Happiness, Flow and Writing Fiction

IMG00035Recently I watched a documentary on happiness. The scientists listed things associated with happiness across cultures around the world. Besides the usual suspects – a tight set of friends, community involvement, church attendance, having fun, etc., they talked about something new called, “flow.”

Flow is being “in-the-zone.” Many different things take people there. For distance runners it’s that moment where your body moves effortlessly, for basketball players it’s the euphoria of a shooting streak, for day-traders it’s a feeling that the sixth-sense is back again.

Researchers say that when you’re in “flow,” time passes silently. Hours seem like minutes.

People who try transcranial direct current stimulation to certain brain areas prior to playing video game report better scores, and a bewilderment about the strange disappearance of time.

Does that sound familiar?

When I write, time disappears. On a good day, eleven hours feels like four. I look at the clock in disbelief.

Happiness and flow?

Call it coincidence, but I’m happier now that I’ve started writing fiction again. (I quit writing for a while, discouraged at how tough it was to get an agent. But don’t you be discouraged, I’m a hack, you’ve got talent.)

Now that I’m back as a hack, things are better all around in my life.

The curse of a science background prevents me from saying objectively that writing caused the striking improvement in my life via “flow,” but there’s an undeniable association… in this anecdotal report where n=1.

Fortunately, though, as luck would have it, I’m infallible. So I can go ahead and tell you: writing fiction will improve your life, it will make you a happier person. Count on it!

Just don’t worry about getting published. It’s going to be nice if it happens, but not as nice as the journey toward that destination. The happiness and fulfillment that comes from writing fiction can last the rest of your life if you find characters you love, and keep spending time with them.

But wow, imagine getting paid for that! It wouldn’t feel right to some people.

Start writing a story.

“RUUUUNNN! GO!!! GET TO DA CHOPPA!!!!!” — Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger)


M. Talmage Moorehead

3 thoughts on “Happiness, Flow and Writing Fiction

  1. I think there’s an extent to which caring about storytelling rather than writing makes you a hack. I have an often-intense internal struggle on whether I want my writing to be engaging or sophisticated.

    But the unadulterated joy from just writing for the sake of writing is pretty beautiful, and characterized by, among other things, not being in the thrall of that obnoxious struggle.

    • If caring about storytelling too much makes a writer a hack, then caring about patient outcome too much makes a doctor a quack.

      Storytelling is the magic that makes us human and guides our way.

      Writing for the sake of writing is wonderful therapy if you’re a writer.

      A person who doesn’t write still needs stories from cradle to grave to guide, teach and entertain.

      Writers have the joy and honor of providing those stories. If making our stories more fun and meaningful to average readers is an obnoxious struggle, I don’t see why it has to be. It’s an exciting and challenging journey to me right now.

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