• Creative Flow: Flowing Body, Flowing Mind

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in Creative Flow     Comments 14 comments

    Today we offer the first post in a new series, “Creative Flow,” in which writer and creativity coach Sid Kemp will share some tips and tricks for creating and sustaining creative energy. –DD


    You probably know the feeling of creative flow, those times when words fly out of our fingers into the keyboard, or ink just pours out of the pen. Words arrive, we write them down and they feel right. It’s great, isn’t it?

    Creative flow can feel very different for each of us. My wife writes haiku, tanka, and other short-form poetry. Her flow is to write and post at least one poem a day. I also work with songwriters, Hollywood script writers, business writers, copy writers, bloggers, and fiction writers.

    Every one of us feels the flow in a different way.

    Some writers can even feel different kinds of flow based on what they’re working on. I write short stories and novels, and I’ve noticed that, for each one, the creative flow feels different. In the short stories, it’s like water flowing down a swift stream, tumbling over the rocks to the epiphany. My novels, on the other hand, meander like the thousand-mile journey of the Mississippi to the sea; I fall into backstory or a character’s daydream or vision.

    Of course, as writers we do a lot more than just write. We plot. We research. We ponder. We write, rewrite, edit, rewrite some more, edit again, and then hunt down those pesky misplaced modifiers and comma splices. It’s important to learn the unique feeling of flow for each of these writing tasks.

    Your Turn: How does creative flow feel for you? Is your flow different for different types of writing? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.


    The Body-to-Mind Flow

    But what about those times when we can’t get into that zone? Is there a way to manufacture creative flow? Does creative flow start with body flow?

    Once we realize that creative flow is different for each of us, we can identify our own unique feeling of flow. And once we do that — once we know how our own creative flow feels — we can get it going anytime, even on days when we’re resistant.

    Here’s how I activate my flow for a writing session: First I take a minute to remember the feeling of my creative flow, and I imagine the feeling of it in my body. Then I create that feeling. Before writing a short story, I go for a power walk. Before novel writing, I meander in a shady park.

    This works. Having created the feeling of flow in my body, my anxiety lessens and the writing flows.

    Power walks, yoga, dance: anything involving sustained movement can help you capture the flow. Swimming in the ocean works big time.

    Honor the body’s flow and the creative flow will open up.

    Your turn: What are some methods you’ve tried to make creative flow happen for your own writing?


    Get Strict and… Relax

    Well, most days the creative flow will open up. Sometimes it comes in fits and starts, no matter what you do.

    On days like these, I get strict with myself. I get strict about relaxing. I write two or three paragraphs, then check email for ten minutes (no more). I write another two paragraphs. I get some tea. I get back to writing.

    This worked for me today, and it works for me just about every day.

    Try this exercise: Either before you write or during writing breaks, get yourself moving — in a fun way, in a way that feels like the flow you want to have when you write. Do it to music or silently, outdoors or inside.

    Your turn: If you try the exercise, it would be great to hear what it did for you. Or just tell us about how you get into your own writing groove. Let me know in the comments below, and click “notify” to receive an email alert when someone responds to your comment.

    And since this is a new series: What questions do you have about creative flow? Are there any particular topics you’d like to suggest for future posts?


    Hi, I’m Sid Kemp, a writer and a coach for creative artists. I’ve been writing for 48 of my 56 years, and I’ve experienced my share of writer’s block, and many breakthroughs, as well. Now, I help other writers, artists, and creative people create creative flow in their lives. Later this spring, I’ll be releasing an online self-guided study course called “Creating Creative Flow.” The website will be up soon. Until then, you can reach me by email at Sid Kemp.


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    I already know this is going to be one of my favorite series. As a total believer in listening to the body, mind, and spirit in order to find that “creative flow,” I’m eager to learn how to improve this in my writing. Thank you for your wisdom!

    And to answer the question, something that works for me recently is to imagine the scene or chapter or the whole novel already completed. What does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? Once I have that vision of the end it’s much easier to start.


    Thanks for your note, Logan. Your enthusiasm brightens my day. I was just talking to a friend about envisioning complete things. Doing that chapter by chapter sounds just great!

    Glynis Jolly

    Because of mobility limits, I don’t have much that I do physically to get ready for a writing session except get out of PJs and into clothes suitable for day wear after I brush my teeth and take a shower. In other words, I treat my writing as a job–one I love, of course. During the course of a writing session, if I feel clamped or my back begins to pinch, I will go to another room and do half-swats in a straight-back chair, usually thirty of them. Both of these energize me in some way so that when I… Read more »


    Thanks, Glynnis, for sharing your experience. My wife is a writer with mobility limits, too, so I have some sense of what you are facing. You might try those squats _before_the pinch and see if your back stays in better shape.

