Storey staffers learn a lesson in creativity, led by one of their own.

eleven circles creativity workshop

Photo by Mars Vilaubi

Every industry, profession, job, or project needs new ideas now and again. That’s how we advance personally, professionally, and culturally. But those ideas don’t have to come from big-shot geniuses.

Your Idea Starts Here author Carolyn Eckert says great ideas live inside each one of us. We just have to take the time to see, listen, and think.

Earlier this spring, Carolyn, who is an art director here at Storey, led her co-workers in a workshop about the creative process, which she divides into three phases: gather; break; and build. This simple, how-to approach puts inspired, yet realistic, ideas within reach for everyone, even if you don’t think of yourself as a creative person.

Candy eleven circles workshop

Photo by Mars Vilaubi

Carolyn challenged us to turn off the parts of our brains that tell us, “that’s silly” or “you can’t do that” or “someone else will have a better idea.” She encouraged us instead to just see where our imaginations led us. To get us started, she filled our tables with all kinds of circular objects — donut holes, lifesavers, M&Ms, lollipops, pom poms, pipe cleaners, paper plates, straws, cups, and pens and pencils. Then she gave us all a wide-open prompt:

Create eleven circles in eleven minutes.

Pipe cleaners eleven circles workshop

Photo by Mars Vilaubi

Her goal was basic and profound: to see what we came up with, individually and as a group. And as we worked, we unwittingly played out many of the lessons Carolyn offers in her book, such as:

Don’t overlook the obvious.

Limit your options.

Think like a minimalist.

Make the ordinary extraordinary.


Maybe you need a partner.

Cheerios eleven circles creativity workshop

Photo by Mars Vilaubi

Even with the same tools in front of us, the results were impressive and diverse, including project editor Hannah’s plate, which declared that she had eaten eleven donut holes, and production designer Liseann’s hand with just the impressions of color left behind by M&Ms. Each of us approached the assignment differently, meaning that each of us also learned something different or benefitted in a different way from the process.

But we all had at least one idea. And in those moments that we all experience, when a single idea feels hard to come by, that’s a good lesson to hold onto.

Be a part of the Eleven Circles project! Submit your own to author Carolyn Eckert’s Eleven Circles Tumblr or tag your image on social media with the hashtag #11circles.

Your Idea Starts Here cover

Mia Lumsden

Mia Lumsden is a project editor at Storey who—when she’s not working on books—is likely knitting, hand-spinning, taking naps with her dog, swimming, or eating… See Bio

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