Updated: Feb 20, 2022
Writing a college admissions essay is no small feat. You're supposed to tell a story that captures your soul's essence, demonstrates your brilliance as a writer, and convinces "them" that you're an introspective, wonderful human being that would be an incredible asset their prestigious school. The pressure is on and it can really mess with your head and your confidence. There's nothing better at sucking joy out of the writing process than that kind of intense pressure.
Writers throughout the ages have developed bizarre rituals and methodologies for getting the words on the page. So what tips can we learn from the greats? Here are 3 rules of thumb for getting into the flow when it's time to sit down and crank out a masterpiece:
1. ELIMINATE DISTRACTION
Victor Hugo wrote naked and told his assistant to hide his clothes so he could not leave his room. Maya Angelou wrote locked in a hotel room with blank walls. Benjamin Franklin and Nabakov wrote immersed in a bath tub. The takeaway: You need to find a quiet, distraction-free place to be alone with your thoughts. Writing is thinking and if you don't have an optimal environment for thinking, all is lost. With today's technology, distraction follows us everywhere we go. Do not write with your phone in reach, close the tabs you don't need on your computer, or write like Obama does, with a pen and yellow legal pad. Creating a distraction-free zone is the first step in finding your flow.
2. KNOW THYSELF
Sylvia Plath wrote at 4AM before her infant children awoke. Tolstoy wrote exclusively in the morning, while Dostoyevsky wrote only in the evening. Balzac preferred to write through the quiet of the night while everyone slept, until he died at the age of 50 from caffeine poisoning. (I would not necessarily recommend this method). The takeaway: Listen to your body's natural rhythm to figure out when you are at the peak of your creativity and focus. For myself, I know that writing a blog entry after 2PM is going to take me three times as long and be half as good as if I write first thing in the morning. Work at a time when your creative juices are at their juiciest.
Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Thoreau, and Wordsworth all used walking as a catalyst for creative thinking. A recent study from Stanford University found that walking , especially in nature, sparked creativity. 81%-100% of participants in the study had more creative ideas when walking, as opposed to sitting. The takeaway: taking walk breaks can unstick that writer's block and infuse your brain with creativity. The mind-body connection is real! So if you feel yourself getting stuck, go for a stroll and see if you can get into the flow.
Let me know if these tips are helpful! What do you do when you hit a writing roadblock? Comment and let me know how you find your flow.