Passionate Flow: Eddie Van Halen & Me

Continuing my excursion into finding writing inspiration from music, I’ve come across something I knew happened, but had not seen in any rock video before.

Artistic Bliss

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi named this Flow.

“A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

Eddie Van Halen talked about his type of Flow in this BBC article.

“‘When I’m home on a break, I lock myself in my room and play guitar,’ he told Guitar World in 1981. ‘After two or three hours, I start getting into this total meditation. It’s a feeling few people experience, and that’s usually when I come up with weird stuff. It just flows. If you’re a musician you just play until you die. It’s not an ordinary job.'”

Do I Write Until Flow Finds Me? (Or I Find Flow?)

Is that the same for all of us who live with a passion that won’t quit? If we call ourselves writers, are we writing until the day we die? Or are we squandering time procrastinating.

  • It’s not going to be good enough.
  • No one will like it.
  • People will judge me.
  • If I can’t do it well, why do it at all?
  • It sounds better in my head.


I do not write long enough at one sitting to find Flow very often. It takes major inspiration for me to sit and write long enough to find that space where time vanishes, hunger evaporates, and thirst is absent.

But maybe I don’t have to write a long time at one sitting.

Eruption Flow

Watching Eddie Van Halen in his Eruption video demonstrates how Flow can happen in the middle of 12,000 people and for short bursts of time.

Below is the 13:06 demonstration of (in my quite uneducated opinion) the best guitar solo ever: Eruption.

This specific Eruption is actually several solos strung together. The original was a mere 1:42 on the first Van Halen album Van Halen.

But I am specifically asking that you watch this one because you can see EVH move into Flow and remain there for 2:21 minutes.

Starting a 5:34, you can see he has his eyes closed and a look of peace begins to come over his face.

Cathedral’s Flow

He opens his eyes before he begins playing “Cathedral” at 5:54.

When he gets to 6:07, he curls around his guitar as if he’s making love to it.

As he begins playing the cello section at 6:49, you can see him begin to fall into Flow.

Watching EVH play in general, we can see his joy and oneness with his guitar. For me, in this section, the guitar becomes a visible part of his soul.

At 7:51, the look of peace on his face can only be described as Holy.

Eddie Van Halen Cathedral

Moving Back Out of Deep Flow

At 7:55, we can see him open his eyes again.

That doesn’t mean he was out of Flow because, clearly, many artists are creating with their eyes open, but the less meditative look returns.

It bears mentioning that Eddie was blackout drunk and very high that night. He had no recollection of the concert or the solo that was filmed.

Yet he still seems to have fallen into Flow, not playing by rote as many have suggested. This does not look like a man bored with his performance.

Best Comment Out of 30,000+

Kishanna Conan Doyle says about EVH:

“He’s smiling, he’s happy like a child who has just made his first chord on a baby guitar.
Eddie always smiles when soloing… he wasnt a rockstar, he was a kid with a guitar.”

Message to My Writing Self

What do I take from watching this video more than two dozen times so far?

Instead of looking for Flow, I need to just write and let it wash over me if it wants to. For me, it seems similar to the Muse. If you ask the Muse for a visit, she will stay far away. If you work your ass off, the Muse sees you mean business and descends.

I find a great deal of inspiration from Eddie Van Halen. He played magnificently through drug and alcohol addiction, and then later when he was dealing with several illnesses, including cancer. He did not quit until he had to.

I have to do the same with my writing.

EVH Guitar

End Note:

Despite endless searching, I could not find the exact guitar EVH uses in the above video on that August 27, 1986 night in New Haven, Connecticut. He changed guitars at least once during the show because a string broke on his Kramer 5150 and he then used his Steinberger 5150 guitar. I do not know if he went back to the Kramer 5150 after a re-string. If you know, please comment.

Also, I am not a guitar or music expert, so if I have missed something or written something incorrect, please comment so I can fix the mistake.

Why Are Electric Guitars Fascinating Me?

The closest I have ever been to an electric guitar is several feet away. I have never touched one. Never wanted to touch one. And before the last few months, never cared to know a thing about them.

Yet, starting with Brian May‘s Red Special and moving on to Eddie Van Halens* Frankenstrat, both home-made guitars, I have become enamored with electric guitars of all kinds.

Electric Guitar
Brian May’s Red Special
Electric Guitar
Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstrat

I’m learning about bridges, tremolos/whammy bars, fretboards, pickups, different knobs and switches, and more.

I’m reading how guitarists choose a guitar, that there are certain brands that create specific sounds.

I didn’t know how many guitarists develop their own sound that distinguishes them from others. I’m shocked at how many guitarists I know just from their sound. How I never noticed this before is beyond me.

I’m learning the nuances of how amplifiers affect the sounds and that feedback is not always a negative.

I’m even learning about the individual types of picks guitarists choose and why. (I still find Brian May’s sixpence the coolest pick out there.)

Electric Guitar

I Know Nothing About Technology

I can’t figure out why I am so excited to learn about guitars considering I am clueless about the technical aspects of anything electric. I’m 61, have no intention of ever learning how to play even an acoustic guitar, yet I keep reading about the workings of guitars and the musicians that play them.

Stunning Realities

I had no idea how hard an electric guitar was to play. I thought someone picked up a guitar, plugged it in and were off and running. Ha! It’s a math problem to the 50-thousanth degree. It’s geometry, algebra, and physics with a ton of passion on top of it all. The dexterity required is incredible. Watching the flying fingers and hands sometimes makes me dizzy. These musicians are amazing.

Electric Guitar

Learning By Watching

I’m learning about other great guitarists: Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Randy Rhoades… and am still learning about who to listen to and watch.

The female guitar players I’m watching are Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Etheridge, Lita Ford, Orianthi, but still need to educate myself about women of color.

Inspiration for My Writing

Every one of these guitar players started out not knowing how to hold a guitar. And now, they are the best of the best in the Western World. They practiced endlessly. I especially love hearing about how the musicians got started, when they got their first guitars, how they learned or taught themselves to play.

It’s quite incredible knowing that my guitar is pen and paper. I must practice to get better. I must practice with love filling my heart and with the passion of the world pushing me forward to finish what I started.

Instead of getting sidetracked by guitars and guitar players, I have been writing more… still to Queen’s Made in Heaven, including Track 13… but the accumulation of guitar solos, riffs, and shreds feels like a Hawaiian wave pulling me to ride it, to curl under the water’s canopy, and soar with the Universe.

Watch me fly!

Electric Guitars

*Eddie Van Halen

Be sure to watch the link to Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption.” It is, in my mind (and many others’) the best guitar solo out there. At least the ones I have seen so far.

He is one with the guitar; they sing together.

Note: He smokes in the video and it is painful knowing that smoking contributed to his death in 2020. Oh, the choices we make when young that don’t affect us for decades.

Rock in Power, Eddie!