The Fresh Breeze of Visualization

True story 

I’m reading the newest issue of TD/Talent Development magazine and the editorial/Hot Topic is “Curtail Chaos in Digital Workplace Communication.“ I think to myself, I should give this a fast read, it’s an important topic… in fact, I have suffered the consequences of abrupt, incomplete, task-oriented missives that ignore the humanity of all involved (as I am sure you have too.)

I get into the article, and I say to myself, “Oh yes! This is exactly what I’ve been experiencing in a few of my work relationships.” The author Derrick Thompson, cites the white paper, Conversation Chaos in the Digital Age, by Fierce CEO Susan Scott. “It’s likely that remote team members have not had a single face-to-face encounter with coworkers during the past year. Scott explains that those spontaneous break room chats that many workers take for granted can help build trust and rapport.”

So the experience that most concerns me, at this moment, is working with folks I have never met face-to-face in person or only once or twice before the pandemic. In our work for the organization, we gather once a month for a group meeting and communicate primarily through Slack. In one relationship in particular, I have never had the opportunity to have other-than-work-related conversations. When this individual and I communicate, it’s always to address a problem or the (unsolicited) suggestion of an idea that feels like it has an edge to it. (Of course, that’s my perception of the communication, I do not know its intent, just its impact on me.) We’ve had little time to develop any relationship or to work together and celebrate successes. As you can imagine this is a situation ripe for misunderstanding… and it’s happened more than once. I am troubled by this situation because in general, we both appear to be nice folks. 

What is happening? 

What can I do differently? (As change begins with me.)

As luck would have it, serendipitously, we have recently been given a task to do together. 

Before the meeting, I worked to gain a larger perspective on the situations and us, and to consider this a fresh start (a bit of beginner’s mind/being present to just that moment, leaving history behind). I also remembered a similar situation, a disconnect with a colleague, and my response to that challenge. I picked up the book Dynamic Relationships, by Jaqueline M. Stavros and Cheri B. Torres, and gained new knowledge, skills, and practices. I can’t recommend the book highly enough!

Perhaps not surprisingly, the experience went really well. We were able to show up, in part because we had the time to interact just a little socially, and because we had to work together to achieve the task. I am heartened by this result!

In thinking more about the TD article though, I am troubled by the omission of what it means to bring our whole selves to work and relationships. “A more effective way to begin these conversations (giving feedback) is to provide a fact-based, objective example of what you observed and then ask the other person to share their experience.” 

While I am all about speaking of the facts, (though they are seen through our own lenses), I remain concerned that there is no acknowledgment of the role that emotions play in our thinking and behavior. Whether we recognize our feelings or not, they live within us all the time, influencing our thoughts and perceptions. My conviction around this belief has led to extensive reading, training, and practice in the field of Nonviolent Communication (compassionate communication). Awareness of ourselves and others, and working with our emotions to co-create relationships is the place where I begin… sometimes I begin again and again… and that’s a good practice!

In response to the impact of the pandemic on interpersonal work relationships, I am offering sessions for teams and groups in organizations who wish to experience the joy of virtual visual collaboration. Colleagues can come together to create team guidelines for collaboration, work on a joint project, generate a strategic plan, a roadmap, or… the sky’s the limit. I invite you to imagine how you want your work relationships to develop over the next few months, read through the short document* that describes the essence of the offering, and reach out to me for a conversation. 

* bikablo offering — The Fresh Breeze of Visualization

What inspires you?

Last Friday, at the Allentown museum (PA) I saw a piece that struck me as brilliant and inspirational…

As you can see from the description, the artist, Sam Gilliam, created a piece, then cut it up, and placed the pieces in a different configuration. I was gob-smacked!

I thought of my Zentangle work. I could create a piece and tear it or cut it up! It sounded exciting and scary! I’ve never done this—destroyed, torn up, or reassembled my work…

I approached the new adventure with a bit of nervousness because, in general, I like what I create. So I took a photo at the various stages of creation, the marker and paper, the shading that I added… and truth be told, to get a little more freedom, I made a copy of the piece before cutting it up. The piece didn’t need to be complete… I usually fill almost all the space on the surface yet since it would be a mash-up perhaps more white space was fine. I’m not sure about that thinking. It was liberating and maybe faulty—we’ll see!

 I did a bit of preliminary experimenting and didn’t like the results of tearing the paper so I decided to cut my work into pieces. I also experimented with a tile (what we Zentangle-lovers call the 3.5 inch square of Italian paper that we generally work with).

