Tag Archives: planning

Changing Seasons

New Spring Bulbs and Wildflowers

New Spring Bulbs and Wildflowers

Spring has come upon us suddenly here in Southern California. Many places further North still have snow. Meanwhile back in Australia, people are starting to mention cooler weather in their Facebook feeds.

Seasons’ change always gives me a burst of different energy. Going into fall then winter, because for me it’s the holidays, are always full of new creativity. There are things to make and do, my daughter’s birthday in October, and cards to reconnect with people. I was moving this year and didn’t get to send any handmade cards. The holidays felt a little off kilter because of that.

Now that it is Spring, the energy of renewal is everywhere. People are talking of gardening and cooking. I have started itching to write, itching to make some new dolls and itching started get on a couple of projects that have been percolating inside my mind over the winter.

I try to enjoy the moment, but some future planning must be done. Just like planning a garden, the expectation in starting projects now, is that they will come to fruition later in the summer. I have travel plans, convention plans, entertaining plans, and publication deadlines.

I’m excited. I just want to make stuff!

How can you use the change in seasons to inspire creativity?

  • When seasons change, nature is busy. It’s a great time to take those re-energizing walks we like and look out and around.
  • Change your home environment. Some people change all their drapes, pillows and even artwork. Perhaps you will like to change the layout of your furniture to take advantage of the window instead of the fireplace, or move your writing station to a different part of the house.
  • Re-organize your inspirational pin board if you have one. When something visual is left to sit, it can start being ignored. What can you remove from your board that is not relevant? Are there different connections that weren’t obvious in the middle of winter? Maybe some of the ideas there have already been expressed and can be retired.
  • Food, food, food. The warmth of chowders is ready to give way to fruity smoothies and aqua frescas in the northern hemisphere, while the last of the summer fruit salads will soon be replaced by stews and roasts as winter comes. The change of seasons when so many magazines and bloggers start publishing new recipes is a good time to try something new.
  • Resolutions are not just for New Year’s Day. Chances are your resolutions have already suffered. What if you consider your resolutions to be quarterly affairs based around the seasons instead? Personally I think it is easier to start something new when the whole of nature is bursting with energy than in the very dark of winter when it is man-made calendars that define the new beginning.

The Year Ahead

New bulbs poking up through the woodchip mulch.

New beginnings. Photo Credit: James Coburn

Yes, it has been a bit of a staggered start to the new year of Creativity Blasts. I’m sorry about it, BUT that’s all about to change.

I’ve spent the last couple of days formulating and scheduling my weekly blasts right through to the end of next February. Every title is in my calendar.

I’m pretty excited about the year of creative inspiration ahead. I’m especially looking forward to next September when I am planning a special month long series about turning your creative passions into a business. Also through the year with be the Principles of Design, more Aesthetic Preferences, ideas for expressing your creativity as well as sources of inspiration and ways to rediscover your creativity. One new feature I am scattering through the year is “5 Questions to Ask Yourself” about a range of topics.

In the mean time, I have a very special writing assignment that will also take the next year, with research and interviews. I’ll be able to talk more about it soon, and there will be updates on my Making, Mothering, Musing blog.

Speaking of mothering, I spent the whole day today with my 14 year old daughter Jayn devising a new screenplay. She had a little idea starting with “wouldn’t it be funny if…”, and I said that would make a great script, and then we were off. It’s not often I have a high concept sci-fantasy actioner kicking around.

This is the second time one of Jayn’s ideas has turned into a collaborative script. I’m in the rewrite stage of one of her other ideas about an eco-warrior mermaid that I am loving as a family film. She is a great collaborator.

Tomorrow is big day – I finally will be setting up my new workshop in the garage. I have three workers coming over and we should be able to get the greater part done. That’s good. I have a bunch of thank you cards to make.

Stay tuned…and please sign up for the newsletter and follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss out on any of the good stuff.


I need a better name for this process

This week I’m expanding on a piece from a past Creativity Blast newsletter from last year. I add a short article to every bi-monthly newsletter that you won’t see anywhere else, at least for a while. So it’s really worth subscribing!

“Mind storming”* is what I call my combination of mind mapping and brain storming.

It’s a non-linear, visual way of generating ideas, forging connections, and even defining obstacles.

*[It’s also not a fantastic name, especially since there is a cool hi-tech company out there with the same name but as one word. If you have a better idea for the name of this process, please let me know in comments! Idea scrambling? Doodle design? Scribble thinking?]

Traditional brain storming has somewhat fallen out of favor. Studies show that avoiding all judgment of the suggested ideas and writing them all down for consideration as if they were equally useful, can end up wasting a lot of time in business situations. Apparently, keeping a certain amount of self-editing is better in group situations. However in a creativity practice, there is no knowing what one silly idea might spark. Seems to me that brain storming is how groups make lists.

