Craft For The Soul Creativity

If you keep on flowing, inspiration will keep on growing

I’m addicted to flow.

I’ve been chasing it since I was a wee gal, sitting in my Nanna’s tiny lounge room, watching her knitting needles clatter away. Not only was it mesmerizing to see her at work, but I also recognised her slightly altered state and wanted to have a turn. She was clicking away, completely immersed in the task at hand, but also far away. Her output matched her skills and before her grew a project she’d hatched with someone in mind (proof that she’d cared enough to spend the time making something from pretty much nothing.)

I could see her tuning out of parts of herself as she tuned right in to her creative side, with a healthy dose of muscle memory coming into play. Action and awareness melded into something that looked really satisfying and intoxicating. She did this seemingly effortlessly. It felt like an inaudible, comforting hum. I wanted in.

This kind of flow was not exclusive to my knitting Nanna, I instinctively knew. I assumed (with my usual optimism) that it was there for the taking, for anyone, if you were willing to trust yourself. It seemed to me all you needed was time, a (rough) plan/materials and the motivation to get going. Challenge (enthusiastically) accepted.

My own first experiences of this kind of flow were when I was pretty tiny. Painting. Messy pottery on a toy wheel in our backyard. Scissors and glue-ing. Colouring in. Zoning out in a hands-on way. It seems an easy, natural state for kids.

Later, as a teenager, I started writing (poems and journals and stories), and while it didn’t give me quite the same feeling of being awesomely in my body and out of my body simultaneously, I could feel there was something flowy waiting in the wings. I knew that sooner or later I would be able to just let the words tip out of me in their own way, without really thinking too much – and so I kept writing (for the rest of my life, so far) and tip they (now, daily) really do. It just took a bit of practice to bridge the flow/try gap.

The body issue didn’t escape me, either. Creativity was something all kinds of bodies could be part of. It was very democratic and accessible. It didn’t matter who you were, how you looked, how old you were, what you wore. If you tried and trusted, the parts of your body could work together like an amazing machine, cranking out whatever thing you wanted to make, in your own unique-to-you  (often surprising) way. Each action had a reaction and I loved how logical and non-crazy that made my (sometimes) chaotic life feel.

To me this showed how powerful humans could be, if we only would take the chance, stick at it and trust ourselves.

It also proved that you could leave your mark on the world by making things and I wanted to leave bits of myself behind all over the place, as often as possible. (I’m still ambitiously/embarrassingly prolific like that. Soz.)

There’s something about this powerful creative flow force thingy that is a little bit like a drug. Right? Because it is. Yep.

For one, when we are doing something we love we’re riffing on dopamine – the feel-good hormone that you will not find on your wrong-side-of-the-tracks street corner, but have lurking within you for the taking. (It’s naturally released when we are enjoying something.)

In addition to this, the meditative state many creative experiences offer can ‘quiet the brain’, lower our heart rates, reduce blood pressure and reduce production of the stress hormone cortisol. Apparently flow gives us a heady cocktail of the natural good feels: norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, anandamide, and serotonin all come out to play. This all sounds excellent to me. Playtime for everyone!

Getting ourselves into this flow-ful state keeps creativity readily primed once the project is long-packed away. Science tells us that we stay primed for creativity well into the next day and so it follows that if we keep on flowing, inspiration will keep on growing. (*Runs to TM that phrase*)

The kinds of projects we take on – and achieve this flow from – are valuable for for all kinds of flowing reasons, but also because we are taking a punt on ourselves.

Practising self-belief and beginning something that sees much work/time/effort ahead fosters resilience, persistence and optimism. Making things for others – or with others – promotes connection, a sense of belonging and community. This all helps us hit the jackpot in the improved wellbeing and personal/creative growth stakes.

Wellbeing-wise, craft in general, but flow in particular apparently has the magical power of monopolizing our nervous system and shutting out the rest of the worries-of-the-world.

Flow researcher and all ’round genius Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains;

‘We can only process a certain amount of information at a time. That’s why you can’t listen and understand two people who are talking to you at once. So when someone starts creating, his existence outside that activity becomes “temporarily suspended.”

“He doesn’t have enough attention left over to monitor how his body feels, or his problems at home. He can’t feel if he’s hungry or tired. His body disappears.”
Thus we forget to stop for lunch, run late for school pick up, stay up half the night or burn the jam in the quest for one last stitch.

