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Stepping into the Unexpected… Almost Reluctantly

Please take a walk down memory lane with me. Reflect, for a moment, on your professional and personal growth experiences over the years. Have you ever felt that you weren’t quite sure you wanted to do an activity or exercise suggested by a trainer, facilitator, or coach? It doesn’t happen to me too often. (What happens more often is having done the activity, I wonder about its purpose, importance, and usefulness.)

I’m currently taking an online course in learning how to draw in new and different new ways. I am really enjoying it and I think the teacher is very good. Those of you that know me, know that that is high praise indeed, as course design, development, delivery, and evaluation are my bailiwicks, and it tends to make me a hypersensitive (hypercritical?) participant.

In the second lesson of the course, we were asked to do an exercise and I hesitated. No doubt this is due, in part to my curious nature/the realization that I am a “Questioner” in Gretchen Rubin’s work on Four Tendencies. And, while I could conceptually see the POSSIBLE use of the task, it was stepping into a process I don’t often do—pure fantasy product creation.

So I hemmed and I hawed, and yet I didn’t want to step into the next lesson because if a course has a good design, I shouldn’t be skipping anything along the way, is my thinking. So I abandoned myself to the experience and I am glad I did! The exercise asked me to engage in thinking totally differently—and that was the beauty of it! The assignment was to make my ideal pan. I do love pens though I have never imagined what the perfect pen would be. I made the time to delight in a bit of whimsy and brainstorming… after the initial doubts about whether I could actually do it. This darling is the result! It is fun, practical, and incorporates my love of the undersea world.

So what about you?

How do you engage with your learning? Do you (generally) trust in what has been designed and developed or do you question throughout the experience? I do both! And I will tell you with no shame, that I will never say, and do not appreciate hearing, “Trust in the process.” If a teacher, trainer, facilitator, or coach can’t tell me why I’m doing what I’m doing, where it came from (tied to what earlier content and/or processes or the overall gestalt of the learning), and how I can integrate what I’m learning into the present or future learning of the course, work or life, I outta there!

What’s your thinking about your learning experiences?

With the shift to so much learning online there’s been a proliferation, if not a glut, of opportunities… some are worth their weight in gold (so to speak) and others are mere imposters of what learning is meant to be… I have learned to be in touch with the creators and ask the questions  I need answered/do my due diligence because I know how I learn best. What about you?

My time, energy, and resources are too precious—I guard them well.

Have an affair with your creativity!

How do you find the time, really, make the time to be creative?

I think we all define or describe creativity differently—from diving into new opportunities at work, to drawing, painting, building, cooking, sewing, knitting, singing, to playing instruments, and more.

As I think about creativity in my work or in my play, it means total immersion, commitment to process,  and oftentimes to product, too.

  • What about you?
  • What does creativity mean to you?
  • In what ways are you creative?

If you’re not in a formal program that gives you some structure and freedom to nurture your creativity, how do you do it? This is the question I have wrestled with over time and perhaps even more recently because of I am noticing that time feels WONKY in this pandemic— both so compressed AND so endless.

As I make time for getting out to walk daily, I’m currently listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. She raises the same question, about making time for creativity, in a fun and provocative way, she says,

“Have an affair with your creativity!”

I love that! Gilbert went on at quite some length about the ways that we find time to have an affair/make time for what matters to us. So that might be a big slice of time but more likely, it’s tiny pockets of time—15 minutes here, 30 minutes there, because life is busy. I find 10-15 minutes too short and unsatisfying to me… What about you?

So that’s my question to you today and I want to hear your answers. How do you make time in your life to nurture your creativity?

Here are half a dozen ways in which I do it, I hope you’ll share yours too.

1. I carve out an hour every evening after dinner before watching a bit of Netflix.

2. When I’m working on a project, a passion project to be exact, I start my workday an hour earlier and I devote the first hour of my day to that project. I put on some music for 60 minutes, I love the app, focus@will, and I do nothing but that work for that time. It is exhilarating!

3. I buddy up with someone who has an interest in pursuing a particular aspect of creativity—we might take a course together or am just be checking in with each other. My favorite example of doing this right now is partnering with my friend Julia Curtis in Tasmania. We spend every Thursday, in the late afternoon for me, and early Friday morning for her, working our way through Lynda Barry’s book Making Comics.

