Most of the cupboards in this virtual workroom of mine are going to be full of things that are to do with writing. Except for one.
This special cupboard is just as essential to anyone who wants to be a writer, but it is also essential to anyone who wants to be anything at all.
“For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
I am going to fill this extra cupboard with information that could hopefully lead you, dear reader, towards finding more of the opportunities and challenges in your own life that Csikszentmihalyi talks about.
His theories give us a simple way to recognise the sort of activities in our lives that have a chance of making us fulfilled and happy. He studied many people over many years and developed this idea that he calls ‘flow’:
“From their accounts of what it felt like to do what they were doing, I developed a theory of optimal experience based on the concept of flow − the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
You know when you are in this state because you become totally absorbed with what you are doing and unaware of the time flying by. You experience a deep involvement which removes the worries and frustrations of day to day life. After you finish you have a stronger sense of self, a sense that you have really been ‘you’ for a while. This is why it is important, essential, in fact, to find out what gives you this sense of flow. It makes you into yourself.
For one person the activity that puts them into a state of flow may be knitting; for another it might be mending a car engine. For others it might be giving a speech or putting on make up. For me, the flow state engulfs me when I cook, when I read, when I garden, but above all when I write. Slowly, slowly, my doltish brain has realised this and gradually I am creating a life where I write more often. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it has taken about six years and a heap of commitment to shift towards writing. Without reading about ideas like ‘flow’ I might not have done it at all.
Have a think about one or two things that you have done in your life that have put you into this wonderful state of flow. You can hear Csikszentmihalyi talk about it a bit more first if you want.
So, I am going to fill this one special cupboard in my workroom up with thoughts and information and musings about all sorts of methods and systems and approaches that have helped me to discover more about why people are motivated to do one thing over another. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work is one example (to which I will return). I hope that reading the related posts as I write them may give you some nudges to tend to what’s inside you. Seize the day!
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it! Begin it!”
Goethe (or W.H. Murray – see interesting article about the attribution of this quote here)