I realized that scaling up with a collage or drawing could be a safe stand-in for scaling up with smArts & Culture.
With the added energy and support of a cheering section (it was the first official meeting of the awesome Society of the Secret Play Date membership), here's what happened.
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For the past couple of Play Dates, I decided to use my big pad of 18 x 24 newsprint.
Then I realized I could go bigger still.
I taped together four pieces to make one 24 x 36-inch newsprint surface.
Whoo! Going big!
As soon as I saw that expanse of white, I wanted paint.
I wanted to paint some kind of ground to start, but the only paints I had on hand were some little watercolors.
Why haven't I bought any paints?!
This has been a problem for weeks.
Usually I use thick magic markers as a substitute, but I wanted some paint, dammit!
Since the spirit of Secret Play Date is all about using what you have, once I stopped swearing, I started looking around the apartment for some kind of colored liquid.
I settled on some cheap balsamic vinegar.
I pulled out the larger of two watercolor brushes, but it still looked so puny.
Then I remembered a large makeup brush I'd bought and never used.
The vinegar made a pale brown wash -- not exactly thrilling, but it didn't matter.
What I was really after, I realized, was the feeling of making big, broad gestures with that brush, and noticing how different it felt from making small marks in my notebook.
Not better, but different.
The big surface felt luxurious.
The smell of the vinegar was evocative, too.
It took me back immediately to decorating Easter eggs as a child.
That smell in that context means something absorbing -- the pleasure of choosing a color, getting lost in experimentation.
'Big. Really big.'
Then, as I started to go through my collage material, I realized that the seasons-old Philadelphia Orchestra brochure I'd been using for the past two weeks was full of 'big!'
The cover stated, 'It's going to be big. Really big.'
There were references to epic and monumental works.
Of course, I noticed the language two weeks ago when I picked up the mailer -- how sad and ironic it was, given that the orchestra has just filed for Chapter 11.
What didn't strike me until this Play Date was how weirdly coincidental the choice of this material was for me and my situation.
I was working on what it means to go big.
I was going bigger on artwork as proxy for going bigger in my business.
And the materials I was using were full of this over-the-top language about 'big!'
Big: not such a helpful metaphor.
Of course, being big and working big hasn't protected the orchestra. It may have made them more vulnerable.
There's an ambiguity about the need to go big, the wisdom of choosing big.
What this said to me was that 'going big' was not a helpful metaphor.
I already knew that I had negative associations with that phrase, but this little forehead-smacking moment really drove that home.
If you've been Play Dating with me, have you had any interesting realizations?