Anyone who attends workshops or reads articles about becoming a better writer has no doubt heard the message that word goals and schedules are important. You need to write before you have something you can sell.
How you get the magic to appear on paper is another issue altogether with variations aplenty. Some outline. Others see where the first words lead them. Night owls say goodnight as the larks commence their morning workout at the typewriter. Some folks write here and there. Others throw themselves into a project for months at a time. Some are calm. Some are frenetic. The important thing is to discover what makes sense for you, acknowledging that your preferences might change over time or zigzag during a project.
Regardless of one’s path to fame and fortune, it’s worthwhile heeding the wisdom of Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. During his 2004 Ted Talk, the author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and founder of the Quality of Life Research Center said “There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other; you get immediate feedback.”
I haven’t quite decided on THE optimal approach for me, in part because I write both fiction and nonfiction. Outlining is a big plus when I’m penning a technical article that reflects research and specific questions I want to answer for my audience. Fiction is harder in my view because the author is making something up from scratch instead of analyzing what is. I want to let my imagination soar when I am crafting a novel.
I need to stick to a schedule but I likewise recognize the need to relax and let the ideas come by trying to avoid distractions. I love yoga, especially a class that challenges me physically. In the last few months, I’ve had some of my best “eureka” moments in between poses. Nature is another treat which is why my daily outing to Starbuck’s includes a ride past a neighbor’s farm. Watching the cows happily swooshing their tails on a sunny day gives me great pleasure and inspires me to make a difference with what I write.
However you find your flow, may the zone be with you as you create.