4. I’m also curious to see what other people are doing. A friend told me about a class she was taking online. I thought it sounded like fun. I then remembered that I had bought that class a few weeks earlier and had put it on the back burner for a while. Her mentioning it made me dive back in and now that’s what I’m doing every evening.

5. Making space for learning about art is so important to me and so once a week I do a deep dive into someone’s art/craft. These days that might mean a virtual art tour, pulling a book from my shelf and drawing or creating from it… I’ve also started combing magazines for images and creating files for inspiration so that’s like stealing/finding the time when I’m doing other things (organizing).

6. I like to engage in challenges, like the 100 Day Project or Inktober because I love seeing what other people have done. It is so inspiring for me… so I have to admit that I generally keep these projects short (meaning how long I devote to them each day). It’s not that it’s not worth it, it’s just that there are so many interesting things to do in this world, I often wonder who how to schedule them!

I hope you share your ideas in the comments so that I may learn further ways to nourish my creativity.

And, if you want to buddy-up to get more creative, or you’d like encouragement in the process, reach out to me, I’d love to chat!

Postscript: I hope you will take me up on my offer!

I created a product over a dozen years ago, Plan Your Fun! In essence, it’s a self-coaching program with an evergreen, week’s calendar. In the booklet, I share ideas for making space in your life to engage in play. The wall calendar is the place to post your plans for play, in this case, creativity, during the week—so that you can anticipate the events and then savor them… While the product is still on sale at www.coachingtoys.com, I am happy to offer it for free to anyone who contacts me (free shipping in the US, let’s chat about shipping outside the US).

Assuming that I still have a skill from years ago… and finding out that I’m rusty!

Have you ever had a situation in which you go to do a skill that you learned long ago, practiced, enjoyed, and see as part of your identity, and it’s like… you’re starting at the beginning again?

Just the other day my daughter and I decided to go to the town tennis courts, just down the street from us. While I still have my tennis racket, I can’t remember the last time I picked it up — over a dozen years ago easily. But I grew up playing tennis with my dad, that’s how we’d spend our spring, summer, and fall weekend mornings at the little, unassuming tennis club in Pleasantville, New York. I loved those early mornings, being out in the sunshine, playing hard, being in competition with my dad. Playing tennis with my dad, my husband, my daughter, going to the US Open every year (except this year), watching all the major tournaments on television, considering myself a tennis player—it’s a part of my identity.

When I picked up the racket and started striking the balls, the results were comical! It felt so familiar to stand on the court and anticipate playing—I loved it! When I tossed the ball to hit it to my expectant partner, it felt like I had never played before! My eye-hand coordination was so off! My wrist was wobbly, my sense of power and ability to hit the ball in the court, much less place it where I wanted to go, had deserted me. I marveled at my lack of ability. Happily, we were equally bad, and we just laughed and laughed about it.

As time went on and I stepped back from what I thought I knew about how to do this and approached the task as a beginner again, I saw progress. It took being shaken out of my habit (of tossing the ball in the air and then hitting it, to bouncing it and hitting it), to make me stop and think and therefore do better.

Truth be told, It was with a bit of gentle prodding from my daughter to bounce the ball before hitting it over the net—a technique that I saw it as too basic for my skills—that made me think about how I was doing what I was doing.

What about you?

How do your habits and expert mindset get in the way of seeing how things are in the moment?

I had another experience this morning as I was drawing an example for a colleague. I had drafted an example over the weekend but couldn’t find the slip of paper so I thought I would try it again. It was a combination of two icons. I wanted to dash it off and show it to her, so I just started drawing. I didn’t think of my mantra when I am in my Bikablo trainer role, which is, “size, sequence, and proportion.” So as you can guess my first two drafts didn’t look the way I saw them in my mind’s eye. I needed to slow down and get conscious about my process… then my drawing became close to my vision.

These experiences are such pointed reminders of how easy it is to glide along with our notions of who we are and how we do our work when in fact, when we take the time to look at how we do what we do, we can find new ways of seeing and doing.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki

 

Getting Un-Stuck!

What do you do when you’re stuck?

