Getting into Flow
“Flow” is where peak performance and creativity happens.
“Flow” is where peak performance and creativity happens. Virtually all dedicated athletes, monks, performers, and artists can attest to being in states of optimal performance where they are not thinking and feel as they are essentially one with their activity. It is highly sought after because, as research into the subject shows, flow is connected with being happy, full of love, and experiencing life beyond the limited confines of the thinking mind.
I was reading recently about the famous Ray Bradbury when he was a freelance writer. He was trying to work at home with the kids around, but like most parents know, this is intensely counterproductive. Bradbury decided to write at a local library in Los Angeles using the typewriters they had in the basement.
The amazing thing about the typewriters is that would let you go at it for half an hour for ten cents. Being broke and needing to support his family, Bradbury was forced to make the most of his time. You can just imagine him furiously banging away at those clunky, heavy keys, tearing his hair out when the machine broke or the keys got stuck. In order to get the most out of the writing session, he would spend time before writing planning what he was going to write and looking at books in the library.
This was how Bradbury’s book Fahrenheit 451 was written.
Learning from Bradbury and a host of other examples of what supports getting into flow, here are some suggestions for getting your own flojo fired up.
Getting Into Your Own Flow
1. Choose an activity that wakes up your positive feelings and demands your focus. Getting into flow happens when we’re doing something that wakes up positive feelings, excitement and love. The activity also needs to needs to have enough of an edge to it that you need to pay attention to what’s happening. If what you’re doing is predictable and boring, you’re not going to wake up much feeling and will easily get distracted.
2. Heed the wisdom of the great Frank Zappa. Zappa offers some simple yet profoundly liberating instructions on creating a zone for flow. Insert your own activity for the word “composition”:
1. Declare your intention to create a “composition.”
2. Start a piece at some time.
3. Cause something to happen over a period of time (it doesn’t matter what happens in your “time hole” – we have critics to tell us whether it’s any good or not, so we won’t worry about that part).
4. End the piece at some time (or keep it going, telling the audience it is a “work in progress”).
5. Get a part-time job so you can continue to do stuff like this. (Zappa, 1997, p. 197)
3. Turn off the distractions and tell your mind to take a back seat. Turn off the phone, log off of Facebook and get ready for some real conversation! Let others know you’re busy for the next little bit or sneak off to a spot where you know you’ll be alone or with people doing the same thing you are. The flow activity and nothing buy this activity is your sole/soul focus for the session. If you need eat, read, or talk with others about what will happen in the session, do it beforehand.
4. In declaring your intention to flow, do something at the beginning that tells your unconscious you are serious and madly delirious about flow. Play a soulful piece of music, create some hand gestures and prayers that get your whole being excited about what’s coming. By marking the flow session as extraordinary, any gesture, utterance or act that celebrates this will help things to get cooking and help you go all the way.
5. Stay completely unattached to outcome. Treat the flow activity as an improvised performance where anything and everything that comes up – an “off” note, a missed beat, a slip of the foot – is accepted as part of the performance. Let yourself be surprised by what happens.
6. Keep movin’. Continuous motion is the key to waking up the creative e-motion. Your thinking mind will try to interrupt during any pauses and critique, evaluate, doubt, and dissect what’s happening. Just keep going with the activity and this will shut the crazy talk down good and proper.
7. Practice. Luke Skywalker may have had it in his blood to flow with the Force, but the man had to practice his blindfolded lightsabre drills. Flow takes time to master. Set aside at least 20 minutes every day for flow activity. Soon enough, you’ll know when you’re in the flow and when tedium and boredom start to drag upon your soul.