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Friday, April 20, 2012

Flow Update

So it's been one week since I committed to trying to spend more time in flow by arranging my time into bigger, but fewer, blocks for activities, meaning I would do activities less often but with more intensity and for longer periods of time.

So how has this strategy worked for me? Well, to be honest, I haven't written a single poem this week. I've got a few lines jotted down and some amorphous ideas and stray words floating around, but let's just say it hasn't been my best poem-writing week ever.

To be fair, in the past week I started a new job with its accompanying learning curve, worked on projects for 2 clients from pre-existing jobs, edited a paper for my husband (a non-native English speaker), buried a beloved pet bird, had my kids home half days or entire days for a number of days, researched and wrote an 8-page academic paper for a class I'm taking, went cherry-blossom-viewing with my family, read several hundred pages of academic papers for another course, parented and did all the other household things I always do.

So it may not have been the ideal week to try a new regimen. On the other hand, I got a ton of stuff done! It just wasn't poetry. And maybe wouldn't have been on my old regimen either. I'll give it a few more weeks, but if poetry goes by the wayside for too long, I'll have to rethink this plan.

Anybody have any insights?


Kristin said...

I think it's worth continuing the experiment for a few more weeks. I'm especially interested in hearing how you clear out enough chunks of time to get into flow state. I used to think I needed huge chunks of time, but having so little way to arrange for huge chunks of time, I've taught myself to compose in scraps of time--which sometimes expands into time I wouldn't have thought I had, so I find myself scrambling to get ready for work or leaving without having had a chance to fix lunch--but with the thrill of having had a taste of that flow state.

Hmm. Lots to think about. Thanks for the inspiration!

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Hi Kristin,
I've been advised in the past, by other writers, to try and write in little moments of time, like when waiting for my kids after an event, etc., and it hasn't worked well for me. Well, I guess I should say it depends on the stage of the poem as to whether it works well. In the beginning, when there's still no form to the poem and I'm still trying to capture a feeling or image, I can't work that way at all. But if I'm fine-tuning, just trying to find the perfect word in a line here and there but have the form and the imagery for the most part nailed down, I can think about that while commuting to work or doing the grocery shopping.

A lot of mother/writers have scolded me for wanting "the perfect working circumstances", a quiet place, solitude, and enough time, but they are often fiction writers. For poetry, for me, I need that space and time to leave my ordinary consciousness behind. This morning I saw a quote that said something like "if you wait for the perfect circumstances, you'll never get anything done." I can see the logic there, but frankly I can't work in the little spaces at certain points in my process, though other points are okay. If I have enough work going, I can just work on what fits my day (the almost finished poem on busy days, the new idea when I can make a quiet space--of course, having more than one or two poems going is a luxury of time for me as well, and I don't have it just now). Sometimes I get pretty frustrated because I don't hear that many male writers being told to fit their writing in around everyone else's needs and schedules. But I could be wrong about that. I may just not know as many male writers as female writers.

Anyway, I'll let you know how it goes as I continue with this new strategy. I'm impressed that you can enter the flow state in smaller blocks of time. Maybe it takes practice? Maybe it takes more mental discipline than I have? I definitely need to pay more attention to the triggers that help me enter that state, and try to induce it. Julianna Baggott had a good blog post on noticing the triggers that help you get into a good working (mental) state. I need to do that.