After an amazing month at the Banff Centre, followed by a super-duper road trip (41 days in a motorhome with my family, covering over 13000 kms across Canada and back through the US), I am back at Calgary Arts Development as President & CEO.
I returned to the office on September 17th after being in Calgary for two weeks (we got back in time for school!). Almost immediately, we began or concluded hiring for 3 positions that had transitioned while I was away. And then there were board meetings to prepare for and an audit of our granting programs to put to bed. And of course, in a busy place like Calgary, I’m out at events and meetings 3 or more nights a week, including last weekend, during which I hit at least 8 different venues or events.
I’m full of energy, engaged in my job, can’t wait to take on the next challenge…. but… I went from cruising to nearly full speed in a matter of days. Today, I observed the impact of this change of pace on how I think.
I’m preparing for a strategic planning session with my Board of Directors on October 9th. The bulk of the agenda is a report back and discussion of my thinking during my sabbatical. I spent time reviewing this blog today as preparation for that meeting… and I hardly recognized my own writing! Looking back at it now, I recognize that I was really able to “just think” while I was in Banff. Throughout this blog, I see observations and connections that I couldn’t make today, given the flow of activity I’m in. I know I want to do that kind of strategic thinking, to be creative in that way… but instead, it is like those insights are just out of my grasp, the great idea is on the tip of my tongue…
So I have a dilemma: it is my job to think at a high level and to look to the future, but(!!) it feels like an indulgence to actually take those chunks of time away to do this work.
With this blog, and in my humble opinion, there is clear evidence that “taking time to think” works. Slowing things down leads to more creativity. It really does.
When I’m “at work,” I enjoy taking on the world issue by issue, problem-solving in the moment, proposing tactics about how to get over the next hurdle. Time really flies. But when I was in Banff, time flew by too. There were days where I’d start in the studio at 7:30, and not realize the time until I was hungry at 3pm or so. Clearly, for long-term, strategic and/or creative thinking, my brain benefits from time away from issues, linearity and urgency, and needs to wander, dive deep and let insights emerge.
So… I’ve decided to make my sabbatical experience juxtaposed against my regular work life Part A of a series of experiments in learning to work my brain. Part B, I’ve decided, is to test whether other interventions, requiring less time away from the day-to-day flow, can lead to the same level of quality thinking I was able to experience during my sabbatical.
Relevant Conclusion! As I start this test, I’m going to draw on books and wisdom related to the creative practice of artists. Funny thing? I never thought of what I do as needing a “creative practice” until I was confronted with these two versions of myself today.