if you have never experienced flow or do often, there is little in this book to find useful.
Perry circles around many different theories about what causes a writer to be more or less likely to experience "flow" drawing on the research of Csikszentmihalyi and her correspondence with writers from several different fields. The thoughts of the writers are interesting; they explain how they get into flow, what it's like for them and how they think the state enhances the experience of writing.
I had several problems with this book:
One major issue was that Perry's field of interest is psychology but I found very little psychological data in this book that would explain Flow.
I feel as though Perry's book boils down to: just sit down in front of your computer/typewriter and write; the rest of the book is simply encouragement to do that very thing.
Another issue not really addressed was the quality of "flow" writing vs. other types. Yes it may be more enjoyable to write in a state of flow, but is it better? Is the writing better, do the writers improve as writers? These questions were never fully answered.
The key points were great. Had Perry focused on a few key points, like the importance of intrinsic motivation, the book would have had a more cohesive structure and would have been easier to digest. I get the feeling that when Perry approached the writers who contributed to her book, she didn't quite know what to ask them. What we get out of that is very broad statements by the writers and Perry trying to use these broad statements about specific principals she learned during the project.
If you enjoy writing in flow, but can't figure out how to make it happen, then you may want to read. For everyone else, just get out of the book store, sit down at your computer and write.