Saturday Creativity Quote — on flow

Rushing water between two large sedimentary rocks

Flow. We know it when we feel it, but what is it? How can we cultivate it? A new study done at the Drexel University Creativity Research Lab used brain imaging to study jazz guitarists working on an improvisation and summarizes the results this way:

“The findings reveal the creative flow state involves two key factors: extensive experience, which leads to a network of brain areas specialized for generating the desired type of ideas, plus the release of control — “letting go” — to allow this network to work with little or no conscious supervision.”

I like this so much, not just because it rings true, but because it also tells us what we can do to experience flow more often and more readily: practice the work, whether it’s chord structures or writing dialogue, creating new pathways in the brain, and practice giving up conscious control of the process and the results.

The Saturday Writing Quote — flow

“The process of composition should, if possible, have some rush of excitement about it — not remain too slow, cold, calculated, and self-critical. For this is not only chilling; it may lead the more conscious side of the mind to cramping interference. In tennis, to play with gritted teeth and tense concentration may merely stiffen the muscles: once the necessary reflexes have been formed by practice, it may work far better to use one’s head to think where to put the ball, but leave it to one’s body how to put it there.”

F.L. Lucas, Style 254-55 (1955; repr. 1962) (quoted in Garner’s Daily Usage blog, by Bryan Garner, author of Garner’s Modern American Usage)