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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Are You a Creative Super-Conductor?

creative super-conductor canstockphoto2766674 (2)Many writers share the awareness that when we’re at our very best, the writing comes, not so much from us, as through us.

We are a channel that creative energy flows through. What we call the source of that creative flow varies: the Divine, the Universe, your muse, the life force, the Great Mystery.

This flow of creative energy can be compared to the flow of electricity. Just as some materials are excellent conductors of electricity, we have days when we’re copper wires, wide open so the creative current flows easily. Other days, our resistance is high as if we’re encased in rubber or some other non-conductive material.

On a few, delightful days, we find our way into the creative flow state and become super-conductors that present no resistance to the flow at all.

Are You Rubber?

For electrical engineers, resistance is the opposition to the passage of an electrical current. For writers, resistance is a mental state that creates drag and slows the transfer of ideas and images onto the page.

When you struggle to find the words, when you hesitate, when you evaluate your choices and ideas before they’re on the page, when you trying to draft but keep going back to change something you wrote earlier, you are experiencing resistance.

You’re still channeling creative energy, but it’s flowing slowly and haltingly as if you’re trying to pass the current through an uninsulated, worn-out wire. (Note: As we saw in the previous post, this is a prime time to allow yourself to write badly.)

At the worst, resistance stops the creative flow altogether. When you censor every idea and reject every possible phrasing or when you assume that because you don’t know exactly how to start, you should wait for “inspiration,” you’ve wrapped yourself in rubber and resistance is at the maximum.

Becoming a Super-Conductor

bodymind canstockphoto2469560 (2)At the other extreme, the flow state – what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the blissful state where you are completely focused and challenging yourself to stretch but not overstretch, where you lose track of time and self-consciousness disappears, when ideas and images emerge effortlessly – is like becoming a super-conductor.

You don’t get to decide to be always be in the flow, but you can’t just wait passively for flow to grab you. Flow happens when you make yourself available, when you are willing to challenge yourself and aren’t worrying about outcomes.

Don’t confuse initial inertia for a permanent condition that preempts flow. You could be on the threshold of a flow experience and not know it until you throw yourself in and allow your usual, ego-based awareness to fade as you immerse yourself in the task at hand.

That’s why you need to show up for your Product Time regardless of how much resistance you feel on any particular day.

Super-conductor flow states will probably not be your typical writing experience, but it is worth doing what you can to cultivate them. Start by recalling as many flow experiences as you can. Describe them in detail and consider what the elements are common to several flow experiences. What did you do and what conditions were present when you eased into flow? What could you do to replicate those conditions?

Also recall your “copper wire” writing experiences when your resistance, although not completely absent, was low. What do these experiences have in common? What triggered them? What could you do to recreate them?

Resistance is caused by perceptions and reactions in the limbic system, which means we rarely have conscious control over how or when resistance rises. But we can make conscious choices about how we respond.

We can reduce resistance and increase our ability to conduct the creative energy the Divine, the Universe, the life force or the Great Mystery sends through us.

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