• Kralingen

In the Zone

How does it feel to be 'in the zone' creatively? Most people feel or imagine it to be a state of great confidence. And yes, sometimes you'll feel on top of the world. We usually call this being in a 'a state of flow'. But there is a second 'zone' that feels like the total opposite: full of doubt, anxiety, pain and frustration. Yet, it can still make you feel absolutely fantastic. And it's this zone that tells your creative story.

Everyone who has ever been on a surfboard knows this feeling: when you catch a wave at just the right moment, you just flow, without friction, towards the coast. You don't need to be a good surfer, or even stand on the board for that matter, to know that emotion. It's exhilarating. The ocean carries you. And all you can do is enjoy it. The hard part is getting there.


Before the Zone

Before you can catch such a wave, you'll need to get into deeper water. And that means wrestling with an ocean that by its nature, will always win. Those waves, they never stop. They always keep coming, surge after surge, splash after splash, roll after roll. Pulling you under, pushing you back, swiping you to the side. You'll swallow salt water, gasp for air, desperately struggle to find the ocean floor, and sometimes the word 'shark' or 'jellyfish' will pinch you with extra fear.


When you're finally through that first barrage of waves - the 'surf' as its called - you have a moment to catch your breath and lay on your board. Most of us are exhausted by then. Even the more experienced surfers still suffer just the same. But you recover your breathing, and then you wait. If you see a good wave you'll try to catch it. Most of the waves you catch however, will not be perfect.


Maybe you'll slip on the board. Maybe the wave hits another wave. Maybe you get hit by another surfer. Or maybe you'll decide to skip a wave... just to see that it was in fact, perfect. And if it's not a great day for surfing, with a lot of clouds, wind and erratic currents making it a real fight to get on that board, all of the above becomes even harder. Yet, you push on. Because you know the feeling of flow. And you want to experience it again.


Catching a creative wave

Surfing is never about that one, perfect wave. That's the end goal, sure. But it's not the whole story. Telling the story of the perfect wave doesn't do anything without your listeners knowing and understanding how difficult the road to that wave is. It's about how much pain you can endure before you catch it. How relaxed your mind can stay in the face of relentless water hitting you over and over again.


It's the perfect analogy for your creativity. If you want to reach flow, want to be in the zone, you'll have to endure the mental pain and hardship. Rejections will crash on you like those waves. And that can be harmful. It can land you in burned out situations and give you loads of creative anxieties. Fortunately, there is a way to alleviate all that: teaching yourself to enjoy the pain.


In the other zone

Just think of it like this: the fact that you're hurting, means you're on the right track. Every wave that hits you, teaches you, and brings you closer to flow. Too many times we feel lost in our efforts to tell our creative, artistic, business or charity stories to the world. We can feel as if the world isn't seeing us and doesn't understand our full potential. It criticizes us, maybe even rejects us, ignores us, throws us around and pushes us under when we least expect it.


Just like those waves.


If you let that get to you, you'll always return to the coast and watch the waves from the beach, where they cannot hurt you... but you also can't catch them. But if you start to enjoy the process of getting back into the water, laugh at your own foolishness and mistakes, and grin and grimace against the relentless beating, you'll end up standing on that board at one point, and let the muse carry you to the coast.


And once you've tasted that? Guess what? You'll dive right in again.


Love, as always.

And plant trees people. Plant trees.


Rogier van Kralingen