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Don't fear the non-flow

I was browsing through Study Hacks last night, and I was struck by a post provokingly titled Flow is the Opiate of the Mediocre.

Flow is that "magical" state of work in which the hours fall away, and we become so engrossed in our process that it's almost like we've achieved an alternate state of consciousness. Artists, writers and runners are typically cited as people who get into flow, but really anyone doing any non-passive activity could potentially experience it.

I have always considered flow to be a personal goal of mine. It feels amazing, after all, to tap this place where I'm so in tune, so involved, with my creativity. It had never occurred to me that there might  be times when NOT finding the flow might be preferable. Why? Because not being in flow is a good indicator that I'm about to take a risk. To do something different. To approach a writing project from a new angle from which flow doesn't automatically happen, because it's the path less taken.

How cool is that?

I'll probably always love flow. It feels like flying. But now, instead of getting down on myself if I'm "not feeling it," I can look at those times as an opportunity to stretch and keep things fresh.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 21st, 2012 07:06 pm (UTC)
What a thoughtful comment. Makes perfect sense. I know sometimes I've thought that about fear. When I fear moving in a direction, often that's the direction that offers the most growth (not always, of course--moving towards a snarling tiger might not be such a great idea).

Nice to think that what I'm bashing my head against this very moment (writing) may be a good thing. What a serendipitous post. :)

I do science as a career, and I can tell you, in the middle of solving a hairy problem, it is that flow (or getting into 'the zone'), not so different from writing or potting (ie., ceramics, which I also do). I LOVE that place.
Jan. 22nd, 2012 01:26 pm (UTC)
I love that place too! It's empowering to know I don't need to feel like a failure if I'm not inside it, though.
Jan. 21st, 2012 07:32 pm (UTC)
As a reader, there's also a "flow" when you find something so well written that you literally forget you're going through the process of reading. It's when you're totally immersed in the story that the outside world falls away and it feels like you're watching a movie inside an impenetrable bubble.

I love when that happens, which is so rare. Writing in "the zone" must feel like that :)
Jan. 22nd, 2012 01:25 pm (UTC)
Writing in the zone totally feels like that, at least for me...but it's encouraging to know that even if I don't find that place, I don't need to be scared that it means whatever I'm currently trying to do will stink!
Jan. 22nd, 2012 04:15 am (UTC)
Interesting idea. I'll have to poke at it for a while to decide on an opinion. I love those stories that just take over and write themselves. I'm sure that energy comes through in the writing and I worry about the ones that I have to plod and pick at because they don't have that energy.

I don't think I've experienced flow away from reading or writing.
Jan. 22nd, 2012 01:27 pm (UTC)
Sometimes drawing or cooking will flow for me too, but I'm not one of those lucky souls who gets into flow when I exercise. I'm always thinking, "How much longer do I need to do this?" Except in the water.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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