Inspiration and Flow

InspirationIn times of creative drought we can look back on our previous accomplishments almost with awe and ask "how did I do that?"

Questioning our current state, we wonder how we came up with the ideas. We demand to know where the required skills came from. And, perhaps most importantly, we demand to know what changed.

We stopped!

That's right, we stopped; stopped doing whatever it was that got us to where we were. We stopped playing, writing, running, painting - no matter what it was, we stopped practicing.

Forget about the theory of practicing something for 10000 hours - we could do so and become an "expert" but, as soon as we stop practicing, that expertise starts to diminish until, if we stop for long enough, it is eventually lost.

Forget about the 10000 hours theory because it doesn't matter how long we practice: after we have stopped and the benefit has gone we will look back in wonder at our achievements in exactly the same way after only 100 hours as after 1000 or 10000.

We are our own inspiration.

When we practice we open ourselves to the experience, we train our bodies and minds to behave in a certain way such that they know how to act. For physical activities we refer to this as muscle memory but for creative endeavours we can call it flow.

Flow is when things happen unbidden, when the process takes over and you feel almost as those you are a passenger carried along for the ride. Patterns form seemingly of their own accord; thoughts and ideas thrust themselves into our consciousness; the perfect words reveal themselves at just the right times.

When we are in those creative droughts we beg for inspiration and wonder how we ever achieved the mental states we used to find ourselves in feeling that we might never return to them.

But flow is not an accident.

Flow is the result of that practice. Flow is the result of all of the hard work even though, when it happens, it feels effortless and almost otherworldly. Flow is what happens when we experience epiphany after epiphany, when what is hidden inside is released and (except in the rarest of instances) that can only occur because we have practiced.

Inspiration strikes because we allow it, because we train ourselves to receive it. Inspiration strikes because we put gradually place ourselves in those mental states; bit by bit, day by day, until we are ready.

All we have to do is practice.