Is it Time for a Set Change?

Welcome to Good Enough Creative, a podcast for creative people.

My goodness, it’s been a while! I’m your host, Marie Greene, author and founder of Olive Knits and Knit Camp, and I’m delighted to be bringing back the Good Enough Creative podcast! I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed this, and I can’t believe it’s been THREE YEARS since my last episode.  

But here we are, back in action, and I’ll be joining you again every Wednesday from here on out.  

A lot has changed in my business and in the world since we last spent time together here, so we’ll be catching up along the way as we continue the work of embracing creativity in all of its beautiful imperfection.

So, if you’re new to this podcast, that’s what we’re about. This is an ongoing conversation about what it means to live a creative life, in all of its imperfect glory. Striving to be perfect in our art isn’t the goal – and if it were, we wouldn’t get very far. Instead, I want to challenge you to embrace the beauty of “good enough” so that you can get out of your own way, and get your ideas into the world.

Let’s go ahead and dive in, shall we?

This episode started out in a completely different direction, and instead of sticking with my original idea, I decided to follow the inspiration to see where it took me. The episode began with an idea about how changing your scenery can change the flow of your day, and – in turn – trigger new ideas.

But as I worked through my own thinking about why a change of scenery makes a difference, a different visual took hold. Instead of a change of scenery, which mostly makes me think of going for a walk or going on a trip, I thought of a set change, like in a Broadway show. Don’t you love it when an idea turns on its side and takes on a life of its own? That’s exactly the point of this episode anyway, so instead of talking about why going for a walk is a great way to jumpstart your next idea, I want to talk about how – and why – a set change might be what’s missing.

If you’ve ever been to a Broadway show or seen a live production at your local theater, you’ve probably seen a set change. It’s that moment between scenes, when the stagehands scramble on stage in the dark and move the furniture around – or get rid of it altogether. They make quick work of it, turning a virtual bedroom into a night club or an undersea opera. In just a few moments, everything is transformed. Then the stage flickers back to life and the story Moves. Forward. The change from one scene, from one set to another, not only urges the characters forward, but it also shifts the momentum. It makes you stop and notice. It helps change the pace of the story. And it creates new opportunities for the characters to grow.

Is your story moving forward?

If we let it, a set change could be our reminder to move things around so we can get ourselves on higher ground – or at least different ground – so we can look around and figure out where we’re going next. But life isn’t a Broadway play, so how do we create a set change in our own lives? Here are a few ideas:

  1. A Quick Physical Change. We tend to believe that change has to be dramatic to make an impact, and I don’t think that’s true. A set change creates a new perspective by rearranging the characters’ window to the world, and it happens pretty quickly.

Physically moving things around (which might mean simply moving the furniture, or it might mean getting rid of some dead weight that’s just taking up space) – it’s a quick, easy, and free way to give your creative energy a boost. And honestly, I don’t think we give this idea enough credit.

Growing up, my mother used to rearrange the furniture and décor in our house at least once a month. We would come home from school and boom – the living room would be the dining room and one wall would be lined with baskets or new wallpaper. I didn’t know it at the time, but those shifts symbolized her need for change. And I think sometimes if we’re feeling powerless or stuck, being able to take charge of something – even if it’s as simple as clearing off the surfaces, little shifts are better than none. Changes don’t have to be life-altering to make an impact, they can be as simple as just moving things around in your space, getting rid of excess, painting an old piece of furniture, washing the curtains, or cleaning out your tacklebox.  

Rearranging some of the things I look at and use all day, every day, helps me see them with fresh eyes. I notice what I didn’t notice before. I find things I’d forgotten about. And while shifting your physical perspective may not seem earth-shattering, sometimes all you need is a tiny little adjustment that brings something new into focus.

I like to move my plants around to different windows in the house to see if they like the vibe better. You wouldn’t think it would matter much, but even with a similar amount of light and the same temperature and the same humidity, my plants have proven that they like some spots more than others. Just when I’ve given up on a few of them, I moved them around for a set change and voila! They perk up.

Look around your space, around the place you spend most of your time, and ask yourself – how long has it been since I moved something around or cleared something out? Is there a simple set change that I could create here to shake things up a bit? Whenever you’re stuck, move things around for a quick jumpstart. 

