I’ve just been reading Sarah Passingham’s article, ‘Finding Flow’, in Brittle Star (issue 42). I’ve been lucky enough to have a few poems published in Brittle Star, including one in the current issue.
This poem, entitled ‘Testing the Water’, was definitely written while I was in flow or ‘in the zone’. I remember writing it at a Poetry Business Writing Day. Unlike some of the poems I’ve written there which have gone on to have a life of their own, I almost forgot about this one. I typed it up but never sent it anywhere. It was only when skim reading a word document with lots of other poems in it, looking for something to bulk up a submission, that I found this one again. I worked on it, but when it came to sending it out, I chose the original version (a block of text, no line breaks, minor edits on the grammar).
To achieve ‘flow’, Passingham suggests we look at the idea put forward by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, whose argument she summarises as follows: ‘boredom and relaxation need to move into control, but worry and anxiety must be simultaneously channelled towards excitement’.
Control and excitement. Channelling worry and anxiety. All this rings very true to me. That said, I don’t claim to be able to consciously put myself into a state of flow. I do find workshop environments conducive to doing good work though, mainly because there’s less time to think and more time to act. So, thanks to Brittle Star for being such a great magazine (and what stunning artwork on the cover of this issue) and thanks also to the many workshop tutors who have helped me channel my anxiety into something useful and productive.