“Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)
“When you flow like water you bring all of your talents and resources to your creative work… Flow around every obstacle you encounter, including any you’ve erected yourself. “(Eric Maisel)
As an artist you may be familiar with the state of consciousness that I call The Flow, or art trance. Some people call it in the zone, the muse, or going into the Ether. We loose ourselves–and find ourselves–in these moments that carry us along. We are connected and at ease with the work, responding intuitively, always seeing the next step, and open to all possibilities. Time passes easily when we are acting in the moment and are connected with our authentic selves. Many artists speak of a spiritual feeling in their art that comes from this state of grace and it is this numinous feeling that we often try to express.
It is not always an easy state of mind to achieve, for you can never find it by looking for it; it is an elusive thing. When you try to grasp it, it slips away. The Flow comes when you are working from your own heart and soul, not for anyone else. Let the Flow come to you, and carry you, without pushing or paddling,
How can we welcome and encourage The Flow? Certainly it cannot coexist with lists, and tasks, and stresses of life, so take the time to clear your responsibilities and your mind. This is a place beyond judgment, so do not let the tiny little voices of self-doubt, the critic, or the customer hover in the room. Warm up with the routine tasks first so that you are prepared to take advantage of the creative moments—prep surfaces, gather materials and inspiration. Embrace the unique qualities of the materials and explore the possibilities that they offer.
Honor this creative connection as sacred. When you enter your studio, bring it to life with flowers, a candle, or incense, transforming your environment one that reminds you that the creative spirit is special. Give gratitude for your ability to express and share your vision. Music transforms the space too–choose whatever transports you.
Setting up a regular routine to keep your creative expression limber will help the muse come visit more often. Like any muscle memory you will loosen up easier when you have a regular practice, and it will take less time to get over the personal obstacles.
Sometimes after a good day the Flow will follow you out the door when you leave your studio, little eddies that trace around you during the day, showing the mundane world in a new light. Watch for connections to your work in the world, and in your dreams. When you are in the Flow the synchronicity of what you need will find you. Sometimes it is more like a rip tide, an obsessive undertow that threatens your balance, pulling at you with ideas and inspiration, calling you back to the work.
Not all work that comes out of this state of grace is “successful” or good work, and there will be another time and a place for the critical eye. Sometimes it creates a breakthrough or stepping stone to the next stage of development, a mental “aha” that leads you down another path, or stream. So just observe, wonder, accept what happens, play, let the muse steer you and go with the flow.
“There is really nothing but the flow. You are not really on the bank. That, methinks, is the greatest illusion of all. You are the bank, the flow, the boat, the rudder.” (Nicoletta Baumeister)
Caerus Note: Caren Catterall is a master printmaker working with etching, collagraph, and monotype. She is the founder and owner of “Hot Off the Press,” a membership printmaking studio.