How Creative Flow Impacts Your Art

artists creativity flow Aug 30, 2017
(Play the video above to learn more about creative flow.)

Do you feel stuck, blocked, and frustrated by your lack of artistic output?

If so, you're not alone.

On the other hand, if you're riding a wave of great creative flow, living in the optimal experience of hitting your artistic goals, and producing art on a regular basis, there's a high probability that you understand how creative flow impacts your art.

I speak with a lot of artists who want to create more art and better art, but who are so frustrated with how busy they are and how distracted they get instead of simply focusing on creating their art.

They can never seem to get in the flow with their art that they desire. It's like going surfing and sitting in the lineup, but no waves come in. Their creative life feels totally flat.

I mean, how hard can it be setting aside a few hours to create, right?

When I'm writing, one of my favorite things to do when I need to take a break is to go out and water my garden. I hop around from watering my summer pumpkins and zucchini to all of my potted plumerias. Then I drag my hose over to my small avocado tree (over 50 on the tree this year!). And then I water my pomegranate tree, where our golden retriever & lab mix, Butterscotch, frequently sips from the hose. Butterscotch sips and I do a bit of cultivating.

As I water, there is flow from one part of my garden to the next. It's a daily rhythm and ritual.

If at any point in time water is not coming out of the nozzle, it's probably because there's a kink further up the hose. I need to drop the nozzle. Go find the kink. Undo the kink and get the water flowing again.

This is where I think a lot of artists get stuck. They haven't stopped for long enough to reflect on where the kinks are in their creative hose. Or take the necessary actions to go undo the kink.

Some artists see little-to-no water coming out the nozzle and they get frustrated with the nozzle instead of checking the source of the problem. (In a general sense, that is...)

Do you want greater creative flow?

Recently, one topic I have found to be immensely helpful in my creative life has been my study of creative flow. It's a concept that has been researched and talked about it for many years. Many artists and athletes experience flow, but they don't understand how it works.

By better understanding creative flow, it has helped me diagnose where the kinks are in my creative life and how I can bring my attention to the present so I can focus on my creative goals. And the work of creating. 

Understanding how creative flow impacts your art can be immensely helpful for you too.

So, what is creative flow? (I talk a bit about it in the video above...)

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does and loses sense of space and time.

Flow, or being in the zone, is optimal experience when you perform any activity.

Here are six characteristics based upon the leading research of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who wrote Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

  • Intense and focused concentration on the present moment (You are in the NOW.)
  • Merging of action and awareness (You are in the FLOW.)
  • A loss of reflective self-consciousness (Your Self gets out of the way!)
  • A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity. (MASTERY)
  • A distortion of time (Time flies by or slows down because of your complete FOCUS.)
  • Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience. (Based upon the GOALS you have set for yourself.)

Three characteristics that Csíkszentmihályi also lists as being a part of the flow experience are:

  • Immediate feedback
  • Feeling that you have the potential to succeed
  • Feeling so engrossed in the experience, that other needs become negligible.

What artist wouldn't want to experience flow like this?

Csíkszentmihályi places a strong emphasis on consciousness (living in the now) to help people reach optimal experiences in whatever they are doing in the moment. Though he does address how meditation and how monks experience flow in prayer, I wish he would have written more about matters of the heart and how our spiritual lives impact creative flow.

Understanding the Heart of Flow

One of key desires at The Grove is for artists to live in the optimal experience of being fully alive in Christ. Centuries ago, St. Iraneous wrote, "The glory of God is man fully alive."

To be fully alive is to experience the original flow God designed for us in walking with Him and cultivating the creative work He's given us to do.

This is why we designed the Cultivated Artist Experience. We give artists a one-year journey to experience greater flow in their life with God and art. (We'd love for you to join us...)

Ultimately, flow is really understanding how our hearts are made to live and experience God's lavish love. From living in the optimal experience of God's love, there is an overflow of love to those around us and in the art we produce.

For the many possible kinks in our creative hoses, I've found the problem is often not a lack of time. Or money. Or access to the right people. Or creativity. Or opportunity.

You have to go to the source of flow. 

You have to go to the heart.

Creative flow impacts your art and understanding it can make you a better artist. But to be a better person and a better artist, real flow starts with understanding how everything begins with the heart.

Which is why I love these words...

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Proverbs 4:23

I'd love your thoughts and experience with flow...please comment below.


Want to learn more about Flow? Pick up your copy on Amazon. (Note: Affiliate link. The Grove receives a very small portion of the proceeds.)