“Being in the zone.”
Most people experience this at some point in their lives, even if they’re not artists. But for artists this is the state from which all the best work springs, yet it seems so mysterious and fragile. Fear is probably the biggest killer of this state of mind, but fear of what?
It could be anything: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of sucking, fear of being great but not being able to maintain greatness, fear of alienating others, fear of being ostracized. You get the picture. FEAR.
Steven Pressfield has written some great books on the subject, but the essence of how to achieve flow is about as simple as you can get. Obviously, first you have to have a burning desire to do something, but assuming you have that, the real secret is actually the title of one of Steven’s books.
Do the work.
In other words, just fucking do it. Every day.
You won’t always achieve flow, but it will only come if you give it a chance to appear by actually working. I am experiencing this now because I’ve started writing fiction, and it’s weird. Some days are definitely better than others, but I find if I just give myself time to do it, and actually start writing, shit happens.
I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating because it’s so obvious and freeing if you’re trying to create. The greatest and most productive artists, the ones who created massive bodies of work, would all be the first to acknowledge a dirty little secret. It’s not all great. In fact, some of it isn’t even that good. But because they just keep creating, day in and day out, their work ethic gives their greatness an opportunity to show up.
Think of Frank Zappa, Woody Allen, Andy Warhol, Ray Johnson, Miles Davis, Picasso, George Carlin, Prince, and Duke Ellington. These people just never stopped, they just kept compulsively creating, giving their genius a chance to emerge fully realized at times, because they kept creating without fear.
The flow is where the fun is.