It's that wonderful sensation you get when the thing you are working on turns out right. Almost everyone knows it. But most people don't know how to get there, or how to find the sensation "at will."
I'm not sure it can be found at will. But it is certainly worth a try. And, once found, it becomes addictive. A psychologist with an unpronounceable name has called it "flow." Others call it "bliss." It comes with the ability to do something that is a challenge. The challenge must be just that –challenging.
The most common examples are the works of artists. It is said that they begin to sketch, spread the paint, mix colors, redo the scene and lose hours in the work. Writers often find themselves in the same situation. A poet may begin a work with an illusion. It becomes a vision, and then is converted into colorful, measured words that catch a picture, a moment, a condition, almost as in a snapshot. The bare words are put in place, and then the artist's chisel takes over.
One word is substituted for another. An idea is enlarged, and this word tossed aside for another. A word picture forms.
Often writers of fiction say they do not compose at all. They feel more like they are taking dictation, simply writing down the episode as if it were told to them.
But experiencing the flow or the bliss is not confined to the artist. A cook who loves her kitchen and creates wonderfully flavored soups and stews will find herself in flow, too. And the gardener whose yard is impeccable has probably been in flow. The gardener may have aching knees and knuckles after a stint in the yard (and the passer-by may see only the grime, and the sweat). But that's a small price to pay for an hour of flow.
The teacher who delights in the sound of her first-graders learning to read –really learning, so that they enjoy reading–pores over her lesson plans, and modifies them for the child who hasn't grasped the concepts of spelling yet. She will ponder: "How can I make him see that these letters make sounds and those sounds make words?" When the boy's face lights up because he understands that the "cow says moo," she receives the gift of flow from when she was poring over her lesson, and he experiences the first glimmer of flow, also.
The people who build houses see each corner mesh. They know they have allowed for insulation and flooring. They know they've installed safe electricity and watertight plumbing. They have worked hard for long hours and many days. And, while they are well-paid for their work, the satisfaction they feel is equally as valuable, telling them something about who they are.
What puts you into flow? Did you experience it in school? At work? In sports?
I was fortunate. For me the experience came when I learned to debate in high school. And while schoolwork received the attention necessary to keep my grades so that I could participate, I would spend hours in debate research, in the construction of presentation. Our debate team would critique and refine and research some more in order to be the best we could.
In this day and age, we are emphasizing the basics in education, and we've developed a collective mentality that says we aren't doing it well enough. We possibly should take a step back and look at flow, our own and others'.
If we can see where it comes from, maybe we can help children understand the value of doing something for the sheer love of doing it. Then they would learn what wisdom is, as well as knowledge.
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