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Some Tools for Expanding Your Creativity and Growing Your PLE

A few days ago I wrote about needing to build our creative skills. I've also been all about the personal learning environments (PLE) lately, although I've tended to focus on the online tools in that process. So this morning I was thinking about the tools I've used to expand my creativity, which I would also consider to be a part of my offline PLE. A couple that have worked well for me:

Morning Pages
Writer and artist Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way (a book I highly recommend for building creativity, by the way) has a great exercise she calls Morning Pages. It works like this. Every morning when you get up, you write--in long hand--3 pages of whatever comes to mind. The goal is to empty your head of all of your concerns, what's on your mind, etc. It's a practice that can clear the space for more creative thinking. It's really a sort of writing meditation that I've found very helpful--and far preferable to starting with my "to do" list. Check out this link for tips on how to start your own practice.

Visual Journaling
For the most part, I'm a word person. I like to read and I like to write. But I've also found that sometimes it's the visual that really gets your mind going, which is where visual journals come in. With a visual journal, you use pictures to express your thinking, rather than writing. You don't have to be an artist, either. I've actually maintained several visual journals that are strictly collage. I've used visual journals to explore more subconscious aspects of problems I'm working on and to try to express ideas I can't seem to get across as effectively in words. They've also helped me make connections that I didn't find through other means. And I've found that it's a great addition to longer-term trainings that I've done as a way for people to reflect on assignments or share information about themselves. Check out Visual Journaling and Collaging in Your Journal for more information.

A couple of quick ideas. . . What do you do to nurture your creativity? 


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Hi Michele,

Your post couldn't have come at a better time. I'm constantly thinking about ways to be more creative and I especially like your morning pages idea. For me, ideas come to me at the oddest times so I always have to have a small pad andd a pen handy to jot them down. I also find that when I'm not thinking hard about something, I get more ideas and inspirations! Hope this helps!

I had to laugh about having a notebook available at all times, Soha--that's what I try to do, but it doesn't always happen. Yesterday I found myself at a traffic light scrounging for a receipt in my purse to write down something I'd heard on NPR. Believe me, I was wishing that I had my trusty little notebook! Thanks for the tip--I think it's a great one!

Hi again Michele,

My experiences with creativity might be less accessible than the advice you and Soha have given above, but I figured I might as well throw in my 2c anyway!

My creativity is cultivated and nurtured by participating in an online community whose roots are in creativity. I do tend to prefer to keep my hobbies and professional life separate for the most part, partly for online security reasons. So I won't go into details, but will leave it at saying that I participate in the online fan community (see

The community, as I said, fosters creativity - participants are constantly creating fiction, visual art, video, audio, music, podcasts, websites, wikis, nonfiction commentary; as well as (most of the time) each individual participant writing their own blog. The volume of the output is huge, and the online (as well as subcultural!) format supports experimentation and freedom of form, not to mention collaboration and inspiration.

(This kind of stuff is what I focused the latter part/honours thesis of my degree in creative arts on!)

But, I'm going a bit off track. Being in this community of creativity definitely influences and supports my professional work, no doubt about it. In my hobby I produce podcasts and run a number of wikis (one or two of them somewhat mammoth) have a blog of about 6 years, design and maintain archives and other websites. The community provides me with a sandbox to experiment and explore different ideas, not to mention a huge network of people at hand to stimulate the creativity!

A lot of the wiki stuff I'm developing at the PB now is hugely supported by the development of more free-form wikis I work on in my spare time (it seems I come to the office, work all day on the wiki; go home, work all evening on the other wiki...).

At any rate, it's quite a phenomenal environment that is honestly life-changing.


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