You’d think that, being a songwriter, my interest in literature would venture more to the fiction arena. But ever since I discovered non-fiction (working in a public library for eight years helped), I’ve been hooked. I’ll read anything from spiritual to the so-called self-help books, with the aim of developing a greater understanding of myself and the world around me. I find great inspiration in many of the books I’m reading…lots of song ideas!
I’ve been reading a book lately called “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ” by Daniel Goleman. I highly recommend it as a source of understanding your own emotional brain, how it works, and how you can work with it. One of the more fascinating sections deals with the creative mind and learning…the chapter is entitled “The Master Aptitude”. It begins by discussing how paralyzing worry, anxiety and fear can be…how it affects our learning and sabotages our ability to function. Eventually, the author moves on to a discussion of “flow”.
This immediately piqued my curiosity…flow is described as that state which “represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performance and learning.” Athletes call it the “zone”, but it can be found in almost any type of situation, whether it’s a doctor performing surgery or a composer creating a piece of music. The traits of “flow” are intense concentration, where pretty much everything else around you is shut out of your consciousness, a feeling of bliss and a loss of the sense of “self”. This is how I often feel when I’m writing! It can last a few minutes or hours…depending on the task at hand. It’s a kind of “in between” state, whereby if there wasn’t enough stimulation you’d grow bored and if there was too much you would lose control…a very thin line. The feelings associated with it become the motivation…in other words, you work at getting a flow because of how it makes you feel .
That’s a perfect set up for this next question: Do you write because you like the flow, or do you write because you want to get rich and famous? The fact is, that in studies done around this phenomenon, those who are more likely to succeed are the ones who do it for the feeling it gives them! The ones who are motivated by outside success will give up sooner, or have a lower success rate.
We will find flow more easily in the things we feel we are “good at”. For you beginning songwriters out there who don’t feel you’re good at it yet…think about why you do it. I find that from all of the songwriters I have met so far, the ones who began writing as a source of self-fulfillment are more likely to stick to it. Inevitably, the writers who have been writing for a good length of time began from that frame of mind. On the whole, do you find joy in writing? If you do, you’re more likely to succeed! Simple as that.
Oh, yes…and how do you get into the flow? There are as many answers to that as there are those who experience it. The more you write, the more you will find your own way to it. Some find the flow only when they are inspired. Some are disciplined enough to write everyday…they likely will get into the flow more often. The only answer is to DO. Go for it!