Flow State

Accomplishing anything, even something small, always does two things:

  • makes progress, and
  • clears the way

It might be carrying yesterday’s coffee cup to the sink, folding a pair of socks or moving a comma, but once it’s done, there’s a wee breath of satisfaction and sense that a path has been cleared to make the next move.

By which, of course, I mean making more progress.

What I want is constant profluence and reduced congestion — like free and easy breathing in. Movement. No obstacles. A wide open dance floor, a broad flat field without holes. All the space, all the energy, all the time.

Unobstructed flow — that’s the ideal.

If only I can achieve it, I’ll get the ability to focus on the direction, velocity and character of my movement and its effects, its results, its next imperative or wish — its rewards — rather than battling impediment.

Managing obstacles wastes precious creative time. It steals my energy and motivation. It makes me doubt.

It makes me doubt things I was sure of when everything was moving the right direction.

It makes me fear things I didn’t even imagine when everything was tickity-boo and going my way. Things like failure, exhaustion, disapproval. Exactly the things that make me plunk down and despair in a state of inertia rather than flow.

But inertia in the creative life is not a state, is it? Neither — and here’s the point — is flow.

Both are part of a cycle. Like breathing. All out and no in means suffocation. All in and no out means, I suppose, kaboom. What really happens is cyclical. Think “circulation” with emphasis on the circle-ness of it.

When beginning artists first draw a round form like the mouth of a bottle from the side, they often make an understandable error of perspective by bringing both sides to a point — like darts. However, if they’re going for realism, those ends must be rounded. Tip the bottle to look down its throat and it’s easier to see that the opening is round, continuous, no hard stops, no ends dartlike or otherwise.

Bound in my experience of the present moment, I tend to be perspective-naïve, prone to defining both stoppage and go-age as static states and falling into a belief that whichever one I’m in is perpetual, that it will never end, that now, finally, I’m stuck for good (when it’s a static moment) or now, finally, I’ve got it made (when everything’s on a roll). When really, in the course of a living, breathing life both are fleeting — as impermanent as inhale and exhale.

This morning’s coffee cup sitting, now, beside the sink will be washed and dried, shelved and unshelved, filled, emptied, and end up, again, on the Book of Kells coaster beside my desk where I’ll meet it tomorrow and begin again to draw the arc that becomes the up-curve of the opening of another creative day.

The moment moves on — and I move with it.