Writing Tips: Starting the flow

Last night I read in John Creswell’s book Research Design some writing tips which hit a chord with me as I realised that I did these tips unwittingly. Soon after I finished the chapter in Creswell I read on Lisa Kirazian’s blog that she was taking a vacation and she was anticipating being highly productive as the ideas would flow when she was relaxed. She goes on to give some tips about how to write whilst relaxing. This made me ponder about my own holidays. I rarely write whilst holidaying and keep it in my head to get down at a later date.

This is also my technique when dog walking, dreaming, and any other time when thoughts come to me at a time when it is inconvenient to write. Both Creswell, Zinsser and Lisa say not a good idea. The words are worthless whilst floating in your head, most probably forgotten before you get to a computer. I think I will try using my mobile phone’s video and achieve both a movie of the dogs and a recording of my great (I wish) thoughts.

Charli in her post this week on Why I write  discusses her motivation to write and talks about writing into truth whilst her post When wolves give chase looks at the inner strength and thick skin that writers need to overcome their vulnerabilities which are often huge.

It is often these wolves nipping at the heels or in my case the monkeys on my shoulder being super critical that bring the writing to a full stop, commonly known as writer’s block.

Hemingway used to overcome this block by always finishing for the day mid sentence, mid paragraph but certainly never at the completion of a chapter. This way he could return to his work and pick up from where he left off,  the flow unimpeded.

What happens though when you do have the block? Creswell suggests that you write a letter to a friend. I tend to blog or send an email. The main thing is to get that flow started.  Creswell suggests other warm-up exercises such as describing an object by its parts or size without letting on what the object is or write about a subject giving three different takes on it or any other exercise that gets you writing.

His other suggestion which I find interesting is to ensure that the place you write is as unappealing as possible. The place I write suits this criteria as it is a small room with high windows giving me of a view of nothing but the sky. Compared to my huge study which looked out over the garden and the dam in my old house it is non-stimulatory. Where did I get the most writing done? The answer is definitely here in this small room where I am not distracted. Creswell quotes the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Annie Dillard who said “One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.”

Other suggestions he makes are

make a routine of writing daily and when you are alert

Small regular amounts are better than binge writing

Work on 2 or 3 writing projects at the same time so that you don’t burn out working on the same project all the time.

There are a few more suggestions in his book Research Design page 81 although as the title of the book suggests writing technique is only mentioned briefly. The other suggestions revolve around planning your writing time and creating time to write.

Have you got any tips to start the flow?

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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26 Responses to Writing Tips: Starting the flow

  1. M-R says:

    None of that worked for me.


  2. I hate it when I have an idea while I’m doing something, then can’t remember what it was when I go to write it down. Frustrating. I love the place where I write, so that suggestion doesn’t work for me – I have an office in a loft with windows that look out onto tree tops. As for writer’s block…I just posted that I was distracted in the extreme. Somehow I got through it, maybe because I had a deadline for a chapter to my critique group 🙂 plus some encouragement from my blogging sisters!
    So many books on advice!


  3. Write in a place as unappealing as possible? Does a house with four males in it count? (Five, if you count the cat.)

    Deadlines. I thrive on deadlines. Unfortunately I don’t currently have any so not much is happening. And self-imposed deadlines don’t work. I need to be accountable to someone outside of myself.


  4. Sherri says:

    This is a great post Irene, thanks for the links and the tips and I’m glad you linked to Charli’s writing and ‘wolf’ posts, both of which I’ve read and commented extensively on – but you know me 😉 My head’s swirling (have just emailed you) and this is very timely. That’s a fascinating quote by Annie Dillard, never heard that before. As you know I write from my Summerhouse with a view over my garden, at least when I’m blogging but I do find the best time to write my memoir is early in the morning upstairs in the bedroom with the blinds pulled down so its dark and quiet. I thought it was just me being weird, haha! I feel better for reading that, thinking well maybe I’m doing one small thing right 😉


    • Sherri you are doing more than a little bit right. We can get so bogged down on these bits and pieces and the writing suffers as a result. You just have to keep Charli’s wolves at bay and my monkeys on the shoulder and just write. You have a voice that speaks out and is loved by many. You’ll do it my friend just write and worry about the rest afterwards. 🙂


      • Sherri says:

        Ahh, bless you Irene and thank you as always so very much. I will do all that you say – time to send those wolves and monkeys back where they belong and let’s hope that we can all start next week refreshed, renewed and invigorated. I wonder sometimes if a sort of communal ‘virus’ infects us writers…
        I’m doing it and time to kick the dust off my feet and shake off those self-sabotaging thoughts and write into that truth…too right 🙂 What great advice, ‘worry about the rest afterwards’.
        Have a great weekend my friend, catch up with you very soon… ❤


      • Have a great weekend also Sherri. Next week we’ll start afresh.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Charli Mills says:

