Why You Need to Write a Novel 5 Minutes at a Time: The Importance of Flow State Training.

What is Flow?:

If you're not familiar with the word, it's also called mindfulness, or simply intense focus. The best way to describe what it means is simply to explain my personal experience with it. Sometimes as I write, and I find myself constantly checking the clock for when my next break comes, but other times I can write for hours, and it's like I'm in a dream. I'm in the story; I become each character as they take their place in the spotlight. I cease to notice anything around me, then at some point it ends, and I wake up. That is a flow state. Most of the time it's only for 30min to an hour, but there have been times when I've written for 8 hours in such a states.

Why only 5 min?"

There is a two-fold purpose to learning to write in 5 min increments. The first is to see every 5min as an opportunity to write, 20min before you leave for work? Great, that's 4 times what you need. 10min waiting in a doctor's office? Awesome that's double what you need. The second is that when you write you want to reach flow state as fast as possible. This 5min period then becomes a testing and training ground.

Training Ground:

Part of reaching flow is simple practice. There was a time when I wouldn't even attempt writing write unless I had at least 45min because I really wanted to get into the story. What ended up happening is that I didn't write very much.

At 5min increments, you learn to simply write when you have time. All the little chunks of waiting in life can be filled with writing.

Teach Yourself to Write Anywhere

It's also a great opportunity to challenge yourself to see where you can write? Can I write on the subway? Or better yet can you learn to write on the subway? Learning to write in uncommon and un-ideal environments can help you carve out more time for writing. The End-all of this part of the process is so you can say, "All I need to write is my laptop. Nothing else matters, not the time, not the place." And don't forget, all you need for this is 5min at a time.

The next part of the training is finding what can help you reach flow state faster. Humans are hard-wired for habits and rituals. So you can use certain cues to jump start the process. Most writers I know use some type of music. I put in my headphones and hit my writing playlist; it jumps starts the process, suddenly my brain knows it's writing time because it can hear the music. Other sensory processes can be used to jump start this as well, such as smell or taste.

Finally, document your process, when you finish writing. Did you achieve flow or get closer to it? What did you differently that helped you get there? Did you have a hard time getting into the story? What didn't help? [Remember new additions to cues and routines will take a week or so to become contributors, so give them time. Track them daily, but evaluate after a week or two.]

Hard and Soft Timers:

As you begin to reach flow state in your writing, you will write well beyond the 5min mark, and as you work on training yourself, there will be times when the clock never seems to move. That's why I use soft and hard timers.

A soft timer is a stopwatch that makes sure I write for the allotted time before I can get my reward,(part of habit building and maintaining) but I prefer the soft timer because I don't want to be interrupted if I reach a flow state. I just want to keep writing; however, life has certain demands that must be attended to, and that why I use a hard time. This alarm will beep at me, interrupt me, so I can attend a meeting, do an interview or any other demand life has.