Saturday, June 11, 2011

Being In-Flow

There is a stereotypical image of an artist - heads-down in his or her studio, working frantically and late into the night, working erratic hours and sometimes forgetting to eat or sleep. While I never seem to forget to eat or sleep - I do at times end up knee deep in my studio for days - not wanting to break the stream of creativity flowing from me.

I realized recently that this is actually simply being “in the flow” of things.  Some days it is only a trickle and other days it is like a fire hose has been unleashed inside my head that must be put to canvas or paper. Other days, it simply means that painting and creating come naturally and effortlessly. And on days I assigned to painting time, and it’s not happening, it’s not really my fault, it’s just that creativity doesn’t work on a schedule like that.  So while I can be productive, I won’t be half as productive as when I am plugged into the flow. 
Over the years of painting I have learned that it’s OK to take a break, go work out, etc. (as long as I stay with right brained activities) That the flow will be there when I get back. Although most times it feels way to good to stop,and so plans with friends are cancelled and the workout is put to another day.
I think the reason this activity has seemed foreign and odd to most of the rest of the population is that so many of us spend WAY too much time doing things we aren’t really put on this earth to do - and so we aren’t in flow.
Being in flow - with tons of creativity doesn’t just happen when creating art.  Last week, I was knee deep in my office upstairs. Going over work planning, social media marketing and general business strategy planning for the coming 12 months for 5 different brands that I am working on (some art, some not). The same thing that normally happens in my studio happened here. Ideas sprouted from my mind into actionable steps, and answers I had had for up to a year came to me one after another.  Every time I was evenly slightly “stuck” for an answer or next step or “how the hell will I ever get to X” - I would get an email or a call that would completely answer my question and continue me on my path to move forward into the unknown.  
I was afraid if I left my office I would miss the next great idea or answer to a question I had been trying to find for weeks or month that were now all pouring into my mind at a rapid, crazy speed. It was as if someone had unleashed a fire hose of ideas into my brain and I was struggling to control it.  For days I did nothing but work in my office creating spreadsheets, color charts and scribbly drawings of flow diagrams. Going to bed late, only to wake back up an hour later with whatever answers still need to be filled in. 
I realized this week - that that was simply being “in flow” on the left-brain side of things.  And since it was so rare I just didn’t realize it.  I could have easily taken a breath or two and it would have been OK.  It was a bit exhausting trying to get everything down as quickly as it was coming to me while also being in fear that if I paused, an answer would vanish. Had I realized it was simply “being in the flow” I could have relaxed into it, instead of fearing it would pass before all the answers were revealed. 
I remember a course I took with Matthew Ferry (insert link).  He talked about how life flowed in sets of waves, and that we couldn’t always be in flow, because it would exhaust us.  That we needed rest, the lull before the next set of waves/flow to relax, recharge and reboot.  
The other reason I think so few of us experience flow in work at regular intervals is because we are trying to fit our work into a box of 8am-6pm or so. Flow doesn’t work this way.  It goes for days.  Then stops - let’s us rest and focus on something else like, our relationship, the laundry and a workout, or nothing at all. 
So next time you feel yourself getting a few answers - embrace it - acknowledge it and see just how much more often that flow comes your way. 
Thoughts?  Anyone else out there able to be in flow while doing left-brain, logical things????
For another blog about the creative process see Keeping the Vision