Several weeks ago I was handed a mysterious orange book when I registered for the Innovation Institute’s Think Like an Artist program at the McColl Center. It was a journal full of blank pages. As a writer, there is nothing more intimidating than a blank page… much less a hundred of them bound together.
I put that book on the counter and stared at it every day, wondering what I would write in it. And then I got my first assignment, which was to analyze what feeds my creativity, and what hinders it. I was relieved to finally tackle that first blank page. I thought this would be a breeze.
That said, I had no idea what to expect from the Think Like an Artist program. Which is a hard place to be for a person who does not like surprises.
I prepared myself for “the unexpected” in my usual way. I tried not to think about it. Which meant that I pretty much thought about it all the time. Particularly in the middle of the night, when everything is a little scarier.
But the first morning of the two-day program finally arrived. I put on my comfy clothes and my cowboy boots, which gave me a little swagger of confidence even though I wasn’t feeling it, and I headed to the McColl Center. I was happy to recognize a few faces, and have conversations with people as nervous and curious as I was about what the next two days would hold.
We sat in a circle for the icebreaker but instead of the usual name/career/tell us why you’re here we were asked to select an object from a wide array of choices on a table that was wheeled in like a gurney. We then spoke about that object as a metaphor for what we were hoping to gain from the program. I chose an oversized pair of sunglasses, because I was hoping for insight. A chance to figure out what has been holding me back. The reason you haven’t seen a blog from me since August.
From there the choreography of our day led us to learn about artist Shaun Cassidy’s creative process and how disruption figures prominently in the progression of his work. Disruption was the theme and the intention of Day 1, which we experienced as we did our first project.
That project taught me two things. One: when you shift your frame – your focus – just a quarter inch in any direction the view changes. And two – disruption can be a powerful, discombobulating tool that can ultimately make your work better and more meaningful. It gives you the opportunity to think about things a different way or take a different approach, even if it doesn’t feel like an opportunity at the time.
Over the course of the day we worked in groups of two and then five to do team projects. I felt hindered by something I already knew about myself – I am an introvert, and an internal processor. I need time to gather information and chew on it before I can spit something back out, and we had to move so quickly that my process was too slow and my input was meager.
As the day wrapped up and we got our homework assignment, I found myself feeling inadequate and frustrated… and a little angry. As we departed the McColl Center, another participant patiently listened to my exhausted whining about the homework being too hard to accomplish in an evening. And he said “It doesn’t have to be hard. The answers are inside you.” And he was right. They were.
The homework turned out to be just what I needed to get my head around Day 1, and to learn from it. As I was writing about my struggles in preparation for Day 2, I had the epiphany that the process was working. Disruption was leading me on a path of discovery.
What did I discover? I learned that I need to trust myself more. Let my intuition have a louder voice. And it is OK to be wrong. I’ve just got to keep showing up.
I had a chance to explore that more in Day 2.
In hindsight I can truthfully say that Day 1 was not a breeze. And I would do it all over again.