Enjoy this collection of quotes on the state of flow.
“Let’s make things exist and then judge later. Don’t cancel the process of creativity too early: Let it flow.” – Ross Lovegrove
“One of my teachers once said that the way you know you’re on the right path is that it works. Now, that doesn’t mean you don’t run into blocks and brick walls, but it does mean that you can find a way around them or find a way to change yourself or your project in order to find the flow again and have it work.” – James Redfield
“I live my life on self-believe and I live it partly on going with the flow.” – Melanie Brown
“Life is so much easier when I allow myself to be myself and go with the flow. Whatever that looks like on a given day. If I can get quiet enough to truly check in with myself, I usually end up on the right track.” – Taylor Schilling
“The most important part of life is work, it’s the flow, it’s getting stuff done, feeling like you’re doing something.” – Penn Jillette
“My hand does the work and I don’t have to think. In fact, were I to think, it would stop the flow. It’s like a dam in the brain that bursts.” – Edna O’Brien
“Thoughts create a new heaven, a new firmament, a new source of energy, from which new arts flow.” – Paracelsus
“The idea flow from the human spirit is absolutely unlimited. All you have to do is tap into that well.” – Jack Welch
“The self expands through acts of self-forgetfulness.” – Mihály Csíkszentmihályi
“Portfolios and interviews feature the work of cover girl Brooke Shaden, whose self-portraits exude a brooding melancholy in a light and whimsical way; the incredible Susan Burnstine, who modifies all of her cameras to best tell the stories of her dreams and nightmares; the portraits of Clive Charlton, who discusses how his art is influenced by his admiration of the Dutch masters for their use of Chiaroscuro; and Jim Kasson’s Staccato series, borne of the idea to make a short set of exposures at night and reassemble them in Photoshop, resulting in a painterly effect of complex lighting patterns, a sense of place, and compelling gestures.
Regular contributors John Paul Caponigro, Michael Frye, Guy Tal, Chris Orwig, Martin Bailey, Piet Van den Eynde, Adam Blasberg and David duChemin open up about patience, flow, creativity, finding rhythm, the beauty of natural light in both landscapes and portraits, the meaning of success, and the magic of the lens.”
Flow is this issues topic in my Creative Composition column.
Wake I, Acadia National Park, Maine, 2000
One sunny day at Long Pond in Acadia National Park, Maine, I became fascinated by the patterns of light in water I saw in my viewfinder. Suddenly, the patterns were disrupted. I looked up and saw the source of the disturbance. My dogs had gone swimming in my picture. But I soon found that the new patterns they made were much more interesting. I decided to go with the flow. Instead of calling them back to the shore, I threw sticks into the water for them, simultaneously playing and photographing for the better part of an hour.
When I got my film back (Yes, this image was made during the transition from the ‘good old days’ to these ‘strange days’.) I was surprised once again by how complex and varied patterns of light can be. These patterns became more pronounced when symmetry, almost mandala-like, was created. Creating symmetry from these patterns wasn’t a move I had planned to make at the time of exposure. There are many times when I make images when I’m not certain that they will work out or where they are going, trusting that something will come of them. It’s surprising that things work out as often as they do.
The natural color palette of these images wasn’t all that attractive. I first explored removing the hue, trying black and white. Then I changed the hue. I went too far. Or so I thought. The strong abstract patterns were able to support dramatic color changes. I went with the flow, enjoying color in a way I never had before. It took some time to run out of steam. Some flows are stronger than others. Was it gone? Was that it? Where was the limit? I systematically tried many variations. Shifting gears and being more analytic than emotive, through a series of studies, I discovered that the images that worked best contained no posterization, preserving three-dimensionality, and used two dominant colors with warm and cool variations of each, stretched just short of the point where they became other colors. With this information, I was able to resolve many more images. I extended the momentum of the flow.
I was surprised by how much material I had to work with. Initially, I hoped to find one image; now, I found that I had enough material for an entire series. What’s more, the idea could be extended to many other situations in the future; it had legs.
You might say things didn’t go according to plan – and I was very glad they didn’t. It might be more accurate to say that the plan evolved along the way, as the best plans do.
To go with the flow, you have to tune in. You can’t go with the flow if you’re unaware of what’s happening or that it’s happening. Going with the flow is something that you can prepare for. You can learn to be more aware. You can learn to be aware in many ways. You can develop a taste for flow and know when it’s about to happen. You can make flow more likely to happen by seeking out or creating situations that are super-charged. You can engineer flow – by preparing yourself (and your collaborators) as well as your environment. Flow is a mindset.
The Greek philosopher-scientist Heraclitus said, “You can never step in the same river twice.” Seize the moment. Go with the flow.
What happens when you go with the flow?
What happens when you stay the course?
What happens when you modify a plan based on new information?
When is it better to go with the flow?
When is it better to stay the course?
When is it better to modify a plan based on new information?
Can you return to your original plan later?
Key concepts from a leader in the scientific study of creativity.
Flow (optimum performance) happens best when people have a high degree of skill and are presented with challenges of moderate to high but not too high intensity.
I think flow can happen for anyone regardless of skill level or degree of challenge, but both ingredients can help people get into flow more consistently, recognize when they’re there and it’s value, and stay there longer. Choosing the challenge to take on and how to approach it are key aspects for any creative person who wants to target results.
Learn more in my Creativity Lessons and Workshops.