Thoughts, Uncategorized, Wordy Babble, writing

“Flow” with it

My progress through Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow* is coming along. It’s not really the kind of book I rush through. More the type I take in bite-sized pieces so I can ponder what he’s saying.

And so far, I’m hooked.

I just finished the third point out of seven of what creates that “optimal experience,” this sense of being so wrapped up in what you’re working on that you lose all sense of self, of time, of your past or future.

The first point is the idea that the challenge must require a degree of skill. There is a window that lies between frustration and boredom, determined by the degree of skill. If the challenge sits too far above your skill level, you get frustrated, if it’s too far below you’re bored.

Sounds about right, really. I’ve experienced both those states at various jobs, as I’m sure many of us have. It’s not fun. That’s how you wind up spending your day scrolling on your phone and either lose said job or run through all your monthly data.

The sweet spot is right in the middle, where there’s enough you don’t know to keep you learning, keep you questioning, but enough you do know that you’re capable of completing the task.

He points out that the process of completing the task isn’t always sunshine and roses, but that after you rise from the zone, there’s a rich sense of achievement and a desire to tackle it again.

The second point he discusses is the merging of action and awareness. The idea that become so immersed in what you’re doing, so mentally involved, that you almost…lose the sense that you’re the one doing it.

Each movement, each thought, each step, becomes natural, instinctual. There is no room for self-doubt or second guessing.

He notes that it’s only when you rise out of the zone that your sense of self returns with a stronger, fresher zeal. As though in order to learn what makes you you, you first half to forget yourself.

The third point is that you must have clear goals and feedback. The goal part I’ve always known, but the feedback took me by surprise for how obvious it was.

What I found interesting–or I should say, what resonated with me–is the fact that said feedback comes in very different ways depending on what you’re doing. If your goals are something tangible, than your feedback comes from someone’s reactions or the completion of a task. In the cast of writing, however, that feedback isn’t always obvious with every writing session.

I don’t have someone sitting behind me providing notes with each first draft chapter (frankly, the idea is both tempting and horrifying), but I do have my own emotional reactions to each day’s output as well as my word count goals. These forms of feedback are enough to keep me satisfied at the end of a day’s work.

The fourth point for this post, and final for today is the concentration for the task at hand. Similar to the second point, is the idea that nothing else is going through your head except for what you’re working on.

Stressed about money? About what to make for dinner? When you are in this zone, in the “flow,” money and dinner don’t exist. For as long as this perfect storm lasts, there is only the challenge in front of you.

I find this all fascinating. I love how the mind works. I love how it’s primed to allow us to find our own fulfillment and satisfaction and happiness just based on a few tweaks of mindset and circumstance.

I have certainly experienced these things through my writing, but he points out that you can achieve this flow state no matter what you’re doing. As long as there’s a balance of stimulation and interest, any task can provide this optimal experience.

What about you? Does any of this sound familiar to you? Any tasks you take on that trigger this loss/discovery of self?


*if you missed it, you can find my first post about this book here.

Thoughts

The Magic of “Flow”

You may have noticed, if you pay attention to my Goodreads Books in the sidebar, that one of my on-the-go books is always some kind of…thinky book. Sometimes self-help, sometimes inspirational/motivational, but more often than not, it’s something with a research/pop psychology vibe.

I love it. Gaining a new perspective, picking up different theories on why the brain does what it does or why people behave the way they do. Just like with my craft/business books, my goal is always to get at least one thing out of its pages.

But one thing I’ve noticed over the years is that all of my go-to authors (Daniel H. Pink, Malcolm Gladwell, Charles Duhigg), reference one name and one book in particular: Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Because his work is referenced so often, I’m super excited to dive into the source material myself.

From everything I’ve read, “flow” is that state of mind where nothing else in the world matters. You are in THE ZONE. Food doesn’t matter. Sleep is unnecessary. Even bathroom breaks are left more or less forgotten.

It is the ultimate state of fulfillment–or, as he believes, happiness.

The whole idea is that happiness and success are not concepts that can actually be reached, they are a side-effect of the optimal experience, of finding yourself in the flow whatever it is you happen to be doing.

It’s a fascinating idea and hopefully one that will help me lose my need for “perfect” and focus on the enjoyment and fulfillment I get out of my work on a regular basis.

I’ll keep you posted as I read and let you know what I get out of this one.

Have you read any non-fiction books recently that have really blown your mind?

Thoughts, writing

Editing: The Personal Touch

PLUS you get a very small sneak peek at on of my WIPs

I had an interesting experience this week that really brought home how important it is to have a strong personal editor-writer rapport.

Along with working to build my own client list, I’ve been applying to positions to do some proofreading/copyediting for external companies. I see it as a great way to bring in a steady income while also developing the skills I want to put back into my own business.