    Excellent post, Irene. You pulled together several ideas in your field of vision and created a clear passage full of tips. I think part of our process is to experience the things we read about craft and figure out how it plays into our own writing processes. My writing room for the longest time was my laptop on my lap on the couch. My desk I gave up to kids and their homework. Then the Hub took it over as they left home. When my youngest left, I turned his room (painted dark blue-gray) into my writing room. I thought it was the pits but I wrote every morning before getting ready for work. Then I became transient, lived with my eldest for a spell and had a tiny room with a tiny desk, but by a window where I’d watch a red fox come to nap every afternoon. That window was key because it was where my novel was set, so I really absorbed the setting. I took drives and bobbed in the waves of Lake Superior and just soaked in the area. Then I camped for a few months until the Hub and I got this place and my office is HUGE and has gorgeous views. And yes, I draw the curtains when I write or open them up if it’s dark and stormy. I got so distracted by the pond I dedicated a blog to it–my rule is, if it distracts me, I have to write about it! Place is important, so is getting into the flow of ideas. I want to write as if I’m always on a working vacation. And I do. 😀


    • Thanks Charli, Great to hear your history of writing spots. I found when I had a view it was easy to allow myself to get distracted. Interesting that you pull the curtains. The working vacation sounds perfect – I too feel as though I am on a permanent vacation. XD


    • Sherri says:

      Hi Charli, and Irene, I hope you don’t mind me butting in here , I had to reply about the red fox and say how wonderful that must have been to have seen one like that every afternoon. Thought you might be interested to know, I have a little ‘thing’ about red foxes. My dad used to tell me and my brother stories about them when he took us for walks in the woods and my first short story that was published in a magazine was based on those walks and a red fox. That would be another BOTS, right Irene?
      PS Referring to my first comment when I wrote ‘but you know me’ and referring to my tendency to ramble on and leave essay-length comments (which you both have the grace to reply to so eloquently) I just wanted to say thanks so much to you both for giving me so much to ramble on about! Your excellent posts and shared writing journeys, tips and advice give me huge encouragement. Just wanted to let you know that and I’ll shut up now…. 🙂 ❤


      • I don’t mind in the least Sherri. You know you are always welcome here and you don’t need to wait for an invitation to drop in. I have a feeling Sherri that you may have done a post about the red fox and it was one of the first posts of yours that I saw. I could be wrong but I have a feeling… 🙂
        You never have to shut up either. I’m glad my posts are giving you encouragement and I know that I too enjoy Charli’s. In one way or another we are all on a writing journey and to know that we all have similar black thoughts at times and other little hints as to different ways to approach our writing is not only interesting but can be valuable if it suits you as a writer. Not everything is going to work for everyone but until you try you never know. Time for a walk my friend – I am cooped up to a miserable day of rain so bring your galoshes. ❤ 🙂


      • Sherri says:

        Oh Irene, you are a sweetheart, you really are. It’s that Englishness that has me apologising all over the place…you know well of what I speak 😉 And you are absolutely right, yes, you read my red fox story when you first came over to my blog and in fact it was you who very first told me that I was on the right track with my writing, getting published in magazines etc.! I haven’t forgotten because you encouraged me so greatly that day – and have continued to do so 🙂 That was over a year ago! So you are 100% spot on…!

        You are so right about all this, thank you immensely and yes my friend, it definitely is time for long walk so I’m grabbing my rain gear but I bet by the time we’ve finished the sun will be shining brightly… 😀 ❤


      • Wish you were right about the sun shining. It has poured down all day. I’m so glad I remembered correctly. Little things like that make me think I am being successful keeping the dementia at bay. It’s been a great year Sherri and so glad to have connected. XD ❤


      • Sherri says:

        Me too Irene, me too…and I still hope that the sun comes out for you very soon… 😀 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  6. TanGental says:

    I read this a few days ago, Irene, and wanted to come back to it because it is very interesting to me, the process everyone goes through to write. Generally I am in one of two places. The kitchen table (as now) within ‘do you want a coffee?’ distance of the Textiliste who currently is swamped by the most gorgeous quilt; and the room above the garage, known as the ‘Taj’ for its colourful decoration where I sit at my memory desk. The view form the window is of a bathroom window and blank wall so it isn’t stimulating but the contrast between the hub of the house and a quiet spot works well. Since I’ve worked open plan as a lawyer (drafting and editing complex documents) I can shut off most extraneous noise and write pretty much anywhere.
    Blocks haven’t been an issue but since I retired as a lawyer I have found I need to replicate the lack of time to be productive. When I was working full time I squirrelled away the minutes to write – they were so precious. Now that I have some many more minutes I need to force on myself, if not deadlines, then boxes of time after which something else needs to be done. Trouble with that is, once I’m sucked into my world the only things that stop me are (a) the Textiliste shouting ‘where’s that coffee?’ (b) Dog going bananas if the door bell rings (c) backache if I fail to get my posture right and (d) my bladder.
    Great post. As usual.


    • Thanks Geoff and having seen your post this week (but not yet the time to comment on it ) I have seen your memory desk and think its marvellous. I like the idea of the panel each for a grandchild but the problem will be whether or not they stop at two.
      It is interesting that you replicate lack of time. It is the only time I get anything done is when I don’t have the time to do it. I need the deadline and I have to cut it fine. Your four reasons that allow you to be interrupted I totally agree with a) women need to be obeyed when it comes to coffee b) dogs also make sure their heard, b) backache -mmm would have to be bad d) you didn’t drink the coffee as well did you? Thanks for the smile.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: The place where I write. | TanGental

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