I did an experiment in the summer of 2017 and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If this little gig can be described in a few broad strokes or a hashtag (as is mandatory these days) then #DeliberatelyCreative was the theme that fueled it. At the core of it, this simply involved me taking 8 consecutive Fridays off from work and using that time to intentionally build creative routines in my lifestyle. Now in year 2021, in a post-pandemic world, as the boundaries of workplace and home have blurred in a significant way, I find myself revisiting this experience and attempting to redefine it.
Here, I have arranged my thoughts in this two-part series. In Part 1 below, I will cover what the experiment was, the motivation behind it, and what I accomplished. In Part 2, I will talk about how I did the planning and what opportunities I see through this kind of exploration. I will also cover answers to the questions my friends asked me at the time. I invite you to join me on this journey.
What was the experiment?
As I mentioned, logistically, this included me taking a few Fridays off from work. Below is what I had posted when I kicked this off:
This week is the beginning of a little experiment I have unleashed on myself this Summer. The idea is to intentionally engage in creative activities, recharge along the way and explore what a long-term creative living means. All of this hopefully without fearing the slightly loaded word “creativity”.
- It is not going to be about producing amazingly original or artistic work but rather a casual and fun exploration. Imagine a pre-schooler dipping her fingers in blue, red, purple paints as the art teacher shakes their head in mild disapproval. It could be something like that. I am excited.
- This is going to involve me slowing down the spinning hamster wheel of work a bit, so that is exciting as well. Actually also a tad scary.
- Since everything starts and ends with lists, this experiment will likely involve creating lists. Or not.
What was my motivation behind it?
At the time, I had gone through some introspection and had identified that creativity was an underlying theme that generally made me joyous. I spent some time deliberating and reading to see if there was a particular ‘passion’ I cared for. I realized that I actually enjoyed being a ‘multipotentialite’, someone whose interests span multiple areas. A term and a concept that I have since embraced and adored. I also realized there were many creative activities I had engaged in over the past years but I was not able to sustain them or take up bigger chunks at a time. I was feeling a bit irritated about this and wanted to shake things a bit.
What did I accomplish?
With 8 Fridays off and plenty of weekend time over a total duration of 10 weeks, this is what I was able to accomplish:
- I learned a semi-classical Indian dance choreography on a beautiful song and performed it successfully. This involved quite a bit of effort on my part as the last time I had tried this dance style was in my early teens. The best part was that the teacher was my friend and we had a great time hanging out.
- In parallel, I revived my old love of Salsa dancing and completed the beginner session at Born2Dance studio.
- I completed an online 5-week long course on writing: Writing for Young Readers: Opening the Treasure Chest. This was my first attempt at understanding the art of writing and I thoroughly enjoyed the process. Hanging out (virtually) with some of the creative minds and learning their approach was also a treat in itself.
- As part of the course, I wrote and edited three short stories and published them on my blog. I also ended up writing a few other small pieces.
- I was interested in studying the ingredients of creativity in more depth and decomposing it. I managed to read a couple of books and listen to plenty of TED talks and NPR podcasts on this topic. A book that I enjoyed in particular was Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I condensed this learning into a 12-pointer plan for introducing long-term creative living. Remember I said there would be lists? Oh, there were many. Not to mention spreadsheets and calendars.
- I worked hard to fix some areas of domestic chores that needed my attention and decluttering. This was important to make sure that my mental space was available for my creative engagements.
- I spent quite some time researching volunteering options for my son, and also completed a volunteering activity with him.
What was the ripple effect?
Some things that weren’t on my plan initially but ended up happening naturally:
- In that creative and happy zone, I ended up doing many summer activities including family outings, lectures and concerts. One of the highlights was An Evening with Neil Gaiman.
- This experiment had a bit of ripple effect at work. I ended up on a team that was developing a framework for solutioning and I took the lead on introducing innovation as part of it.
- I started a course ‘Act on Climate’, which I eventually finished. I didn’t know this at the time but this truly set the foundation for the next years where I would implement many actions within my home and take part in the community dialogues. Eventually last year, I did plenty of research and exploration at the intersection of climate, technology & innovation, design and change behavior.
- I maintained a journal and posted tidbits on social media occasionally. This intrigued a few friends along the way and they reached out to learn more. I will attempt to capture some of this dialogue in Part 2.
Finally, through this experience, I gained a deeper understanding that creativity can be learned, taught and embedded in one’s lifestyle. I also ended up broadening my definition of creativity. This set the tone for my personal purpose statement and gave me a sharper focus. Just with 8 additional days and some planning, it ended up being a summer of fun, activity and #IntangibleJoys.
For those who are curious about how I planned for this or want to try your own experiment, check out Part 2. It also covers the relevance of this thought process in a post-pandemic world where workstyles are rapidly evolving and people are looking for a more purposeful living.