Fingers stained with ink I set the fountain pen down.
An hour has passed. My mind is clear and aware.
Alphabets are arranged over and over again down the sheet of paper.
I have been practicing my calligraphy.
No pen, no ink, no table, no room, no time, no quiet, no inclination.
In an age of fonts and typography (including the wonders of kinetic typography), there is something very simple about calligraphy that takes me out of time and place. It is practicing my penmanship as if I were six years old. It is mastering the easy flow of my hand across the page. It is sculpting each letter to form as if carving letters of stone. It is sitting in class and doodling my name every different way I can see it.
When I sit down with my notepad and fountain pen my focus is scattered and often I am feeling stuck. Unable to move forward with action whether it is writing, choreographing, or editing a design.
Setting nib to paper the letters take shape. I become active. Each stroke draws me in farther and soon pages are full and an hour has disappeared. My mind is clear of distraction and my attention is sharper. No surprise, I am happier.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes this as a state of flow.
Mihaly, a prominent psychologist on creativity and happiness, explains the power that challenging creative activity can have on our sense of being. With a high level of challenge in an activity which you have a corresponding level of skill you can enter a psychological state of flow.
Flow is described by athletes, composers, programmers and artists alike as a state of being where action flows without needed direction. The focus is so intense time and the feeling of self fall away so that there is no barrier between the actor and the activity or the artist and the art.
“Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
–Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Interview for Wired
Practicing calligraphy pulls me into a state of flow.
When I am struggling in ennui, a moment of adversity, or just scatter-brained, taking up an activity which is single-minded and purposeful, one that can always challenge me, and pouring myself into it clears away all the obstructions. I forget about the bad day, the pressure to write, the calls I should make or the lack of ambition I have to get out of the house.
I come out focused. Ready to move.
What is your focus activity? What do you do to find clarity and calm? Let me know and comment.