Poetic Problem Solving with Collage

Back in 2014 a friend reintroduced me to the joys of collage via the medium of vision pages. The premise is along the lines of a dreamboard,but using cut out words, not just images.

This was an enlightening moment for me because, even though I’m a very visual thinker, vision boards had always left me cold. But now I could shift words around on a page, and add pictures if I wanted to? Woah! And then a remembering whisked me back through the mists of time to 1987.

I had done this very thing, almost 30 years before, on the notice board of my 5th form, boarding school prison cell.

I also remembered all the scrap books I’d loved making – how had I forgotten about something that brought me so much joy?

Over the past 5 years I’ve utilised this process more and more. It’s become a kind of meditation for me. It’s helped me to home in on recurring themes, which is a big part of what lead me to the creation of The Sensory Coach.

I tend to create new pages around the time of the full and new moons each month. Sometimes I’ll just feel the urge to create a page outside of those times, if there’s something niggling away at me that I need to get out. Like journalling I suppose, except…. not!

This afternoon, as I was creating a page, I was pondering how the process works. This was connected to a question a friend had asked me a couple of days before:

‘Tell me how your idea creation process works.’

(She’s a coach, and these are the sorts of deep diving questions us coaching types love to ask.)

My response?

‘Erm… I dunno, it just sort of happens!’

Which is sort of true, but given she said she would keep me in mind as an Ideas Consultant, I figured that I should probably give this process a bit more thought. And I do love me some thinking!

Ready for a bit of Hansel and Gretel breadcrumb trail following?

I started the 100 days project at the beginning of April, having chosen the loose theme of Sensory Soul Art. It sounds a bit pretentious given I’m not an artist, but the container gave me scope to explore, and it’s been another enlightening process.

Last week I watched a documentary on Netflix called The Creative Brain, which gave me inspiration for this piece of art play.

When I was writing up the caption for it on instagram I said:

‘…The ways in which seemingly disparate input can form connections over time seems, to me, a bit like Ready, Steady, Cook! (Anyone remember that programme?) You start off with a bag of random items and have to create a dish or two that brings them all together.’

This afternoon, as I was cutting out appealing words and phrases from magazines – keeping the left brain occupied so that the right brain was able to come online to free associate (or as Daniel Pink puts it: ‘The left hemisphere analyses the details; the right hemisphere synthesises the big picture.’) – these rememberings were sifted to the front of my awareness:

  1. Me and my dear friend, Lisa, playing with magnetic poetry whilst waiting for an appointment with The Emergency Poet.
  2. Playing on the CSI game and using the lab assembly table to piece bits of evidence together.
  3. The book A Discovery of Witches in which the main character, Diana, problem solves by imagining all the elements of the problem as puzzle pieces on a white table. She waits for them to rearrange themselves so that she can see the whole picture – she later discovers that this is one form her magic (as a witch) takes.
  4. References from the book Refuse to Choose about ‘scanners’ – a term the author uses to describe people like me who love learning more than knowing.
  5. The knowledge that movement helps to promote mental activity, leading to faster cognitive processing.
Me and Lisa, 2 years ago, playing with magnetic poetry

These recollections prompted me to consider some things about myself:

  1. I’m a collector (some might use the term hoarder) of things, ideas, experiences, memories, information, random junk!
  2. I thrive in visually busy spaces – not busy with movement or sound though, that’s exhausting.
  3. I have a ridiculously retentive memory.
  4. I’m a voracious reader.
  5. I’m a listener.

I appreciate that there are a lot of words here. This is one of the things that puts me off blogging, because all of that up there, took moments to whizz across my brain and form into the completed puzzle. Trying to type it up into a piece of writing that makes sense however…. hours!

But the way my brain works has value. A value I’ve really not appreciated for most of my life, which has been a shocking waste of my abilities frankly. It’s about time I started to vocalise my strengths, and demonstrate the level of background work that goes into this ‘just sort of happens’ process.

My friend Kate told me that marketing is like painting and decorating: there’s an awful lot of preparation work involved that you don’t see. It’s the same with my idea generating process. It’s a culmination of every sight, sound, smell, taste, touch I’ve experienced in my life, colliding with the information that you’re giving me, when you’re asking for my input. As was said in the netflix documentary:

‘Creativity doesn’t mean inventing something out of nothing, instead it’s about refashioning what already exists.’

David Eagleman

The creation of a vision page is a tangible demonstration of how my idea generation process happens.

The words and images that stir your senses will be particular to you, how you arrange them will be a result of your very personal thought processes and associations. That’s why moving pieces of cut out paper around is a worthwhile use of time. It’s how you create poetry like this piece I came up with earlier today:


everyone deserves a
wild love
held in softness
adorned in perfume

That’s how you can solve problems, work out what your underlying passions are, and just have a bit of fun with glue and paper, like you did when you were a child.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on. If you want some guidance, then might I point you in the direction of my friend Angela? She’s running a programme on Patreon called Resonance, where she’ll be teaching her process.

I must apologise for the dreadful formatting, I just can’t get to grips with the new wordpress block system.

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