3 Keys To Find Your Creative Flow

During a recent, fairly random project, I had so many interesting insights that relate to the business tips we write about on this blog, I decided to write this week’s post about them.

I’ll describe the project I was working on, the process I went through, and then discuss how failure was imperative to my success, and the three key factors I observed for finding flow and experiencing peak performance.

The Project Brief

A few weeks ago, I was commissioned out of the blue to do some paintings for a corporate venue. Whilst I’ve made art works for corporate spaces before, this has never been something I’ve really promoted or tried to build a business on. I agreed to do the work, because it seemed like it would be interesting to pick up a paint brush again after so many years, and I figured I needed the time away from my current business concerns and the fresh energy that comes from doing something different.

My task was to paint six canvases in total, with three canvases put together to make a single artwork (a triptych). The paintings are about a meter high and 2.5 meters in length, they were to hang on either side of a walkway in the foyer of a venue that’s rented out for corporate functions.

The interesting thing about this commission was that I was given only three colors to work with, blue, white and black (the latter to be used sparingly). These colors were specifically matched to the colors of the business’ newly painted walls and their logo for their business cards and letterhead. Luckily, this wasn’t in the slightest bit daunting, as the directions I was given was to create something that gave the impression of water, so the minimalist color scheme wasn’t going to be a problem.

Dumping A Dud Product And Starting From Scratch

This is where it gets messy. As usual when I’m involved in some creative process, the idea I had for how I would execute my idea proved to be a complete dud after I’d done the preliminary work on the first three paintings. As I looked over what should have been an almost complete work, I realized the technique I had in mind wasn’t going to work out at all. I was faced with the impossible to ignore reality that I had to paint over all three canvases again and start from scratch. But really, I wasn’t starting from scratch.

During the creative process, I was given insights into the style and technique that I would need to use to make these paintings turn out well in the end. This is an experience I’m very lucky to be accustomed to when it comes to making artwork, so I didn’t freak out too much at the realization I had to start again. Very rarely does a finished work turn out exactly as I had envisaged in my mind. I have to be open to the suggestions given to me by the materials I’m using and what the art itself requires to express the ideas it’s being made to represent.

After getting over the initial annoyance and resistance to starting again, I ended up flying through the final execution of all six paintings and the finished works were completed with ease in a few short hours.

I observed and learned a lot during this creative process that relates to finding flow and experiencing peak states whilst working. I’ll begin with what I learned from the initial failure.

Failure Saves The Day

As I looked upon the first failed result, I knew I had to make the annoying decision to take what I’d learned from the process and begin again in order to be successful in my work. I consider myself lucky to be familiar with this already in the creative process, because I generally make the decision reasonably quickly and get on with it rather than wasting my energy on lamenting the lost time and trying to make a failure work. (It’s never more obvious than art when something isn’t working and no amount of tweaking or covering up will change that.)

In business, people can end up pouring huge resources of time, energy and money into something even though it’s showing no signs of taking off. It’s a bit like a gambler who keeps hanging in there for the big win whilst pouring money down the drain. One of the reasons we do this is we just can’t handle letting something go that we’ve invested so much time, energy and money into it.

I realized that I need to use these same discernment skills in my business. In the same way that my failed artwork gave me clues and guidance on what to do to make it work, your business will do the same. Sometimes failure or dumping a dud idea or project and starting afresh is what’s needed to be successful. If you do have to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch, you will have been given what you need to succeed on the next go.

3 Keys To Find Your Flow And Experience Peak Performance

As I got into a state of flow with the creative process and the paintings literally materialized before me on the canvases like mental mirages coming to life, I realized there were three more massive components to experiencing this peak creative state:

  1. My previous experience and training.
  2. My extensive exposure to some of the greatest practitioners and their work over the last seven years.
  3. My awareness of, and ability to trust and surrender to the creative process in order for it to evolve and produce a successful result in the end.

Key No. 1

In regard to my previous training and experience, I’ve had a lifetime of both in relation to making artwork. This includes a University education in Visual Art (although I don’t think University degrees are that beneficial for creativity) and plenty of practical experience working on my own pieces and commissioned works. As I found my creative flow and the work happened effortlessly, I realized that a major contributing factor was all my previous training and experience that gave me the technical skill for the task at hand.

In my business and in yours, the training and experience you accumulate and the fine tuning of your skills is vital for you to experience creative flow. The more time and energy you have invested in this, the more easily you will slip into peak states as you work.

