The cursor blinks at me. It’s 6:19AM. Writing time.
Immediately I remember 3 things I need to do today so I open up my email and send a reminder to work. I resist the urge to look at my Inbox.
It’s 6:20AM and I’m trying to get into flow.
“Flow” was introduced to me on a work-sponsored course by The Resilience Institute. The dude who did the most work on flow is Mihály Csíkszentmihályi – pronounced “chick-sent-me-high”. Sometimes when writing, time falls back, mental distractions disappear, and inspiration and joy comes. When playing sport or music I sometimes get a sense of being totally absorbed and somehow energized by an activity.
Some activities like commuting or ironing take energy away while others actually give you energy. If you are one of the sad people who reduce humans to carbon-based machines it doesn’t make sense. How can you expend energy on a task and gain energy overall from it? It’s like you’re a car and when you drive a particular road the petrol tank fills itself up.
The driving metaphor is wrong though. Time to jump.
Flow is like a river. You find a good current in the middle of a strong stream and are being carried along effortlessly. You’ve found a good moment.
But life is a long game of many moments. Sometimes flow stops. Even worse sometimes you’re almost in flow.
You’re stuck in an eddy of muddy water. You are absorbed in a computer game, Facebook or The Biggest loser. You’ve sat down to watch TV in the evening and sort of hated every show but sat there anyway. You have many aspects of flow but no sense of control or joy; maybe a dull contentment. You’re sitting at the pokies of your mind. And at times when I’ve hated my life, or been incredibly angry, this state has been preferable.
Or alternatively you go too hard are crashing over rapids trying not to be smashed to smithereens. It’s a big night out, doing shots, drugs, grabbing at strippers, driving too quickly, picking fights, base jumping, drug taking. It’s like The Hangover. You wake up and wonder what the hell happened.
This flow stuff is tricksy.
We are charting a constantly changing river. Around each bend it could end. Trying to find the good water. Sometimes we get stuck in the worst form of ourselves. Other times we almost destroy ourselves.
In a previous season of Mad Men Peggy and Father Gill are chatting and she says “Nuclear war. We could be gone tomorrow.” His response: “Isn’t that always the case?”
We are in the river and it’s such a long way to the ocean.
I was in flow from about 6:30 to 6:50 this morning.