Mind or idea mapping often starts with a central word or concept, with spokes travelling outward. The spokes can then branch to create the feeling of a web. It’s primarily used for business group situations, where it is important that everyone understand the process and results. But it can be used for personal issues also. Here’s a nice presentation intro to the concept.

For me mind storming is more fluid that this. Usually I am working on a problem individually. But the visual appearance is very similar. I guess I would say I get a bit messier.

Start with a sheet of paper and list projects, needs, or goals with lots of space around them. Keep a couple of different colors of pen, or  a highlighter, handy. Draw lines to “thought bubbles”, write down as many words or phrases that the original idea inspires as possible, use circles and squiggles to focus on the next key idea. Write along the lines if you want.

Use sweeping arrows, in color if you want, to draw attention to connections between ideas that are part of different projects. I also like to star notions that strike me as important.

Highlight the first step you will now take towards completing your project.

What Next?

The mind storm is only the first step. It is crucial to then turn your insights into step-by-step actions, written down more formally, (which is where what I am doing here diverges from mind mapping). On line I use Work Flowy. It can be layered – with broad goals divided into intermediate steps, and then those divided in turn. Plus you can click and add notes, as well as dates for taking action.

However you can also handwrite or type a to do list. (Remember lists!) Are you going to allot times, or add due dates to your to do list for added motivation?

Additional Idea: storm around a sketch

I have some very early stage plans for large scale figurative sculptures. They will be cloth over armatures and painted and embroidered. I started with sketches in pencil, and added words, starred points, scribbles and notes. These early sketches are certainly not “finished”, and leave plenty of room for adaptation. I will make more detailed colored sketches, as well as source inspiration and collect ephemera, before embarking on the actual sculptures. But in the meantime I can feel free to scribble, mark up, and attach all over the existing “first draft” idea.

Sculpture Sketch - Robyn Coburn

The Beginnings of a idea with added scribbles. This is unfinished. There will be a lot more added to this sketch before I move on to a more definitive visual plan for this sculpture.

Here’s a Recent Example

I was sitting in a Chili’s with my husband eating lunch, and I started to admire the simple, graphic art work around the restaurant. I noticed that it fitted both the decor (visually) and the Southwestern lifestyle theme of the place. Another restaurant chain that is notable for its specific art in the decor is California Pizza Kitchen. My local one has recently changed the art.

CPK Pizza Box Art

CPK Decorative Art – This is the older style – made from the pizza boxes

It occurred to me that someone must design and create the artwork that is featured in public businesses like chain restaurants. It’s a niche to be sure, and likely a totally different process than the creation of gallery style artworks as hung in small local coffee shops. What if I wanted to design art work for restaurants?

Mind storm for art idea

Which I then turned into this list:

Market Research:

  • A. Define market – Types of restaurants (Journals) – Numbers
  • B. Look for new chains – start ups — ground floor idea – Match aesthetics (architecture and design)
  • C. Look at restaurants to get a feel for it.

Product Development

  1. Research Psychology of hunger & food – especially color
  2. Look at Pantone color trend forecast
  3. Choose aesthetic themes & color ways
  4. Create Prototype in different styles for portfolio
  5. Develop portfolio of art works
  6. Create and online gallery with the right outlet
  7. Secure representation with an agent or corporate art dealer [*Research; One sheet; Letters or emails]
  8. Market self to interior design firms & architects

Other Marketing

  • A. Articles for magazines – research
  • B. Guest Blog
  • C. Media outlets?

Notes: Use Research to create articles and pitches – Go Online for magazine lists ~~

    • Gourmet
    • architecture
    • commercial interior design
    • psychology
    • art & design
    • food business journals

Upsell artwork  – for cards, souvenirs, merchandise

Notice how little of this list is actual art making (sigh) – which would probably be the most time consuming part. I would keep the “storm page” along with the list, because the highlighted parts are aspects of the project that struck me as core, but those may change with time.

I could make a mind storm for each part of the process also. And it can be tempting to keep on storming forever – at some point you have to actually start acting on the steps you have defined.

I haven’t put times or deadlines on this yet. It will have to be a back burner project for the time being. But when the time is right, at least my plan will be ready!

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My First and Favorite Creativity Tool

Handmade notebook page

Using a pretty notebook can make lists more fun – I use both paper and note apps

My first and favorite creativity technique – Making Lists.

“What, really?”


I don’t mean an ordinary To Do list which is an organizing strategy – except when I do mean a To Do list as an inspiration finding tool.

Making a list, by which I mean actually writing down a numbered or bulleted list, is a fantastic way to get organized and get the creative cogs and wheels moving.

While it’s true that sometimes the first idea or design plan is perfect, most of time, in my experience, the third, fourth or fifth idea is going to blow the off-the-top-of-my-head idea out of the water. I am willing to bet that your ideas for solving your problem or designing your solution will be more innovative, surprising, and creative by the end of your list than at the start.

The act of making a list warms up the mind too, and switches on your imagination.

