By Rosanna von Sacken
Hope is an interesting word; it is both a verb and a noun. As a verb, it is when we want something to happen or something to be the case as in “They hope to get married this summer” or “He hopes to get a healthy raise after a glowing performance appraisal”. As a noun, it is a sense or feeling of expectation or desire for something to happen, to become reality as in “He went to the same cafe everyday in the hope of running into Sally”.
Hope is something everyone grasps at, consciously and unconsciously. Without hope, we would be mired in despair, denial and all kinds of negative feelings, including fear, all of which can affect our physiology, behaviours and outlook of our worlds.
Furthermore, hope is a state of mind: wanting, anticipating or even trusting that something will come true. Hope opens up our minds to a range of possibilities, it sets us up to imagine desired outcomes. According to Amanda Gorman, “… hope is a door, a portal…”. Hope invites us to poke our heads into a new space, open a door, and peek inside. Hope helps us to be open, curious and courageous; it offers us possibilities even if they are ambiguous; it enables us to feel optimism and resilience.
So, how can we consciously keep our minds open? One way to maintain our wellbeing and positive mindset is to be creative, in whatever form, be it drawing, painting, dancing, playing a musical instrument, singing, theatre, journaling or any writing for that matter.
The word “creative” tends to scare some people away, as most of us were taught that only artistic people are creative. That is simply not true: anyone can be creative. Look at any child; children are absolutely creative in endless ways – they are not afraid to make things up, to use their imagination, to draw and colour, to play as they learn and explore. That is what we, most adults, are missing! It is unfortunate that our creativity gets shut down as we mature, adulting into the grown-up world. My own creativity did not re-emerge until about nineteen years ago, when I discovered graphic recording and visual facilitation. My inner child woke up then and I started drawing again, and exploring different art forms to complement my work and as a tool for relaxation.
At first and still at times today, I can be very self-critical and compare my art work with others’, which can be very deflating. However, Mike Rohde reminds us that it is about “ideas, not art” (2013). I have been told by clients that my drawings and lettering art help to support and clarify the ideas behind a conversation, meeting or workshop, or stimulate new thoughts, and that is what they are meant to do.
I have since honed and expanded my creative interests and skills beyond drawing and lettering. I explored, tried and experimented with different art forms and techniques. One of my favourites is doing Zentangles, which I find creative, even relaxing. There is no right or wrong, and I can do it anytime, anywhere, without a lot of tools and supplies. Drawing them, especially with classical music in the background and a cup of tea nearby, made me feel calm and meditative, like I can ignore the world for a little while. Here are examples of a couple of Zentangles done on 3.5”x3.5” cards.
Artwork: These are called zentangles, drawn on 3.5×3.5 art cards using a 01 black Micron pen, a Tom Bow Fudenosuke brush pen for black colouring and thicker lines for the white zentangle; a white gel pen, a white stabilo colour pencil and a smudger tool for the black and white zentangle. Zentangles and photo by Rosanna von Sacken.
Having been a scientist all of my academic life, I was surprised and proud in equal measures that I had this creativity inside me.
Another creative activity I have been incorporating in my work is applied improv (short for ‘improvisation’). Most people think of improv as a theatrical or comic performance, but it is more than that. I have been learning applied improv and using them in my meetings, workshops and training because they are activities that are fun, engaging and meaningful. Like facilitation skills, one has to choose or design the appropriate activities and processes to achieve the desired outcomes.
Most people would automatically say no, “I can’t draw”, or “I can’t do improv in front of people”. In fact, everyone improvs everyday – you don’t know what is going to happen at any given moment, and whatever happens, you respond. Some situations require planning and preparation, but many do not. For example, what are you going to have for lunch today? You look in the fridge and make something with what you have – that’s improv. Your healthy baby throws up on you at a party, and you figure it out – you are improving.
Yes, You Can!
I’d encourage everyone to look deep within, to search for that forgotten child again, the person with vivid imagination, unafraid of mistakes and willing to experiment. Bring that inner child back, because creativity is within all of us. Playing and creating is learning, and learning does not have to be confined in a classroom or an academic institution.
I hope you will go play and create. You may be surprised.
Rohde, M. 2013. The Sketchbook Handbook: The illustrated guide to visual note taking. Peachpit Press
Rosanna von Sacken, M.Sc., CPF, is the founder, principal consultant and facilitator of Advanced Consulting and Facilitation Ltd., based in greater Victoria, British Columbia. She has 30 years of emergency management experience, and works with organizations and communities of all sizes in emergency management consulting, group process and engagement, facilitation, and coaching in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.