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.
When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing – just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park? — Ralph Marston
The picnic tables in the park down the street are calling to me. They overlook the bay and I plan to visit them soon with my paints and sketchbook for a little plein air work.
I love my studio but lately I’m hungry to be out where I can smell the ocean and feel the wind. After a dreary, rain-soaked season, I feel flat and empty.
It’s been an easy winter but still…it is winter. At first, I enjoy being cocooned indoors but by March I’ve been inside too long, despite daily walks with the dog.
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.