Susan K. Perry’s “Writing in Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity”

Wednesday, December 23, 2020 — 5:30 p.m. (Pacific Time)

The fall semester officially ended today when I turned in grades for the graduate students I worked with the past several months. I had already submitted the grades for my undergraduates, so I managed to get everything wrapped up fairly easily by mid-afternoon today. The room out of which I taught at home doesn’t look any different than my office on campus looks after 16 straight weeks of intense teaching: semi-organized chaos. I decided to start straightening things up a bit and got to work on the bookshelves. For no reason I can recollect, a book I hadn’t looked at for several years suddenly caught my attention: Susan K. Perry’s “Writing in Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity.” Published in 1999 by Writer’s Digest books, Perry’s book served as a rejoinder to all those smug critics so well described by Randall Jarrell’s characterization of literary know-it-alls; they are like, says Jarrell, “a farmer who says,’Get out of here, pig. What do you know about bacon?’ ”

Perry is on the side of the writers, and continuously turns to them in her book for first-hand accounts and advice about the process of writing. I was thrilled back then to be included among the writers quoted in the book, though as I read the list of names in.the inner flap of the dust jacket, I was slightly stunned to realize how many of them have died in the past 20 years, some of the them very recently. (I will post the entire list at the end of today’s entry.)

I was even more stunned when I used search engines to look up Susan K. Perry and two recent articles about “flow” showed up immediately, the first of which contained the unexpected announcement that her husband, the poet Stephen Perry, was dead. Stephen Perry published numerous poems in magazines such as The New Yorker, The Yale Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Kenyon Review, North American Review, Antioch Review, Denver Quarterly, Salmagundi, Wisconsin Review, Cimarron Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Poetry East, The Journal, Nightsun, Jacaranda Review (UCLA), Sycamore Review (Purdue University), Yellow Silk, and many others. His most important collection of poems is QUESTIONS ABOUT GOD (Humanist Press). Here are links to his book as well as his gallery of photographs:


Susan K. Perry’s most recent articles about “flow” can be found here:

What Flow Feels Like From the Inside: Part 1
Have you known deep flow? It was “natural” for this poet.
Posted May 18, 2018

What Flow Feels Like From the Inside: Part 2
This is the second half of my intense flow interview with Stephen G. Perry.

As I look back on my comments in Susan K. Perry’s book, the one that still remains the most accurate is that it is easier for me to feel in the flow when I’m revising, as opposed to working on first drafts. Now the odd part of that distinction is that I tend to be at my best in the first draft, once I get to that spot where the rhythm itself — particular to the piece that is underway — becomes the source of the flow. When the writing is in the flow, I know ahead of Time the moves that will need to be made.

So why do I say that revision is the place where the flow feels most real? In part, it is because it’s easier to proceed once one has something to revise. As I comment in Perry’s book, starting out on a piece of writing “is like diving off a high board onto ice.” One anticipates hitting water, but when the effort doesn’t lead anywhere, it has the abrupt rebuke of feeling that one fell onto an unyielding trampoline. Once you have that first draft, though, it’s like having something to “swim into.” And so we do!

What Flow Feels Like From the Inside: Part 2
This is the second half of my intense flow interview with Stephen G. Perry.

Contributors to WRITING IN FLOW (R.I.P. to far too many)

Ralph Angel
Madison Smartt Bell
Marvin Bell
T. Coraghessan Boyle
Andrea Holander Budy
Ocavia E. Butler
Robert Olen Burlger
Ethan Canin
Susan Taylor Chehak
Peter Clothier
Wanda Coleman
Billy Collins
Phoebe Conn
Michael Connelly
Bernard Cooper
Alfred Corn
Peter Davison
Gerald DiPego
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Harriet Doerr
Stephen Dunn
Judith Freeman
Diana Gabaldon
Frank X Gasper
Phyllis Gebauer
Merrill Joan Gerber
David Gerrold
Sue Grafton
Donald Hall
Sam Hamill
Lola Haskins
Anthony Hecht
Brenda Hillman
Jane Hirschfield
Marnell Jameson
Diane Johnson
Richard Fones
Nora Okja Keller
Faye Kellerman
Jonathan Kellerman
Nancy Kress
Ursula K. Le Guin
Philip Lewvine
Aimee Lui
Margot Livesey
Myra Cohn Livingston
Suzanne Lummis
Elizabeth Moskowitz
Carol Muske
Cees Nooreboom
Ed Ochester
Stephen Perry
Samuel H. Pillsbury
Robert Pinsky
Wyatt Prunty
James Ragan
Donald Revell
Steve Reynolds
Mark Salzman
Lynne Sharon Schwartz
Carolyn See
Maurya Simon
Jane Smiley
David St. John
Mark Strand
Henry Taylor
David L. Ulin
Michael Ventura
Ellery Eashionton Charles H. Webb
Richard Wilbur
Hilma Wolitzer
Stephen Yenser

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