Puzzles

Today is puzzle day! Now I bet you think that puzzles are funny shaped bits of board, colored on one side and plain on the back, and they all fit together in a perfect ordering. You’d be right, but what other kinds of puzzles do you regularly solve?

There are many kinds of basic puzzles that break down into categories of word, number, image, shape, and story. There is great fun and intrigue found in the many puzzling challenges that exist in daily life. For me that might be figuring the angles and infrastructure, the invisible bits of a sculpture. Or debating the myriad of choices I have to create a robust painting composition from the likes of lines, textures, colors and light play.

Puzzles are not only for artists or brain stimulation craving folks. Everyday puzzles exist and you engage them, too. I’m the chef in my abode and I must solve the dilemma of what to eat several times per day, for example: taking a bag of fresh vegetables and stirring them into a delightful meal; and kneading together flour water and yeast, shaping the dough, timing the bake and savoring the process, smells and taste are regular parts of the conundrum to work out.

Poetic puzzle solving is simply adding a bit of romantic description to what you do and the way you do it. I confess I can’t work out my meal mysteries with such overtones every day. It’s not unusual to show up at the market hungry, tired, and needing to have a meal on the table within the hour.  Not a romantic puzzle to arrange, but an important rather awesome one. The average grocery store contains upwards of 47,000 items for you to sort through. A big jig saw puzzle has 1000-2000 pieces which doesn’t sound so daunting compared to what you likely encounter regularly at your market choosing dinner.

Puzzles are a necessary ingredient in your day. What time will you rise? What to eat? How will you dress for the weather? What route to work? What are the important things to accomplish today? Your day is filled with layers of puzzles to solve. The power question to ask is: How will you work your days’ dilemmas and pull all the pieces together?

A puzzle is a mission resolved by strategy. There are key strategies used to correctly arrange every puzzle.

  • Frame the question/Claim the puzzle.
  • Clearly identify all the pieces.
  • Arrange the pieces in a manner that serves your resolution.
  • Work the process.
  • Know your endgame.

To claim the puzzle you identify what it is you want to accomplish. It might be something like you want to put together a puzzle so you can recreate the photo image.

When clearly identifying all the pieces you’ll need to think about the finished size and arrange the necessary supports while you fit the pieces together. How much time will you need?

When you arrange the actual puzzle pieces you will have to look at and sort them out in some particular manner. I turn them all right side up and pull out all the edge pieces. Then I separate by color and/or shape.

As I work through the puzzle I may rearrange my pieces to suit the next task. I employ image identifying skills looking at both the surface picture and the shape of the actual piece.

A part of the end game will be assembling all the pieces to see the puzzle image. Then what will you do? You could glue it onto another board and frame it or you can break it up to build again.

These strategies will work for any puzzle you encounter including those of work and relationships with people. Frame your question, claim your puzzle, identify the parts, plan your strategy, work the puzzle and plan your ending.

I’d love to hear your comments about your strategies and the puzzles you solve!

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(Photo courtesy of GDJ at Pixaby)

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Summer Blitzing

I don’t know about you, but as an artist I can get excited about pretty much anything. I love to let ideas tumble through my mind, and sometimes to distraction from my real creative work. As summer heats up in the north country, all I want to do is sit and dream. This is the summer blitzing phenomenon, that makes me feel light and fluttery, bouncing from one thought to another. In this mindset, I can’t do much physical or outdoor work, which is what we northerners save up and take advantage of doing in summertime. Frankly, it’s too hot to be outside anyway, so I need to work inside looking out. Gazing through windows is definitely dream time, however learning to do so with purpose can be mind bending. I have to remember to plan time for and call this activity passive work, and set limits on how much of it I can afford to do given my other commitments, but it’s always worthwhile.

One way to make idea spinning meaningful is to record what you see, sense, discover or ask about the experience. Your observations might come in handy to solve your current or future creative challenge. I also like recording mine, because it sets limits due to the media used, and makes the time a part of my real artistic work. I think as summer as the soft months during the year, a time to ease up my workload. So when I find the need to day dream, I try to honor it. When you make this a real part of your summer, you can look forward to blitzing your way through your creativity with insight and wonder, and maybe an unanticipated nap!

