“If we learn to embrace our own messy, creative selves, we give others permission to do the same. We help create a world that is more welcoming of the creative spirit, and we make it possible to find a greater connection with others and with ourselves in the process.” –Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire, “10 Habits of Highly Creative People“
When my Designing Your Life partner Jocelyn told me that she wanted to prototype four evenings of collage and tea this summer, two things didn’t resonate with me.
Collage and tea.
I’m sort of pragmatic and minimalist, so accumulating materials for collage makes me a little nervous. I generally drink tea only when I’m ill.
But two other things did.
Trying out a new creative medium would give me the opportunity to test whether Mark Manson’s “5 Boring Ways to Become More Creative” actually worked.
If they worked…I could evaluate how becoming more creative (by attempting collage) affected my sense of well-being.
The article “Doing Something Creative Can Boost Your Well-Being” suggests that people who engaged in a creative activity the previous day reported an increased sense of flourishing: “an overall sense of meaning, purpose, engagement, and social connection.”
To test this hypothesis, I could:
1. Attend four evenings of CrafTea Friday.
2. Produce four collages.
3. Track next-day behaviors related to flourishing.
“If something is creative, it’s because it triggers some degree of surprise or excitement within us—it reconfigures existence in ways we could not have previously imagined.”–Mark Manson, “5 Boring Ways to Be More Creative“
The day after the first CrafTea Friday, I find myself on a mission to see the world through the eyes of an elk. Yeah, that sounds a little weird. Maybe I should back up to the collage activity itself for context.
I begin with a collection of pre-torn images, magazines, catalogues, etc. and a 5″ x 8″ card on which to paste them.
I select an image of a crowd outside of an art gallery where a banner proclaims “Wildlife Photographer of the Year.”
I select an image of an old-fashioned light bulb and another image of a man camping in the wilderness. Is it his dream to become a wildlife photographer?
No, he’s too big to fit on the card with the banner.
I reject the man and audition a wildlife image that might appear in the exhibit. What’s with the light bulb, though? Do I lose that?
What if one of the animals harbors a secret desire to capture its surroundings through photography? What images would that creature photograph?
I pursue my mission by finding new meaning in the local free libraries in front of people’s houses. I was never curious about the books they might contain because I use the Multnomah County Library for that. But now they’re a potential source of images. The randomness of contents that precluded me from searching them for reading ideas might be just what I need in coming up with subjects for elk photography!
The creative process of having a collage-in-progress increased my awareness of surroundings beyond the free libraries.
While I never minded accompanying E. to the local art supply store (coincidentally named Collage) because there was always something to look at, having my own work-in-progress drew me to notice some cute animal stickers by the checkout counter. Circle back to meaning: what if these were the images that the elk photographer wished to capture?
Subsequent engagement: taking a closer look at the weekly shopper flyer that usually went immediately from mailbox to recycling, raiding another free library for a copy of People magazine. I also took a closer look at past months’ images on the Audubon wall calendar.
An organizing inspiration for CrafTea Fridays was SoulCollage, “an easy, enjoyable, intuitive collage process for self-discovery and community.” So my experiment design doesn’t control for doing creative work in isolation.
But a couple members of my Saturday meditation group thought that CrafTea Fridays sounded like fun when I mentioned it the following morning.
At Zoom Game Night, I think I joked about hoping that I was better at collage after a particularly feeble attempt at Pictionary. A few people expressed interest in seeing my results.
Another conversation during Connection Hour about my initial lack of interest in either crafts or tea prompted someone to say that both crafts and tea sounded like fun, so I invited them to come to the next one.