I’d not thought much about it before. But now I can identify the main reason I like creating art and graphics. It’s the gift of being able to enter into “the Zone…”
Recently, I was working on the computer creating a representation of a strawberry plant. As I was manipulating the pixels, this is what was going through my mind: “leaf, leaf, leaf, leaf, curve, curve, up, up, smooth, deepen green, add more yellow, contrast, no, lighter, stem, smooth the arc…” When I worked on the blooms, as I blended colors and shapes, I also imagined smelling their fragrance. This is the moment I suddenly “woke up” from my reverie and became conscious that I was in the state of DOING, not thinking—I was totally engaged in the moment, becoming fully engrossed within my creative endeavor. That’s when I grasped just how much I give myself over to this trance-like process.
After much consideration, I think “Entering the Zone” is a form of active meditation, a means of exercising the intuition (as opposed to the intellect). Whatever it’s called, I believe any artistic thing created with intent retains the artist’s energetic signature and it seems to have a lasting effect. To me, this comprises a sacred act. To impart to one’s art the qualities of what is aesthetically pleasing is special. I’m becoming more aware of how noticeable this energetic residue is to others.
The only other person I know who talked openly about “the Zone” was the cousin of a friend, an Indiana University professor of some renowned in computer language. At the time, a couple of large Texas corporations were courting him to work for them and offered three times his teaching salary. When I asked him why he stayed, he said that whenever he teaches, when he speaks he goes to a place where the words easily pour out of him. He enjoys being on the threshold so much that he would not trade the feeling of being in the Zone for anything. He’d really miss out if he simply worked at a desk all day.
Becoming consciously aware of the value of creating while in the Zone also means taking responsibility for the energy I impart. With Kathleen’s book, I was “there,” in timeless time during the entire creative process–open to Spirit and able to indulge my intuitive nature. Nothing‘s left to chance. Symbolic content was also streaming in. Deciding to illustrate her book using appropriate symbols served to contribute another layer of meaning to Kathleen’s book.
Well, something must have clicked just right because of the book’s phenomenal success just within the first few weeks of being electronically published. Even though the Kindle version has been available for two years, the book has been blessed with unprecedented sales. Maybe it is simply Kathleen’s time to shine. In this case, I’m glad to have been a catalyst. But maybe, just maybe, the energetic is a powerful factor in its success.
But there is a downside of being in the Zone. And that is it can become physically detrimental over the long haul. For the sake of one’s vision, every twenty minutes you are supposed to look up and re-focus the eyes at something in the distance. But all too often, I’ll be submerged for hours. Once I “come up for air,” I have to make a point of standing up and walking around.
One miscellaneous comment: when I am in the creative Zone, the cat loves to sit on my lap. It’s as if he is riding the creative wave with me. Perhaps he might even be actively accommodating it.
Great post, Darlene. I can relate and it is becoming a stronger pull all the time. I intend to ride this wave all the way to shore and back out again, as long as I am able.
Darlene, this post is perfect. The creative zone has a much better ring than what I’d been referring to as my “funk”, but the meaning is the same. I love that state so much that I am trying to guide others how to get there too.
I just found your website doing some research as an amateur historian of a field in which some of your early work features prominently.
Along with a handful of other names, your work in that area and time was a key factor in creating the visual landscapes that affected rather a large number of people (myself included), and that in turn influenced some of the best of modern day artists within that genre, often without their direct awareness of that fact (much like young musicians writing and playing music inspired by bands or artists whose own influences they might not have ever actually listened closely to).
For those contributions I would like to say “thank you”.
It is definitely a synergistic treat to come across this post at this time, my own background involves visual art while my current life centers around writing on various topics, and the concept of “the Zone” is one that I have been consciously working with more and more over time.
If I am working on something of an artistic nature or that requires crafting more than simple manufacturing, and after a short while of working on that project I find that I am still very aware of the passage of time and have not even begun to enter the timeless trance-like state where self awareness isn’t even a factor, it is often best that without abandoning the work completely it is best to leave it until spontaneity rather than intent is the motivating force once more.
In a similar vein, there are different states that I have experienced while writing.
Sometimes they are simple and conversational, there is some spontaneity to the words as well as some casual thought to how they are placed, occasionally there is some back tracking to change something, but without serious effort.
Other times, every word and sentence might require three cycles of examination, new research in light of something written several paragraphs later, and the entire process is somewhat like playing the balancing game with wooden blocks called “Janga” after having drank two pots of strong coffee.
Neither of those states would count as “the Zone”, at best perhaps the initial concept for the writing might touch upon it gently.
At other times the words come out like a stream swollen with spring run off, they come at their own pace and trying to place myself in the way of them is to risk being bowled over by their pressure and no longer having any relationship with them other than needing to get back to the figurative bank of the river without drowning. When that happens it is almost impossible to get back “into the flow” and I just have to accept that the river is there and focus on drying myself off without regrets.
I usually know when I’m “in the flow” at those times because there is an echo of my own voice in my mind just a fraction of an instant before the words move through my fingers, and that same voice is apparently often heard upon reading those words by those who personally know me.
(the voice in question is unfortunately not the one that is used at all times, but rather one that speaks without any doubt about the truth of what it is saying, nor has any questioning about whether that truth should be spoken right at that exact time, it is a wonderful feeling but rather like a songbird, trying to capture it or force it to one’s will is the best way to ensure that it doesn’t come to visit any more)
Two works that might be related to the Zone as I think you are referring to it that you might find interesting (if you have not already encountered them):
There is a professor from the University of British Columbia whose field is a blend of Asian studies (mostly ancient Chinese) and behavioral and cognitive science named Edward Slingerhand, who has written a book centered around a Chinese concept called “wu wei” called “Trying Not to Try”.
The state called “we wei” is apparently one that can apply to almost any discipline that has a component of “art” to it, the effortless condition where what is happening is “through” someone rather than “by” them. Slingerhand writes well, balancing being informative with being entertaining and pleasant to read, with certain portions of the book in question having that elusive feeling of being a reminder of something that one had forgotten that they had known and are learning for the first time.
(yes, that last sentence is deliberately written that way and is not sloppy grammar)
The other work would be the painting by the artist Alex Grey called, well, “Painting”.
While the content of that artistic image might not be literally the whole truth of the creative process, there is a truth to it that definitely touches upon what you seem to be calling the Zone, and that I used to think of in terms of the artist not so much being someone who does art but rather can sometimes a lens that the art can move through if they can keep themselves from getting in it’s way.
I’m pretty certain that even if a neuroscientist were to use something more sensitive than an MRI to map out exactly what parts of someone’s brain and even their nerves were being used when they were in that state, they’d still not understand anything that really mattered about it unless they had experienced it themselves at some point.
Anyways, I’m just throwing that out to your blog in the hopes that something in there might be of some little interest to yourself or one of your other readers, and I hope that I haven’t been annoyingly long winded in the process (restraint has been used to prevent this single reply from exploding into an essay with citations and links to studies, articles, and sites from all over the world wide web).
While making a point of not replying to each and every post on this site, the prospect of reading through its content one section at a time with breathing space between each portion seems to be a pleasant thing to look forward to.
Having personally made a progression from the purely visual to the written with my own work, and lately moving increasingly between the two, your work of recent times seems likely to have much that I might learn from, or at least appreciate.
Again, thank you for sharing your work.
May the Zone be with you.
Thank you kindly for your well-thought-out response and the sentiment. I appreciate the time it took you to record your thoughts. Your words come to me at an interesting moment in time as well. Let us make a toast to synchronicity! May Big, Bright, Beautiful Blessings accompany you on your life’s journey.