Sunday, July 5, 2009

Passionate Work

I had a nice lesson in passionate work over the weekend. With a friend, I went to see her teen-age son and his two band-mates perform at a local theater. The audience was very small--at mid-day on July 4th. Even so, it didn't matter to them that no one was there. They enthusiastically and passionately performed their own songs and covers to an almost empty theater. I was struck by how much they cared about the music, and thought about several other museum colleagues for whom music is an integral part of their lives.

I also thought about about the passionate volunteers I come in contact with--the ones who spend their Fourth of July distributing audience surveys at a local street fair, for example. Or my mom, whose enthusiastic embrace of local history in Hagerstown, Maryland became a passion for the past ten years (and who I know will find another new passion in her new/renewed hometown).

Are passion and creativity linked? I've been reading A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can be More Creative by Roger von Oech (recommended by Anne Ackerson on her blog). I spend a fair amount of time thinking about interpretive projects--and I don't want to think the same way about each project. I want to bring different ideas and perspectives to the table each time.

So von Oech provides some great ideas for avoiding staleness and conventional thinking. For me, I think that's one way to maintain that passion for work and avoid what he calls becoming prisoners of familiarity. Some of his suggestions:
  • Changing contexts is a way to discover the possibilities of your resources
  • Change the wording of your questions
  • Think in metaphors
  • Fall out of love with a cherished idea
  • Ask what if
  • Imagine you're the idea
  • Have fun and play
  • The hand stimulates the brain
  • Keep free time for exploring

We put a few of these into play at an interpretive planning meeting at the Chapman Museum in Glens Falls last week. The museum is beginning work on a new permanent exhibit on local history--but wants to try something very different than the usual local history timeline exhibit. We talked about what Glens Falls would have been if the lumber industry had never existed; we put our hands to work building some little interactive prototypes; and we talked about finding time to explore other museums and ideas.

Another piece of advice from the book? Let a random piece of information stimulate your thinking. That's what blogs are great for. I'm always looking for new ideas and information on blogs and other places on the web. That's one way, for me at least, to keep my own passion for the work I do.

Top to bottom:
Alex and Dylan. Hear their music.
Changing contexts: Maria Prymaschenko animal being carried on the street
View of Glens Falls, New York State Archives
Log interactive brainstorming, Chapman Museum

1 comment:

Claire said...

I love this post! Passion is so important. Wish I could've been in the audience myself.