Key No. 2

I’ve spent the past seven years working on contracts in one of Australia’s premier art galleries. My exposure to some of the greatest art practitioners and their work, both past and present, played a big role in my ability to imagine and determine what kind of image would work and the best techniques to convey the concepts in the project brief.

Peers always say to surround yourself with the leaders in your field. It really does affect your ability to produce higher quality work. When you do this, you create an internal database of extremely high quality information from observing them and their work. Then you are able to draw on this for insights and inspiration in your own work.

Key No. 3

Because I’m aware of how my own creative process unfolds and I’ve engaged in it so many times, it allows me to relax into the state of flow needed to experience a peak performance. The more aware you are of how your own creative process unfolds in your business, the more you are able to relax in order to experience peak performance. If you’re stressed about the process or the outcome, the more cut off you are from accessing and expressing your optimum potential.

Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear your comments at the end.

Cheers, Neroli.

P.S. I’m still in preview mode for my Amazon launch as I’m waiting for it to be available on paperback to kick off launch properly. There is the latest version Kindle up for grabs for anyone who buys a copy of the book and leaves a review.

And I’d love it if you’d hit the FB like button whilst you’re there πŸ™‚

To go in the draw, you need to email me a copy of your receipt to info@yourcreativesuccess.com.

About Neroli Makim

Neroli Makim is an intuitive artist and writer who loves exploring Creativity and its relationship to personal fulfillment and professional success. She educates people about Creativity, what it is, why it’s important and how to access it within themselves. For more information, visit www.yourcreativesuccess.com.

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  • hi Neroli
    this is a great example*! Having created “corporate art” as well, I am really inspired by this connection to business advice. You are right, a failure is not a failure, it gives insight into how to make a successful next attempt. And Key no.3 is very vital for me too, I must find a place of peace, meditation, flow~

    • Hello Kara. This inspired me as well, making me think of Thomas Edison that tried about a 100 times before he got the lightbulb right. Having found a 100 ways not to do it until he had success. I can’t wait for Neroli’s book!

      • Hey Ivin πŸ™‚ I can’t wait for my book too!!! Amazon is taking ages to load the paperback version!!! Love that story about Thomas Edison too, very inspiring. Thanks heaps for checking out the article & leaving a comment, cheers, neroli

  • hey kara πŸ™‚ Making art for corporate venues is an interesting balancing act isn’t it? And it’s amazing how failed artwork always holds the keys to making it work the next time around, cool hey? Great to hear from you again, hope finding flow is going well, cheers, neroli

  • Starting from scratch can make a great beginning. Some people think that if they like what they have started they must do all things to make it work, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. It’s better to dump it at the beginning where less effort is exerted than to dump it when you already placed too much time and effort on it. πŸ™‚ Cheers Neroli! You know I am a huge fan of your posts!

    • Hey GB πŸ˜‰ great to hear from you again, and glad the posts are delivering stuff you find useful:) I’m all for dumping something that isn’t working if it’s just not showing signs of life – can save a lot of time and money in the long run, cheers, neroli.

  • Interesting post Neroli. For me when I’m seeking a creative spark I completely alter my usual working by a full 100%. I go to new places and surroundings and look at people and the world from a different perspective so that I’m not hemmed in by my everyday 4 walls thinking. It usually and surprsingly yields some stunning results. Creativity means being creative in how you approach it which ends up producing creative discoveries.

    • Hey John, that’s a great way to inspire fresh insights and creative thinking. It even sounds like something fun to do for a general life refresher. great to hear from you again, cheers, neroli

  • Interesting post Neroli… It was a good read and a great source of information… I totally agree with it… Thanks for sharing…

    • Thanks Treb, glad you liked it and dropped me a line to let me know, cheers, neroli

  • Taking a nap, walking the dog and exercising – three things that help me get out of a creative slump. Thank for your article – great insights.

    • Those are great tips Simon – even though napping is frowned upon by our uber-busy society, rest & downtime a much needed part of life and creativity only exists when we’re relaxed -so it can be the perfect creativity enhancing technique. Ditto for walking and exercising.

      cheers πŸ˜‰ neroli

  • Hi Neroli. Good advice about having limits to perseverence when it comes to art. I never pursued art as a career and it is still a hobby for me and I have learnt that of course we are supposed to keep trying and giving our best but sometimes, it’s better to realize when an idea is not a good one and clearly not going to work no matter how hard you try at it, and move on to the next idea that you have and try to make that bear fruit instead.

