Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi showed us flow. Writers need flow. And tech destroys it.

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Last week, the great psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi died. Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced chik-sent-mee-hai-ee) advanced our understanding of happiness and creativity enormously by codifying the concept of “flow,” a highly pleasurable and concentrated state of mind in which people are enormously productive. Every writer needs to know about flow — what it is, why it is important, and … Continued

The writing room door

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Of all the tools and methods that writers use, having a door on your writing space — and closing it — may be the most powerful. A fellow writer about to undertake the months-long process of creating a book recently asked for advice about the need for concentration — and how to balance that with … Continued

Contributed op-ed case study (3): Planning and writing

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Writing can be easy, provided you prepare properly. I’ll show how that applied to the op-ed I placed in the Boston Globe last Sunday. Let’s start by talking about two types of writers, planners and pantsers, a concept I borrow from fiction writers. Planners are the people who map everything out ahead of time, in … Continued

Time to concentrate

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It’s hard to concentrate right now. If you are working at home (as I have been for the last five years), you may have to deal with noise from neighbors, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and people cutting down trees. You may have children at home who need attention. You may have others in the house … Continued

In praise of hard, tedious work

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You know the kind of work I mean. It demands skills you don’t have. It’s slow. It’s disagreeable. And you spend half your time taking breaks, complaining, and avoiding it, because it’s just soul-sucking labor. That work is more valuable than you realize. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes about flow, the state you attain as you work … Continued

Writing, washing dishes, flow, and pleasure

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I have a confession to make. I really enjoy doing the dishes. (And yes, this has something to do with writing advice.) At my house, it is my wife’s job to cook and my job to do the dishes. This is good, because she is an excellent cook and I am terrible. She could do … Continued

Writing in flow is not a Markov process

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Writers follow the flow. But if you don’t keep track of the destination, the flow will lead you astray. Let me explain, using the mathematical concept of a Markov process. What is a Markov Process? You’re familiar with Markov processes, even if you don’t realize it. A Markov process is one in which the likely … Continued

Four steps that enable you to write in flow

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I remember editing people at my last job. I would give them the charge on what to do, and then check back two days later. “How much did you write?” I would ask. “One paragraph,” they’d say. You will never achieve flow that way! Flow is effortless writing. You know how it feels. You sit … Continued