Creative States and “Flow”

I am alone in the forest. Focused on the task at hand. A cascading waterfall flows into a stream. I use all of my senses to gauge the situation and potential photographic opportunity. Next I go through my mental checklist to set up the shot.

Leveling the tripod, using the live view, dialing the settings and exposure just right.

Checking the frame’s corners, fine tuning the lens focus, and..

A dog barks, a child yells, a breakaway from focus.

You were 110% sucked into your craft, time felt as though it would cease to exist or matter. Your eyes began to have “tunnel vision.” Then there was a simple noise or distraction and your attention was violently pulled back into reality. Did it ever feel the same after that lapse in focus? Probably not.

I study the light like a sniper trains his crosshairs on the target. Personally for me, being a maldaptive daydreamer quite possibly perpetuates the flow state.

As defined in this article by Psychology Today, flow is “an optimal state of consciousness where feel our best and perform our best.”

While I am just mentioning photography here, any artist or athlete can enter the “flow state,” whether they knew it or not.

This is a strange mix of being hyper-focused and yet seemingly detached from surroundings that are around you.

Typically tense or stressful events can cause our brains to become laser-focused, awareness grows and our performance of that which we do becomes paramount.

I believe this behavioral trait goes back to Darwinism and early homo sapian times, when hunting animals meant that our attention had to be fully given to our actions, lest we become eaten.

Essentially, life or death.

Some studies suggest that people are more creative during flow, and that they feel more creative the day after a flow state.

First, what is one thing you like to do? I mean, love to do.

An activity or hobby that requires intense visual coordination. In a nature photographer’s case, maybe tracking a bird in flight through the viewfinder, or how the evening light plays out as it changes every minute before sunset.

Flow is the reason I spend 8 to 10 hours a day out in nature. I have found some of my best work comes out of creative states of mind such as this.

While all of this may make it sound like I believe Flow is the best thing to ever happen to my creativity, this isn’t always the case. To be honest, Flow can be quite maddening. While I cannot personally recall a time, Flow can divert your attention from nearby dangers and put your safety at risk. All of this single-minded attention may just steer you away from other obligations like a day job, family, friends, and relationships.

Despite this, the creative state known as “Flow” is a fascinating way of mind that most creatives will have to live with. Enjoy its’ presence, as it is quite possibly what keeps you staying energetic and passionate about what you love to do.

How does Flow affect your creativity? Love it? Hate it? Feel free to chime in down below in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

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Published by Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor is a 25 year old photographer located in Beavercreek Ohio, United States. Specializing in wildlife and landscapes both big and small, Ryan has sought to capture many different natural locations throughout the Buckeye State and beyond.

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