The Creative Trance

Melbourne_victoria_australia_54546_hI'm working on a project that puts me into a trance.

My fingers fly across the keys and I'm totally and completely absorbed in it.  Time passes and I have no sense of it–if you asked me what the hour was, I wouldn't have a clue.  Dim thoughts that I should get up from my chair arise (I'm trying to stand up and move every 30 minutes) and they leave my brain again just as fast.  Because my fingers are moving across the keyboard, as if of their own volition.  It doesn't even occur to me to check email or see what's up on the internet. My fingers just keep moving.

When I finally come out of it, I'm wrung out–but in a cheerful, energetic way, if that makes sense.  I'm ready to take a break and I also cannot wait until I get to go back into the trance again.

This is what writing is all about.  This is how I like my creativity.

And, I recall, this is how writing used to be for me always.  Before I started worrying about how it sounded.  Or doing it right.  Or if the client would like it. 

So why is it suddenly happening for me again?

I think because I'm playing around with a different genre.  It's something new, I'm not worrying so much about the rules, and I'm allowing myself to have fun.   At the same time, I've got enough of a sense of mastery that I'm not second guessing myself all the time.

But also, I believe there's a sense of allowing myself to let it happen at play here.  I have to admit, in the past I've felt close to being in a trance state and talked myself out of it.  Got up from the computer, clicked over to check email, gazed out the window instead.

And I think I know why.  Because once  you're in the trance state it is the most wonderful place imaginable.   But it's also a bit scary.  You're out of control of your conscious mind to a certain extent.  You're in the grip of something bigger, something beyond you. 

What if you never come out?  What if you get so compelled by this trance state that you give yourself over to it totally–don't bother to shower, forget to pick up the kids, ditch cooking and cleaning?   What if you give yourself to it so fully that you become the madwoman who wanders around town talking to herself?  

Okay, so realistically, we're all pretty sure that's not going to happen.  But, still, it could, our inner critic insists.  And so we reign ourselves in, listen to that voice, attempt a more measured approach to writing.

But here's the thing: the writing I do while I'm in a creative trance is my best work.  It flows, it has a sense of authority, and at the same time, ease.  I wrote it effortlessly and it reads effortlessly.

So, I, for one, am vowing to allow myself more time in the creative trance in 2014.  

How about you?  Have you experienced the creative trance?  Do you like it or loathe it?  

Photo by Scott Sandars.

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12 Responses to The Creative Trance

  1. Milli Thornton (@fearofwriting) 01/09/2014 at 11:44 #

    I love the creative trance! And I agree with you about why it happens (or, rather, the swiftest way to prevent it from every occurring).

    For my third screenplay, I went through and purposely shed the “shoulds” that crept in (or sometimes thundered in) with my first two screenplays. I told myself that this third script is just for me. Not only just for me, but it’s for me to have fun. To play with. To experiment with. And it doesn’t have to meet with anyone else’s approval. I reached a state of ecstasy last time I worked on it.

    I can also get this way with my work (helping writers). Hours will pass. I haven’t eaten breakfast. I’m still in my jammies. Time is immaterial. Inspiration and letting the work flow out of me is all that exists.

    Of course, it’s not a great thing for my body to neglect having breakfast until a late hour. But I LOVE being in that place!

  2. Charlotte Dixon 01/09/2014 at 12:30 #

    I love the creative trance, too, Milli.  It's my favorite!  And, just so you don't feel bad, there's an increasing body of evidence coming out that "intermittent fasting," or skipping breakfast, is really good for you.  Search on Dr. Mercola's website for more info.

  3. Maryse 01/09/2014 at 15:11 #

    Happy New Year, Charlotte!
    I’ve experienced it but never for very long when I write “to publish”. Easier to get there when it’s just for me. I’m not even sure it’s a trance. More like being in the zone; words flow. Not sure I’m having fun, though. Feels more focused and serious. Very strange…

  4. Charlotte Dixon 01/09/2014 at 15:28 #

    Isn't it interesting how differently we experience this state and also react to it?  I think I like it because I'm totally swept away, not thinking for a second of any of my concerns or worries, totally in the moment.  Happy New Year to you, too!

  5. Suzanne C. Robertson 01/10/2014 at 10:01 #

    When it happens, it’s a gift. So elusive though! Good points about being aware of it and letting it happen and not chasing it away. Thank you!

  6. Charlotte Dixon 01/10/2014 at 13:44 #

    It is a gift, and I'm not sure it has to be elusive.  It's probably our natural creative state and we just don't allow it to happen often.  Thanks for commenting!

  7. Patty 01/12/2014 at 19:02 #

    This is what I love about you, Charlotte. You understand the trance, that opening of the channel and delicate balance between conscious and unconscious when it comes to creativity! I love how you say it’s unlikely we’ll go careening off into madness if we step into it. You’re wise! I heard that same thing years ago at a workshop on the psychology of creativity. Most of us have our feet planted firmly enough in the real world and have the power to return from the trance. So I say hooray for the creative trance. Let’s risk it. And Hooray for you being in it right now!

  8. Charlotte Dixon 01/12/2014 at 20:20 #

    Oh Patty, I love you, too!  And here's to both of us being totally swept up in that creative trance a lot this year.  It's my favorite place to be.

  9. Robyn LaRue 01/14/2014 at 15:57 #

    Call it trance or call it flow, I never write better or more deeply when in it. And when it can grip me more than once in a day, I feel so fortunate and blessed. As long as I am alone and undistracted, I’ll reach for it and hope it comes. So happy when other writers talk about it because it’s the best part of writing. :)

  10. Charlotte Dixon 01/14/2014 at 17:49 #

    I agree that it is the best part of writing.  I still remember so clearly the first time it happened to me.  I was so amazed!  And I also remember the days when my kids would come home from school and it would take me a second to figure out who they were and what they were doing in my house.  :-)

  11. Sharon 04/23/2014 at 10:07 #

    The creative trance sounds like a dream come true for me. It’s been a long while since I’ve experienced it. I wish I knew some sort of incantation to make it happen again…

  12. Charlotte Dixon 04/23/2014 at 10:44 #

    This is counter-intutitive, but what I find is that good old fashioned hard work gets me there. Like establishing a writing practice and working regularly. When I do that, I’m so into the story that it is easier for me to get swept up in it. And, I have to admit it doesn’t happen as much for me these days as I’d like!

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