    Justine Duhr

    A terrific first post, Sid! I’m excited about this series. My creative flow is wildly different depending on the genre I’m working in. When I write fiction, especially when I’m drafting as opposed to revising or editing, I love to get in a groove and lose myself in the process. That’s where the joy lives for me. With academic writing, I pretty much have no flow and therefore no joy, which is why it’s so hard for me. If my writing is a highway, fiction is three open lanes; academic writing is a three-car pileup! Other forms of nonfiction (blogging,… Read more »


    Thanks, Justine. Your clear report of your own experience is really useful for a lot of us. I actually have a one-hour lecture called “making writing fun” that I deliver to my wife’s college class on how to write a research paper. Email me and I’ll be happy to send you a copy. It’s a big hit with the students. Your talk about genres helped me realize something. As I write, I feel two things in my body. One is how the writing is going – a 3-lane highway or a 3-car pileup. The other is how the protagonist is… Read more »

    Barbara Mealer

    Creative flow in and of itself is a controversial subject. What is it? Why do some slog through writing and do well while others have to “wait’ on the flow to work? I’m one of the ones who can sit with a blank paper or screen and start writing if I have a character in mind and some idea what I want them to do. I have found that planning, blocking out chapters, ensuring I have all the elements of a good story with multiple story lines to make it interesting works better. When I start to write, sometimes the… Read more »


    Thanks, Barbara, for your really insightful comments. Creative flow is a large topic, and it can be controversial, which is why I am so grateful that Write By Night is allowing me to explore it with you in an ongoing series. One example of that conflict is that many people think that structure inhibits flow, but the opposite is true. The healthy, flexible joints of a dancer are the structure that allows the flow of the dance. Your preparation is like a dancer’s daily warm-ups, or a jazz musicians disciplined practice, which allows him to improvise when the time is… Read more »

    Jen Thilman

    I’m writing my first novel. I see the story clearly unfolding in my head but I can’t always get a flow going that gets the scenes down the way I see them. When this happens I switch over to research and scene outlines. Sometimes it gets the story flowing into the keyboard and other times it doesn’t. But at least I spent time working on my novel. So I figure that’s good progress toward telling the story. I “write by night” around a full time job so I can’t always relax enough to get a writing flow going every evening.… Read more »


    Jen, you’re way ahead of us on this one. I’ll share some of my own experience with the various parts of writing in a future post. For now, just let me say that every minute with our novels and short stories counts, whether we’re getting words on the page in draft or sketching out a character or a scene. It’s all essential!


    What a great website with great posts and comments! So helpful, especially to writers who struggle in a vacuum. THANK YOU, Justine and David! And I think our writing strategies follow the same flow, Mr. Kemp. I look forward to your future installments! I’ve always found that reading in the genre I’m writing in gets the creative juices flowing, if they’re being sluggish. Also, reading books on writing, listening to lectures, or doing some in-depth research on the topic I’m writing about in my novel really helps, Even watching movies on the topic helps!. If I’m doing something connected to… Read more »


    Thanks, Shaan, and please, everyone, call me Sid. (Even my father was never Mr. Kemp. That was my granddad.) Your comment makes two interesting points. First, it shows how the way into our flow is different for each of us. For example, reading in-genre is the worst thing I can do to my writing flow. When writing, I can barely read at all. And the only editing I can do is on the pages I just finished, to pick up the thread and move forward. More than that would stop my flow. So the key here is that each one… Read more »

    Walter Sargent

    What do I do to get into a creative flow? I’m a songwriter. I hit a major wall when I “try” to write a song. My best material just seems to tumble out. It reminds me of what Yoda said in the Empire Strikes Back, “Do, or no not. There is no ‘try'”. On the other hand, I have also read that “only amateurs wait for inspiration.” So I have fun with it – playing my songs for myself and going to open mics. Another thing I do is try to re-frame my expectations. Rather than getting bogged down with… Read more »


    These are great ideas, Walt. The first part of what you write reminds me of Julia Cameron’s idea of “showing up at the page” in _The Artists Way_. We show up and do our best, inspiration or no. And that is more enjoyable than being blocked, for sure! Your second idea is a very good one who for those of us who get caught up in the opinions of others about being artists, or about the quality of our work. Using our society’s well established “right to privacy” as a friendly way to tell others to butt out of our… Read more »

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