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Here I am decluttering and taking stock of the mental residue from five years of college. There’s a lot to process, but here are things sticking with me as I go through the last days.

Follow the Questions
I like asking questions instead of searching for answers. I realized every time I set out to design or write something that was an answer, I was bamboozled. but every creative project that started with a question was rather fruitful. What if? What if this, what if that? what about this? In fact, sometimes, the project led me to answers along the way.

Always having the answer is a tiring, exhaustive, position to take, anyway. I don’t know best, I wish I did. You walk into college as a freshman and everyone knows something you don’t. Suddenly you’re a senior and you’re about to walk into an industry where everyone knows something you don’t. Problem solving is better as a shared journey. When I create and write things that explore a question, I think the end result is just as much an invitation to explore as it is a response to the original question.

This has enriched my creative practice. Not that I mind getting (or giving) a hardy straightforward answer when I need one, but my creativity doubles up on itself when I do things this way. So – I’ve gathered some of the questions I am excited about pursuing – through writing, design, conversation… there are so many great ways to pursue a question.

Questions I Am Excited About Pursuing:

  • How do we practice radical hospitality well? What does that mean to others? To me?
  • Hospitality: how much are we ‘required’ to sacrifice as Christians. Where do we get (do we even get to decide) to draw the line?
  • God delights in us! Design is often functional, but where are the creative projects that function to delight us? And what are the philosophies of those creatives?
  • It’s one thing to make visuals that educate about social change. It’s a different thing to build genuine motivation to make change. What creative projects lure us to the next step of taking action? How did they do it?

I’ve heard it said that listening well is hard. fair enough.

But it’s also super simple.

I constantly overthink. It was a glorious moment when I realized being a good listener was a simplified action for my brain. It requires empathy, attention, and care.
Lately, listening to people has been such a gift – not just for their story, time, and the relationship, but for the chance I get to stop thinking about myself for once. It is as refreshing as a break from the computer screen to read a book.

This “listening is a gift” mindset, paired with the opportunities to interview people coming up for my journalism class, has got me excited. I get to think, who have I met in these past four years that I really should take to coffee and just learn from: There’s too many people that come to mind.

My creativity has been a rollercoaster through college. To be a visual creative, an online presence is key — whether you journal your progress, attract job offers, or win clients. Your online presence is a thing – a big fat thing you have to think about.

It means the term “end user” or “viewer” or “reader” just hangs over me (us? Do you feel this too?). Sometimes I barely get to the part where I sit down and create. Starting is the hardest part. So step one of any creative process now, is just follow the question, and don’t worry about posting or publishing first thing. Because the main challenge is – will I even MAKE it? Starting is the hardest part; creating it is the best part. Sharing it with people is a sweet nectar too, but you can’t sip it if you don’t make it.

Time Management
In the past, fruitful creative time has been made for me. It’s either work time in class, crunch time before a deadline, or a burst of prolific spontaneity. All are sufficient motivators, but what I’ve figured out how to manufacture that experience for myself.

I’ve recognized that sweet spot where I quietly clear my mind so I can focus on one thing.

It’s the best thing to click on a timer, sit down and do it. Writing this sounds ridiculously simple and straightforward, but it’s an epiphany to me. Maybe it’s the technology – but I always got a bit of a productive high from going over my to-do list and multi-tasking (or “task switching”).

Now I get that productive “high” from doing one thing, and doing it well. It’s great, and it offers less headaches. I mean, who would’ve actually thought the joy of time management is as simple as taking the next step? My brain has been so befuddled projects that each require different skillsets. Now, any moment where I only have to juggle one singular thing is a gift. Even if it is a boring, tedious thing. If it’s one thing my little screen-scarred retinas love it.

NTS: after rereading this. A lot of things in my life are actually gifts.

Olivia Mason

Olivia loves the creative process, so she studies graphic design & writing. It is why she is so curious about the artwork & designs made by others. She loves the fresh smell of soil when repotting her plants, the crisp smell of paper when reading, and the sultry smell of smoke from a campfire. She enjoys hands-on artwork like collage or painting and listening to 50s jazz ballads and lo-fi mixtapes while she creates. Currently, Olivia is working in Grand Rapids, Michigan while she finishes her degree at Calvin University.


  • Nancy VandenBerg says:

    Oh Olivia, I found this so interesting! Thank you for sharing how to be successful in various areas of your life. I have learned that asking questions is even helpful as I write poetry. I read scripture and then begin a poem asking questions of why and what; soon other passages enter into my mind and clarify these questions. I, too, find such joy and clarity spiritually.

  • Jack Ridl says:

    I recommend the book Art & Fear by Bayles and Orland.

    Such a wise piece, Olivia. Thank you.

    One very windswept day, I ended my graduation speech with Rilke’s “Live the questions,” then surreptitiously slid my hand under the address and flipped it up into the wind where the pages floated every which way above and all over the football field.

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