Posted by: Liz Massey | February 28, 2014

Creative Link-A-Palooza: February 2014

1218054_36017604Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian. Courtesy of SXC.

How the ‘Failure’ Culture of Startups Is Killing Innovation

Erika Hall, the author of “Just Enough Research,” and the co-founder of Mule Design Studio, a San Francisco-based interactive design consultancy, makes a persuasive case for not following all the current cool design kids down the path of failing early and often. Her point is that ignoring the importance of research – which she defines as “a set of activities (ideally somewhat organized) that help businesses gather the additional information they need to achieve a goal” – actually takes even more time (in terms of chasing ideas down blind alleys or solving problems that no one encounters in reality) than studying a creative design issue the old fashioned way. A great contrarian take on one of the big creative memes of our age.

Bruce Springsteen, Woody Allen, and the Long Tradition of Hating Your Own Work

A very good look by Jocelyn K. Glei on the 99U site at how many famous creative people have almost squelched their own masterpieces. Glei discusses several other projects that almost didn’t launch in addition to the ones alluded to in the headline, and concludes:

So what’s the lesson in all this? On a practical level, it may be that we all need a third party — a friend or a producer who’s truly in our corner — to keep us accountable, and make us publish, when we’ve persisted so long that we don’t have any energy left to cheerlead ourselves across the finish line. On an existential level, it may be that the difference, and the distance, between the idea and the execution is always just a little bit greater than we expect. As author Michael Cunningham has written, “The art we produce lives in queasy balance with the art we can imagine.”

Inspiration From Pinterest For Offices That Stir Creativity

In the wrong hands, this slideshow/story combo could be another gee-whiz, “isn’t working at Pinterest (or another innovative company) cool” sort of monstrosity. But contributing writer David Zax uses details from the cool things going on at Pinterest (which include leaving a lot of the office spare and minimal so employees could decorate and embellish after moving in; encouraging displays of intriguing employee collections; and commissioning a piece of functional art from artist Thomas Wold) to document how these actions undergird the company’s entrepreneurial DNA:

The handmade feel to Pinterest’s offices is actually the expression of something deeper, says (brand designer Victor) Ng–a core value that is likely key to the company’s success.
“There’s a value in the company called ‘knitting,’ which essentially means collaboration,” says Ng …. “Knitting” applies not just to work projects, he explains, but to the crafting of Pinterest’s own physical space. And indeed, beyond that, the spirit of “knitting” applies to any of the various aspects of Pinterest’s culture that are about individuals creating and sharing with the group: the baked goods the recruiting team brings in every Friday [and] the weekly “Studio Nights” on Thursdays when anyone in the company can share a skill with the others (recent topics have included sushi-making and beeswax craftsmanship).
“It’s all part of the culture of making that we try to encourage,” says Ng.

Stretching Beyond the Artistic Comfort Zone

Painter has produced a really fine essay that discusses her choice to take on an artistic challenge that previously had her feeling intimidated: participating in a plein-air painting day in her community. She went so far as to get on the committee organizing the event, and she was planning to participate as well (this essay was written in September 2013).

She mentions some great strategies for taking on challenges that stretch a person creatively – including not trying to challenge oneself on too many levels at once (i.e., since she’s really stepping out with painting outdoors in public, she’s going to use media familiar to her), bringing friends along to play, and not making it competitive – but my favorite part of her post is her explanation for why she decided to do it.

Why am I doing it anyway? This is how I grow artistically. I push myself to continually try new things. Whether it be new subject matter, new technique, new media, or new approach, I seek ways to challenge myself to do things I’m not good at. I don’t make the same kind of leaps when I stay safe and execute the same things over and over. This is definitely a feel the fear and do it anyway concept.

This article is a great one to pull out any time you need inspiration to reach beyond what you’re comfortable with to grow and develop creatively.

Posted by: Liz Massey | January 28, 2014

Interview: Pam Slim On Invigorating Your “Body of Work”

Author Pamela Slim.

Author Pamela Slim.

Over the years, I’ve interviewed many people for Creative Liberty about their creative habits and how they maintain a life that allows creative flourishing. I’ve also pondered the fate of the artist at work – that intersection of making art and making a living. However, when I saw that Pamela Slim was coming out with her new book Body of Work, I immediately sent off a request for an interview, because I could tell this was a book that would bridge the gap some of us experience between flourishing in our creative discipline and feeling like we are crafting a successful career.

