habit zero #005

the challenge


There’s nothing like starting the day with a boost of creativity, and the challenge I got today was a dose of the creativity in its purest form.

The challenge today is based on the On Paper Prism. Unlike the creative exploration we’ve done in the past few days, this is a Maker Prism — its essence is to create something. With this specific Prism, I should capture an Insight made of papers, and without drawing or writing. The Insight should be inspired by the Together Alone Seed.

As always, the instructions on the Prism can be open to interpretation, but I chose to take them literally and use this chance to play with papers.

my insight


So, my initial association when thinking about the Seed was of two paper bands creating two loops in a chain which can’t be separated (“together”) but are barely touching each other (“alone”).

I was very pleased with this idea. In fact, as I’m writing it now I think it qualifies as an Insight although I didn’t took it forward and created this paper chain. Any way, at the time I wanted to spend some more time with the concept of “Together Alone”.

In some sense, my next thought was an evolution of the paper chain idea. I thought about two halves of a paper heart, almost touching each other but clearly representing a broken heart. Adding the heart shape into the picture seemed to provide an additional depth to the title of the Seed: “Together Alone”. Especially if it is broken.

This could have been a good place to stop the thinking process and go implement the idea. But I wasn’t satisfied with the “solution” I came up with. The broken heart seemed too simplistic. This by itself is not a bad thing — in the real-world, simple solutions are often superior, even if they might seem less innovative (and often, the simpler solution is in fact much more innovative than its more “advanced” sibling). But in the context of developing my creative skills I aimed for something less immediate. I didn’t want to settle with taking a heart-shape paper and cut it in two.

And that’s how the idea to turn the heart into a three-dimensional “sculpture” was born.

We will reflect on how I got from the decision to create a little sculpture to this specific result in a minute. But let’s explore the Insight. I was aiming to capture the essence of the Together Alone Seed in at least two ways. First, the initial idea of two things which are connected, but barely touching each other is realized here as the two parts of the heart are linked, but the 3D shape they create is clearly broken. You immediately realize that they should have been on the same plane, and that connected as they are, they will never be.

But I took the challenge further by consciously deciding to experiment with lighting and, more important, shadows. I managed to place the sculpture and a light source such that a nearly perfect heart is created as a shadow. It is as if this object which can never be a heart again in the 3D world, still carries the memory of being one complete heart within it.

When I reached that insight I felt I had met the challenge.



exploration in the process of making

When you first come across a Maker Prism, you might think we are ditching the creative exploration (or observation) phase and jumping directly into imagining and creating something. That’s true only in part.

Observation and exploration are always (as in always) part of the creative process. Sometimes this part will be explicit as in “look around you for….”. At other times, like the process I went through today, exploration is active in the background. The paper chain idea came up because in a recent holiday we decorated the house with similar paper chains. For the heart sculpture I looked around the house and found these pink sheets of paper which were just perfect for what I wanted to achieve. So observation and exploration clearly took a different part in coming up with the Insight today, but they were essential to the process, nevertheless.

playfulness and experimentation

When I approached the creative challenge today, I actively treated it like a child would. I wanted the part of actually playing with pieces of paper to be significant. I wished to create something with my hands — not just in my mind. This is not something I do on a daily basis — far from it, and that’s why it felt so liberating.

An important part of the process was based on experimenting, mainly when I decided to go for the shadow effect. I tried different light sources, different surfaces, and different angles until I got the visual I was happy with. This trial-and-error process in a context new to me is also an essential part of any creative problem solving.

The combination of playfulness and experimentation is super powerful. If you can take any challenge you are facing, no matter how serious, and treat is as a game — play with it and experiment — the chances for coming up with surprising, creative, and effective results increase significantly.

mental notes


  • Don’t stop with the first good idea (but know when to stop)
  • Do something you don’t normally do and try to integrate it in regular activities
  • Play and experiment with any challenge you face

now it is your turn… be creative!


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