How to Be in the Flow and Still Keep Living

I’ve always prided myself on being one of those people who never drops the ball, no matter how many I’m juggling. People ask how I stay so organized and on top of things. Oddly, I don’t think of myself as organized (you should see my desk), but I do take my responsibilities seriously.

But lately, I’ve been doing some deep thinking and exploration that requires a certain type of focus. Suddenly, this past week I got my times mixed up for two different appointments and there were a couple of other small balls I dropped. It was a goal of mine this year to regain “deep focus” in my work, but I’m discovering the more deeply you are focused, the less notice you pay to the little things.

Maybe my concern over all of this goes back to one of the many myths we maintain about artists: that artists are flighty, head-in-the-clouds, overgrown children who don’t notice when their shoes don’t match, much less when they’ve forgotten to pay a tax bill. I’ve spent my entire career trying to debunk that and so many other myths about artists.

Then again, there is some truth to the distraction of being “in the zone.” When the creative juices are flowing, it’s hard to stop and address other things, no matter how important. It’s very possible, even probable, you will lose that great work if you end it too early, but I don’t think this a phenomenon specific to artists. I’ve seen it happen with scientists and nurses and even mechanical engineers. In other words, anyone who is working to solve a problem, come up with a solution, or just provide an extra layer of care.

So how do we strike that balance between surrendering to the flow and maintaining responsibility in our lives and business? Well, Hemingway used to make a practice of stopping his writing mid-scene so that when he came back to the page the next day, he knew right where to start. He believed the subconscious mind would continue to piece together the work while he went on with the rest of his life. I like this approach because it gives me permission to stop when I need to and still believe the work will not suffer.

My point is, it’s not just artists who get caught up in the flow of work or life. It can happen to anyone. So the next time your artist friend is late or doesn’t show up, don’t call her “flaky,” remember it could easily be you the next time you get a professional call you just have to take or meeting with a new client takes longer than expected. A little patience and understanding goes a long way among professionals.

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