Reframing Can Help You Succeed

I had lunch with a friend the other day. “OMG/Boy I’m frustrated!” they said. “So what’s going on?” I ask. “I have a new project manager who doesn’t know what’s she’s doing.” “Tell me more,” I continue. Well she’s only been here a few months. She’s young, and more stereotypical descriptors flow into our discussion. At this point, I know my friend is facing a challenge and in the throes of learning. Frustration is the obvious symptom, and stereotyping is a sign they may feel cornered and defensive. And most of us want to elevate our symptoms fast, so we focus on what seems obvious to us.
There’s another way to make it feel better and actually enhance the experience. If we looked at our challenge as just that- a new encounter, we might be able to accept the differences and change that which is frustrating us. Saying some altered things to engage the situation, might sound something like this: “I have a new manager in charge of my project starting tomorrow. I really don’t know much about her, and I’d like to know what experiences she’s had that can make our project better. I’d also like to learn about her ideas and see how we can combine our thinking to make our project a great experience for the team.”
Here are some of the key differences when we look at a challenge as less of a threat and more of a learning exchange. In the example statements above we never give up our own important placement in the project. By reframing our thoughts and words, we continue to see ourselves as part of the team and take ownership of our role. We also embrace the new person as someone to learn about, rather than quickly assess and negatively judge. Reframing allows us to use our creative insights to discern what we need to know. We can stay focused on the project, not our feelings. Last, we anticipate a great experience as the successful outcome we expect.
All of these adjustments will bring up frustration and most likely won’t come easy for us, because learning something new is a change, and change is scary and hard. However, when we read our frustration simply as a symptom of a new learning that is taking place, we can simply reframe our thinking to more easily make the personal adjustments necessary to reach a positive outcome.
I’d love to hear how you’ve reframed your challenges to turn them into success!

Need Some Really Good Advice?

Ever get some advice that knocks you into a much needed reality change? I’m pretty sure you know the kind I mean. It comes in simple words, a sentence fragment, maybe just a sentiment. It packs a real punch because it comes at just the best time for you to feel it’s meaning, and recognize this is the purposed idea you most need now.

I got such a gift the other day, and it’s been a game changer for me. For over a year now, I’ve been under the weather with health issues. I’ve had a couple of surgeries to fix “things” that have been getting worse over time. I’m feeling guilty sharing this because I’m so blessed that none of it has been a serious health crisis. Except that now, the chronic nature of my healing has become a crisis. I’m not someone who likes to be lacking in energy or told to take it easy over and over and yes now, over again.

It’s hard to plan to creative projects when you doubt you can execute them. I feel like I’m just going to make more messes every time I try to start something, and this eats up my creative energy. I’ve always had the ability to come up with more ideas than I will ever be able to create, and sitting around resting to heal lets these dogged thoughts go crazy.  It uses up my energy to manage them, too.  

It really doesn’t matter what your energy buster might be. You could have limited energy, time, money or supplies from any number of situations. And your mental state could suffer just like mine has. So when magic words are spoken to you that help you put things back into a gentler perspective, they can be the balm that really works.

A really kind and wise mentor, Eric Maisel told me to “pester myself less.” And his words have stuck for me so much I’m making myself a necklace with this phrase to remind me to do just that! 

Chronic Need For Motivation?

Lately I’ve found myself needing an unending supply of motivation. Not the kind that gets you up and on with the day precisely, but the type that gets you through a project from beginning to end – and feeling overjoyed at all your accomplishments. Often us creative types can be at a loss for the satisfaction about what we’re capable of creating. Perfectionism is commonly blamed, but I’m discovering the real culprit is lost motivating energy. For me it feels like my car is stuck in between gears and I stall out.

What kind of creative mechanics could fix this? I’ve been stumbling around for long while trying to find it. And I think I finally have some words that fit, so I can begin to articulate my issues to myself and others; and hopefully get some useful feedback that will reinvent my motivation.

Here’s my plight: I’ve been endlessly clearing and organizing my home and studio. It’s more or less been going on for over a year and a half. Any sane person might ask,” What kind of mess do you live and work in?” Well not that much actually. It’s the emotional part that’s a mountain; and all the stuff that complicates those feelings. Today a wise advisor reminded me not to go into feeling grief and loss, but work at just staying in clearing the workspace and organizing it enough to work in. Well. duh! Simple switch up of words! That little change in how I’m thinking about this project opens up a whole new look at my progress, (which has been phenomenal) and what I need to do next (which is pretty simple).

As an empty nester, I now have all this space in my house which has accumulated the stuff of thirty years from an actively creative family and several businesses’. I let myself believe I was starting anew like moving out rather than moving on. I still live and work here and need my tools and supplies to create. What’s really changed is that I can finally spread out all over my home if I want to. Emotionally I never felt that was an option before. That feels freeing and more than a bit scary mostly because I’ve always had a cramped space to work in. That means there’s never been enough storage so things always looked a bit unkempt. My fear is that my living space will end up that way though it doesn’t have too. That’ll be my choice. My workspace just has to function well enough for my work flow, and the stored items can be moved all over my place as I please.

With these switched up words I feel like I can begin to keep up the energy I need to get back into the swing of what I really want to do and have the motivation to stay consistent with my efforts. The practice of not overwhelming myself, will need to be a chronic effort because, I’ll need to remind myself often that managing my workspace is about the flow of my work. It is not about the pack it up and check it off task mastering that can leave me feeling spent, joyless and unendingly emotionally worked to death. Well, right now, this all sounds to me good anyway – going to move a few boxes into a new location. Keep you posted on the rest of my progress.