With the holiday week upon us, I am spending the week using my blog to reflect and manifest as part of the #Reverb10 initiative. When possible, I’m trying to reflect my posts back to careers, but assessing your current state and setting goals for the future is really about more than just the mechanics of how you spend your day from 9 to 5. I am a firm believer that we have one life, not a “professional life” and a “personal life.” The more we try to separate them, the further we get away from figuring out what we want for an integrated, peaceful and productive existence that we actively design. Your most personal reflections will impact your career.
This post is about increasing professional creativity through using personal time and effort to “make” things.
December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)
Searching for My Right Brain
One of my 2010 resolutions was to participate in an artistic activity because I felt out of touch with that side of me. On creativity quizzes, I always score as “whole-brained”- an equal split between being right-brained (creativity) and left-brained (logic). Reflecting on my childhood, this assessment does not surprise me at all. I’ve never been good at drawing, painting, or music, but always loved writing. Growing up, I spent hours creating stories in notebooks and thought I would be the next S.E. Hinton. My sophomore year of high school, I submitted a story to the now defunct ‘TEEN magazine called “Hanging Out With Patrick” about a girl who realized that she was in love with her neighbor. They bought it and eventually published a heavily edited version in December 1992 under the title “More than Friends?” and with all the Portuguese surnames of the characters changed to Smith and Jones. That same year, I won an award from a club at Brown University for creative writing. I remember feeling this unexpected relief after both events, almost like closure. During spring 1993, a few months before I took off for college, I spent a day hidden in my bedroom and wrote a personal sequel to Hanging Out With Patrick/More Than Friends that did not end well for the characters. I picked up creative writing a few times over the years, usually having a great idea but never acting on it. It was as if I made a career change even before I started a career.
Around the same time, I took my SATs and scored very high on the math section, higher than the verbal. Teachers had told me my entire life that I was bad at math so I thought it was a fluke and took them again. Surprisingly it wasn’t a fluke. When I got to college, I enrolled in calculus over a foreign language and then became attracted to the linear and game-like word of policy studies and economics where I found success. Over the years, I stayed in that comfort zone, trying to incorporate creativity and big-picture thinking when I could. I loved writing the website copy at my old job, but I also wondered if I was really good at writing anyway.
Using My Left Brain to Make Things for Success
One of the fears I had about launching my new business was that while the big picture may come easy to me, I would struggle with daily creativity. Much of what I wanted to accomplish was through actively writing- blog posts, eCourses, and eBooks- not just coming up with ideas I wanted to write. I made a very left brained decision to actively place myself in a situation where I was forced to make or create something, hoping it would stimulate the creative parts of me and awaken that child in me that used to have such a great imagination.
In November, my good friend Niki and I took a class through Paint Along NYC. Paint Along NYC is a BYOB (always welcome) painting class where everyone paints a selected print with guidance from the instructor on how to use the colors and tools to make beauty on your canvas. At first, I was afraid it would feel like middle school art class to me and I would be a big failure at creating something presentable. But over some Pinot Noir, and excellent conversation, I created a painting with bright colors and flowers that was mine. I eventually hung my work in my new re-organized bedroom (see upcoming post on healing). The experience prompted me to add other creative projects to my 2011 calendar, including painting The Opportunities Project logo on a makeshift door to my home office. I’ve bought the stencil, canvas and paint and am now just waiting for the perfect January weekend.
I highly recommend Paint Along NYC to anyone looking to explore his or her creative side and I hope to go back and paint something new in spring 2011. Through December 31, they are having a sale where if you buy three gift certificates for classes, you get one class free. It sounds like a perfect day for four friends with a bottle of wine to “make” something that is theirs and indulge their creativity.