In response to the question, “Have you heard about the concept of flow before this course?” I would have to answer, “no! But I wish I had!” It’s helpful to know it has a codified name. I think what is most helpful is the pairing of the two definitions below. One is a fairly concise summary of the idea, and the other goes very much in-depth. What a joy it truly is to find this sense of “flow” and wonder in a project – and I think for me, the biggest contributors to this experience are probably a freedom from fear of failure – as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi states below. I think also that his definition seems to be fairly sequential in the sense that it’s moving in step with how my experience of flow often goes. I find that these projects sometimes come out wonderfully and sometimes come out without much ‘worth keeping’, but as he says, the activity becomes autotelic and is therefore worth it anyway. I think also that one of the most important aspects of helping my own creative process to be more open to ‘flow’ is good planning. If I have allotted enough time for each project, I am far more able to experience this. If I’m exhausted, or am running ragged, or have way too much on my plate, or my project is understaffed, flow can ‘flow’ right out the door. I suppose it’s kind of like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, right?
From the course material:
Passion, motivation, and curiosity often drive great creative minds. Have you caught yourself spending hours on hours completely emerged in something you are doing? Do you find a sense of joy and fascination with whatever activity it is? If so, you have experienced the concept of flow. Bestselling author and writer Steven Johnson describes flow: “it is more the feeling of drifting along a stream, being carried in a clear direction, but still tossed in surprising ways by the eddies and whirls of moving water.” 
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the following as the building blocks for flow:
- “There are clear goals every step of the way.” When faced with a creative challenge, you must know what the goals are for the challenge and the specifics, so gathering enough information to identify these is critical.
- “There is immediate feedback to one’s actions.” This is about listening to your internal voice, your gut feeling that the direction you are going in is appropriate based on your goals.
- “There is a balance between challenges and skills.” You have taken on challenges, which you are fully qualified to solve, or resourceful enough to identify the resources needed for you to accomplish the goals. Remember the benefits of collaboration.
- “Action and awareness are merged.” You are on task and do not allow your mind to wander.
- “Distractions are excluded from consciousness.” You remove all distractions so you can focus. This may mean setting a specific room or office to work on the project away from computers, phones, or other distractions.
- “There is no worry of failure.” Since you have clear goals, you are focused and you have identified the proper resources to engage on the task, there is no reason to fear failure.
- “Self-consciousness disappears.” You lose the sense of self to focus on the task and not what others will think of you.
- “The sense of time becomes distorted.” Time flies when you are in this state.
- “The activity becomes autotelic.” You enjoy the process in itself and not because of the reward associated with it.