By Vinay Kris
When you’ve known someone for a while, you know what makes them tick. If romance is the need of the hour, you can rest assured that a candle-lit dinner overlooking a scenic river as it glistens in the warm light of the setting sun can be the perfect catalyst to get the conversion flowing.
Being in this self-designated ideal environment of the candle-lit dinner can bring on a sense of deep focus where time can seem immaterial and effort an afterthought. Conversations continue to flow naturally, seldom pausing for a break to gather one’s thoughts. In this state of intense focus, you have successfully escaped the trappings of your smartphone and are truly engrossed in the beauty of the moment.
Similarly, this overwhelming and intense period of focus that amps up our creative prowess is something we as creatives and writing professionals call “the flow”. The enigmatic concept of “the flow” is something that writers swear by as the means to channel their inherent creativity. The state of being “In Flow” or “In the Zone” is at times situational. Be it going to the coffee shop around the corner to sip on the latte au flow, or sitting at that spot in the park that made you feel like Shakespeare unloaded his ghostly wisdom using vocabulary that you never knew existed, or the writing frenzy that a certain song’s guitar riff can beget, we as writers go to extreme and often weird lengths to channel this flow to spark our creative process.
But can one control “the flow”? Can it manifest itself devoid of situational and circumstantial necessities?
Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the concept of flow as “A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997)
As postulated by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura, Flow Theory describes the following factors as conducive to creating the state of being in flow:
- One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task.
- The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows them to adjust their performance to maintain the flow state.
- One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and their own perceived skills. One must have confidence in one’s ability to complete the task at hand.
Using the factors stated here, it is possible to outline the necessities required to enter and sustain the state of flow. Just make sure you don’t disregard the basic human necessities of hunger and reasonable hygiene as such is the significance of the state of flow that days can pass by before you reacclimate to the concept of time. May the Flow be with you!
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. HarperPerennial, New York, 39.
Nakamura, J., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2009). Flow theory and research. Handbook of positive psychology, 195-206.