Sarah Buck is a fashion designer and model who lives in Los Angeles, CA. In 2013 she graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City with an Associate’s degree in Fashion Design. She has worked various positions at companies such as Ted Baker, Maxfield, Theory and Helmut Lang. She works from her home studio in Los Angeles.
If you are someone who has ever partaken in a creative activity, such as painting a picture, writing a song, or any other artistic endeavor you can imagine, then you have probably realized the creative process is not a consistent one. One day you may sit down to write a part of a book, for example, and after a whole day’s effort not feel happy with a single word you have written. Another day you may sit down to work on writing the same book and in one hour write many pages of prose that you are very satisfied with. The question is then: What components affect the quality of creative work? My answer to this question comes down to one word: Flow.
I graduated from a fashion school in New York City called The Fashion Institute of Technology. I majored in Fashion Design there, which is the most prestigious and grueling program the school offers. During finals week the fashion students would often work so hard that we would stay up all night to complete final assignments. One night during finals week I left the sewing room at 2AM, happy to not have to stay any later. On my way out the building, I ran into a freshman student who seemed downtrodden and sad. She had a major art project due that required 12 separate full figure fashion illustrations, a mood board, and fabric and trim selections. She knew I was an older, more experienced student, so in asking for my advice, she proposed, “It’s 2AM and this project is due at 9AM. I haven’t even started. I’m not going to be able to pull this off, am I?”
It took me a second to answer, acknowledging to myself the overwhelming amount of work this girl had before her. Finally I answered, “I definitely think it can be done.” I advised that she find a song that she loved listening to, and if it took a half an hour to find that song not to stress. “The most important thing,” I said, “is that you are in the zone. Get into the zone with music, food, nature, the smell of a candle, talking to your boyfriend, or anything else that works.” Often when people are in a rush they fail to align themselves so they can work in a relaxed and focused state of flow on their creations. Working in a flow state is so important to the success of artistic projects, I actually suggested to this freshman student that she spend as much as a half hour finding a song that motivated her while she worked, despite her incredibly tight deadline. I saw a change come over her, and she seemed eager to begin her work as we departed.
One of the most beautiful examples I can think of to highlight the power of the flow state is an experience I had in a yoga class. In honor of the summer solstice, the class met to perform one hundred and eight sun salutations. Each sun salutation lasted about 2 minutes and included bending down to the ground, reaching your hands over your head, etc. What happened when performing these sun salutations as a group was incredible. You would find yourself lost in performing these movements and then become conscious and realize your breathing was in exact synchrony with 15 people around you. The repetition of the movements and the strength of the group became incredible. I began to feel as though the group was supporting me and the movements actually became easier to do the more times I performed them. While the power in numbers amplified the effect, I believe it is just as possible to enter the flow state alone.
While how to enter into the flow state could be a discussion all by itself, I wanted to write this article to open your mind to what state you are in when you produce creative work. Are you happy when you are designing, acting, or dancing? Next time you start an artistic project I want you to notice the state/mood you are in and how it affects the outcome of that project. As for the freshman student I was telling you about, I ran into her the next day. Having no idea what to expect, I approached her cautiously, “Did you finish the project in time?” She crinkled her forehead as though for a second she didn’t know what I was referring to, “Yeah, I got a B.” She acted as though it had been nothing! The greatest thing about making art in the flow state is that it feels easy!