This particular job would have been great. Working from home, choice of projects, ability to choose my own hours… but no client interaction. Everything would come from the company-as-mediator.

This sort of raised some questions for me, but I figured I would apply for it anyway as it couldn’t hurt to see what the process was like.

Part of the application was a series of mock assignments based on the various types of projects that would be coming in. Technical papers, English assignments, blog posts, etc.

But as I started it, I realized how much of a double-edged sword having the company-as-mediator would wind up being.

Now, to be fair, I come at projects very much with a creative-editor/writer mindset, where keeping the voice and authenticity of the piece clear is just as crucial as ensuring it’s typographically/grammatically clean. This company, I suspect, is looking for more of a technical editor. Someone who just dives in and makes changes at will.

But as I was working through these assignments, there were moment where I was left with questions. The meaning of the sentence wasn’t entirely clear. Was there more to the point they were trying to make? A sentence that started, but never really ended, arguments that never seemed to reach their point.

I suppose the point of the test was to prove that I could edit these sentences in a way that made them sound complete, however possible. But that would just be rewriting someone else’s work, which, I guess, just isn’t in me to do. I want to be able to foster relationships with my clients, just as I foster relationships with my editors. I want to be able to leave comments in track changes requesting/suggesting clarifications, just as I love when my editors do this for me. It allows the weaknesses to be caught without losing the authenticity of the piece.

It takes a great deal of trust to send someone your work. Ego is involved, money is involved, and your faith in the final product before it goes out into the world. More than anything else, you want to make sure that you’re working with someone who cares about your WIP as much as you do, who wants to make sure that the best version of it goes out into the world.

To date, I’ve been incredibly lucky in the editors I’ve worked with. They had turned the pages of my WIP black and blue, but I have walked away with the absolutely confidence my book was stronger for it.

If I can be that and offer that for someone else, then that just makes every comma question worthwhile.

What do you look for in an editor?

Thoughts, update, writing

Happy New Year!

design-2019-to-reach-new-yearWishing everyone a fantastic start to 2019.

I have quite a few business-related goals this year, most of which involve keeping on top of my administrative tasks (a goal I make every year. This will be the year I achieve it*!), but my primary focus is to find ways to feed my soul, as it were.

I begin this year on the search for a new dayjob contract to help my husband and I save up for some renos we want to do around the house, but I’m going to be choosy this time around.

I’m looking for a job that best suits me, and I won’t settle for anything less. The way I’ve always seen it is that life is too short to be unhappy or unfulfilled. Yes, yes, bills need to get paid and responsibility and adulting and all that fun stuff, but I don’t see where “misery” comes into any of that. Even if it’s not your dream job, it can still be satisfying, fulfilling, social, and — sometimes — fun. Food for thought for 2019…

Another possibility is that I fill my schedule with proofreading contracts, which would also thrill me to my fingertips.

So if you’ve got a book coming out this year that you want polished to a fine sheen, shoot me a message. I’d love to work with you!

What are your goals this year? The wild, the crazy, the realistic? I want to hear about them all!

Thoughts, writing

Lie vs. Lay

It’s not a pet peeve this week, just a tricky one that often gets me thinking twice, too. And lately I’ve been seeing it in all kinds of trad pubbed books as well as indie.

The dreaded Lie vs. Lay

lying-lion
This lion is lyin’ down. Ha… ha…

WHICH ONE DO YOU USE AND WHEN? It’s the frequent cry I hear in my dreams as some writer somewhere in the world stumbles upon this dilemma and proceeds to tear out their hair. WHY ARE THESE WORDS SO CLOSE BUT NOT THE SAME?

I know, my friend, I know.

So I’m going to attempt to help clear things up by sharing the tip that finally made it click in my own head. If you hear the same click in yours, huzzah! If not, it’s all right. Your time will come.

Lie is more of an active verb; lay is passive.

You lie down on the bed, but you lay the socks down on the dresser.

I lie in the grass, but I lay the blanket on the sand.

BUT WHAT ABOUT IN THE PAST TENSE???? you might scream in frustration.

A good question, because this is where grammar really hates us.

You lay down on the bed, but you laid the socks down on the dresser.

I lay in the grass, but I laid the blanket on the sand.

WHAT ABOUT THE PAST PARTICIPLE???

All right, all right, this one is a will be easier if you’ve gotten the past tense down:

You have lain down on the bed, but you have laid the socks down on the dresser

I have lain in the grass, but I have laid the blanket on the sand

Lie          Lay         Lain

Lay         Laid        Laid

If you want or need more tricks to try to make it stick, the Grammar Girl has got you covered!

Did you hear the click? Was this post helpful? Let me know in the comments!