The Groove

Sometimes the words and paragraphs just seem to fly by. Is this really when you do your best work?

I love it when I get in the groove. The words just seem to flow, I can hear the characters’ voices in my head, and my inner critic pops a Xanax. This, I say to myself, is how it is meant to be. But just how good is the stuff I’ve written in the groove?

Sometimes I’ve had great reader reactions to writing that was done as beads of blood formed on my forehead, as I second-guessed myself the whole way, wanting to delete the whole thing. I’ve also gotten negative or bemused reader responses to writing that came easy, with me riding high, loving every minute of it.

Make no mistake; the “groove state” is one of the great pleasures of an artist’s life. Psychologists like Mihály Csíkszentmihályi say this state, which they call “flow,” creates happiness and kills depression. I’m all for that, especially if it gives me the shot in the arm I need to meet my daily word production goal, or get up early the next day to make sure I get my keyboard time.

The “groove state” is one of the great pleasures of an artist’s life.

Yet one thing I’ve noticed about my “groove writing” is that I am loath to change it. Like many other writers, I instinctively feel a passage birthed in this way is anointed by the muses, smeared with that ineffable something. The truth is, I felt darn good when I wrote it, and rereading it reminds me of that, rather like seeing a picture of a loved one from that vacation a last year in Cancun. That’s why it hurts when my peer reviewers shoot me down, saying “I’m not too sure what’s happening here. There’s too much dialogue. I need to come up for air.”
Michael Crichton had this to say:

 “Inevitably, you react to your own work – you like it, you don’t like it, you think it’s interesting or boring – and it is difficult to accept that those reactions are often unreliable. I mistrust either wild enthusiasm or deep depression. I have had the greatest success with material that I was sort of neutral about.”

We must take our favorite paragraphs off their pedestal. What about you? Do you find criticism about your favorite tidbits hard to swallow? How do you get an objective take on your words?


  1. Snake Plissken

    I completely agree! As a teacher of writing, my first task is almost always to help my students make a conscious mental distinction between their creative selves and their critical selves. I tell them that when they compose a draft, they should go fast, take chances and make mistakes. Their critical selves, I tell them, should come out only after the euphoria of the creative act has left traces of its presence to fill the empty pages. As liberating as my advice may sound to beginning writers, however, it creates exactly the type of defensiveness your post describes! They love their creations because they love the feeling of creating! Why “destroy” what they associate with such pleasure? In graduate school, I took a creative writing seminar with a very famous and frequently anthologized poet. Every week when I proudly submitted my poems to her for class, she asked me, “Is it birth or defecation?” Too many times, she provided me with the answer!Yes, Professor Scribbler, we love our muses, but what have they left us at the end of the bacchanalia? –Snake

  2. conbee35

    Hi, Snake — Your observations are very true

  3. allUzombies

    When I get into that kind of highway hypnosis of writing, every word seems so true. It's what makes writing so much fun. No wonder people don't really want to change any of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>