What IS flow?

Interviewing people about “flow” can sometimes be difficult. The first couple minutes involves explaining what flow is. Well, flow 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 someone does.

Most people have that one sport or one game they love. Some others even seemed stumped by the question. It’s scary to think our body functions and we “lose track of time” and have a sense of timelessness.

You may see a person in flow and not even realize it. I’m sure most teachers love what they do so much they get into a sense of flow. You never know if the mailman is fully absorbed in his job. Everybody has their own “flow” and some people do not even realize they have a “flow.”  Gardeners, sanitation workers, artists, scholars, poets, athletes, and businessmen all may have different flows, and all have found one thing in their life that they simply could not live without it.

Personally, I get into a flow sitting down at the potter’s wheel.  Three-hour open studios go by in a blink of an eye, and after school from 3-5 is even faster. I zone out everything around me and focus on the clay ball spinning in front of me.

It is almost funny to think that I put this much effort into making a drinking vessel or a pitcher when I own so many of these at home. I’m not sure that I enjoy the finished product and using my pieces as much as I enjoy the atmosphere of the studio and the relaxation of throwing a bowl. There isn’t a word to describe the feeling of putting a piece into the kiln to glaze it and seeing it come out. You can predict glazes, but there is nothing for certain. These are the things I enjoy so much that I could do without an end.



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