I’ve been thinking a lot about being “in flow” because just the other day, I really caught a creative wave. I was in the midst of revising my YA novel when it happened. I was sitting in a library, but I might as well have been on Mars. I was concentrating really intensely and when I finally looked up, I was amazed to see that two hours had passed. It seemed like five minutes.
You know the feeling, I’m sure — there’s nothing really like it! You feel as if you’re suspended in time and as if the words are writing you instead of the other way around. What an amazing experience it is when you slip into the zone!
All this led me to a TED talk by psychologist and flow guru, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. He describes flow as “An almost automatic, effortless, yet highly focused state of consciousness.” What contributes to this highly energized state? Here’s what Mihaly says flow feels like:
1. Completely involved in what we are doing – focused, concentrated.
2. A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality.
3. Great inner clarity: knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.
4. Knowing that the activity is doable – that skills are adequate to the task.
5. A sense of serenity: no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the
boundaries of the ego.
6. Timelessness: totally focused on the present; hours seem to pass by in minutes.
7. Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.
How can we bring more flow into out lives? Mihaly has some suggestions for enriching our creative energy:
* Try to be surprised by something every day.
* When something strikes a spark of interest, follow it.
* Recognize that if you do anything well it becomes enjoyable.
* To keep enjoying something, increase its complexity.
* Make time for reflection and relaxation.
* Look at problems from as many viewpoints as possible.
* Produce as many ideas as possible.
* Try to produce unlikely ideas.
Mihaly says that all the creative people he’s studied share one thing in common: “They all love what they do.” Wonderfully simple, isn’t it? The more we create, the happier we are. Write on!