The concept of Flow was very interesting as presented by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the article, “Finding Flow.”
While I haven’t read about this specific idea before, it is similar to some other concepts that I have been exposed to. For example, the idea of being so engrossed in a task (like driving a rout that you’ve driven before) that you lose track of time… you start out driving and your mind wanders, then all of the sudden you are at your destination… I have heard this described a “trance” state of mind. Or in a spiritual framework, achieving “enlightenment” or “nirvana” would be similar ideas.
In a creative framework, this idea of “flow” is similar to a concept I’ve written about before in a previous blog post where I reviewed a TED talk given by author writer Elizabeth Gilbert. In this talk, she describes an “elusive inspiration,” this universal feeling that all creative people come into contact with at one time or another in their career where they feel as if the inspiration for a piece literally is coming from somewhere else. As if there is a Spirit of Creativity that has breathed upon them and the work just “flows” effortlessly through the artist as a vessel.
While each of these various concepts are a little different, they all share similarities and seem to have a similar end result. I personally have experienced this a handful of times in my career… I agree with many of the criteria outlined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to achieve this, however it isn’t so formulaic for me. In addition to having certain environmental needs met, I also need to feel genuinely inspired by the goals of the work. In order to feel that I way, I need to connect with the project in some deeper way. Not every project that crosses my desk is one that I am connecting with in that deeper way… some are just basic or straightforward. Others have a goal or a theme or a philosophy that I feel strongly about, it resonates with me emotionally or spiritually, and through that inspiration I am engulfed by the project, experiencing a “flow.”
While not every project can be like that, when it happens it is like a magical type of experience. One where I am not just pointing and clicking for a client, but where I feel like the work is allowing me to express something meaningful. Maybe on a small scale, but perhaps someday on a larger culture changing scale, who knows… perhaps the Spirit of Creativity will bless me with an opportunity like that someday!