Unusual times demand unusual measures
We find ourselves in a time where face-to-face meetups are off the table, and our virtual meetups are running the risk of mimicking the worst of our in-person meetings. I’ve been fortunate to be part of two online classes over the past year. I was using Zoom several times a week before most of the world knew what it was. And I was making meaningful connections with others. I knew what was possible.
I recently organized a circle on creativity. Four of us came together for weekly discussions in building and nurturing a creative life. Although each of us has a different creative life, we used a wide range of readings, prompts, and questions to guide the discussion. Like everyone else, we have been meeting virtually. But even if we wanted to, regular face-to-face meetings would be impossible as our little group is spread across two continents.
Pushing virtual boundaries
In our most recent circle, I wanted to push the boundaries of our virtual meeting. We use the circle way guidelines, so our meetings already have some of the elements familiar to an in-person gathering. But creative pursuits are inherently hands-on, often resulting in a product–a photo, a painting, a story, a quilt. Could we do a hands-on activity in a virtual space?
Inspired by the online tool Wakelet, I encouraged the group to use this online platform to create a collage. Wakelet allows users to create curated collections of content including links, text, images, and videos (including user-produced videos). It’s like having an ability to create and share a website almost instantly. I created a collection and invited the group to contribute. Wakelet is geared toward K-12 audiences. I love its intuitive interface that’s easy to use without training. You and your collaborators can access Wakelet with a simple link–no accounts or logins required.
We spent part of our 75-minute session contributing to a shared Wakelet board, and then we spent about 20 minutes working individually on our own collage projects. Before the meeting, I invited the group to collect physical or electronic objects for their collages. We spent about 20 minutes of our Zoom session working independently. Two of us created physical collages, and two created electronic collages using Wakelet. Mine was a paper collage. I have always been drawn to collage as an art form, but I had only created one collage that I remembered clearly (and still have). Despite having an impressive stockpile of collage materials and tools, I could never bring myself to start. Given the space and time and the support of a group similarly engaged, my collage came together quickly. Time stood still for me, and I think the whole group entered that enviable state of being known as flow, a theory developed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
One participant said “the time flew by” because the process was so engaging. “The format of the circle allowed us to take creative action and make a thing, not just talk about or think about being creative, but to actually create art.”
If you had told me that it was possible to achieve a flow state in a Zoom call, I’m not sure I would have believed it. I didn’t think we would all make significant progress in 20 minutes either–I was hoping to push us all to start something. But we all made considerable progress and I am already looking forward to our next working session.
Want to give online creativity activities a try?
Here’s the format that we used:
- Before the meeting, I shared a link to Wakelet and set up a collection. I invited others to be contributors to the collection. I also asked everyone to come to the meeting with physical or electronic collage elements.
- We rang a bell to start the circle.
- I shared a reading on creativity.
- Each person shared how they were arriving
- We explored Wakelet for about 20 minutes.
- We took about 20 minutes to create a physical or electronic collage.
- We shared our experience and each person had the option to share what they worked on using the share screen feature in Zoom.
- We closed with another reading and rang the bell to end the circle.
Circle Way Guidelines (free; available in multiple languages)