It was an evening at home alone, when I first started thinking about my creative process. I sat there staring at the desk in front of me and just felt a desire, an urge, to be creative. I wanted to make something artsy of some kind: a drawing, a song, a poem. No pressure to show anyone or tell anyone what I did.
I relaxed into my chair, closed my eyes for a few seconds and started drawing. When I finished, I had produced a pencil rendering of an old Chinese guy. Nothing special, but I felt completely at peace with myself. It was almost like I had been meditating for an hour. Except better.
But what is it that had happened to me? How come I felt so good after doing a silly drawing? The answer is: I was in the zone.
The creative flow, or “the zone” in athlete’s terms, is something that every artist seems to be on a hunt for. Yet it’s not something that can be forced. Creative flow has to happen to you, like a kiss from a muse. It’s the optimal state of consciousness for an artist and something truly elusive. When you’re in the flow, you lose your sense of time, you get a euphoric “high”; you’re calm and still completely focused on what you are doing. It’s a form of being in the now, and that’s why it felt like meditation to me.
Scientifically speaking, the flow is the perfect balance of challenge and ability, so the balance between task difficulty and your personal skills. The task has to be hard enough to challenge your skills and make you interested in doing it. Not so difficult that you give up, and not so easy that you get bored. The tricky part is to hit that sweet spot or tiny window of perfect circumstances for creative flow.
Once you know what flow is and what it feels like to you, you have something to aim at. Paying attention to what caused that sense of flow will make it a lot easier to create it when you need it and besides that, it will be a strong indicator of whether you are following your purpose in life or not. When the creatve force pours through you, that’s when you know you’re on the right track and whatever you’re doing deserves more attention in your life.
It really is mostly about finding out what works for you. In an upcoming post, I’ll share with you some of the strategies that I use. But for now, keep doing what you love. Stop trying to force the experience of ‘flow’ onto activities that don’t deserve it in the first place. Do what you enjoy doing and let ‘flow’ experience YOU. ;-)
Photo credit: David Hilowitz