Insights from Spontaneous Co-Creation

A walk on the beach led to an idea and several days of spontaneous co-creation ensued.

When was the last time you were suddenly in a situation in which you shared an idea with another person and yet had no process for moving forward?

As my friend (whom I have known the longest in life) and I walked along Folly Beach, SC, I was reminded of a beautiful mandala I had seen in San Sebastián, Spain. I saw “our” beach as a potential canvas…

I shared my photo and made the suggestion that we attempt such a feat. We set out to find tools/sticks, and began to talk about possibilities. I’ve made many mandalas in my day (I love The Mandala Guidebook and The Art of Mandala Drawing: Create Geometric Patterns). Nancy had never made one before. 

We both wanted to share in the creation, so we talked briefly about what we knew about mandalas. I didn’t want to share a lot because I didn’t want to influence how she came to this experience. We talked about taking turns: each of us drew a layer of the design, building on what had just been completed. Sometimes we weren’t sure what to do next. We would each offer up a few ideas and then whatever struck the fancy of the person responsible, became the next layer.

How do you approach co-creation when there’s a significant difference in the knowledge and skills of the people involved in the project?

No doubt, the import, and nature of the project, plus the timeframe are factors in how to proceed in the developing process of co-creation. We had the luxury of knowing that enjoying our experience was paramount and therefore we felt no pressure about achieving a particular result. 

We both encountered challenges with our tools and resources. The sticks were of varying widths (which became an interesting design element), and the sand on our first and second days was the same consistency across the diameter of our design (perhaps 8 feet). On day 3, in the same area of the beach, we were confronted with the sand so wet that it altered the strokes that we created. 

How do you work with a variety of tools, resources, and unexpected challenges? 

We finished our first mandala and were delighted! We approached the next two days with enthusiasm and without any plans in our minds. In part, that was the charm of our experiences.

I know that during this time together, we were in flow. The late afternoons at the beach were one of the highlights of my days.

What are some everyday experiences from which you have harvested insights? 

I was very conscious of letting go of what I knew about mandala design and creation. I wanted us to approach this as equals. And truth be told, the majority of the mandalas I’ve drawn have been, at the most eight inches in diameter, so working at this scale was a new experience. 

A few folks came and visited us every day, to ask questions and share their delight in seeing what we had created. On the first day, a man said to us, “This must not be your first rosette.” Nancy was excited to tell him that in fact, it was the first time we had worked/played together in this way… and that way we have been lifelong friends. Now that’s memory!

There are insights to be gained from all we do. I would love to hear some of your insights from similar experiences!