I was excited and curious throughout the process wondering how much to cut and whether I really cared if the pieces truly fit together like a puzzle. Does it need to be a perfect square or rectangle again? Is that overthinking it? Or, should I create more prototypes? It was beginning to feel kind of heavy, too up in my head—for now. I just wanted to see a few quick results, learn from them, and then take the plunge.

When was the last time inspired you were inspired? What did you do with the thought and feeling?

Here are the beginning stages of the process. Here are a few photos and a chatty video of my experience cutting up/re-purposing my original artwork

 

IMG_0052

(Click the link to watch the video.)

If you’re pressed for time, just watch the reel on insta, though it won’t show you my final design!

What do you think? I am still reflecting on the experience.

Looking backward to look forward

Gosh, I had a bit of a wonky week last week. I’m wondering if you have had the same experience of late?

I finished a training program, which was awesome! It’s such fun to see people’s skills grow throughout the bikablo trainings. And, I’m in the middle of a new, big, long-term project.

I have to admit it, I’m good at beginnings and endings, it’s that middle time in multi-month projects that really challenges me—maintaining the momentum while simultaneously working on short terms endeavors.

I have A LOT of pieces to manage with this project and I’ve noticed that the program that I’m in to support me has a really linear approach… I am a global/big picture thinker, so that’s a point of friction that I am working to smooth out. It’s a growth opportunity (and I work to frame it that way).

Gathering up all the pieces to the puzzle, seeing everything at once, and then creating order.

I am also, a lover of new and different things and a few one hour art courses (from the Brooklyn Art Library) popped up during my lunchtime which I felt the desire to experience. So the week felt topsy-turvy for me, which is fine, just different.

And, lastly, truth be told we had two weeks of unbelievably gorgeous weather and I did feel like playing hooky. Instead, I worked outside as much as I could and that was the right balance for me.

I am now looking ahead to the remainder of 2021 and reflecting on the year it has been, not just the past month, but January to June. For me, it’s been a time of challenges, learning, change, creating new routines, and working with new people—for the most part, great stuff!

So I’m wondering about you as we approach the middle of 2021.

Are you making time to pause, assess, reflect, and imagine how you will move forward?

What are you feeling good or great about from the first six months of the year? Making the time to celebrate our achievements and realize the foundation that we continue to create for success is so important.

What are you dreaming about for the summer into the fall and fall into winter (or winter into spring and spring into summer, depending on where your feet touch the ground)? What experiments might you create to work and play with new ideas, learning, practices, and collaborations for the remainder of 2021?

I’m finding inspiration for thinking differently about my living and planning both day-to-day and long-term in all kinds of places. Whether it’s:

  • plorking (playing and working) with a small, dedicated group of visual practitioners to introduce our work* to the world—supporting those who are planning their end of life experiences
  • an art exhibit of Calder’s sculptures or a cracked coconut (the latter as substrate for my Zentangle play)

  • a new way experiencing myself (a new body scan technique from the  Balance app — different than the way I deliver to others and so interesting to me!)
  • reading a variety of books (Austin Kleon’s, Show Your Work! and How to carry what can’t be fixed, by Megan Devine).

These sources feed me.

What is nourishing your right now? I hope you will share your finds and practices with me.

* Learn more about VEOLI/Visualizing And of Life Issues here. And, if you’re interested, join our Open House for visual practitioners on July 14th at 4:30 pm ET. Here is the link to register.

These sources feed me.

Bits and bobs of thoughts and ideas

The beauty of the blank page…

causes me to feel both anticipation and trepidation!

I love opening a new sketchbook or journal. The page, which I really see is a giant canvas, feels endless, and that is both delightful and daunting.

Those feelings bubbled up early last week when I opened up my Sketchbook Project booklet. Actually it was even before that. When I started imagining tangling (drawing Zentangle patterns on) the cover for my book, I had some ideas but they hadn’t come together. Truth be told they haven’t come together yet although I have taken the plunge and started drawing.

 

A different canvas was revealed to me as I opened the book.  Deciding to create on a two page spread, in which each of the pages was a different color and a different consistency, felt fun, different, and exciting. Here’s my work today, though clearly there’s more to be done! And then of course, I’ll turn the page again and start with the having to sort out whether to tangle across one page or two, choose an orientation, and perhaps venture into different media. Such a metaphor for working with what we have in front of us every day we have on this earth, right?

  • What are you planning? How are you feeling about it? 
  • Where are you now? 
  • What are you dreaming about? 
  • What designs/experiments will you create on the journey to your destination?

