I’ve been experimenting a lot with flow lately — playing with various ways of allowing creative expression and watching what happens.

Mindmapping is a short-form of writing for me, and I’ve noticed that something interesting has started to happen.

This morning I sat down to start to do some mindmapping and see where it took me. The aim of this practice is simply to let whatever shows up, show up.

When I first started this activity, the plan was simply to let my mind have a space to play in. I called it processing, but it’s really more blurting.

But then I started to post the results, and people liked what I posted. And then my mindmaps stopped simply being a meadow to play in — they became a means to an end. They became something that I would then post later for other people to consume — and more importantly, for people to like (or not like).

Now there’s goals in place. There are requirements for how things look. There’s a right way to undertake the process.

So I found myself sitting there, wondering why the process wasn’t working anymore. If anything, I’d made the process better now that I’d figured out the end result that was supposed to be produced.

Funny too — it was a lot less fun all of a sudden. It was slow, plodding, tedious… and I had to do a lot more thinking.

So I let go of those expectations, and all of a sudden, it flipped back.

See, there isn’t really a right way to let my mind wonder and open myself up creatively. There isn’t really a wrong way either, except when I try to do it the right way.

Do you get how weird that is? That’s mind-breaking stuff there.

The only wrong way to practice my own creative expression is trying to do it the right way.

In coach-speak, we call that performance. As soon as you’re trying to perform — trying to do things the right way — you’re screwed. That’s when your creative self disappears. Most of your essence along with it, too.

People talk about the concept of flow, and create astounding processes to try and help you get there. There’s a right amount of challenge, and a right amount of facility that you have to have, and then you can achieve a flow state.

Sounds complicated.

I’m interested in being present, with whatever I’m working on.

When I’m present, the other stuff slides away. And I notice that the less I concern myself with doing things the right way, and simply allow myself to be in the process, the faster I get to the right approach anyhow.

So there’s the paradox. The more you try to do things right, the longer it will take you to actually settle on the right way.

This leads to all manner of ways of self-sabotaging: procrastination (“I don’t want to take it on, I won’t do it the right way”), perfectionism (“I can’t go to bed yet, I have to get this right!!”), doing things last minute before the deadline (“Well, I HAVE to get the fucking work done now!”), stimulation-seeking (“If I drink enough coffee/alcohol/etc., I’ll eventually push past this block”), and others.

The funny thing is that all of those approaches are simply ways of getting past the entry-process for what you want to take on. The entry-process is simply the time you must spend wandering before you discover your way.

Consider that there’s a mandatory amount of time you have to sit in your metaphoric meadow, gazing up at the clouds, before you’ll come across your way.

You must wander. There’s no shortcut.

The problem isn’t that you wander. The problem is your relationship to wandering.

Procrastinators never begin wandering, because they fear that wandering means they’ll never succeed. They make the wandering mean they are failing (tragically, because wandering is a necessary component to happening upon the path).

Perfectionists, ironically, relate to wandering the same way. They think that it means they’re failing, and so, instead of allowing themselves to wander — giving their minds the space to expand and explore — they spend all of their time focused on finding the path. And remember, searching for the right way is what actually keeps you from happening upon the way.

So how do you get in the way of discovering your way? What’s your favourite(/most hated) flavour of trying to find the right way?

Actually, never mind all of that, what are you taking from this? What’s the one key piece of insight you’re taking from this post? Share with us.

Here’s what I don’t want to share with you: I’ve sat at my computer and agonized over this post for three days. I’ve written it, edited it, rewritten, re-edited it, recorded the audio for it two times, and tried to find the perfect picture to post with it. I’m hating on each word.  The truth is, I’m just avoiding the path myself — and so, I know I simply have to hit submit, and let it out into the world.