Find your flow

This month has been ‘Bucks Open Studios’ here in Buckinghamshire, where artists display their work in church and community halls and in their own homes. It’s a wonderful chance to meet local artists and even to watch them at work.

So of course I couldn’t resist… I am after all extremely nosy.

Like writers, artists often work alone. Like writers, artists spend a great deal of time dreaming and thinking. Like writers, artists try to put things together to create something new and surprising.

Today I went to the house of Barbara Spong who makes beautiful jewelry. She buys most of her glass from Italy. She combines different colours to make intricate beads for earrings and necklaces and cleverly worked textured disks of glass for pendants. One pendant I saw was inspired by Monet’s water lily pictures, it was filled with swirling blues but with delicate flower shapes within it. Here is a picture of it.

Barbara must have the end result, or close to it, in her mind, as she works the glass. However while she is working she will also be alert, watching for the beautiful surprises.

I think that people who write books work in a similar way. The writing is the manipulation, the working of the raw materials, creating something new.  There is an end result in mind, but the writer is also watching for those beautiful and unexpected surprises that occur during the creative process.

But this is the Big Question: where on earth do these beautiful surprises come from? Why do writers and artists often feel as if they are in a different place, and that they are not quite sure why something has happened, but it is exactly right?

Writers, artists, song writers and poets often talk about being in the creative ‘zone’ and about the concept of ‘flow’.

According to Wikipedia:

‘Flow’ is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task although flow is also described as a deep focus on nothing but the activity – not even oneself or one’s emotions.

How do you find your flow? Do you love writing, painting, sculpture, arts and crafts? Whatever your creative outlet, do you ever find yourself experiencing ‘beautiful surprises’?

When I was writing ‘The Abominators’, the characters kept surprising me. Writing the book was a joy because I was in ‘flow’. And I am pretty sure Sam Hearn was in flow when he was creating the illustrations – judge for yourself. The result? A series of books for 7-11 year olds which I’m really, really proud of.

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Creating something – anything – is exciting. And it’s a fantastic way to forget your troubles.

Happy ‘flowing’!

5 thoughts on “Find your flow

  1. Hi Jenny! 🙂

    I’m not quite sure how I get into my ‘flow’ when i’m writing, one thing I do know is that, once i’m in it, I can write LOTS and in a short space of time too, like, 20 minutes, 800+ words. VERY fast.

    When i’m dragged out of it, i’m still in the story so someone has to wait a few seconds and tell me all that they were saying before cuz i’m still the character I was writing and I wasn’t listening to what they were saying! 🙂

  2. It happened to me when I was singing once, and it was like being able to stand back and listen to myself getting it right… wonderful but you can only catch it in passing – putting effort into the catching scares it off!

    • Yes – it is elusive isn’t it? Marion Milner addresses those moments of intensity of awareness (and often joy) in her book A Life of Ones Own – while those moments catch us unawares she found ways of courting them, I highly recommend it if you haven’t come across it.

  3. I love the notion of “beautiful surprises.” I guess that’s why I’m a pantser. I discover the story as I go along, which makes it a beautiful surprise. Sometimes I have to rest in between projects in order to sense the “flow.”

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