  • The Pause Gets You Ready for What’s Next. For the audience, a set change usually means a few minutes sitting in the dark. The actors have a brief break from being “on” in front of the audience – while they change costumes or double-check their place in the next scene. The front of house stuff (or where the audience is) is on pause to focus on what needs to happen behind the scenes – to get things ready for what’s next. During a set change, the action doesn’t stop – everyone is still very busy, but they’re doing the backstage work, rather than the performance work.

For life outside the theater, we could use a little strategic pause now and then, as well. Sometimes it’s a simple set change, and sometimes it’s a whole intermission. But it’s important to allow yourself a strategic pause now and then so you can get things in order for where you’re headed next.

This might look like scheduling a little time for journaling, or organizing your art supplies, or planning a weekly coffee date with yourself, to have the opportunity to step away from the noise and the expectations from those around you, and just take your own temperature. It’s a great time to ask yourself questions like,

Are things moving forward, or am I stuck? Where am I stuck? Why am I stuck?

What can I do now to help my future self reach her goals?

What small changes could I start working on today that would help me live the creative life I’ve been dreaming of?

Is there anything in my physical space that’s getting in my way or needs to go?

I find that it’s sometimes hard to allow myself those moments of pause because there’s always more I can and should be doing. The to-do list is never done. But sometimes we have to pause so that we can make sure we’re ready for the next scene. That little break might feel like you’re putting on the brakes, but that pause can help move your story forward.

  • Are you in the wrong scene?

I am most certainly not an actor, but I did do school theater and community theater when I was younger, and I honestly shudder to think about it, because I don’t think I was very good. Nevertheless, I remember the panic when someone wouldn’t be paying attention and realized they went on stage in the wrong scene, or were supposed to be there and weren’t. Being in the right scene at the right time is important.

And as creatives, our surroundings can have a lot to do with our inspiration.

Even though I spend a good part of my life traveling for my work, I am a homebody with a capital H, and I really wish my creative muse would hang out with me here when I’m in my favorite chair, sitting in front of the fire. But she doesn’t. She visits me when I’m sitting on a plane. When I’m at a museum. When I’m sitting in the train station. When I’m on the ferry. Inspiration strikes at the strangest times, but usually it’s when I’m doing something that’s not part of my regular routine.

When we create a set change, we’re saying I invite something new to happen. I invite a new idea. I invite a change of perspective. I invite the unknown. I’m moving the furniture and props around (literally or figuratively) so that my story can move forward.

When we’re stuck in our routine, doing what we always do, it’s WAY too easy to dismiss those little flickers of inspiration or just not notice them at all. They’re quiet. Sometimes they blend in. And sometimes they’re waiting for you to change your scene, they’re waiting for you to schedule a day to walk around the arboretum so that you can see a watercolor card in the gift shop that reminds you that you wanted to make more time for painting this year, and now you’re committed to going back home and pulling out those paints.

Inspiration can be loud or it can quiet, but it’s definitely more vivid when you opt out of your routine, even if just for an afternoon. It’s why date night OUT is often better than date night IN, at least at my house.

Date night IN means I’ll make dinner, like I always do, and we’ll sit where we always sit, and we’ll end up in the same conversations we always have – not that there’s anything wrong with that. But date night OUT means different food, different scenery, different people, different conversations. What’s DIFFERENT makes it memorable. It invites new experiences, and new experiences open the door for something interesting to happen.  

Sometimes we just need to ask ourselves, have I been stuck in the same scene for too long? Is it time for a change? And often, there are so many signs that are telling us that we’re in the wrong scene, but we’re just not paying attention.

It can look like feeling frustrated, stuck, overwhelmed, tired, aimless, hopeless.

The old adage, if nothing ever changes, then nothing ever changes. If you want something to change, if you are ready for the next scene in your life, YOU can be the catalyst.

Create a perspective shift in your physical space. Move things around. Shake things up. Sometimes the act of physical moving things around can help you see things in a new light.

Pause so you can get ready for what’s next. Remember that it’s important to give yourself the time and space to do what’s needed behind the scenes, too. The pause can help you move your story forward.

And check your scene. Inspiration would love to visit you, but sometimes it needs a little help to get through. Changing your routine once in a while can put you in the perfect spot for the next wonderful new idea to strike.

So if you’re feeling ready for something new, maybe it’s time for a set change?

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Until next time, my friend. You’ve got this.

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