What to do when the lights go out

It’s been a month of frustration for most of us with power outages interrupting work and leisure plans alike, and causing a fair amount of damage. While I firmly believe this crisis should be resolved with the utmost urgency, once we find ourselves with the power out, there isn’t much we can do but sit it out. This month’s newsletter takes a look at some creative activities to help pass the time.

Creativity Quotes:
I really enjoyed these excerpts from last weekend’s Sunday Times:

“What we often call happiness is a ‘flow state’ of unselfconsciousness, the sort of thing that happens when you’re so engrossed in a hobby that you don’t notice time passing”
followed later by:
“Absorption in a single activity such as learning a hobby or skill, instead of wildly multi-tasking, creates a ‘flow’ state of unself-consciousness that helps to develop our higher-functioning cerebral cortexes, and to stem the nagging idea that ‘fun’ is always somewhere else, needing pursuing.”

John Naish, The Ignorance of Bliss, Sunday Times Lifestyle 27 Jan 08

What to do when the lights go out…
Okay, so it’s 12:00 and you’re in the middle of an important document / production cycle when *bam* – the lights, power and aircon go down. Very soon you’re hot, sweaty and bored…
Or you’re sitting with friends or family, watching TV and cooking a meal, when all comes to a sticky end, and you might actually have to make conversation…

What to do? Well, to avoid the trap of getting sucked into another round of heated discussions, here are a few things that should help pass the time in a really enjoyable way…

In last month’s newsletter I talked about being prepared for unscheduled time. If you’re carrying a notebook around, this is Planning and Doing time.

At work:
The funniest thing at work is that we’re now talking to each other! In a world of business-outcome driven communication, email and short phone-calls are our modus operandi. Spending half an hour or more chatting with our colleagues can be surprisingly enlightening, adding a nice social dimension to project teams. This won’t kill all your time though, and maybe your colleagues aren’t the kind you socialize with, or you’re on a pressured deadline. Informal planning and brainstorming sessions can be really beneficial instead – with no time deadline you can really talk things through, and pen and paper still work when our screens are blank J

If you can get out, it’s a great time to clear your head, and since I’ve taken to carrying my sketchbook with me, I’ve discovered it’s also a magic time to get stuck into a creative project. Wordsmiths, artists, crafters, musicians and anyone who doesn’t need powertools can pull out their projects and give them some quality attention… and become an object of fascination amongst your colleagues, who suddenly become inspired to take up their own hobbies…

At home:
If you’re in or responsible for a group of people, this can be trying time indeed. Again, the arts and crafts are all great activities if you can pull everyone together. Alone or in a group, collage is a great use of time – it’s amazing how quickly time passes when we’re collecting images and arranging them meaningfully on a page.

And when the lights are out, and it really is dark, huddled around candles we should steer away from eye-intensive activities (although I confess I often write by candle-light).
Music is a great night-time bonder – if you play, this is good practice time or the chance to show off your own ‘Unplugged’ sound. If you don’t, it’s a good time to bug your friends who do – or make it up as you go along…

Story-telling is also a good imagination stretcher if your group is good for it: I like the “And then…” game, where each person tells a quick ‘chapter’ following from previous ideas, and can have some hilarious results.

Personally I’m not that fond of being alone in the dark, so if you’re on your own, I recommend phoning a bunch of friends, or heading off to a restaurant to do some brainstorming, or have a new food experience, or going to see that movie you’ve been thinking about for a while.

If you have other creative ways of dealing with your power-free time, please let me know, and let’s share with the other readers out there…

And of course, all these can be done with the power up, so don’t feel you have to wait if inspiration strikes…

Wishing you all a peaceful and inwardly illuminating month.

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