January 7, 2015

At 36th CreativeMornings in Chicago, Audience Takes the Stage

To end a year of gatherings, the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings invited, for the first time, audience members to take the stage and share their wisdom. Members applied to speak via video during November. From the submissions, four were selected. By order of appearance, the speakers were Stefani Bachetti, Sandy Weisz, Julie Schumacher, and Bryan Kveton. Each gave a generous bit of applied perspective, in just five minutes.

Raise the act of scribing

Bachetti(1) urged the audience to take their notetaking to the next level by utilizing a method of sketchnoting. On the surface, sketchnoting has the appearance of storyboarding, or the fidelity of comic-book art. There are large letters, panels, and portraits, with dashes of diagrams. Sketchnoting can be superficially deemed art. But it’s not, according to Bachetti, who emphasized the essential purpose of sketchnoting: “It’s about communicating an idea.” The output of sketchnoting is immediate in its illustrative results, buts it’s the input that conditions sketchnoting as a discipline of active learning. It is an innovative option to its traditional (and just as innovative) basis of notetaking.

Puzzling obsession

Weisz’s presentation about puzzle-hunts, which are games where groups of people solve a series of puzzles in a particular area, was a truncated version of his thorough talk at Chicago-based Cusp Conference in 2014. It was telling that his obsession with orchestrating puzzle-hunts originated at the age of ten, when his father created a puzzle-hunt for him. Weisz has been improving his craft of designing puzzles for collective engagement and executing them as group adventures. Where Bachetti urged elevation of notetaking, Weisz’s elevation is directed towards the equally primal invention of the puzzle, which, like sketchnoting, takes information and manipulates it toward broadening one’s mind, in Weisz’s case, at a dizzying level.

When an audience member described Weisz’s puzzle-hunt creations as a “line of work,” he chuckled and called the comment “cute.” But I agree that making something like a puzzle-hunt is no different than the effort it takes to excel at being an artist, a magician, a tightrope walker, a designer of sex toys, and so on. For something composed of many interconnected parts, mostly mental and totally unpredictable, this qualifies surely as work—a lot of it.


While listening to Schumacher’s talk, I recalled the philosophy of martial-artist Bruce Lee: “Running water never grows stale. So you just have to ‘keep on flowing.’” Schumacher encouraged fluidity. From her experiences as a middle-school teacher, she lived lessons turned into observations that fed her professional frontier. No longer a middle-school teacher, Schumacher has evolved into a writer and editor. Whether it’s the daily act of human-to-human interaction or finding ultimately what one truly feels is fulfilling to do for a lifetime, Schumacher prescribed more flow, less friction.

Another observation, a recurring lesson, that Schumacher gave, was: “How you respond makes a difference.” To be reactive is easy than to be reflective. The latter gives more cause to breathe and minimize regret.

More cow bell

Kveton’s presentation made me recall a past talk by Chicago-based singer-songwriter Elle Cassaza, who, like Weisz, also spoke at Cusp Conference 2014. Both revealed the ingredients of a song tailored to exude that appeal—that much pursued hook. To Kveton, the recipe for a solid song consists of a subject, complemented appropriately by chords, lyrics, and melody. “Recipe for success” is an overworn phrase, but Kveton’s presentation reinforced its relevance in forming identity, building character, and making something potentially catchy.

In twenty minutes, four individuals, who practice distinct creative interests, gave unique takes about creativity and how it can be applied. Education—CreativeMornings’ global theme for December 2014—ensued.

(1) My assumption: Stefani Bachetti joined the Sketchnote Army.

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Big thanks: to Grind (Host), Basecamp, Braintree, DieCutStickers.com, for being Partners of Chicago CreativeMornings #36; to organizer Kim Knoll and operations manager Kyle Eertmoed of Knoed Creative, who spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7; to the team of volunteers—Benjamin Derico, Anica Wu, Chris Gallevo, Keith Mandley II, all—for greatly helping to make CreativeMornings happen in Chicago.

Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008. The fifth chapter was launched in Chicago, June 2011—my write-up and photos.

Read more about the people who make the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings possible.

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My coverage: view more photos of 36th CreativeMornings in Chicago; read more write-ups about CreativeMornings.

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2011 was Chicago CreativeMornings’ debut year. Download the entire collection of selected insights.

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