I posted a review of the book a few days ago, and it’s well worth the read. At the end of December, Pamela and I had a lovely phone conversation. Here are some highlights from that interview.

Pamela hard at work in her office!

Pamela hard at work in her office!

Creative Liberty: Tell me how you came to write this book, and how it fits with the message of your first book.

Pam Slim: What I had noticed over the past 8 years since Escape from Cubicle Nation was published was that in working with early-stage entrepreneurs, there was a light and a dark side … People would end up believing that working for oneself was the only way to experience freedom, when I never put that forward. I was quite fond of my time in Corporate America…. In the new book, I wanted to open up the discussion about how to create our own security in a market that’s more uncertain than ever.

Creative Liberty: Although there’s plenty in the book that creative people can gain from, it’s not aimed entirely at artists and innovators. What parts of the book do you think will be most useful for creatives?

Pamela Slim: The most relevant chapters are Chapter 5, on creativity; Chapter 7, on collaboration; and Chapter 9, on selling your story.
For entrepreneurs, getting good at creating, and definitely getting good at getting your work shipped, is very important. Building a collaborative network is also important, especially if you’re moving into a new area. And  everyone needs to improve their storytelling abilities. We all have to tell someone a story to convince them to work with us.

Creative Liberty: I especially liked the tip in the chapter on creativity and innovation that urged readers to “think like a scientist.” What did you mean by that and how can it help creative people?

Pamela Slim: When doing something new or creating from the heart, it’s easy to look at things in terms of success or failure … When we release our art into the world, it’s a sensitive time. If it doesn’t go well, it’s far healthier to take an objective view and ask, “I wonder what happened?” Other people may have succeeded because they had a huge platform of support, had a timely idea, or had more resources to pour into the launch of their work. When we’re able to look at a situation objectively, it’s possible to discover things that will help us be more successful next time.

Creative Liberty: You spend some time in the book discussing how to deal with the shame of failure. Why is this important for someone building a body of work?

Pamela Slim: The decision to include material on dealing with shame comes from the sort of work I do. I spend hours in heart to heart conversations with people [who are launching new ventures]. What people see of that process in public and on social media is an overview that skips many steps. It doesn’t show the weeks of time when we may have felt self-doubt, stuffing Oreos in our mouth and grappling with uncertainty.
For people who are unknown, it is part of the creative process to experience shame. If it’s not discussed, people beat themselves up  more. … If we recognize it’s normal and we have ways to deal with it, that’s very important.

Creative Liberty: One of the things about the book’s focus that struck me as interesting is that it provides a platform for viewing service-oriented activities (social entrepreneurial projects or volunteering) as directly tied to our “body of work.” How do you think this is different from the status quo (the way we tend to view volunteer/service activities now), and how might this play out in the life of a creative person?

Pamela Slim: In the creative community, we have seen 2 extremes when it comes to this question – the starving artist who suffers joyfully for his or her art, but who must be broke to be any good, and the person who makes the choice to monetize everything.
In my chapter on the definition of success, I note that some people prefer to make an impact. Money isn’t really part of it. What’s important is that you focus on what’s important to you. … You need to decide what you require in order to feel successful, and then ask yourself how you are going to fund that. The person who should judge that is the person doing the creating – not me.

Creative Liberty: Is there anything else you’d like to share that’s relevant?

Pamela Slim: I’ve noticed that when I’ve presented the Body of Work perspective to clients, they’ve reacted with relief. In the entrepreneur’s world, there is too much focus on differentiating “work” (a full-time wage job) from startup ventures.

As the book is released, I am expecting some push-back from those representing traditional work paths. Recruiters may read it and say “I’m not going to be interested in hiring someone whose job history is all over the place, versus someone with a focused career path.” My response will be to point out how many fewer people have been able to pursue a focused path thanks to the economy, and how fewer people who are coming out of school today actually want that kind of path.

When you separate various types of work modes from the “traditional” path for a particular type of creation, people have choices. For example, to do an outdoor art installation, you can seek grants, do a crowdfunding campaign, or work on commission. It may be possible to do creative work within an organization – simply realizing that provides relief and support for many people.

