Flow theory and creativity
Flow chart via.
You know when you are working on something creative and it's like time doesn't exist?
That mental state is called flow.
I have experienced it in late night conversations, in meditation, being in the sea, painting... I bet you have, too!
I knew the feeling, but couldn't name it, let alone replicate it on purpose.
Then I got into game theory and learnt about... flow!
This theory was coined by a man with an impossible surname: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
He defined the conditions/characteristics of this feeling as:
- We are up to the activity.
- We are able to concentrate on the activity.
- The activity has clear goals.
- The activity has direct feedback.
- We feel that we control the activity.
- Our worries and concerns disappear.
- Our subjective experience of time is altered.
The basic take is simple:
work on something that's difficult to be challenging, but easy enough to accessible.
If it's too hard you'll get anxious ("I want to write a series of novels to replicate the Harry Potter phenomenon!"). If it's too easy, you'll just get bored ("there, I cut a paper garland following a youtube tutorial").
I find that my daily practice has helped me a lot finding that sweet spot. I have developed an awareness for complacency. I am slowly discovering how the flow rules apply TO ME and MY PRACTICE. For example, entering the moment with a desire to explore rather than a desire to replicate a successful piece is way more inductive for me.