Flow — the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task — is a strong contributor to creativity. When in flow, the creator and the universe become one, outside distractions recede from consciousness and one’s mind is fully open and attuned to the act of creating. — Scott Barry Kaufman, Huffington Post
I love it when I get into flow. I mentioned once that I have this inner clock that never seems to stop ticking. It can be a royal pain at times.
However the clock stands still when I enter that mental state called “flow”.
I’ve been doing some digging, hoping to understand what it takes to achieve that sense of timelessness. I’ve discovered its like trying to fall asleep by trying to fall asleep. Doesn’t work so well.
There’s good news, however. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who has studied this phenomenon extensively, this state of mind happens when we challenge ourselves by doing things that require some skill and commitment on our part.
Its about being awake to our life and paying attention, not just living on auto-pilot. (He has also written quite a few books about this subject which you can find here.)
He calls Flow the “joy of complete engagement.” Sure sounds like something I’d like more of in my creative life.
So if I’m understanding this right, it’s about paying attention and being willing to challenge myself. To get comfortable with being a little uncomfortable.
That means something different for each of us but I know what I will do to find more Flow.
How about you?
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. — Steve Jobs
I used to read that quote and only see the part about time and not wasting it. I have an inner clock that just keeps on ticking, reminding me that time is a-wastin’.
It was only recently I really took note of that last sentence in the quote. The one about trusting my heart and intuition.
When I make art from my head it’s almost always about technique and marketability. When I trust my heart, the art speaks. Maybe not to everyone but the ones who do hear it? They’re my peeps.
Besides, even if it only ever speaks to me, that’s enough because in committing to a creative life, art starts with exploring the inner self.
This week, before you sit down to create, take a moment to get out of your head and connect to your heart.
I have a personal philosophy in life: If somebody else can do something that I’m doing, they should do it. And what I want to do is find things that would represent a unique contribution to the world – the contribution that only I, and my portfolio of talents, can make happen. Those are my priorities in life. Neil deGrasse Tyson
This is something I believe but don’t always practice. Time after time, I have to bring myself back to the studio. Back to what I say is important to me. So much other stuff gets in the way and calls for my attention.
I justify it by telling myself it’s the responsible thing to do until I realize my priority has shifted again. But that’s okay.
The responsible thing is to show up with our gifts and talents and use them. They are ours for a reason.
Like meditation, bringing myself back to center is an ongoing and dynamic process. No need to beat myself up when I drift. Life happens.
The important thing is to pay attention, recover and get back to the studio.
Boredom gets a bad rap these days.
The problem is this – we aren’t creative in special pockets of time or space. Creativity doesn’t occur in isolation from our lives. We are creative all the time, wherever and whenever we are. Everything in our life is raw material. (Just ask the family of a writer.)
Or at least that’s how it used to be
Frankly, I’m worried about the richness of our creative lives these days because so many of us are just so, well…distracted. Those smart devices are training us to avoid boredom at any cost. We turn to them constantly and when we do, we miss the inspiration all around us. There are ideas floating through the air, waiting for our attention but fewer and fewer of us are paying attention.
What’s got your attention these days? Are you actively looking for the creative sparks and ideas that are all around you?
Or does your social media feed keep you distracted?
If your creative well is feeling a little dry, that may be a sign you need to take a vacation from technology and get back to real life. Everything feeds your creativity, if you are awake and aware. Everything.
Challenge yourself. Let yourself feel the boredom. It’s actually fertile ground, contrary to what you might think.
A lot of creative brilliance had its roots in boredom
Start with just an hour. Put down that smart device and pay attention to the world around you for that time.
You might be missing something important.