Skip to content

Hacking Creative Work to "Flow Through You" and 6 Things That Keep You Out of the Zone

6 things that stop you from working in flow state, and how you can change them to stay in the zone and create magic.

David Sherry
3 min read

It's not often that people have the experience of work just "flowing through them." You might have heard of songs of books being written this way, where the artist is a channel and the outcome is a type of magic.

People don't often feel this experience because too often we are doing the opposite; we're overthinking. There are other forms of this overthinking; anxiety, procrastination, and an overall resistance to allowing.

If you think about it simply, any resistance to flow is going to keep us in a state in which simply allowing is difficult. If we can identify the resistance and remove the obstruction, we're more likely to see our creative workflow. Here are a few of the blocks we create for ourselves:

1. You don't have a set routine.

Routines create comfort from knowing what to expect. When you're trying to do something unexpected, it helps to have a strong foundation of what is expected; namely the location, time, light, and any other factors that you can keep constant.

Like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, if you're trying to figure out where your notebook is, when to get to work, you have to go to the bathroom, etc. By giving your mind the reassurance to know what to expect, you allow it to be free to focus on more creative pursuits.

2. You're focused on the tools and resources, not on the work.

Most people think the barrier to creating is that they don't have the right tools or skills to create what it is they have in their heads. What founders and artists know is that your vision will always outstrip your resources for creating your vision. No one starts with, or even ends, with the perfect tools or resources for the job.

Therefore, art always is constrained by skill and resource. You have an idea for a drum beat but you simply don't have the skill to pull it off, it's at this juncture that the artist with flow will keep an eye on how to produce as close to this vision as possible, rather than getting frustrated or stuck seeking more skill or resources.

3. You're afraid to stand out and break convention, so you limit your choices.

We do our work out of choice, or out of obligation. When we get to choose our work, and make decisions within our work, we own our own power and get to play creative, editor, and producer. When we feel obligation (the shoulds of others) we are suddenly constrained by expectation.

There are two ways to go from "Obligation" back to "Choice." The first is to have a bit of mischief. Mischief has huge benefits from a creative perspective; it allows us to color outside of the conventional lines, thus exposing ourselves to the criticism of being different.

The second is to own our desires, first to ourselves, then to others. We forget that obligation is not just put onto us, but accepted by us. To own our own power is to remember that we have our own agency in the situation. From this agency, we can communicate what is true for us, and identify what we truly align with, and what is exciting for us. In this alignment and excitement lays a return to choice.

4. You think that technical skill is more important than presence.

Some people hide from the creative work of flow in the technical skills and details. They know every type of camera, how they work, what the latest specs are, yet they fail to ship new and creative work. When we rely on technical skill alone, we grind to make progress. We miss learning that our own presence, our intuitive and subconscious self, has a deeper knowing that can perform incredibly well despite lesser training.

While technical skill allows us to perform at levels of art with more nuance, remember that the wisdom of your presence has an effortless creative power that often exceeds your known skillsets.

5. You forget that everything is transitory.

When you create thinking that this work is "the" work that matters, you increasingly become a perfectionist. As the project progresses, so does the pressure you put on yourself for perfection. Every work of art and business is just the next work of art and business.

Think instead of all of your work as iterations, that this work is only a reflection of this current moment, and in the future you will create again and again to reflect those futures.

6. You don't expect the muse to deliver.

"The first thing I do when I enter my office each morning is to say a prayer to the Muse. I say it out loud in dead earnest." – Steven Pressfield.

Trust is the key ingredient of allowing. Whether we trust the muse, god, our process, or anything else doesn't matter as much as trusting that when we show up, creative work will happen.

Saying "I don't have any creative ideas" is not trusting the muse. Getting frustrated with yourself is not trusting the muse. Putting trust in a higher power such as the creative muse can help in that it shelves the burden of yourself in the process and opens it up to a higher power beyond yourself.

You are now a collaborator to something much greater than yourself, which expands your ego's perception of what is possible.

So, do you believe it's possible to be in the flow? That creative work could come easy?

If things are effortful, ask not how we can manage the courage to discipline our way into progress, and instead how we might remove the blocks to our flow...

FlowMastery and CraftCreative Lessons