Subject experts will tell you that your best access to creativity is when you are in the state of flow.
Although that term may sound way too “New Age” to have a concise definition, here’s one that should help you understand it—if you’re not sure you’ve ever experienced it.
- Your goals are clear and obvious
- You receive immediate satisfaction from what you do
So, business writers, how do you get to flow so you can tap into creativity?
Let’s face it: You can try, but you can’t schedule creativity. You can, however, schedule activities to assist you with creativity by helping your mind remember the steps that pull you into the state of flow. Let’s call them creativity triggers for business writers.
Find an Autotelic Experience
No, this doesn’t involve hallucinogenic drugs.
Autotelic is derived from the Greek words auto (meaning self) and telos (goal).
It’s an activity that’s its own reward, for which you don’t seek permission or expect anything by doing it. Each element of the experience pulls you into the next, and you have no hesitation or doubt as you continue.
An example of an autotelic experience is exercise. Well, maybe not if you hate exercising. But let’s say you don’t. You’re on that elliptical cycle and you’re focused on how your muscles are working. Just the slightest bit more exertion and you get immediate feedback in the form of more sweat… and the console telling you that you just burned another five calories.
So you push on, and the next thing you know, your hour is done and you are well aware of your exhaustion, but you feel like you could just keep going for the rest of the day. Okay, at least another 10 minutes. You get the idea.
Compare that to the last time you got whacked with that mega-dose of creative energy. It’s the same thing, writers!
The key to autotelic experiences is that they lead to flow—the nexus of creativity. The more autotelic experiences you put into your routine, the more often you’ll find your way into flow.
You Say You Can’t Find Any?
Don’t sweat it. There are plenty of indirect creativity triggers for writers. They won’t be as powerful, but identifying and cultivating them to be distinct recollections upon which you can call will get you on your way to flow.
Cultivate a list of experiences that have helped you spark creative writing. Was it inspiration after reading a magazine article, or maybe listening to a certain piece of music?
Many writers agree that the appropriate environment is conducive to their creativity, and they’ll seek out a bastion of solitude or the semi-distractive din of a coffeehouse.
Conversely, look for new indirect triggers by disconnecting yourself from your everyday routine. Take a different way to the office tomorrow. When you sit down to write, what’s the first thing you do? Check your email or log on to Facebook? Turn that upside-down: Pull out a pen and notebook and draw a picture of the first thing that comes to mind.
The overarching criterion for any of these indirect triggers is the ability to say it helped you finish what you started. That’s at the heart of an autotelic experience: The activity gave you its own reward.
Ultimately you may find that you can map the route to the state of flow and on to creativity—once you gather enough mental breadcrumbs to leave a path back to it.
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