The Joy of Writing

Just a quick note, before I go for my walk and sit at my cafe and get some words down, on how happy I am to have had the time in my life for writing, and how much I appreciate the community of people that have worked on, published, and read my work.

Even though, in a real sense, the writing is its own reward, minus all those things. Writing, when it’s going well, is flow.

You’ve heard of flow, right? Here’s the wikipedia definition:

Jeanne Nakamura and Csíkszentmihályi identify the following six factors as encompassing an experience of flow.[2]

  1. Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
    Merging of action and awareness
  2. A loss of reflective self-consciousness
  3. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
  4. A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
  5. Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience

Those aspects can appear independently of each other, but only in combination do they constitute a so-called flow experience. Additionally, psychology expert, Kendra Cherry, has mentioned three other components that Csíkszentmihályi lists as being a part of the flow experience:[3]

  1. “Immediate feedback”[3]
  2. Feeling that you have the potential to succeed
  3. Feeling so engrossed in the experience, that other needs become negligible

Writing, when it’s going well, releases you from the annoyance of being yourself. Self dissolves, even as that self experiences a sense of control. For me, and for a lot of writers, feeling that potential to succeed is the hardest part, because, quite simply, there’s a lot of rejection and failure in the writing experience.

  1. You want to sell what you write.
  2. You want people to love it and write you and tell you they do.
  3. You want money for it. Enough to live on.
  4. You want to win awards, if you like to read award winning fiction.
  5. You want the sense that your work has some lasting value or impact, at some level.

A full time decade of effort in, spread over the last 3 decades, I’m hovering around 1 and 2, still, and I’m trying to be cool with the idea that this is what I get. I get to sell some sizable fraction of what I write, and I get to have a few people tell me that they like it a lot.

Achieving three to five in the list above feels so far away. Impossible, really.

But I know now, that I am capable of experiencing the joy of flow; the joy of writing, which is a kind of payment in itself. I can believe, at some level, at some times, in 3, 4, and… well. Not five.

But oh, just to get to 3 would be amazing.

But here is to flow, the joyous death of oneself in story, to hearing voices and seeing things in your head that make you gasp with surprise, tremble with joy, that make you weep in despair; to experiences you create and transmit through the continuous and vivid waking dream of prose.

To writing! To story!

To the infinite untapped possibility trapped in every human mind…

To every story waiting to be discovered, excavated, mined, polished and presented…

To the jungle dark, but full of diamonds.

Posted in Making a Writing Life

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