Creative Flow

vision“Flow” is the way people describe their state of mind when consciousness is harmoniously ordered, and they want to pursue whatever they are doing for its own sake.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon. My youngest son, who is ten, and who loves nothing more than a whole day in his pajamas, has settled himself beside me at the dining room table. We each have a pair of scissors, and between us, a stack of magazines. I am making a collage, an activity I haven’t engaged in since I was about ten. My son has a couple of little projects on the go, projects that evolve as the afternoon unfolds. As he works away, I page through the magazines one by one, looking for words and images that represent in some way who I want to be and what I want to experience in the coming year. I cut out words like “energy” and “joy” and “calm.” I tear out phrases like, “Live deeply. Travel light.” I find calming images of the water, photos of exotic locations throughout Asia, and pictures that for one reason or another I find beautiful or inspiring. I am creating a vision board. And as I arrange the images and overlay the words, making adjustments until everything feels right, I am completely entranced, utterly unaware of time passing.

photomandala3aThis is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalvi (whose name I will one day learn to pronounce) calls “flow.” It’s that experience of being swept away by an activity, of being so engrossed that we lose track of time. It’s a sensation I’m most likely to experience while engaging in some form of creative expression. And it’s why I’ve made a promise to myself this year to do something artistic at least once a week. What’s surprising is once I deliberately make an effort to do one small creative thing, I am inspired to do more. In the last week or so, I’ve made a collage, written a poem, worked on my novel, taken photographs and figured out how to make (very cool) photo mandalas. It is all done in the spirit of “exuberant imperfection,” done for the joy of it, for the sake of the creative experience, for the sensation of flow.

As I’m writing tonight, Will is working in the kitchen. I notice my guilt rising. “I should go and help out,” I think. But then I hear him singing softly as he works, and I realize that he, too, is in his own flow state, happily toasting and grinding spices, chopping garlic and ginger, creating an aromatic tomato chutney to accompany a curry dinner he’s making later this week. I leave him to his cooking, and return to my writing.


What activities induce a flow state in you?


About Sally

Poet, seeker, author, mom. Celebrating the beauty and mystery that surrounds us and learning to trust in the journey.
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18 Responses to Creative Flow

  1. oh man, I LOVE FLOW. I LIVE for FLOW. It’s one of my favorite things as a writer. Or as an artist. Or when I’m playing my violin. Or wandering through the mountains. Or snorkeling. Just getting LOST in the activity because it’s so much a part of you that you just connect with your surroundings and your output and your input are equal and everything just matches. It’s nirvana. Thank you for giving it a word! Even if it’s a word from Mehooay Cizerkamakazi. That’s such a great concept, I’m holding onto that one.

  2. Sounds like a good plan to me.

  3. The Hook says:

    Reading my favorite blogs.
    Watching my favorite shows.
    Holding my wife.
    That about does it.

  4. Love when I get in The Flow while at the gym. Nothing better than being in a Zone and having a great workout. Dropping by from Susie’s party!

  5. susielindau says:

    Spending time with family. writing. exercising, drawing, reading….
    Great post! I thought I was following your blog. Sheesh!
    Thanks for bringing it to the party! I hope you hit the dance floor!

  6. Great thoughts about flow. I was just talking about this with a friend the other day, in the context of finding yourself in a potentially dangerous place. When climbing alone or navigating avalanche terrain you can find yourself with absolute concentration. We call it backcountry focus, but it sounds a lot like flowing.

  7. Here from Suzie’s party! ❤ To be honest, flow states are really only acheived by me when I read interesting articles or wake up from good dreams! So who knows, maybe I'm a little more flowy than others… That isn't a good thing, is it?

  8. kp says:

    Beautiful post….I find it easy to slip out of the practice of making time for creative projects. But when I make time for them; I feel happier, more balanced, and more connected to my self. For me, writing, painting with acrylics and watercolour, and gardening. I can lose track of time doing all three; and all three can leave me energized and calm and happy!! I happy you are blogging again!! Kim

    • Hi Kim, thanks for dropping by! You describe exactly how I feel after a creative session: at once calm and yet energized. I think water colour painting is calling to me. I don’t know anything about it, but this might be the year to play. I love that you have so many outlets!

      • kp says:

        LOL….Having lots of outlets does not do us any good if we don’t make time for them. I find it so easy to slip out of these healthy past times. It is so easy to be distracted; to forget how good they make us feel. Thanks for reminding me!!

      • It’s remembering how these activities nourish us that is key!

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