Every writer goes into altered states for a living. In fact, so do most people, one way or another. Just think: if you're immersed in writing program code, or you're staring into space designing a building, or you're a teacher whose focus of attention is entirely on the kids in front of you while the material you deliver comes Zen-like from your unconscious... well I don't know about you, but I think they're all altered states. Being "in the flow" is only one variety, and it occurs when the full bandwidth of consciousness -- you know, that thing that can only be aware of up to seven things at a time (allegedly) -- is fully engaged, with nothing left for self consciousness.
The uses of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) for writers are manifold. Like me, the hugely successful thriller writer David Morrell recommends knowledge of NLP to everyone who wants to write. What's interesting to me is that the language patterns (the L in NLP) are not the most useful part -- at least to someone who's been writing for a while. In fact, every inveterate reader of novels has internalized vast numbers of appropriate language patterns... hypnotically, because that's the way to learn them. The best of all trance states is the one called lost in a book.
And you know I examine New Age activities with a scientific mind, right? Like, hypnosis is the state that occurs (easily seen via EEG, never mind fMRI) when the precuneus nucleus goes into hyperdrive (that's the imagination firing up) as the (nagging voice) anterior cingulate just goes quiet and softens...
So I've spent the last week helping out on the sidelines at at an NLP Practitioner training seminar. The best part is meeting new people, who are already multi-talented before the training begins.
(Caveat: while there are sensible medical doctors and clinical psychologists who use these techniques, there are also sales folk whose ethical boundaries are clearly different from mine, while some of the people most deeply into the culture are schizoid-delusional or even sociopathic (by the objective clinical definition) in my amateur opinion.)
Anywhoe, one of the delegates was a world-class professional MMA fighter (cage fighter) with a PhD in computer science, whose training partners are all scientists. And he's already a therapist and author. (And his girlfriend is just as accomplished and as nice a person.) You know, when I wrote Paradox, someone mentioned that several characters seemed too talented -- but I get to meet these great people for real.
It's like a science fiction convention in an alternative universe, which is dead cool. On the other hand, if you want to know how to go into a creative daydream, just stare into your cat's eyes. For a long, l-o-n-g time...