Monday, March 17, 2014

Spouting Ideas On A Snow Day

Perched on a barstool, slowly and painfully realizing that the padding on the seat has seen better days; I am half draped across the island, listening to Coldplay's Magic and enjoying the aural landscape, with a hopeful bouquet of spring flowers six inches from my face.

I'm working.

It's another snowscape Monday, and here we are again on our umpteenth day off from school. I'm laboring from home, because even if I could get out (and honestly, I could; Tony left hours ago and my mother-in-law is out and about as well. Obviously, it's not that bad...) - even if I could, at my heart and soul I'm a teacher. And a mom. "Snow day" means stay home.

I'm fortunate that I can do just that, and thankful for the technology that makes possible virtual meetings and instantaneous communication. So I'm doing laundry and reading and cooking grilled cheese for my boys and listening to potential songs and making phone calls and casting vision for a video shoot and meandering. My brain is wandering from place to place, and I know that these circumstances are the creative ingredients where the soup begins to simmer. It's important, this meandering that looks useless. Things are stirring inside.

Shot from this morning's meeting
We had a short creative retreat this weekend; several of the people with whom I work most closely gathered together to talk and think, learn more about one another and determine how to best serve our community with our partnerships and team efforts. Part of the discussion included a look at Stephen Brewster's take on collaborative teamwork; he advocates characterizing the contributions of individuals to a creative process as FLAVORS, and identifies those he thinks are essential. Incredibly enlightening, I saw myself most clearly as a Conceptualist.

The Conceptualist processes and passes on their ideas and innovative thoughts to others. Conceptualists are dreamers...Conceptualists often are solutions people – problem solvers that excel in think tanks. They have a unique way of making ideas appear out of nowhere. They can walk into a meeting, sit down, and – with little or no notice – begin to spout ideas...They are great at beginning the creative process. Conceptualists make it rain ideas. 

Yeah, that's me. I spout ideas. It's like having an illness or a disease and having the doctor finally take you into the office and say, "Look, this is what you have...you're not going to die, but it is going to complicate your life if you don't manage it well." So finally - after decades - I have learned to embrace this wandering, this pointless moving from room to room, literally and figuratively (you should see inside my brain...), as what I do best. At least in terms of my current work responsibilities, it's functional and makes me a working part of the team I serve. I spout ideas, and they come when synapses fire to connect the dots between the motion of folding underwear, reading news stories on CNN, devouring Esther Emery's latest post and listening to JohnnySwim on the best Spotify playlist ever.

It doesn't look like work, but it is. And it doesn't feel like work, but it is; and boy oh boy, do I realize how fortunate I am.

There are drawbacks to this creative FLAVOR I inhabit:

The downside to a conceptualist is that, as amazing as they are at creating ideas, they really struggle to execute. The process and management of the idea drains them...

Anybody who has ever worked with me, shout hallelujah. And amen.

That's how I function, and recognizing that strength - as well as the weakness - makes me better. It helps me absorb these unstructured moments at home as an incredible privilege and a wide open gift of space, one that I enjoy in the present and appreciate for the good things it will bring to my productivity tomorrow and for the rest of the week.

But hey - for the moment, we have two inches of snow on the ground, it's 28 degrees, and I've got most of the laundry folded. My boys cheered when I handed them perfect grilled cheese sandwiches, and they're playing video games. The house is warm. Our houseguest floats up and down the basement stairs, bringing grace into every room he enters.

Last night I listened to this story from the TED Radio Hour; one segment explored the notion of happiness being only obvious and embraceable when one is in the moment. Multi-tasking, it seems, is the enemy of joy.

Anyone surprised?

I am the queen of multi-tasking, in my daily routine; and yet, as someone who can easily identify as a conceptualist in terms of team and work responsibilities, the spiral of multiple tasks calling for my attention is obviously not a good place to reside.

I need a word for what it means to "multi idea"; to wander around the house with multiple streams of influence, to layer ideas and concepts and creative moments into something that simply is, that needs no "tasking".

Or maybe we have that word already; maybe it's close at hand and perfectly obvious:

snow day


Go listen to that TED Talk - it's excellent.

Find my Spotify playlist - it's called FRESH - by finding and following me on Spotify; I'm bethstoddard, and I give loads of credit to my kids for any hip and cool music.

Find Stephen Brewster here; if you like creative thinking, you'll love what he has to say. 

Have a nice day.

4 comments:

spookyrach said...

I will never hear Snow Day without thinking of this. :) Sounds like you have some good stuff going on in your meandering head. Good luck!

Susan Lloyd said...

hallelujah. And amen

Lori said...

I didn't know they had TED radio. Is it a podcast?
I love TED talks.

I love snow days... despite the fact we don't have them. we have an equivalent in the winter... a summer like day smack in the middle of winter. A day when it's just perfect... and you feel it from your soul to your toes... and it does the same thing to your brain.. it fires it up. I walk to quiet mine.. today I listened to my iPod.. a rare thing when I walk... but listening to my two boys singing in my ear. That take me to another place.. even though I'm already walking in the water. A song came on, loud and always make me want to dance... like any 12 year old would, I took right to the edge of the waterline and jumped in with both feet... YES! I felt so good... my head back laughing and I really wanted to dance... I'll listen to the talk... chances are if you like, I will too....
May your snow days soon end because 'little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter..."
I'll check spotify. I'm not good with these computer radio things.

annie said...

I love what happens when you have time to "wander" a little bit. I need some more of that kind of time in my life.