Black Butterfly Press is honored to interview
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.

Susan K. Perry made the Los Angeles Times Bestseller list for her book, Writing in Flow.


M.T.: What was the motivation behind your book, Writing in Flow--Keys To Enhanced Creativity?

S.P. "Even though I've been writing for 20 years, primarily nonfiction, I've never gotten easily or often to that place where time stops and the words just seem to flow out effortlessly. And I knew that some people enjoy writing in that way and get to do it all the time. So I set out to study the most successful writers and find their secrets and techniques."



M.T.: Is writing in flow similar to the method used by practicing The Tao, (the way), where the writer gets out the way and lets the story act upon him?

S.P.: "I don't know much about the Tao, but it sounds awfully similar. When you're in flow, you have access to other, deeper parts of your mind and psyche than you normally do in everyday consciousness. That lets the story bubble up, and it does feel often as though it's doing it all on its own."



M.T.: Can a writer program himself to write in flow? How did your research bear this out?

S.P.: "It's a little like programming, in fact. Most successful writers have evolved routines and rituals that they do every day or almost every day, and when they embark on these rituals, wheter it be to put on certain music or light a candle or take a second cup of coffee back to bed with a laptop, then their mind and body respond with flow and fluid writing. Writing almost effortlessly becomes a habit, not an occasion for struggle and angst."



M.T.: I like your description of creativity in your interview with Pageonelit.com. To further expand on your definition, how does a fiction writer know if what he has written is original and has never been created before? (Particularly since there are said to be only a certain number of plots.)

S.P.: " I don't know if you can ever be sure! But if you are well read, which I highly recommend, and you write a lot, you will eventually develop your own voice. I know for a fact that no one will ever write the same book as I'm writing. I simply have to be original, to a certain extent, because each of us is a world unto ourselves. We see, perceive, experience, and express ourselves idiosyncratically. That doesn't mean everyone is equally original and creative. And I don't think re-using a familiar plot is a problem, necessarily. It's HOW you say a thing that makes it creative."



M.T.: What are some of the steps a writer might take to experience this heightened state of creativity?

S.P.: "First of all, read my book--and I don't say this just to sell more copies, but because it's very hard to simplify the steps to flow into a few well-chose words! That said, I'd recommend thinking about how open-minded you are in life and in your writing (are you wilng to risk exposing yourself in print? Do you NOT censor yourself before you even write a thing down. Do you delight in novelty and challenge or do you like to stick to the tried and true?) Next, I'd be sure I was writing for some of the right reasons. That means writing because you love it or have something to say, not because you plan to get rich. Rich is good, but it won't make you creative, necessarily. Then you have to find your own ways to loosen up and focus in. Whether it's exercises, and there are some on my site (www.bunnyape.com), or preceding your writing with a warm bath or a long walk or meditation or yoga or the right kind of music, you must learn to surrender to the processes of your subconscious."



M.T.: Is the use of the subconscious a tool a writer might use in helping him get to the flow?

S.P.: "When you're IN flow, your subconscious is inevitably involved. You don't use IT, I think it uses you. But you have to relax enough to let it out."



M.T.: Do you think reading other writers helps one get into flow?

S.P.: Some of the writers I interviewed specifically said they read something written by someone else to propel themselves into flow. That can be just the spark you need to set your own inspiration ablaze.



M.T.: Can you explain how writing in flow is comparable to an athlete's being in "zone?"

S.P.: They're different words for the same thing. Actually, there are many metaphors for flow--I have a whole section on that. Doesn't matter what you call it--you know it when you're IN it. But in another way, the "zone" is that line you have to balance on to get into and stay in flow. It's the line between a thing being too easy (so you're bored and not flowing) and too hard (so you're frustrated and not flowing). Just the right amount of challenge is required to get into and stay immersed in flow.



M.T.: As a writer yourself, how do you write in flow? Did you experience flow while writing this book?

S.P.: I can get into flow when the topic is emotionally engaging to me. When I am working on a poem, I always get into flow. With my articles, I have to find a way to make it FUN for me. If the topic is dull but I want to write it for the money, I find something fun about it, whether a way to relate it to my own life, or asking my source unusual questions, or finding a way to making the writing more interesting than it might otherwise be. But for the most part, I have to care or flow won't follow. I experienced flow while writing this book only at times. I tend not to get into very deep flow when I'm trying to make something extra clear to others because I always have my audience in mind. At certain points of the book, where I let myself go, I know I was in flow.



M.T.: Since you made the LA Times Best Seller's List, has it helped or harmed your ability to write in flow?

S.P.: Well, when you're busy promoting a book, talking about it everywhere,you're not actually writing much. I look forward to getting on with my next book real soon. Now I know exactly what it takes for me to enter flow, and that's to get everything else out of the way and FOCUS on one main thing. And that's not easy for me. Being on the Bestseller list has made me anxious--will I stay on, will I slide off, what did I do to make that happen, should I be doing more? It's easy to get swayed by even this little bit of fame and to want more of it, rather than focusing inward to create.



M.T.:In interviewing other writers for your book, what did you learn about the creative process?

S.P.: I learned that everyone's process is different, and that if you can come to terms with your own, you can be a more comfortable writer. I also learned that the creative process often contains periods of non-writing, and that these aren't necessarily blocks at all. The creative process REQUIRES time off.



M.T.: Are you satisfied with the end results of your book? Did you have any idea that your book would be so successful? What do you think is the key to the success of this book?

S.P.: Oooh, the key to the success of WRITING IN FLOW? Number one, I went all out and wrote the best book I could, not holding anything back. Number two, a lot of people these days are looking for ways to tap into something out- of-the-ordinary, and the flow is one of those experiences that we'd all like more of. I would have to say that I'm satisfied with the book, though if I were writing it today, it would be a little different. I think I've learned even more about writing by talking to people in workshops and at bookstores. And no, I was hoping the book would be well reviewed (it has hardly had ANY print reviews yet,)but I had no idea it would be a bestseller. I'm thrilled that so many people are responding to my words. What writer could want more?



M.T.: Dr. Susan Perry, thank you for this informative interview.

Dr. Susan Perry's web site.