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Alt Design Summit : How to organize all that creativity


Traveling for the past 2 weeks has left me both invigorated and overwhelmed. Think drinking Red Bull while doing Yoga. I've set up the rest of my year's work based on these past 12 days. I've got about 5 calendars (thanks to the amazing swag given at the Altitude Design Summit) surrounding my desk and have just started piecing the puzzle pieces together for my company, blog and other creative work I'll be embarking on. It's quite easy to feel like you are drowning from creative over stimulation and hard to just start somewhere. So here I am. Starting somewhere. Bear with me as I jot down the only way I can get my head around how to proceed. 

Step 1: Get a glittery pen and a calendar

I've made a list of giant goals that I want to reach. These are the big, honking, life/work changing goals that I need to reach this year.  (new clothing collection, new website, new studio)  They've been given a date and placed on the calendar with their completion date. (I did this with a big fat glittery pen because nothing motivates me more than glittery ink) 

On a separate paper I wrote down each goal with a list of people that can help me achieve this. I was fortunate enough to stumble into an Erin Loechner resource party at Alt. A genius idea that she came up with to get people to ask for help in the most encouraging way possible. Asking for help is such a difficult thing to do but really, I've found that if they can help you- they probably will.

Giant resource party I attended at Alt 2012. Photo by B.A.D. Photography.

Step 2: Write a list of things that you want to try and put them on a calendar

Whether it's learning to book bind (which I totally am getting into thanks to Allison Chapman and her Igloo Press workshop at Alt) or paper cutting (also a fabulous workshop) if you want to try it, set up a time and a place to do it. Remember that trying out new things inspires creativity. Book your year around fun learning experiences so that the cool, creative juices flow all throughout the year.

Book binding class at Alt

Step 3: Set up an "ideas" club. 

Doesn't have to be big, it can be a small group of people that you are comfortable bouncing ideas off of. Meet at least once a month and really encourage each other to stay on target with your goals. These are the people that will hold you to your deadlines and cheer you on as you approach the finishing goal. These are the people that can give you advice and inspiration. These are also the people that can tell you that you are nuts and you smell a little funky. The point is to surround yourself with people that believe in you, period. 

One of THE best talks I've ever listened to was by Ben Silbermann of Pinterest. Like, it should have been a TED Talk it was that good! (Link to Ben's talk here)

Step 4: Organize a daily schedule 

Having that weekly schedule front and center is key as well as a routine. Figure out what time of day you are most creative in and WORK IT. I find I'm most creative in the morning, so when the kids go to school- I get cranking. If you have little kids, set up some babysitting time once a week for a couple of hours. No babysitter, swap with a friend. Watch her kids one week and then switch. There is always a solution. Remember the resource party- this would be a great place to ask for help from your circle of friends. 

Step 5: Find a guru

There is nothing more motivating than watching someone you admire achieve their goals. Whether you know them or not, looking up to them will provide enormous amounts of pep that you'll need to stay motivated. One of my favorite bloggers is Bri Emery from Design Love Fest. Every single time I go to her blog I get all yippee, skippy inside. It's just full of win! (I almost passed out when I met her by the way.) Make a list of all those people that will make you almost pass out and contact them. Let them know that you love what they do and thank them for being a source of inspiration in your life. 

Bonus step, but really important: Have fun, take risks.

Life is a lot of hard work so having fun while doing it can make all the difference. An amazing amount of opportunities will present themselves to you, every day. If you're not aware, you'll not notice them. They'll pass you by and not present themselves again. Get a little uncomfortable. Step outside your comfort zone. Most importantly, laugh at yourself because only then will it be ok when other's do.


The most uncoordinated photo booth shot at Alt. Clearly my favorite!

from left to right: Mary Beth from Art, Fashion, Furniture,   moi,   Cammie from Petals in Prose,   Annabel from Little Pincushion Studio.

Photo by Smilebooth

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Reader Comments (11)

I keep hearing about Ben from Pinterest's talk, and I'm DYING to see a video.

Great tips! I hope to head out to Alt next year.

February 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaige

I am so bookmarking this article so I can get my own butt in gear this year! I love the "ideas club". I have been wanting to find a group like this for awhile now.

February 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMoxie Lisa

Thank you for linking Ben Silbermann's talk! I'm excited to dive into it.
Loads of inspiration here —such a great post! :)

February 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAna, Weird Amiga

Loved meeting you guys and good inspiration for how to organize my overflowing Alt brain!!! Looking forward to seeing you again soon!

February 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe New DIplomats Wife

I was referred to this blog post by my sister {who is a follower of your blog} and as i was ranting about how frustrating my job search is... the part about asking for help is so true... there are people who will definitely will lend you a hand if you ask... i have been asking for help over the past 7 months and keep on doing it because the job i'm looking for is that important...

Great post and I will definitely do my calendar of goals so i don't lose track of them!

February 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPunctuation Mark

@ MoxieLisa - Thanks for sharing the article!

@DiplomatsWife- Let's get dinner again in DC!

@PunctuationMark - Tell us what the job you are looking for is and maybe we can help! Your persistance will get you that job for sure!

February 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlessandra@ Tribal Times

Thanks for the great tips! I needed it :) I especially realized, not so long ago, how Step 3 could be crucial. I work alone from home, away of my native birth place, friends & family and my husband has different interests. So to be able to chat with a friend who share the same interests and motivation is just PRICELESS.
P.S: And I love this photo booth shot!

I loved this--it was SO motivational. I have been blogging since 2009. I live in Baltimore with my husband and our four young children and I find that i am most creative in the mornings. Even though my blog was chosen by Babble as one of the top 50 arts and crafts blogs (# 4 for DIY) it has been slow to take off in large numbers of followers because, truth be told, I have not been the greatest at networking. In fact, I wasn't even sure WHO to network with because (as strange as this sounds) even though I was blogging I wasn't really reading any others blogs (until about a year ago) and didn't know who anyone was. I didn't even know the Alt Design Summit existed! Maybe next year I can go! So, yes--now I am trying to get connected with people I admire. There are SO many awesomely creative people out there that is seriously just makes my heart feel so full. AMAZING.

Anyway, I loved this--and the practical tips about babysitting--such a great idea.


February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

Thanks for the tips! I also created a day to day schedule so that I could organize things but I didn’t include having a babysitter whenever I’m cranking. Don’t worry I’ll consider that on my plans next year!

You are so cool. I loved reading this- it clearly comes straight from the heart (and straight from being totally motivated by your blogging conference.) I think I'm actually going to print it out for inspiration. I'm so hoping to get to ALT next year.

July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArtchoo!

@artchoo- thanks so much for your lovely thoughts and if you do get a chance to go- do! And let me know so we can meet up :)

July 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterTribal Times

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