How Full is Your Creative Funnel?

Funnel (PSF)

by Rebecca Cochran

As a designer and creative thinker, I’ve learned the importance of what I call “filling my creative funnel.” It’s not always an easy thing to do.

I’ve realized that I function best, in my work and in my personal life, when I allow myself to regularly experience bursts of art, music and other thought-provoking events. When my body and mind become depleted, I can usually attribute that lackluster feeling to a near-empty creative funnel.

It’s not always easy to spot this depletion as it’s happening. The process is gradual. Amidst the workday routine and the rigors of running a business, the emptying funnel often sneaks up on me. With experience, however, I’m learning to seize meaningful opportunities to recharge that funnel.

Being a musician as well as a designer, I’ve learned to troll the key online portals to keep abreast of music and performers of interest to me. I also use Twitter to stay current on who is performing where. And, I follow my favorite museums to learn about special exhibitions and other events. I also allow for serendipity to play a part.

The late summer cultural desert is usually tough for me to get through. After the excitement of early to mid-summer music festivals, by late summer my funnel is running on empty. Once the fall performance season finally gets fully underway, I’m typically deluged with opportunities for a cultural and creative recharge.

Take, for example, the last ten days. It began with a Hindemith Lives! celebration at UNC School of the Arts to commemorate 50 years since composer Paul Hindemith’s passing. The UNCSA faculty presented an entire evening of seldom heard chamber works by Hindemith, the majority of which I was unfamiliar. It provided a welcome burst of creative insight.

A few days later, I was at UNC-Chapel Hill enjoying pianist András Schiff’s performance of the Bach Goldberg Variations (along with Beethoven as an encore). The next evening, I was on the edge of my seat taking in Opera Carolina’s performance of Verdi’s Aida.

Wedged in between these music performances, I attended two events sponsored by my local AIGA chapter, as part of Triad Design Week. The first was a screening of the Design & Thinking documentary. (In fact, I was invited to deliver the opening remarks.) The second was a keynote by Doug Powell, designer and studio lead of the new IBMDesign group out of Austin. He delivered an excellent talk on Enhancing Brands with Design.

As Monday morning has rolled around, my creative funnel is full again. I can’t predict when these creative bursts will happen for me, but I have learned to seize them when they present themselves. I’m much more centered, creative and focused when my creative funnel is stoked. I also have fresh stories to share, more opportunities to connect more dots and, best of all, a big smile on my face.

What are your experiences? How do you keep your creative juices flowing?

Social Networking In Real Life

by Rebecca CochranIRL

Using social media is, surprisingly, allowing me to sharpen my networking skills in real life. Here’s an example:

We all see them. You know, those social misfits whose first-ever tweets are sales pitches. They don’t take the time to develop a following. They don’t seek out and engage in interesting conversations already happening online. They just jump in and start using twitter as a sales tool. Luckily, most of these types don’t stay around for long. They drop off the twittersphere quickly, deeming social media “a waste of time.”

When I witness these users (or abusers), I recall the old saying: “Dig the well before you need the water.” Digging that well, i.e., cultivating a following and establishing trust, requires time, energy and patience. But, it is only after that digging that we’re able to establish real relationships with real people.

I find myself taking what I learn on twitter and applying it in real life. This is the opposite of what I might have guessed would happen when I first began using social media a few years ago.

And, despite the predictions of many naysayers, I find my in-person networking skills improving since becoming a twitter user.

What are your experiences? Do you have similar examples?