I was stuck the other day…

I took part in an online class, Day Schildkret’s offering on impermanent earth art, and found myself blocked—unable to move forward because of my preconceived notion of what I should be doing/creating.

Day’s beautiful work is symmetrical—and his creations often look like a kaleidoscope though they are made from petals, leaves shells, stones, and more. I entered my design stage of the workshop experience with a vision of what the final product should look like.

The vision of my goal got in the way of moving forward!

When I stepped back and looked at my materials, I felt symmetry would be impossible, certainly in the time I had to complete the task, maybe in any amount of time. With that revelation in mind, I turned to another aspect of the guidelines we had been given, and that was to think of to whom or to what I was dedicating the artwork. With a new lens for viewing the task, I had another avenue for interacting with my materials. I shifted my focus to meaning and not structure, and it led me to my final creation. (If you’re curious about to whom I dedicated my creation, visit my instagram page, @jillig to learn more. While you’re on insta, check out Day’s work too, @morningaltars.)

 

What about you?

When were you last stuck? How did you work through it to a successful result? As you reflect on how to move forward, does your approach depend on what kind of stuck you are? Perhaps you are

  1. feeling anxious about how to start a project
  2. a conflict with a colleague, friend, or family member
  3. a technique you are seeking to improve or master

In reflecting on just these few examples, I notice that I would use different approaches to get unstuck

  1. I’d work to move through the overwhelm at the beginning a project by referring to processes I’d used in the past or by taking a small step on the path that I have visualized. (I like George Kao’s thoughts on visualization of the process and not just the goal, in his book, Joyful Productivity)
  2. I would work to find some common ground with the person I’m having a conflict with, as suggested in one of my favorite books, Dynamic Relationships by Jacqueline Stavros and Cheri Torres. The focus on Appreciative Inquiry in relationships is powerful!
  3. In the instance of working with a challenge in drawing or facilitating with a group, I would keep putting myself in the situation of having to consciously practice new behaviors. Sometimes I ask a colleague for observations and reactions about what I’m doing well and how I might enhance my work.

While there’s a saying, “How you do one thing is how you do everything” that’s not true of me… for me, it’s more nuanced. I endeavor to discover what the circumstances need and create differentiated responses.

What are your thoughts?

And if all this chat about a new lens for viewing you, your work, or your relationships feels important and worth your time and energy, please reach out to me for a complimentary call about my Appreciative Coaching work. I believe that this work and play of how we see ourselves, others, and the world is one of the most crucial and exciting challenges we all face.

What inspires you?

This very question leapt into my mind when I viewed the beautiful impermanent earth art work of Day Schildkret, on instagram in the wee hours of the morning yesterday. I’ve seen his work before and I am awestruck.

The experience led me to think about what inspires me, and by that, I mean moving away from what people generally say—heroic actions, speeches, quotations—to what is really meaningful, powerful, and energizing for me.

My shortlist of inspiring experiences from the past few weeks

Visual beauty

  • Mayumi Oda, Japanese American visionary, read about her work here
  • A particular walk in the evening in my neighborhood
  • Dave Schildret’s work, morningaltars on Instagram. I am taking his workshop this Sunday, perhaps I will see you (on Zoom) there?

 

Writing/visual imagery

  • When Death Comes, by Mary Oliver, (find it here)
  • At Home, from The House of Belonging, by David Whyte

 

Generosity

A colleague making time in her day to support me in new learning— and going even beyond our conversation to preparing information for me and following up with more ideas and advice.

 

Kindness

Bearing witness to people’s pain and strength. I am taking the course, Living Fearlessly: Facing the Inevitable, which is about preparing for dying and death though it is really all about living too. I am struck by the deep listening, caring, and compassion that people, who were strangers before they met in this course, show to each other.  If you are curious about the course you will find more information here.

Loving kindness meditation, helping me be more compassionate and caring toward myself, family, friends, those I find difficulty connecting with, and the world…

May you be safe

May you be happy

May you be healthy

May you live with ease

Learn more from Sharon Salzberg, here

 

I’d LOVE to learn what inspires you in your everyday life.

What circumstances have arisen recently that surprise, delight, excite, and stimulate you?

I hope you will get in touch with me so that I may learn what inspires you. Perhaps we’ll even start a conversation!