Being a teenager, I am compelled to write from a teenage perspective, and to promote in my writing, the benefits of adolescence and of course, point out all those lovely mistakes we humans are so fond of making. I love writing, I always have. It comes naturally to me and I find myself wanting to write more when I am enthused or thoroughly interested about something. When I was writing a piece on being Overschooled but Undereducated, I started out, like all good students are taught to start out, with an outline of what to write and include, and organized all the quotes I could possibly use. But as soon as the first sentence was down, I forgot about my carefully composed plan, letting it collect dust as my mind and fingers whirled away with the ideas glistening at the tendrils of my vivacious brain.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines this wholehearted engagement in one’s activities as ‘flow’, in his book Finding Flow; The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life. Despite his complicated name, Csikszentmihalyi’s theory is really quite simple; finding flow is the answer to living a life worthwhile. “What does ‘to live’ mean…?… To live in fullness, without waste of time and potential, expressing one’s uniqueness, yet participating intimately in the complexity of the cosmos” (2). And it is finding flow that will enable of humans the ability to stop the waste of our precious time, to use our full potential and to live out our unique qualities without shame or intimidation.
So what is this flow I write of? Csikszentmihalyi asks his readers to think of ‘life’ in the simplest terms; what we experience every day, whatever it may include. In this context, flow is easily applicable, but even more easily ignored. We go about our lives doing the most mediocre tasks that must be done in order to properly paint the picture of everyday life. Once in a while though, the paints are smeared together to create something completely different; someone new walks into our life, we are given an opportunity, an everyday task suddenly becomes interesting. But as we become used to these new aspects of life, they begin to fade into the canvas, their lines clearly defined yet the colours dulled. However, keeping your mind active and constantly finding new ways to accomplish certain tasks would allow you to keep a flow of energy. This flow of energy would act as a fifth gear, enabling you to persist in your task without becoming tired or discouraged, because your mind would be constantly involved in a fascinated state.
How many times a day do you begin something you must do and stop again and again because you are tired, or because you can’t seem to focus? It is common knowledge that the more energy you exert, the more tired you become. The same goes for mental recreation. So when we are forcing ourselves to do something that requires little thought, we are actually using extra thought just trying to convince ourselves to keep going, as well as trying to stay focused. In this way, we tire ourselves out and are committed to boredom many times a day. Every human, no matter who they are or where they live, will at some point in their lives be subject to some kind of schedule or daily routine. For most, the earliest such a systematic life enters our lives is during the time in which we attend school.
It would be easier for me to count the times in school I was not bored than it would be for me to count when I was. It seemed to me that as long as I did what I was told, things would go smoothly. And they did. But I was so bored from simply subjecting myself to someone else’s will, that it was a great effort to summon up the energy to create something myself when the time came. Projects and assignments were endless, but the rules and guidelines that accompanied them were even more plentiful. Had I simply done exactly what the instructions told me to do I would have passed with a decent mark, as many of my friends did. But being creative in the way others tell me to be has never been something I liked. And that is what I took every project as; a chance at being creative.
I remember clearly a time when I was given an assignment in my writer’s craft class. We were supposed to pick a subject of poetry, such as love, nature, or death, and compose a booklet with works from both ourselves and published authors. The booklet had to be in some kind of creative format with an illustration on each page and an interesting cover. The booklet would be marked out of seventy. Twenty marks were given for whether you followed the instructions. Twenty were given for how well your poems were written. Five were given for the appropriateness of everything included. Five marks for the aesthetics of the booklet. Twenty marks for creativity.
I have always been disgruntled at the thought of a teacher marking artistry. Be it a painting, a dance, a photograph, or a piece of music, I’ll never know what right it is of someone else to mark the creativity of another. True, my teacher had a lot of experience in what she did to know whether someone had really tried or followed instructions. But like each individual person, each individual work of art is an expression of independence and of personality. The only clear thing about creativity, on which artistry depends, is whether it is there or not. So it was with this in mind that I worked on my booklet.