The Practice of Creativity

Paper of Color

Posted on: August 29, 2009

As I shared last week, I went to a SARK workshop. One of the best aspects of the workshop was her reminding us, the participants, to find joy and delight, in support of our creative projects and lives. The great thing about creative energy is that it tends to spill over into other parts of our lives. Indeed, if allowed, creative energy infuses our lives with new problem solving skills and new insights for mapping our everyday lives.
So, I left the workshop on Sunday, happy and inspired. I’m a college professor and this week classes have begun. As I sat down to finish up my syllabus and prepare for the week, it occurred to me that after a decade of teaching, I tend to do some of the same things on ‘the first day of class’. It also occurred to me that I always hand out my syllabi on white paper. Indeed, although I tend to think a great deal about ice-breakers for the class and creative ways to get to know students, I hadn’t ever really thought about how to make the physical appearance of the syllabus more interesting. I was astounded! Me, a writer and creativity coach–not ever thinking about any another color except white for syllabi. Where did I learn this? I’m almost positive that in my many years of schooling, I never received a syllabus on anything but white paper. I would have remembered! It is one of those things that I’m sure no professor even considers. Talk about doing something by rote!
One of my classes this semester is a research inquiry/research methods course. Having taught this class before, I know that students come in with many pre-conceived ideas about how hard it is going to be, or that they lack certain skills, or that it is going to be a painful experience. I always want to shift this perception immediately. Well, I realized that one way to do this was to copy my syllabus on ‘paper of color’. Nothing says fun and creativity than receiving an orange syllabus. So, I went about copying the syllabus on various shades of “paper of color”. I even took the liberty of using different types of color in one syllabus–so some syllabi were all purple, but others had sheets of orange, white and yellow.
I completely delighted myself in this task! I took the syllabi over to the class and handed it out. After introducing myself, I said, “There is good news. This is going to be a fun course. Research is about understanding one’s own passion, curiosity and creativity.” The students loved it and they loved the multicolored syllabi. They too, have never experienced receiving anything but white paper syllabi.
Thinking about why I had always copied my syllabus in a certain way was definitely a spill over from the creative investigating of the workshop. Most often we think that creativity is about particular big projects (finishing the novel, redecorating the house, starting a company). Sometimes it is, but just as often creativity is also about the small, daily ways that we delight ourselves by doing something differently. So, take a few moments and think about the taken-for-granted-tasks that you usually do. Is there a way to infuse more delight or surprise in them?
Do you always write your shopping list on old scrap paper? If so, what about using the inside of a gorgeous card? Or adding stickers? Or putting a favorite quote about food at the top of the list?
What about your answering machine and cellphone outgoing messages? When is the last time that you left a joke, a snippet of a song or a quote? For years, I loved changing my answering machine message. I used it as another creative outlet.
Let the next few days be an investigation in all the small ways that you can delight yourself through small everyday creative expression.


1 Response to "Paper of Color"

I love the idea of bringing color to the syllabus! What a tactile expression of the multi-hued qualities of the practice of research and diving into rabbit holes 🙂 /Lynne


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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

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