And of course I strongly recommend actually writing the list down so that you have your indelible record of increasingly interesting ideas and plans.

The trick is to make your idea list longer than you think you need – challenge yourself to write down double your entries, or add another 5 items – more than you imagine are reasonably sufficient.

For example instead of jotting down 10 ideas for future Creativity Blast blog posts, I challenged myself to devise 20, and then at the end of 20, I found 5 more in mind waiting to go on to the list.

It doesn’t matter if some of the ideas seem silly. It’s only an idea list, not a legally binding contract.

Here are some more of the creative lists I have made recently:

  • List of ideas to bring in more money. That led immediately to this little design business making collage sheets. The first five people to comment here will receive a free download of a collage sheet by email.

  • List of figurative sculptures I want to make. This list in turn becomes a series of idea for sketches, and informs my purchasing or sourcing of supplies.

  • List of titles for Craft-it-Easy school projects. This has been an essential step in moving forward with my business. I have over 50.

  • List of different gifts for different family members. This could be a brainstorming type of list made in a concentrated session, or an “open” list that gets added to whenever something cool crops up.

  • List of books, articles, blogs and magazines I want to explore. This helps me with prioritizing. I only have the same 24 hours every day that you, Oprah, President Obama and Marie Forleo have, and I don’t have time to waste on duplicates.

  • List of short video topics I am planning, which include how-tos and power point type presentations.

  • List of project designs/article ideas for my Natural Life Magazine column.

  • Gratitude lists. Every now and then I feel a bit down. The best way to feel better is with positivity. I will write a list of 30 things, as if it were for a month, but all at once. By the time I am down to silly little things like “an abundance of squirrels” I feel great about my life. Click here for a recent list that insisted on growing to 34 items. I twit a new #gratitude #abundance tweet every day too. More on this soon.

What about those To Do lists?

To Do lists can become a terrific tool for creative problem solving, especially if they are long. If you are anything like me, you have a very long and ongoing list that might include all kinds of things from business tasks, household duties, and daily reminders.

Here are some strategies and tools that elevate my To Do list:

  • Categorize. I have a daily list as a Note on my iPhone. It includes things that are everyday household tasks, that essentially don’t change but that I like to include because when I add a “Done” check mark I feel good about life. Then I have a list at the bottom of intermittent tasks, from which I choose something. For me this list includes the major tasks in my big household declutter. It’s nice to see the finished ones (“clear bathroom counter”) checked off. However there are also a bunch of tasks that are more creative activities, such as my brainstormed lists of writing topics for different outlets including magazines, Making Mothering Musing blog posts, or for a screenplay. The To Do item simply reads “Write”.

  • Update Often. There are other tasks that come and go. My list at the moment includes “Make calls re estate sales” but that is only temporary.

  • Use your Calendar program. Many have a To Do list that will come up to one side. I like to put in reminders of deadline items, such as monthly payments, and publishing deadlines.

  • For projects WorkFlowy is my favorite organizing program. It allows you to stack and divide tasks, and is intuitive. Plus you can click into tasks and add notes and print.

  • Link and regroup. I said earlier that lists are great creativity tools “especially if they are long”. Here’s another reason why I believe that – the killing two birds with one stone aspect. I might write a lengthy list, and then I start seeing patterns and repetitions. I might notice that similar items come up in different places. Maybe I can adapt one piece of writing for two different media. Maybe something I thought would make a great article will translate beautifully into a short how-to video. Maybe the photos I need for a blog post will be great for a collage sheet or other design.

From another point of view, maybe you will start to see patterns in your To Do list – a chunk of one kind of task that is always left til last, or something that repeats regularly, or a repeating time scale. It was from noticing the repeats on my shopping list that I worked out a system for making sure I don’t run out of pantry items.*

My other productivity secret for my task based To Do lists is to add a time allotted (rather than a deadline, which I tend to ignore unless it has been externally imposed). This will allow several useful things:

  • Discovering whether I am spending too long on unimportant things. Remember the Time Management Matrix.

  • Discovering where I am super efficient. Yay.

  • Discovering where it might be worth getting help in some way – which might bring me back to my list of money making ideas.

  • Planning my day. If I already have a natural interruption or stopping point built into the day, like driving my daughter to dance class, it makes no sense to start on a project that will require 4 hours.

*It’s very simple. I just have one open in use and one in the pantry, which in my small apartment is just a cupboard – so no room for stockpiling. When I run out of the one in use, I add it to my shopping list on the side of the fridge, and pull the one in the pantry cupboard out to use. To start, you do have to buy two, but then it becomes self-sustaining. Never running out of mayonnaise gives me a remarkable feeling of abundance and serenity.

This was a long post, because I really believe that making lists of ideas has been one of the best things I do for the purpose of jump starting my ideas, and planning my time.

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If anything turns out to be useful to you, please let me know in the comments.

The Tweets of the Week!