Each Practice Profile in the series highlights the personal creative practice of an individual, in order to demonstrate one of the most reliable and inspiring elements of creative expression: variety.  In an increasingly complex world, the outlets for creative expression, and the tangible forms of such expression, are both exciting and staggering!

The nature of creative practice defies narrow definition.
There is consistency within practice, but practice is often mercurial. There are some common elements between individuals, but personal practice is also highly idiosyncratic.  Fortunately, the many benefits of maintaining a practice are far easier to describe.

Len Kendall describes his personal practice this way:

“In a word, accidental. My creative practice is generally spurred by discovering interesting new ideas, projects, and people online. My output usually comes in the form of writing, sketching, and “non-technical hacking” which involves using digital tools in unexpected ways. When I come across something that excites me or challenges me, I block off time in the future to tinker with it or write about it. The majority of the time, my creative practice has little output, but the process of sifting leads me to new creative avenues. Once in a while, I land a real gem.”

Len’s emphasis on the inherent value of process renders output, temporarily, to a secondary concern.  What Len refers to as “new creative avenues” are a necessary part of the process which ultimately lead to new creative territory.  Although this craggy territory may be harder to explore than territory which is already known, the input we receive from such exploration is key to creative output.  To explore is to be willing to investigate new avenues without knowing the terrain, or exactly where the road, on or off the macadam, might lead.  Reserving time  to investigate a topic that excites or challenges, as Len mentions, truly embodies the spirit of exploration that is needed to “land a gem”.

Much has been written about the importance of flexible thinking in the 21st century, and adaptability as a significant life skill.  On the topic of flexible thinking, John Dewey once wrote, “Only because the artist operates experimentally does he open new fields of experience and disclose new aspects and qualities in familiar scenes and objects.”   Although it is true of the artistic process, this openness to new fields of experience, described by Dewey, is a necessary part of exploration in every domain.

Len acknowledges the role of experimentation:

“With my new venture CentUp, I’m building a product that requires a behavior change in a large group of people. Taking on creative projects requires a person to learn something new, try something different, or simply be uncomfortable. Ultimately, there are hurdles that need to be overcome and I’ve been studying the specific issues that have prevented me, and others, from wanting to pursue a creative idea. The same process takes place with a new digital product.”

Although Len chose the word accidental to describe his practice, it is also clear that there are some important moments he isn’t willing to leave to chance.  Here he describes the resourcefulness that characterized a recent milestone:

“When I proposed to my now fiancé via something I called Operation SayYesKatie, I had to build a viral campaign extremely quickly and leverage the power of a large media partner and my friends.”

The examples in this Practice Profile speak to a personal creative practice that prizes the process, and also demonstrates where the avenues of such a process might lead.  Other examples of his handiwork found on the internet demonstrate where else the process might lead!
So what has all this exploring and experimentation taught Len about the nature of creativity?

He explains:

“The biggest lesson I learned is that people are more inclined to help you with creative projects if there is a large component of good involved. With my proposal that component was helping a guy profess his love, with my new professional pursuit, it’s raising money for charity. So much creative talent today is leveraged to sell commodity products. My practice with creativity in the past has taught me that if you want lots of collaboration in your creative pursuits, you need to be building something that makes people’s hearts feel good.” 

What has your creative practice taught you?


Len Kendall lives in Chicago, Illinois.
Expert at nothing. A Social Entrepreneur.
He is the founder of http://centup.org and former Digital Director @GolinHarris.
The internet is his box of LEGOs.

© 2012 Kira Campo