Friday, October 20, 2006

Flow


One of the reasons I like photography is because it provides 'flow opportunities' - a chance to engage in an activity where I lose track of time, where I am completely engaged in the task and the world around me.

The term 'flow' comes from the book Flow - the psychology of optimal experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I read the book when it first came out, back in 1990, and I found it interesting, engaging, and full of practical advice for improving my quality of life.

Recently, when I was searching the cluttered, crowded bookshelves for a different book, I came across this one, and was reminded of how much it contributed to my focus on arranging my life so that I engage in things that make me happy, and thus arranging things so that I make progress on things like artmaking.

One of the central ideas that I took away from the book was this: much of the the level of enjoyment you experience when you engage in some activity has to do with the level of challenge it presents. Too little challenge, and it's boring, and you tend to drift away from that activity. Too much challenge, and it becomes frustrating, and you tend to drift away from the activity. So in that sense, an ideal pastime consists of an infinite set of challenges that you can tackle, with each individual challenge something you can master with reasonable effort. It's even better if there are some challenges that are out of your reach to begin with, and as your skills advance, you eventually can tackle those things that seemed impossible before.

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