    • Hey komodo – it’s one of those “things” isn’t it? To be successful in life, we’re not meant to give up. But when it comes to creativity, there just are some ideas that don’t work…there’s always elements in them that work & these are not to be given up on that’s for sure πŸ˜‰

      Cheers, neroli

  • Hi Neroli,

    Well and true said. Like your way and thought also concern to this so thanks a lot for sharing it with us as this proves beneficial to many of US.

    • thanks Meg πŸ™‚ Glad you liked reading this article, & cool to hear from you, cheers, neroli

  • How interesting Neroli..The first thing that comes to my mind with your paintings as I continued to read your article..which is great btw..how well did they brief you..?
    1. The three colours they provided and why ?
    2. The Foyer..what business are they in? Corporate functions as you mention above.
    3. The message your paintings and creativity had to project to your client and theirs.
    Here is my observation..
    As I look at your paintings and googled the colours and their connections to your artwork , creativity and your client’s business.
    The colour blue..(The throat chakra is connected with speech and hearing and encourages spiritual communication. Expressing truth though the power of the spoken word )..The flow of the white ( Strictly speaking, white is not a color, but the manifestation of the presence of all color – the complete energy of light. It stands for wholeness and completion. In many cultures it represents openness and truth. White has a cold quality. It can provide clarity as its energy is complete) The colour black (Black is authoritative and powerful) …..Find it fascinating how on a subconcious level you came up with and manifests what may look simple ,as in ‘minimalist’ but really does speak !!! I say this as I brief my graphic artist for years in design and colour. We start, we restart, we scrap until eventually it falls into place…Failure is a learning curve to achieving great results..! It is so much fun in the process.Especially in my field of work πŸ™‚ Now I need to get more creative and you are inspiring me to do so..! xx

    • he-he, that’s great news re inspiration Anna πŸ™‚ I dreamed I visited your chocolate factory last night & willy wonka was very young…strange dreams πŸ™‚ Love the insights you have into color, I was very happy with the way the paintings slipped into place after an initial false start. chat soon, xxn

  • Very interesting post about finding how to get your peak performance. It’s quite hard to realize your failures and learn from them, but when you do, you learn so much faster the second time around. And yes, every successful person fails (many times) before reaching that success. Good info, thank you!

    • Thanks Peter, I hope something in the article has helped you find your own flow in your work, great to hear from you. Cheers, neroli

  • Sometimes is it better for my to just to drop the project or what I’m are working on and wait a few days, then take it up again with new ideas, angles and visions, it normally had work out then.

    • Definitely good advice! Having a break is sometimes crucial to success πŸ™‚ thanks for sharing your thoughts, cheers, neroli

  • Neroli,

    Wow, you continue to amaze me… Didn’t know you paint also.

    Great article…the ability to get into the ‘zone’ on command is a skill that needs to be practiced, like most other things. When you work out the 1-2-3 step process for that…send it through…it’ll come in handy, as I normally get my inspiration at 2am.
    Lucky for the notebook beside the pillow…and Evernote…which helps during the brainstorms…ahhh, technology.


    • James Klobasa πŸ™‚ Hoi! Now, enough jovial greetings, onto your comments…I haven’t painted for ages! But I’ve done so in the past, it was a real head spin actually to se how easily the work just flowed.

      As far as the 80/20 rule goes, i should probably be doing more painting! I was thinking that using a similar style to this but painting some pics of Mt Coolum & the Glass House Mountains would be good – different colors of course. Those mountains have some kind of magnetic draw to them.

      I’m so glad I don’t get 2am creative hits – I’d hate that…but 4am can be a bothersome time for me sometimes. I’ll get the 1-2-3 thing to you when i figure it out πŸ™‚ chat soon, cheers, neroli

  • Thanks for your post Neroli,

    For what – exposure – to practitioners and their work, and Starting from Scratch is concerned, recently on tv I saw Actor/Writer Mike Meyers talk about being ‘Consiously Incompetent’ as a starting point for becomming ‘Consiously Competent’ I do think that indeed knowing how not to do something can give new insights into how to do something better.

    • hey HP πŸ˜‰ that talk by mike myers sounds cool! I’ll have to google it & see if i can find it.

      It’s fun when you become consciously competent at something & it flows, cheers, neroli

  • I would like to say that the most important thing for an entrepreneur is to do business that he/she really likes to do. If an entrepreneur likes to do his business he will do his business with pleasure and therefore will manage to be very creative!

  • boca raton real estate

    It’s always good to start over again if you’re far away from being successful. It maybe time consuming but it’s an effective way to succeed. Others think that redoing your work is a waste of time but actually it’s not. By starting over you’re actually honing your skills, motivates yourself to do your best and be more creative.

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