A woman sitting at the Tamsui River in Taipei, drawing the landscape with ink on a wide sheet of paper on the stone bench in front of her. She seems focused on her work and serene.

創作 (Creation)

There are maybe few feelings I seek as much as the feeling of “Flow,” of being fully immersed in creative work, with a buzzing brain.

Yet, in my life I have experienced very different states of flow. There is the flow of writing or working on a math or coding problem, a kind of deep immersion in the task, my own thoughts, and ideas. Then there is the flow of music and performing arts, an outside-directed flow, a dance with the people or situation around me. (German has the wonderful word of “Bühnensau” for these moments, the stage hog, but literally “stage sow.”) There is the flow of running outside or taking images, a flow that is open towards and in resonance with the surrounding nature. The flow of working with others on a common project and the purpose coming with that (in my German, “ballern”). And finally a somewhat manic, frenzied flow, a rushed whirlwind of action, foaming emotions, as exciting as exhausting.

In those moments, this image would probably help to calm me down again, as it shows a mindful, open work that seems outside of time. But alas, things like images of course stop to exist in a maelstrom like that.

Unfortunately, I was never much of a painter. My drug of choice was rather music. Now that I think of it: Maybe playing in symphony orchestras is so great as it somehow allows to combine and connect all of the above parts: deep focus on your own part, the connection to other musicians and the audience, the tenderness of solos and frenzy of fortissimo.

Just listening probably doesn’t allow to feel the energy that is set free when playing a concert with 250 other people after practicing it for two weeks, eight hours a day. But visiting a concert or putting on your headphones and listening to Mahler’s second might still get get some of the experience across.

Share your thoughts