Personal Best

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This was written at 1 A.M., with very little sleep the night before. I make no guarantees regarding the coherence, or sanity, of the following words.

Psychologists have identified an altered state of consciousness known as “flow.” Wikipedia defines flow as: “the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.” A more common name for this state is the clich├ęd phrase “In the zone.”

Today, for the first time in my life, I have experienced flow. It is the closest I have ever gotten to something that I would call “transcendence.”

As my regular readers will know, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, which entails writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Needless to say, that requires an intensity of focus and the utmost concentration. Well, being rather dissatisfied with the novel I’ve got so far, I started writing a totally different story, just something that had been knocking around in my head and that I wanted to get on paper. I had no idea what awaited me.

I’ve often heard fellow writers say that you know your writing is going well when the story seems to take on a life of its own, and sort of “write itself.” Well, that’s what happened. I began writing at 5 P.M. It is now 1 A.M., and I have only just finished writing for the night. I have never, in my entire life, been as concentrated as I was for those eight hours. I entered such a profound state of “flow,” that time became utterly irrelevant. It was not until I pressed the “word count” button on my word processor that I realized just how focused I had become.

Dear readers: today, in the span of eight hours, I wrote (and I swear on my life that I’m not lying) 11,567 words. In 12-point Times New Roman, that is about 17.3 pages. Seventeen pages. This is, by far, the most productive I’ve ever been since I started writing in the fourth grade.

Needless to say quantity and quality are by no means necessarily linked. Actually, I’ve often thought they were mutually exclusive. And I make no guarantees that what I wrote is actually coherent, but still, it’s a feat I did not believe myself capable of. I’m not sure that I’d have the focus to write that many pages if I was just pressing random keys. Hell, under any other circumstance, I’m not sure I could even motivate myself to do that many pages by pressing the return key over and over.

Some people call this strange state “flow.” Others call it “being in the zone.” Still others call it “extreme sleep deprivation.” As cool as it may be, I’m still inclined to refer to it as “a momentary window into madness.”