One of my favourite feelings, when I am painting, playing music, soldering electronic components, debugging software or writing a piece, is that feeling of being completely self-contained and apart from the rest of the world. I love that feeling of total immersion in your task, to the point that everything else melts away. I enjoy forgetting about the tools I am using and letting the thing I am creating just flow out. I really like that feeling of being in the creative zone.
Finding that little piece of Nirvana can be hard to do, especially with all of the distractions that we have these days. I find that playing recorded music in the background helps me to find that place (except when I am trying to create music 🙂 ). Spotify, Pandora and Last.FM are essential, mission-critical tools.
Oddly, I find that headphones remind me that they are clamping my head and don’t work quite as well at getting me into the zone as ambient loudspeakers.
Sometimes a beautiful scene or the serenity of silence is what it takes. Other times, it’s bird song. On my happiest creative journeys, the sound track is the laughter of my children – the best kind of music ever invented.
When I design user interfaces, I like to aim for tools that get the heck out of your way, so that you forget you are actually using a mouse and a computer and can concentrate fully on the work you are trying to make, rather than fussing and fighting with the intricacies of a stupidly laid out menu or user interface objects that just want to assert themselves in your consciousness, the entire time. When you design an interface well and it melts away into the background, I call these “low impedance interfaces”.
Sometimes smells are the right way to disengage from the world. I had a start up company making internet video encoders and I tried a scent machine in the office, which would waft essential oils around. I don’t know if it worked for everybody, but I liked it. It was for the same reason that I had a fibre optic colour changing lamp on my desk and an electric guitar and amp beside me the whole time. Ah, the joys of being your own boss!
I find I do my best work when I am immersed in the flow zone. Do you?