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Flow (or the lack thereof)

Updated: May 6, 2021

Three weeks ago I began a new job working as a remote Artist Relations Assistant for an online art school. Heaven! I get to answer student artists' questions over email -- this week from my living room couch with my dog at my side. This location was because I banged up my foot and was under doctor's orders to ice and elevate.

My new boss ORDERED me to skip work one day and go get X-Rays, which turned out to show I've done nothing more than pull some stuff in nasty ways. But come on -- what boss does that? Feeling pretty optimistic about the future of this new job!

One of the goals I set for my weekend (oh yeah. I get WEEKENDS now!) was to watch the art classes I am representing. I'm not going to get through all of them, but already the information has been completely inspiring and also has felt applicable to my own creative field -- writing.

Charla was speaking about the concept of flow. According to her, "Flow is that moment where the beautiful things on the inside of you begin to manifest outside of you -- just begins to flow out of you... It’s about when you create beautiful things without anxiety about the process. It rarely happens if you have not set yourself up for it to happen." (Charla Maarshalk. Bold School Bootcamp module one, 2021-04-24).

I relate to that -- especially right now. So often, my life gets crazy. This week alone I was learning two new jobs, was limping and on crutches then had an x-ray, and I virtually met a new relative I didn't know I had. My daughter turned 18, and the family did a Covid friendly birthday event by purchasing dinner to go from Dennys (Sheena's choice) and taking it to a local park to eat, then the next day learning one of her close friends tested positive for Covid, so Sheena and my eldest son (who works in the restaurant industry) were quarantined and off for Covid tests (negative, thank you!). Then, my newest novel officially launched yesterday (Shutter's Eye -- check it out!), so there was the excitement and the marketing work associated with that... and that's just this week. That doesn't even count the clock ticking on my deadline to finish my first draft of High Art (Currently at 70,000+ words. Raewyn is about to be fired by her b@#$ boss. She doesn't know it yet, but this is ultimately going to be a good thing.) Tell me, how, in a life like mine, do I achieve flow -- which, to me sounds sort of like being in the zone, or achieving a state of zen -- in my writing??

I mean, come on! Flow? Right now, I will settle for notching up a word count -- even if it's trash. I can (and am no doubt gonna have to!) fix it later.

Charla says flow happens when:

  1. You have clear and challenging goals.

  2. You have strong concentration and focused attention.

  3. The thing you are doing is intrinsically rewarding. You've lost self-consciousness of it and feel serene.

  4. Time stops. You are so focused on the present that you lose track of time.

  5. You’re getting immediate feedback on performance.

  6. There’s a balance between your skill level and the challenge presented.

  7. You know what you are doing is doable even if difficult.

  8. You have a sense of control in the situation, regardless of outcome.

  9. You stop thinking about your physical needs.

  10. You have the ability to focus completely on the activity at hand. ("High Performance Habits" - Brendon Burchard)

I relate to all of this. Right now, with the novel I am working on, I particularly needed to hear numbers 1, 6, and 7 -- because this novel has been more challenging than I anticipated, for sure. The thing is, I've noticed on more than one occasion that the stories which are hardest to tell are often the best stories. I just have to keep going, even when that looks like hacking out one word at a time in the forty minutes I can ransom for myself at the end of a day.

And the thing is, for me, this story telling thing I am doing is intrinsically rewarding. I would do it even if I were my only reader. Because, I love the end game, but more, I love the process. And I will just have to continue to work towards the accomplishment of flow. :)

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1 Comment

Angela Thompson
Angela Thompson
Apr 25, 2021

There's an excellent book about flow. Flow: the psychology of optimal experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

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