I was recently re-reading Creative States of Mind (Townsend 2019) and came across a reference to Miihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book (1996) about creativity.  I decided to skim read it, having done a more detailed read a few years ago.

One of the sections that I found particularly interesting to read again was the section about the flow of creativity and the sense of enjoyment in the activity.  Csikszentmihalyi refers to nine elements present in an enjoyable experience which are pertinent to me in continuing with my photographic practice and encouraging a sense of flow.  The nine elements are as follows along with my notes of my experience of each:

1.There are specific aims and outcomes – it is clear what needs to be done

  • I generally set intentions for each period of photographic practice and encourage reflection and refocus after each shoot

2. We experience immediate feedback on what we are doing and achieving

  • The feedback for me is on the back of my camera.  Although I do not use this facility after every shot, I glance at the images occasionally to check my feelings against the reality of what I am producing

3. Our skills and outcomes are in harmony

  • The camera becomes my friend, an extension of me and technical issues and considerations become second nature

4. We are focused on the task in hand – “one-pointedness” (op cit)

  • I am very focused in my work and sometimes I find this a hinderance and feel it might be a barrier to creativity

5. We are focused in the present

  • I find this hard and dwell too much on the past and future, but I can tell immediately when I find myself focused solely on the present

6. We are unconcerned about the possibilities of failure

  • A great hinderance to me in my work although I now give myself a chance to play which enables me to be freer with my camera

7. The element of self-consciousness disappears

  • Linked to the point above and through total focus on my photographic work

8. The sense of time may be shortened or extended

  • When I am experiencing flow, hours can pass without me realising

9. The task is autotelic – or intuitive

  • Absolutely, and I recognise these times immediately!

I found it very helpful to remind myself of the elements and conditions for flow.  It has been a number of years since I read Csikszentmihalyi and I am now able to better reflect on how my practice relates to the nine elements and how I might maximise my chances of finding flow.



Csikszentmihayi, M. (1996). Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention. London, Harper Collins.

Townsend, P. (2019). Creative States of Mind – Psychoanlysis and the Artist’s Process. Abingdon, Oxon, Routledge.


Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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