There is a point where everything clicks. Paint moves with your mind, and you find lines form effortlessly on the page in front of you. Things make themselves. You may not even be in the room. You are moving like water with the cycles of the world – in the zone, or flow or whatever name you might call it.
I am partial to the idea of a stream. I see myself floating along a river of creative energies. At moments things are still, I relax absorbing the surroundings, letting the muscles of my heart calm. I become aware of the water around me and its limitless energy pushing along my body.
Then suddenly and often unpredictably everything changes. You start to feel the currents push cohesively in one direction. They grip and pull at you with excitement. In kind your stomach tightens and the backs of your arms stiffen. You become lost to the moment and the sounds of rushing waters around you – propelling you forward to a waterfall of creative and productive release.
When the stream takes me I accomplish in minutes what might take me hours to achieve in a different frame of mind. The physical body and the mind work so well together that there is almost no separation. Its the key peak of the cycle that the creator longs for and seeks with every ounce of their sinew.
But then there are realities that tear at this state. Bills to pay, little repairs and duties around the house needing cared for. The baby hollers, and your spouse, friends, family and even you need time as well. Distractions always pool in the low corners of your mind, taking you from the stream.
My longing is to make getting into stream-state easier. And I believe it is possible through practice. The more time I spend working to get into that state, the more readily I believe it comes.
I can’t say I’ve found a certain way into the stream, but I know a few keys.
1. Sleep Well
I can’t believe the effect sleep has on me. I never felt it in my twenties, but more and more it is crystal clear. I am a different person when rested. My thoughts, my energy, my focus is entirely different.
2. Let the work lead you
This is vital. When I try to hold onto one aspect, say a particular corner of a painting, I quickly get lost in a nit-picky state and I get both physically and mentally stuck. Its much more effective to allow myself to move all over a painting. I try to simply react rather than getting caught in whats right or wrong. There will always be other times to go back and edit things.
3. Music is a key
Nothing brings the stream more readily than music. Rhythmic electronica or beat heavy music tends to get my mind and its concerns out of the way. Lately, its been the music of Susumu Yokota. The music changes from time to time, but it always helps bring me to the stream.
4. Let go of everything else
This, more than anything is the practice, and its harder than any other aspect. You have to let go of all your thinking. Whatever is clinging in your mind – bills, schedules, money or work stress –it has to go.
When I start a studio session, I expel as much negative energy as possible into a few written and drawn pages of my sketchbook. If its something I need to remember, like ‘write that check’, then I write a note on scrap paper and move it away from where I am working. I usually go about ten minutes or so before I feel ready to move. But then I know I’ve paid attention to that aspect of my mind and created space to focus on the work at hand.
5. Keep going
No matter what rituals I come up with, or how well I think I prepare, I know that the moment never comes exactly as I want. It always makes the demand of time from you. You have to keep going with your work and push a little further. The reward though is that often, just as you are tiring of pushing, you start losing yourself. If you are lucky you ‘wake up’ a few hours later and remember that you had been struggling just a few moments ago.
This is certainly just a beginning list of how to get into a sense of flow or stream with your work. Its a fascinating subject for me, and I always want to be learning more about it and better ways to get into it.
If you have any thoughts or tips I would love to hear them.