Quite true. It’s not something that ‘clicks in’ (flow) until it clicks in.
I love the sensation: Zooming into a thing until it IS the entire Universe… and more and more details start to come into focus… layers after layers peeling back, new surfaces revealed… it’s a marvelous experience, whatever the field is.
“Today I finished writing the proof of a monster lemma that I’d been working on for a month. I learned part of the technique of writing a complicated proof when I was young: break it up into steps. But handling the individual steps is something I struggled with for many years. The correct technique is similar to something Zen archers do, when they stare at the target until it seems as big as the whole world, and only then draw the bow. In my case, I think about the step until it seems blindingly obvious, and only then begin to write. Of course I didn’t learn about this from Zen archers or anybody else. Like everything else, I had to figure it out for myself. If someone had tried to suggest it to me, I would have ignored the advice.” Peter Shalen
I’m not a mathematician [was supposed to go into Theoretical Physics in 1990 but the prof wasn’t there, so I ended up taking development psychology + programming… and never finished college anyway]…. but that experience of making room for affordances is worth the time spent.
[there’s an unfortunate misinterpretation of affordance used in design, whereby they’ve added ‘only what is perceived’, but its original and most expansive definition that comes from psychology, summarized nicely by Wikipedia:
“An affordance is the possibility of an action on an object or environment.”
In short, “all that is possible”. Spending a few days staring at it “clears the cobwebs” as it were, “allowing for” the the possibility of discovering the desired solution(s).
Yet, it’s more than clearing cobwebs, as the space needed for all possibilities is the fullness of the space required. It only seems wasteful when faced with the chosen solution, but the entire workspace is needed in order to form the optimum solution.