Many people call it flow. Athletes call it being in the zone. I call it a Very Good Thing, a state of grace, a blessing. What is flow? Wikipedia says flow “is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.”
Why should we care about flow? I suppose just because it feels so wonderful. When I experience flow, I emerge on the other side feeling refreshed, enthusiastic, and pleased with what I have been doing. I have mental clarity. I feel energized. I am happy.
Want to flow? Here are some tips:
- I have no data to back it up, but I hypothesize that people experience flow most often when they work on tasks of their own choosing and without close supervision. This is an often ignored perk for homemakers and entrepreneurs.
- Flow is most likely to happen when a person is already competent with a skill but challenges herself to rise to a slightly higher level of effort with the task at hand. An example is a little project I completed a week or so ago. I have been cooking for almost forty years and I have learned more and more over that time. I love it — reading about it, watching other people do it, doing it myself, and eating the results. On this day, I got the idea to try making potato gnocchi. I had seen a Cooks’ Illustrated recipe for it a few days earlier, and it occurred to me that I had all of the ingredients and the time to tackle it. I dove in and emerged an hour or two later feeling accomplished and quite proud of my little ridged barrels of pasta.
- Flow seems to occur most naturally when one is doing something creative. Knitting, drawing, playing an instrument, designing a garden space, building a piece of furniture — these kinds of activities, in the hands of a person skilled at them, are great for flow, which brings us to…
- …you gotta know to flow! Beginners don’t experience flow because they have no competence at what they are doing. Every step is unfamiliar, every moment is filled with uncertainty and possibly angst. So, if creative work is not a part of your life, think of what looks appealing and possible and see if you can take it up. Pottery? Sewing? Folk dancing? Get past the beginner stage, and you’ve got a good chance to start flowing.
Tell me: Do you ever experience flow? What gets your creativity going? How do you make time for it?