Drawing, or ‘doodling’ as Sunni Brown describes, is a crucial tool to help solve complicated business problems, thinking creatively, and aid recall.
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It’s been a wild summer ride around here at Drawing Down the Vision. Adam and Amy have seen a rapid rate of change both professionally and personally in recent months and as we head into the more pensive autumn season, we are sifting through our experiences and new opportunities to see how it all fleshes out.
While Adam was busy moving to a new geographical location for work, I, Amy, took a few months off from blogging, teaching and art-making to go on what can only be described as a rather radical sabbatical. Professional and personal travels took me to the desert of the southwest, the windswept coast of New England, across The Pond to Ireland, and many, many wonderful spots in between. All the while, I had my trusty sketchbook close at hand to collect my seemingly random thoughts, drawings and experiences.
It’s important to get out of the usual routine that ties us to the day to day. Sometimes we are only afforded the odd ten minutes to hit the reset button. Occasionally, we get the opportunity for more. Stefan Sagmeister’s year off dramatically changed how he approached his design business and my summer sabbatical has been the same for me. Stepping back from the workaday treadmill can bring into full relief what is and what isn’t working in the studio.
I have been able to distill from my many experiments and projects the ones that may actually ‘stick’ in the long run. I’m not blindly grinding away at the ‘wrong work.’ I have been thinking a lot about where to put my limited time and energy to avoid feeling so scattered, which I did before this summer’s travels.
Author/ blogger Michael Knobbs writes about this phenomenon in his blog Sustainably Creative. While I am not limited by any chronic conditions, I do have a full plate between familial commitments, hourly work (which pays routinely), art work (which pays only sporadically) and a whole host of personal, feed-the-soul kind of stuff. What to trim and what to keep are more identifiable now.
Another important thing I re-learned over this summer’s travels was the importance of alone-time. It is so easy to get trapped into responding to every last vie for my attention. Then, suddenly, I realize I haven’t spent time in my own company for days or even weeks! Jacqueline Smith at Smart Solitude has some wonderful blog entries with gentle reminders as to how important time alone can be, especially for those following a creative path.
Synthesizing these lessons from time spent out of my element has created a bit of a sea change for me in life and work. We are interested in hearing about others’ adventures and how they affect one’s overall approach to the day to day. Look forward to some guest posts!!!
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One of the most powerful exercises we use in our Drawing Down the Vision workshops is the “life list” exercise.
The ‘life list’ is what most people refer to as “the bucket list”, or “what I’d like to accomplish before I die.” What we do differently is ask workshop participants to put drawn images to these goals and aspirations. This iconographic approach to life goals makes them that much more tangible and therefore, that much more attainable. A visceral image is one step closer to actuality than a word.
In our hurried world, not enough time is spent analyzing our chronic goals, until, often, it’s too late. But a New Orleans artist, Candy Chang, is changing this with her interactive installation “Before I die…” on an abandoned building.
I encourage you to read the article and consider what your life’s important work is. Even better, find images that represent these goals. Whether they are drawn or found images, collect them and consider them often.
After all, we only get this life once. Make the most of it.
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We all have daily rituals.
They may be structured by a calendar, or by rules. You may follow a set schedule, or you may just believe something like, ‘everything in moderation, including moderation.’
Here is a contrast of five daily rituals practiced by some famous creatives:
THE ONE WHO LOVED CLOCKWORK RIGIDITY.
CS Lewis. Writer and thinker CS Lewis had a very clear schedule of his day, with activities such as work, walking, meals, tea, and socializing down to the very hour they should be done. He even describes when beer should be enjoyed (not at 11:00 for fear of running over the allotted 10 minutes for the break).
Alexander Dumas. Whether or not he had heard the adage about keeping the doctor away, the writer of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, Dumas started each day eating an apple under the Arc de Triomphe.
Franz Kafka. Kafka started his day at his job at the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute from 8:30 to 2:30. Afterward he would lunch until 3:30, then sleep until 7:30. Upon waking, he would do exercises and have dinner with his family. He began writing at 11:00 in the evening, usually working until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning–sometimes later.
DRIVEN BY A MUSE.
Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway described his writing ritual as starting just as the sun began rising, then working straight through until whatever he had to say was said. He likens completing his morning of writing to making love to someone you love–being both empty and fulfilled at the same time. Upon completing that morning’s work, he would wait until the next morning to begin again, going over his ideas in his head and holding on to the anticipation of starting again the next day.
ONE WHO NEEDED TO TAKE HIMSELF SERIOUSLY, AND THEN NOT.
John Cheever. American writer John Cheever wore his only suit of clothing each morning as he rode the elevator down to a basement room where he worked. Upon arriving there, he would undress to his underwear, hang up his suit, and get to work. He would dress to go back upstairs for lunch and again at the end of his day when he would ride the elevator back home.
