By Steven Pressfield | Published: September 29, 2010
The lady plans to seduce her lover. Her object is to create a night of magic. How does she do it?
First the setting, the lighting, the music. The mood, the wine … the lady orchestrates every detail. Her skin, her hair, her scent. She alters her voice, her walk, she paints on those witchy-woman eyes. Ooh, don’t forget those six-inch Manolos.
But there’s more to the spell.
The finishing touches lie in how she greets her lover; their talk, the rhythm of the evening, the dance between them. Almost imperceptibly the moment steals upon the pair. The lady is caught up too. She has created the moment and now it carries her—and her lover–away.
This is magic. This is flow.
If we could achieve this by taking a pill or reading a self-help manual, we’d all do it. (Some of us have tried.) But the reality is that it takes work.
Magic takes work.
Flow takes work.
Art takes work.
The athlete and the warrior, the actor and the dancer all spend hours preparing for their moment under the lights. So do you and I. We’re courting the flow. We’re summoning it; we’re seducing it.
We know we can’t order it up like a pizza. We can’t produce it on an assembly line. But we can prepare the stage and the hour. We can prepare ourselves. And we can begin by action. We can act in anticipation of the goddess’s apparition. We can move as if she is already here.
The lover produces the moment by her need and her passion. But she also creates it with technique and time-in-grade. She works. She studies. She pays.
The warrior advances toward the enemy, the mime steps onto the stage. It looks so easy to us watching from the hilltop or seated in the audience. We weren’t present for the hours and years of training and rehearsal. We haven’t experienced the heartbreak and the rejection and the thousand midnights of crippling self-doubt.
We see only the finished product. We see Kobe. We see Pavarotti.
The professional lives her life behind those scenes. Her days pass in the studio and the rehearsal hall. She has dedicated herself to mastering the how and the when, the with-whom and the by-whom and the for-whom. She has come as close as mortal flesh can come to summoning the goddess at will.
I quoted Somerset Maugham in The War of Art. Someone once asked the great author if he wrote on a schedule or only when inspiration struck him. “I write only when inspiration strikes me,” Maugham replied. “Fortunately it strikes me every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
The master himself, I’m sure, had a few mornings when the Muse was otherwise occupied. But you can bet he showed up on the dot the next morning, ready to rock and roll.
The professional knows that flow doesn’t happen by magic. But it can be produced by devotion and dedication, by will and by skill. Aphrodite looks down with approval on the seductress scenting her bosom and arranging her curls. Ares, god of war, does likewise when he sees the ranks marshaling for battle.
The Muse does the same for the dancer and for you and me. We can’t fool her. She has counted the offerings we’ve left on her altar. The ballerina has paid with her sweat and her frayed meniscus and all the late-night forkfuls of cheesecake she would’ve loved to have said yes to, but instead turned away.
That’s how magic happens. That’s how the pro—and the lover—get to the Flow.
[Part Two of our interview with Jen Grisanti on “The ‘All Is Lost’ Moment” will follow in the next week or two. Things got a little hectic around here–and the editing took longer than we thought. Thanks for your patience!]