According to the uncompromising accuracy of Wikipedia, the psychological definition of “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.
Doesn’t that sound like the best? Ugh, I want to eat that for lunch.
I mean, I’ve felt it before, I think most people have. The times that come to mind have to do with writing, improv, washing the bathroom, folding clothes, and drawing Ariel from The Little Mermaid over and over again in my room growing up.
Writers spend lifetimes trying to create the perfect atmospheric soil for flow to grow and thrive. We have routines, special pens, a white noise machine, maybe some coffee…whatever it takes to coax her out of her shell.
In improv, flow is everything. It’s hard to talk about this without sounding a wee bit new agey, but it’s important. If an improviser is lucky he or she has moments on stage when brain, body, voice, and team come together to create something magical without effort – that’s got to be flow.
For me it feels like a buzzing, taut energy that is off the charts wild, but still laser focused. There are three key factors that are always there when I’ve experienced this incredible feeling: Trust, Risk, and Action.
First though, the obvious: To feel dumb is easy. For me, it’s pretty much a total cake walk. But anyone who’s ever read an inspirational quote-a-day calendar knows that self doubt achieves nothing. It is a staid, boring, lethargic force.
Self doubt is dreaming of making a delicious meal, but first you just have to bury all your pots and pans in the backyard real quick.
I’m drawn to improv because there’s no TIME for that bull. You are on stage with people you enjoy and by doing so you have entered into a sacred agreement with your team to be kind, supportive, and to lift each other up. What results, when done right, is great art. What results when the sacred agreement is undermined? The worst crap you’ve ever seen. Just really bad, gotta wash it off in a hot shower yuckiness. I’ve been lucky to have great teams.
Writing is harder because you’re on your own. No team. No applause. One woman show. But, I’m positing that it can be done and these are NOTES TO MYSELF.
TRUST: Yourself. Don’t delete that thing just keep writing. Get there.
RISK: You aren’t working in an ER. No one dies if your idea isn’t perfect. Great things may lie beyond your imperfect idea, but you have to go through them like the Fire Swamps to get to the other side. Don’t deny your maybe-brilliant idea just because you are afraid you’re going to get eaten by an R.O.U.S.
ACTION: Literally, write words. A bunch of them. All strung together.
Another technique: clean my damn bathroom.
Probably just going to sketch Ariel again.