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After participating in a panel on ‘The Portfolio Career’ at the Arts Enterprise National Summit, I felt a need to share some practical advice on how I find more of the right work at P&G and in the ‘real world.’ Here’s how:
So.. you’re freelancing… or in human terms… you have some skill you want to use to make some extra cash. But no one is buying it!
Well, don’t just sit there, find someone who can use your help and PROPOSE to help them.
Your job is no longer to do XYZ.
Your job is now to:
Here’s a bit more practical advice on getting this done…
Creativity comes through restraint… find a way to make the most of the resources and skills you already have.
Here is more thinking on how to sell what you already do.
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Amy and I are back from the Arts Enterprise Summit in Kansas City. It was so much more than a conference…
Back in the real world, I found myself explaining the experience to a colleague. This event was special not because of the content of the slide decks or the caliber of the speakers, but rather the combination of all the people. This was the intersection of a network passionate about business, design, art, music, and everything in between.
The edge between all those worlds is where the action is… this is where you foster Diversity of Thought, the ability to see the same thing in many different ways, simultaneously.
As the summit was full of practicing musicians (more than I’ve ever spent time with!), I had the opportunity to explore how the musician thinks, the struggles their working community faces, and how they overcome it all to create a working piece of art and help the community grow.
Peter Witte, the Dean of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, had an enlightening quote about the growth of this creative organization: “Through music-making we learn to listen, to accompany, to support, to empathize, to work together… all non-verbally.”
Every organization could use this kind of perspective.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to sit at the table with business professionals, freelance designers, visual artists, and practicing musicians to discuss creative output and bringing new ideas to the world… do it. This event was a pinnacle example of whole-brain thinking… so many quick wits, so many interesting perspectives, so many memorable jokes!
Now, I must get back to training for karaoke next year.
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This weekend sees the Drawing Down the Vision team heading to Kansas City to attend and present to the 2nd annual Arts Enterprise Summit. Adam and Amy will both be participating in a number of discussion panels on the nature of creativity as a focal point in the future of many disciplines in business and the arts. We will also be presenting a special version of the Drawing Down the Vision workshop to summit attendees who will have the opportunity to participate in some of the exercises we use and to hear about our latest research in the relationship between drawing and how we think. We are looking very forward to meeting others interested in the nature and future of creative thinking. If you are anywhere near the Kansas City area, it’s not too late to attend the summit. We’d love to see you there!!
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Recently, the Drawing Down the Vision team led a pro-bono workshop for 24 volunteer teenagers in the American Red Cross ‘Leadership Development Center‘ in Cincinnati. The young people had been involved with the program in years past and are now responsible for developing the overnight leadership conference for their new incoming peers.
Amy and Adam introduced the teens to many of the exercises used in Drawing Down the Vision. It was tremendously exciting to guide them through the process of thinking differently with a sketchbook, defining short and long term goals, and embarking on a new form of self-exploration. By exploring some of their broad personal goals in their new sketchbooks, students began to open up to what aspirations they might have for their work with the Red Cross. Many of the students enjoyed some of the exercises so much they plan to utilize them as ice-breakers at this summer’s conference.
Diana Wood, director of the LDC program has this to say: “I am sure that I have not yet seen the end of ways that the workshop impacted these students… the ways in which they will think about and approach the many tasks that are before them.”
This is the beauty of embarking on a journal-based thinking process. The ways in which disparate information percolates in a sketchbook can provide new connections that lead to exciting new ideas. Congratulations to the future leaders at the American Red Cross. It was a pleasure to work with them!
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Amy, my partner here at Drawing Down the Vision, shared a fantastic read with me this week: Solitude and Leadership. I’d like to share a taste here with you, but would greatly prefer if you read it in its entirety. I do it no justice.
William Deresiewicz, a former Yale professor, addressed the Plebe (Freshman) class at West Point Military Academy in October of 2010. He spoke about the crucial and difficult role of solitude in developing as a leader.
Mr. Deresiewicz derided the false image of the conservative, robotic West Point grads to ensure that is what they do not become. They are training to enter one of the largest bureaucracies there is. He exalted how in order to be successful leaders on the world stage, they must be true independent thinkers who know what they stand for, and fight for it. In essence, the larger the bureaucracy you enter, the more of an independent thinker it is your responsibility to become.
It seems counter-intuitive. Solitude and Leadership? It flies in the face of the common phrase, ‘a leader is nothing without followers.’ But flying in the face of the ‘common’ and accepted when appropriate is exactly what Mr. Deresiewicz advocates we must learn. We must not become expert hoop-jumpers. We must become confident, focused leaders. We must learn what we stand for. This is a lonesome journey if done right.
But how can they, and how can we, become those independent thinkers and successful leaders? For starters…
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