There is a wonderful ability that human beings possess that I think some, sadly never truly appreciate. It is the ability to go in oneself and find a rhythm in a task at hand and achieve a sort of flow. A transcendent state of awareness where the only thing that is present is the thing itself and all other distraction fall away. I have had the pleasure of experiencing this task with any number of activities which to my knowledge is quite a rare thing. I have this relationship with sculpting ceramics, welding steel, writing a story, or making a painting. I don’t know if this state of mind is inherent to the creative process, but it would certainly make sense to me if it were. The act of making something where there was once nothing is a taxing and deeply personal one.
I have been doing a lot of reading on the subject of creating and most of what I have read seem to indicate that most people only have one or two activities in which they can lose themselves. And that’s what it is really, a way of getting lost in your own mind and the page, canvas or lump of clay. Heck, I have even felt this, ‘flow’ while coding a web page. The medium, in my case, does not seem to matter much. I have no way to account for this, I can only say that the way it feels reminds me of when you first sit down to play a new video game. Maybe you are familiar with the type of game it is, and so you know that you will do well eventually, but you have never played this game before and so you are uncomfortable at first. You don’t know the controls and this is awkward for you, but as you get through the first couple hours of game play your mind adjusts and you can function as comfortably as riding a bike.
That I think is the best way to describe the way in which I approach a new tool or medium, like learning to ride a bike for the first time, but this time I know I can learn, and so the process is all the easier. I know that the day will come when the flow will be felt, and the bike will stay out and then I am off. Of to play with my new toy, to test the limits of it creative potential, to find my comfort zone in the medium and just… make. And the key is just the same as riding a bike, you have to keep moving. If you hesitate; if you doubt yourself, you wobble, and you fall.
I said earlier that I have felt this way in the act of creating, but as I think on it, there are many only tasks in which you can lose yourself. I have found flow, in playing hacky sack, knitting, running, swimming even shelf reading at the library. there seems you be a switch somewhere in my mind that I can flip and the whole world is shut out the only there is, is the task in front of me. You go until it done, and you know the task can be done because, you’ve done it before. even if you haven’t you can be fairly certain that someone had, if they could, why not you?
Again I am reminded of another occasion where I found flow. It was a hiking trip, with Outward Bound, and the first week had been canoeing, and the second was backpacking along the Appalachian Trail. It was several day in to the hiking portion, and we were all exhausted and beat up from the past week and a half, and we know had to summit yet another mountain. I fell into myself again then, in fact I had been able to go to this place while hiking in the past, but this time it was deeper. It had to be I suppose, because I wanted to quit, I wanted to stop and sleep and hike no longer. But that option was not available to me and the only way home at this point was to hike on and I knew it, so I dug deeper. I found the pure rhythm of my breath and heart and put one foot in front of the other, I wiped all other things from my mind including the pain and exhaustion and just walked.
As I said I don’t know if everyone can do this, I mean obviously people can find flow. Its been written about and expressed in art and film, and poetry. What I am less certain of is whether or not others see the connection, between the flow, of writing and the flow of running. The flow of reading, and the flow of swimming. They’re all the same , they live in the same place in your mind and if you can be patient while you find it you can achieve flow in any activity.
This is an effect that comes with this flow. It follows shortly after it, just like after a long run, or after finally finishing a tough puzzle. It is a warm and soothing feeling, endorphins I believe, “the feel good juice” as my dad would probably call it “the good stuff”. What you are doing when you reach flow makes you happy, the act itself becomes the reward, and if you can find that in anything you are off to a good start, but what could the possibilities be if you can find it in anything? So for, at least that I have found, is s whole lot of happiness, but not much success. I wonder why that is? I would think that if finding flow in writing is what let Stephen King get to where he is and let Chris Hardwick build his career. Then finding flow in anything you want to ought to make you doubly successful. Perhaps it is the lack of focus, on just one task that is so crippling? I’m not sure, but I think that if I can manage to find the right balance of interests at just the right time I could really make a go of it, and keep an eye on me then. Because I am taking off like a rocket on that day.
Maybe I any not that unique, and for the sake of the human race, I hope that I am not. I hope that by sharing this insight with you, that maybe you can see the connections that I spoke of earlier, and find you flow in every area of your life.
And that’s my take on finding flow.