Thursday, March 01, 2007


When you repeatedly come across a certain phrase, or two people tell you a strikingly similar story, you know you're supposed to be listening for meaning. Really listening.

This week, I read David Elkind's wonderful new book, The Power of Play. A must read for every parent and teacher. Simultaneously, I picked up a copy of Susan K. Perry's, Writing in Flow. In the first chapters of each of these well-written books, the authors summarize the years of work done by philosopher-psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Mihaly researched the special union of work, play, and love. When these things collide, and feelings of enjoyment-- not bound by time, or self-consciousness, or fear of failure--run high, a person is said to be in flow. It's an abstract concept to be sure. Unless you've experienced it.

In a loose sense, we've all written about being in flow this week. Lisa chooses not to reveal the intricacies of her work-in-progress, because she feels the essence of her work, and play, and love might lose something in translation. Amy's post explored the notion that ultimately the process of writing should be enough. If we free ourselves from the distractions of finding an agent, a publisher, and interpreting the whims of the marketplace--perhaps then we can be in flow. And once in flow, I would argue, you will probably create your best work, and those trappings of the literary life will fall right into place. Hannah shared her thoughts about actors as artists. The role models she described embody the notion of working in flow. Have you seen, The Queen?

Last night my husband, and biggest supporter, and I talked about balancing my promotional activities for my non-fiction book, with my compelling desire to keep working on the revisions to my novel. He's concerned that I might be working too much. I am. Yet when I'm drawn into the world of my fictional characters, there is where work, and play, and love collide. Deep in revisions, I'm working hard on what Chekov calls the "little particulars." This week, in a trance-like state, I added in the details of my protagonist's daughter's bedroom. I'm "word painting," playing with descriptions of a bedspread, a window seat, and a doll's house. The time flew by, and when I finished, I was more refreshed than if I took a bath, a long walk, or a nap.

My favorite quote by psychologist Jean Piaget was aimed at children. He said, for children, work is play and play is work. In flow, I am a child. One who never wants to grow up.

How do you balance the longing for being in flow, with the practical details of daily living?


Michelle Zink said...

Good question, great post!

I have four kids ages 7 - 14, and for me, the key is all in compartmentalizing.

I LOVE writing. There is no question that, for me, writing is always play and always a labor of love.

Where I get into trouble is letting my mind wander WHILE I'm writing, even a little bit.

As you've said, wondering whether my agent will call, if I'm going to have more revisions, etc., is part of that.

But it can also be the little voice in the back of my head reminding me that I have phone calls to make, birthdy parties to RVSP to, cookies to bake.

So for me, finding play in ALL things rises from the tenet of being in the moment, wherever and whatever that may be, as completely as possible.

When I'm writing, I've learned to tune out everything else.

And when I'm baking cookies with the kids I try to do the same thing.

Lynne Reeves Griffin said...

Thank you, Michelle. You're absolutely right! I think living an authentic life means being in the moment, in the moment. Writing helps to remind me of this. On a day when I have dedicated writing time, I am more engaged with everyone--especially my family. When I write, everyone benefits. Lynne

Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

I spent a lot of time with Csikszentmihalyi and Piaget when I was in graduate school (well...their work, anyway). Creativity and the nature of its development were key elements in their discussions of how we grow and learn. What needs to be nurtured? Nurturing creativity is as essential as teaching our kids how to talk and walk and eat with a fork.

I try to make sure that I have my time for flow, and my husband is a big help in that department (snaps to him!). But I also try to help my kids enjoy that part of their psyche that lets them disappear into the pretend world of whatever they can imagine--aliens attacking, building a magical house full of horses who talk and have tea parties...whatever.

They know that Mama needs that time, and I often leave the house to get it. But like many moms, I find there are so many things competing for that time. So, when I have it. I emerse myself. I allow myself to wander around my office, talking and acting out bits of my book, argue with myself, encourage myself (yes...out loud), and really embrace the flow. And like Michelle, I try to do that with my kids--pull them into the flow as we play together or read together, or just give them plenty of room and encouragement to embrace it themselves.

A true genius is blessed with creativity above all else. Just ask Einstein!

Lynne Reeves Griffin said...

Wow, Ghost Girl, can I bring you to one of my parenting workshops?

As you may know, I am a child development expert, and I stand on a soap box everywhere I go trying to encourage parents to feel passionate, like you and Michele do, about nurturing imagination, creativity, and family relationships.

Thanks for setting such a powerful and positive example for your children, and for those reading this blog. And do check out David Elkind's new book. You would love it. Lynne

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