Where creativity grows

Category: Exercises

Every week, I will post exercises for you to practice getting into a creative mindset.

The Personal Offsite

My husband and I are avid fans of the Tim Ferriss podcast where in each episode, Tim interviews world-class performers from eclectic areas to tease out the tactics, tools, and routines you can use. His wide ranging conversations include favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more. In early 2019 Tim interviewed Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism the Disciplined Pursuit of Less. 

While their conversation covered a myriad of topics, my husband and I honed in on the idea of a “quarterly personal offsite.” You are probably familiar with the concept of the annual review—  an opportunity to reflect on your performance over the last year and set goals for the upcoming year.  Despite their ubiquity, few people find the annual review helpful.  What if you dedicated some time on a regular basis away from home and work to check in with where you have been and where you are going in your life? McKeown calls it a quarterly personal offsite based on the idea that “every three months you take three hours to identify the three things you want to accomplish over the next three months.”

We were all in. Our goal was to evaluate where we were at in our lives and look forward without the distractions of our every day lives. I found us a quaint AirBnb in Durango, Iowa. The description promised the perfect place to get away from the world and unwind. Now just to set the ground rules for the weekend. 

  • No technology. Even if we did not come away with any clear direction forward we knew that a digital detox would be beneficial. The cabin was remote enough that there was no cell service or wifi.
  • Although the cabin did have sattelite TV, we did not want to fall into our old routine of wasting hours watching shows.
  • This was not a vacation. We were not going somewhere to sightsee or dine out. Our cabin had a small kitchen and we brought the fixings for simple meals. We would spend our time reading, writing, talking, meditating, doing yoga, hiking, or relaxing. 
  • We brought stacks and stacks of notebooks, post-it notes and pens. 

As soon as we arrived we knew we had selected the perfect location. The cabin was remote enough to feel like we were away from the world, but well appointed so that we were comfortable. We both did a lot of reading, writing and talking about our lives— where we were and where we wanted to go. After hours and hours of writing, I started to transfer my main ideas to post-it notes so that I could more easily sort and organize what I had uncovered. Tom followed a similar system. After two days we felt reenergized and extremely hopeful about the future. It was absolutely one of the best decisions we have ever made. We had clear action items to address when we returned home and a promise to reconvence in three months to check in again. 

About six months later, we decided to schedule another off-site to a different location. In the months since our initial “event” we had made a lot of changes in our lives. We were much more positive and upbeat about how life was going. That made the workshopping aspect of the weekend a bit more challenging, because we felt we were on the right path already. This weekend was less successful. We returned home a day early and resumed our lives.

Fast forward to last summer (2019) when we went on a driving trip around the Great Lakes. It was fourth of July weekend and our home for the next two days was a beautiful cabin in Chassell, Michigan. As soon as we walked into the cabin, we decided to put our vacation on pause for a few days and have another personal offsite. This one was much more similar to the first one— lots of writing, reading, talking and self-discovery. I honestly think the second one was a fluke and perhaps much too forced. 

What we have learned from the personal offsites:

  1. Taking the time to make your life is a priority is incredibly powerful. 
  2. If you get nothing out of the offsite other than a digital detox it is worthwhile. 
  3. Selecting your location with the intention of making the most of the experience is vital. These trips are not about sightseeing, dining out or even adventures.
  4. It helped to sort through all that was overwhelming us and focus on the 3-4 items that were most important to us over the next 2-3 months.  We left with clear action items.
  5. We left incredibly reenergized and most importantly more hopeful about the future.

My goals for the weekend were not creativity minded in general, but the positive effects of the weekend would have still held true. Checking out of the universe for a few days and getting away from the grind absolutely will free your mind and allow it to resume making unique connections between ideas. Stepping away from the constant barrage of negativity will give your heart and your mind some much needed rest and an opportunity to revitalize itself. You have an opportunity to hone your focus for your future giving you a much greater feeling of control.

I cannot recommend this experience highly enough!

Ladies Drawing Night

Life is funny how it brings people together just when they need them. My best friend from middle school recently moved back to Illinois and I was so excited to have her back in my area. She is an amazing artist and a dear friend! Then COVID19 hit and even though she has less than 30 miles away rather than the 2000 she had been while living in Cali, you never would have known. I’m a terrible person on the phone, I just have never been one to yammer on the phone. I do one video a chat a month with my regular group of girls, but that’s it. I kept trying to figure out how we could figure out a way to have art time together virtually. 

Enter stage right Ladies Drawing Night Out. The idea is that a group of ladies get together pick a theme and then everyone draws and chat together. Brilliant! We set up a zoom call and were going to give it a shot. I am obsessed with sunflowers, so I threw out the idea that we both draw that. Julia was game for the idea. 

We met up on a Monday afternoon and after a bit of chatting to catch up on life, we got ready to start our drawings. Julia decided to throw an extra curve ball into the mix when she suggested we draw with our non-dominant hand. A few choice words came out because I thought she was crazy to suggest it. Afterall I can hardly draw with my dominant hand! But, the conversation I had with my friend at school about working on letting things go was still fresh in my mind. I agreed and started to work. 

First of all Julia is so crazy talented that her “less than perfect” sunflower looked like something you would see on a cool hipster t-shirt in a corner shop. Mine did not. However, I was really amazed by how meditative the process was and how I was actually able to draw something that indeed looked like a sunflower. Once I let go my fear of not being perfect (as if it would have been perfect with my right hand!) I was able to relax and really enjoy the process.

Check out the book. It gave me all sorts of inspiration for creating a ladies art club. Think book club, but instead of chatting about books, we make art together. As we speak, my husband is building the last section of my table for the Oodlearium. If we could just rid the world of Covid, the Oodlearium would be the perfect spot for said club. Soon!

30 Circles Thursday

Today we focus on quantity rather than quality. Download and print the 30 circles template. Set a timer on your phone for three minutes. Your goal is to fill in as many circles as you can. When you are done, share them on our socials so we can see what you came up with. 

Exercise- 1 Subject 10 Photos

The goal of this exercise is to work on your observation skills. Pick one subject and your goal is to make 10 different photos of it. Look at it from different angles. Pick it up. Turn it upside down. Look at it from the top of a 10 foot pole. You do not need a fancy camera for this exercise. Use the camera on your phone and you’ll be all set. Create a quickie collage of your images with your favorite app and share it on our socials.

5 minutes spent on our patio with my camera on my phone. Collage created using Adobe Spark.

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