Planning new programming—a process that happens in my mind and on paper

On a different though related note…

I’m in the throes of designing and developing a membership program – it’s compelling and complex (not just complicated)! There are so many facets to consider. As I work with all the moving parts, I am beginning by asking my people to focus on the results that they want to achieve and then building the experience by creating the goals, milestones, and action steps and all the awesome content, activities and materials, we will use together.

This process of curriculum design and development, which is rather linear, iterative, and results-oriented is really the antithesis of Zentangle, which is organic, with a focus on the present and a letting go of or grasping for a particular appearance, aside from something that is aesthetically pleasing to the tangler. 

I LOVE both of these processes and believe that having a foot in both worlds grounds me.

How about you? Do you gravitate toward the more intuitive, organic approach, or feel more in sync with a more linear methodology or maybe you have crafted your own process and developed a melange of the two? I’d love to know!

PS: If Zentangle might be a delightful diversion for you, keep on eye out for my Creative Mornings Field Trip on July 13th and the FB Live sessions, on my Tangling With Jill (FB) page that I’ll be offering the coming weeks. 

Finding joy in new projects

Gosh, I love new projects! I admit it, my heart beats a little faster and I feel such delight when beginning something new. Happily, in most instances, I get the same feeling of joy when I complete the project.

What’s your style? 

My strengths* of curiosity, creativity, and love of learning lead me into considering many projects. Over time, I have learned to tap into my strength of perspective to keep me from going down every rabbit hole!

From the VIA Character Strengths Survey—showing the”sunny” and the “shadow” sides of my strengths.

Where do your strengths lead you? Where do they get you in trouble? How do you use them to support your endeavors?

Within the past few days, I’ve been working on a few new projects and I’m making time to note my energy and commitment to each. This opportunity for reflection is helpful.

How often do you step back from your projects and the processes that you’re engaged in to assess what’s working for you and what can be sharpened?

As I wrote last week, I am beginning The Sketchbook Project. I am smitten with the idea of a blank canvas! It feels exciting, challenging, daunting and the adventure pulls me in.

Surprisingly, the video of the sketchbook is a peek at the small zine that I created as the final project for the course, Tiny Memoirs, offered by my colleague and friend Julie Gieseke. Truth be told, I discovered in the last week of the course that I had a bigger tiny memoir in me (what a juxtaposition!) that would take too long to complete by our final session, in which we shared our work. So I put that more intensive project aside because it’s really near and dear to my heart and I need time and energy to make it into the gem I believe it can be. So instead, I made a little zine to share my thoughts about receiving and planning for making my very own Sketchbook Project. I loved using several techniques that Julie suggested, tell your memoir in four sentences, show your memoir in six visuals, and consider creating a zine. What fun!

What has captured your curiosity and desire to create lately?

Another project, the upcoming Visual Binge developed by Deepti Jain and Charu Aurora, grabbed my attention yesterday also, as I put the finishing touches on my planning for the session for July 11. I felt such anticipation,  imagining the session and what the participants and I would be doing together.

I’m also looking at a new way of organizing myself. I’ve been trying several different bullet journal formats and honestly, life just feels too full right now and I am unwilling to make the time to create the format that I like using each month, week, and every day. While, I thought I’d have the interest in the energy to devote to making a bullet journal, I’m finding that I don’t. And that’s okay!

A friend of mine, Jane Massengill, mentioned on Instagram how much she likes the Panda Planner. I’m a Passion Planner gal from way back when it was a Kickstarter campaign. I shifted away from it because I wanted to personalize my planner and so I’ve been experimenting with different formats of bullet journaling for over a year. I’m finding, lately life is so full of good things that I’m not willing to devote time and energy to create the layouts and so I am turning to the Panda Planner, to give it a shot. As you can imagine, I downloaded the free PDF and I’m trying out all the different layouts. I want something that’s just right (sounds like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, no?) because I need to put this task behind me so I can move forward. (There’s a visual!)

I have to say that new projects are the spice in my life every week! As you can see, my strength of hope also carries me forward. I just have to be sure I stay on the sunny/positive side of my strengths because the shadow side (overuse of them) can lead to overwhelm… but that’s why I’m picking a new planner!

I am happy to share more ideas about these resources!

The Sketchbook Project

VIA Character Strengths

Visual Binge

Panda Planner

Feel free to book a Connect session with me if you want to learn more about character strengths and how they work in real life. And you might want to check out these resources too