It’s all in the cards

Slow learning sometimes gets ugly.

As I dig into a project, I often lose my way. Thoughts meander, new inspirations distract, themes overlap and diverge, metaphors expand and collide. Old wayward ideas have lusty affairs with hot young ideas. Best intentions reproduce, argue, cheat on past commitments, align with other inspirations and have messy seconds with other thoughts from other thinkers. My own thoughts battle with my own ideas.

Like any slow learner, it’s easy for me to get lost in my own learning.

I’ve found a cheap and effective power tool to help me find my way back.

I started using cards to organize thoughts about ten years ago while editing my meandering memoir, Looks Like Howard. I had written a lovely mass of loosely tangled vignettes. From this mess, I wanted to interweave a number of themes and nonlinear timelines into a narrative that would make sense. To do this, I used cards.

I distilled each story, theme, and idea to a single word or phrase that I wrote on a card. Then, I shuffled the cards around in about a thousand different ways until I found a sequence that would tell the story I wanted to tell. Without the cards, I don’t think I would have ever completed the project.

I soon found that cards are more than a tool for organizing writing. Cards can be magic.

I’ve used cards to

  • Collect bits of thought and information
  •  Ask interview questions (interviewees are given a card with one word topic printed on each card, and they choose which they’d like to talk about)
  • Organize thoughts and bits of information
  • Give as business cards
  • Inspire improvised movement
  • Trade as a collaborative cultural performance: Artist trading cards
  • Transform ordinary to-do lists and reminders to something inspirational
  • Tell me what to do next

Why Cards?  Why not something else? Unlike digital screen images, or –heaven forbid–sticky notes, handmade cards become a durable, physical, tangible artifact. I can hold them in my hand, put them in my pocket, shuffle them, lay them out, give them away.

I play with various plans and structures and maps. Sure, I could do this on the computer, but with the cards somehow it’s more fun.

When I make my own cards, I find the small format forces me to distill information, inspiration, and ideas to their essence. Plus I get to play with art supplies.

Who else is using cards?

Everybody, it seems. To list a few:

Dave Gray and his people at XPlane

Maya Design

Howard Gardner and Friends: the GoodWork Toolkit

Value Sensitive Design Research Lab

Tom Atlee and the Group Pattern Language Project

Centre for Nonviolent Communication

And then, everybody and her sister seems to be making her own goddessy tarot deck or something like it for divination and fortune telling.

The point is, the cards are so powerful,  I’d like to share my process of creating a personal deck for your slow learning journey with you.

And so, I’m offering this workshop,

It’s All in the Cards

 A session of  convivial art-making as we share the stories of our learning.

Why: to create a personal deck as a tool for use in planning for slow learning.

Where: My home studio in Liberty Village, Toronto

What to bring: I will be sharing my art supplies.
You can bring collage materials, paper artifacts to include in collages,
Your favorite art supplies if you don’t want to use my cheap ones.

When: By appointment. Expect to spend at least 3 hours.

If interested in attending this workshop, or for more information contact Patricia at Kambitsch dot com.

Troubadour Hope Chest

Troubadour Hope Chest

It provokes. It challenges. It lures. It’s beautiful. It contains and protects hopes and dreams. It takes up space. It’s practical. Every home needs a Troubadour Hope Chest

A couple of weeks ago I met with friend and fellow slow learner, Tricia Postle.

Together Tricia and I formed a group we call COTH or Creativity-On-The-Hook. Once a month, we meet for tea, state our intentions, and report to each other on our progress. See earlier entry.

During our first meeting, Tricia shared the details of her intentions: her to do lists, her  goals, her best intentions. I didn’t want to say anything at the time, but most of the items on her list felt dull and ordinary, full of duty and obligation and all those good things necessary to support and nurture Tricia’s brilliant creative projects.

But then Tricia started talking about how  she wanted to someday travel as a troubadour musician. She spoke about rhythms, the songs, the traveling, the Persian rugs, the tour mobile, the demands of composing in the form, the possibility of a postmodern gypsy caravan. When she spoke about her future life as a troubadour, her physical presence transformed. She sat straight up. Her eyes brightened, and her voice lightened. Her visions of self as troubadour literally pulled her forward. There was a passionate woman in love with her future, speaking of longing and desire, sitting at the edge of her seat.

That’s when the idea came: why not invite some of this passion and desire into the everyday?  Why not bring something physical and real into our homes as a reminder of what is possible?  Why not use this container as a repository for carefully selected objects that bring us closer to a future we want to live into?

After some searching, Tricia now has her Troubadour Hope Chest.

In an email, Tricia says:

I like that it’s empty, I like that it’s there. I rearranged the studio so that it’s visible from all points. It seems to glow and make the rest of the furniture recede. In short, every household should have one.

Questions for reflection:  What’s calling me forward? What kind of future might I create from my own longings? What kind of hope chest might I find?

creativity on the hook

From A Slow Learner’s Bill of Rights.

You have the right

  • To work with people who find you and your visions fascinating
  • To work with people who are fascinated by your brilliant visions and will hold you accountable to do what you said you would do

Sunday is usually a lazy sort of day. But out of the blue, I receive an email invite from Tricia Postle :

I had an idea for a “COTH” group – creativity-on-the-hook! because the goal is to get those creative impulses into the boat, on the grill, and served with lemon slices for general consumption. Hedonistic enough?
I’m thinking, meeting every two weeks for a 90 minute session.
15 m check-in/catchup, wine/whine as necessary
15 m outline of what’s going on with one person’s projects
15 m feedback, priority-setting
30 m ditto above
15 m what are we on the hook for, before next meeting
Sessions after that would include a review of what we did and didn’t do, with a solve-the-problem, not-the-blame approach.

Normally these kinds of invitations require time-consuming back-and-forth negotiations of  location and calendar,  and sometimes never grow beyond idea phase. But more and more often I’m finding that Slow Learning is Immediate. Within an hour we were drinking tea, dreaming and scheming and testing Tricia’s COTH process with each other.

We both came away from the afternoon with a list of goals that, with each other’s help, we had refined and clarified into actionable items. (Among other things, I will refine my elevator speech about Slow Learning, and she will start outfitting her  Troubadour Hope Chest)  In a month we’ll meet again, and see what we’ve accomplished.

Tricia reminded me that a Slow Learner is a whole person, not just a person with goals and a to-do list. So we talked about taking care of ourselves, of considering work, relationship, physical and emotional health as part of the COTH process.

Since I have a tendency to beat myself up when I don’t accomplish what I set out to do, I find Tricia’s “solve the problem, not the blame” philosophy confronting and refreshing.

What are Slow Learning friends for?