Janet Meinke-Lau
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Art and Surf Blog

Conversations around the process of creating and being an artist and surfer.

Flow into 2019

Sometimes, it’s easy to be caught up in the feeling of not doing enough, your own urgent voice telling you to to do more, make more, accomplish more, etc. The end of the year is a good time to step back and reflect. Here is my reflection.

In the year 2018 I sold 17 paintings, of which 14 (82%) were commissioned. I gifted an additional 3 paintings (wedding + newborn presents). That’s a total 21 paintings for the year (double the number of paintings I did in 2017), not including sketches in my sketchbooks - all while working a full-time day job. Not bad! A big thank you to everyone that commissioned a painting from me. The assignments were challenging and enjoyable - I loved the process of creating them. I learned from each and every one. (A couple of November’s commissions are shown on the right).

I have one more commission (a house nestled in the valley of Palolo) and then I’ll be working on my own projects for the rest of December. I’d like to focus on creating for myself and for fun. It’s a distinctly unique and wonderful feeling - making something and having no expectation or pressure regarding the outcome - to let the creation be, with its good and bad. I guess that’s sort of a life metaphor too. To just be.

One of my favorite things about drawing, painting and surfing is the feeling of flow. It’s very gratifying. Per Wikipedia (btw, consider donating),

In positive psychology, flow, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one's sense of space and time.

When I am in flow, I don’t worry about what happens next. I am just doing, and what happens next just happens. And I accept it fully. There were some aspects of flow I was already familiar with, such as intense and focused concentration on the present moment, the distortion of one’s experience of time, feeling that the activity that I am engaging in is intrinsically rewarding. and feeling so engrossed in the experience that other needs become negligible (like drinking water or eating). But this I was not so readily aware of:

Flow theory postulates three conditions that have to be met to achieve a flow state:

  1. One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task. (Ah, this is why planning before you start drawing/painting is important.)

  2. The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows them to adjust their performance to maintain the flow state. (With the painting coming into being as you go, feedback happens almost immediately).

  3. “One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and their own perceived skills. One must have confidence in one's ability to complete the task at hand.” (Oh wow, I’ve never really framed it or thought about it this way. That’s why drawing without fear is so important.)

Lastly, the page mentions that people with an autotelic personality are more prone to experiencing flow. “Being autotelic means having a self-contained activity, one that is done not with the expectation of some future benefit, but simply to experience it as the main goal.” (Just be!)

Why am I drawn to repeat the flow experience, to feel it again and again? (That’s what I asked myself after my first few times surfing. That’s how I ended up in Hawaii.) I have a hunch that the more I am in flow, the better I am off spiritually and emotionally. The more I am in flow, the more connected I am to the Universe, and the more at peace I feel.

So that’s something I’d like to ask readers to ponder as you set your intentions for 2019. As my friend, Nicole, once asked a group of friends, “Where do you find flow?” When do you feel it? How does it come about? How can you repeat it?

Janet Meinke-Lau