The feel-good, meditative powers of creating and creative flow – and their ability to help us suspend or switch off – have proven to help those suffering post-traumatic stress disorder to find moments of peace, to improve brain function in the elderly (thus keeping dementia at bay for longer) and to provide temporary relief to those suffering from chronic pain and other debilitating illnesses.

Meditative powers, healing powers…  Let’s not forget the excellent equation of raw materials + skills + motivation + time = something we created that would otherwise not exist (often for someone else!) There’s a next-level kind of power and satisfaction in that. Let’s make all of the things!!

I’m obviously extremely pro-flow, and let’s face it, even the word flow is magical. It’s a bit like ‘flower’, right? Just add an ‘er’ and you’re good to go!

Flower – From late 14c. in English as “blossoming time,” also, figuratively, “prime of life, height of one’s glory or prosperity, state of anything that may be likened to the flowering state of a plant.” As “ he best, the most excellent; the best of its class or kind; embodiment of an ideal.”

 

May your creative flow mean ‘blossoming time’ for you. Know that not only can it take you somewhere special within yourself and connect you to others, it leaves a trail of crafty breadcrumbs behind you long after you are gone… proof that you were here and you cared enough to make things.

 

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Nicole
    March 21, 2017 at 1:41 PM

    Such a fantastic piece. Flow is magic.

  • Reply
    Lorraine Carlton
    May 17, 2016 at 7:15 AM

    Such wonderful words of wisdom and so much encouragement in them, love to,think that all crafters could see these words.

  • Reply
    Honore´
    May 4, 2016 at 9:17 AM

    I have chosen “flow” as my focus word for 2016 and this post really resonates with me, on so many levels…I thank you for taking the time to share your insights on “flow” and contributing to our understanding and quests for “flow -er-ing.” I was linked to your post via Crystal Moody – Year of Creative Habits blog.
    Cheers~

  • Reply
    Kate Pietschman
    April 28, 2016 at 7:07 AM

    As a child of the sixties, and the being raised by a talented open-minded artist of a mother, flow is embedded in my soul.

    Follow Your Bliss – Joseph Campbell

    Let Your Freak Flag Fly – “everyone” 🙂

    I especially notice it when I write – I pause – take a few deep breaths and go into my sacred space.

    Thanks for your post!

    Stay inspired!

    • Reply
      Meet Me At Mikes
      April 28, 2016 at 8:19 AM

      Oh thank you for sharing that, Kate! And thank you for reading!
      (Did someone link to this post recently? I would love to thank them, if they did!)
      x

  • Reply
    Andi
    March 30, 2016 at 9:43 AM

    Really loved reading this today. I’m feeling a bit flat at the moment and I needed to be reminded that ‘flow’ exists.

  • Reply
    Diane
    March 29, 2016 at 5:24 PM

    Thanks. This sings to me. Here’s to me blossoming today, tomorrow and on …..

  • Reply
    Louise
    March 29, 2016 at 5:12 PM

    Great article Pip.
    Any tips for locating missing flow?
    Mine seems to have taken a long vacation ……

    • Reply
      Meet Me At Mikes
      March 29, 2016 at 5:19 PM

      Walking helps… Go for long walks. Listen to podcasts you have never heard before. Take a class on Skillshare – hand lettering? weaving? Watercolours? I have more ideas if you need them!!!

  • Reply
    Kate
    March 29, 2016 at 5:09 PM

    Thanks for sharing a little of your story and thoughts around flow.

    ” Creativity was something all kinds of bodies could be part of. It was very democratic and accessible. It didn’t matter who you were, how you looked, how old you were, what you wore.”

    I remember feeling this as a child and also as a teenager who knitted, loved it and was proud of what I created. Not so much now though, my mean girl gives me a hard time about wasting money on supplies and taking time for myself, but I push on and spend some time every day creating with yarn. I’m not sure that I’ve felt “flow” in a long time.

    Not really sure where I was going with this comment, but I really enjoyed reading this post so thanks.
    cheers Kate

    • Reply
      Meet Me At Mikes
      March 29, 2016 at 5:20 PM

      Well… science tells us that making things will improve your health and ward off dementia… so you should do it for your long-term health, if for nothing else?! Don’t you think?!

      • Reply
        Kate
        March 31, 2016 at 4:56 PM

        good idea re the dementia LOL seeing as I can’t even find flow in a short comment LOL

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