Check out Body of Work on Amazon

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Posted by: Liz Massey | January 25, 2014

Recommended Reading: Body of Work, By Pamela Slim

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The Book: Body of Work, by Pamela Slim

The Takeaway: Body of Work is an amazing guide to viewing one’s career, creative passions, volunteer projects and family contributions as part of a single life legacy. Young or old, the book can help artists and innovators see their oftentimes diverse experiences in light of a larger, more compelling story.

Body of Work author Pamela Slim.

Body of Work author Pamela Slim.

The Review: Pamela Slim liberated thousands of office drones from a life in Corporate America in her first book, Escape From Cubicle Nation. In her new book, Body of Work, she manages to liberate everyone else, by helping readers view their vocation in light of their entire life.
Drawing upon the arts metaphor of a body of work, which frames the discussion at a higher level than just “how to get that next job” or “how to start a business.” Slim helps readers examine their root values and motivations in order to better understand the themes of their life’s work, and then discusses the different modes of work in which these tasks can be played out – full-time jobs, contact work, in a business, or as part of a service endeavor.
Creativity and innovation warrant an entire chapter in Body of Work. Slim doesn’t focus so much on where you might apply your creativity as she does on practical tips for getting your project – whether it’s job-related or not – from the dream stage to the out-the-door-in-the-hands-of-happy-customers/audiences stage. I also appreciated the amount of ink she gives to deepening your mastery mindset. In the book, she says,

“In today’s world of hacks, shortcuts and instant money-making blueprints, I think we have lost appreciation for slow-brewing mastery of our work. … [T]rying to finish first in a short race is not only stressful, it also works against developing deep expertise.”

Another chapter of special interest to creative people is the one on collaboration. I realized as I read it that I, like a lot of artists, too often tried to “go it alone” when working on a business endeavor and not reach out for help from people with complementary skills. Slim provides examples of the many roles other people can play in our projects, including mentors, smart/challenging friends (who can critique your ideas without crushing you), creative thinkers who will brainstorm possibilities with you, and influencers who can help you move your ideas forward and “sell” them to others.
The final chapter on telling the story of your body of work was particularly impressive to me as a writer and editor. My observation is that many creative people struggle to articulate what their work is about. (Some may even feel that if they can articulate it in words, it’s not really “art.”) Slim points out the value of a story that brings across the core themes of your work, and as in the rest of the book, provides useful exercises to help the reader do that while the material is still fresh in their minds.
Body of Work is a great book for anyone who wants to feel a greater coherence between their art, their day job, and all the other significant projects they spend their time and life energy on. It’s short and action-oriented, while spurring reflection and evaluation within one’s mind, heart, and soul.

Watch the book trailer for Body of Work!

Posted by: Liz Massey | January 1, 2014

14 Ways To Ignite Your Creativity in 2014

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Photo courtesy of Leo Reynolds/Flickr.

There’s something magical about writing today’s date. An entirely new year, bringing with it a new set of hopes and expectations, can be the springboard to greater creative involvement. While sustainable habit change doesn’t always happen automatically with the change in calendar, it can be a great time to try something new.

Here are a few suggestions for sparking greater activity in the new year. Some are drawn from past personal experience and the findings I’ve shared on this blog, some are drawn from the enthusiasms of others, and some just sound fun and something I would like to try this year. Enjoy!

1. Take a class — If you’ve always wanted to draw, play the recorder, or act in a play, one way to get past being intimidated by a new art form is to get instruction from a teacher. It’s also a way to get over a “stuck spot” in your artistic development (especially if you are largely self-taught).

2. Try Zentangle — My oldest sister alerted me to this art form a couple of years ago. It appealed to her, as a project manager who moonlights as an opera singer, because of its focus on using structured patterns to create beautiful images. Since there is a big emphasis in Zentangle on relaxation and being able to shift perspective and focus, it may be a non-threatening way to introduce yourself to the world of making visual art. (I’m pondering trying Zentangles myself, as I love the idea of drawing but not stretched my skills in that area yet. If I do, I’ll report on what I find.)

3. Switch disciplines – If you’re a writer, try singing or playing a musical instrument, or learning how to sketch. If you work primarily in visual media, try expressing similar ideas in text or sound. In addition to providing a new creative challenge, switching disciplines may also provide the part of the brain that handles your main creative discipline with enough of a rest that you may receive new creative insights when you’re working on the “side” discipline.

4. Help someone else – Another way to recharge our creative batteries is to hook them up to someone else’s project. It can take our ego out of the equation, or it can harness the power of collaboration and augment our contributions with those of people with other skill sets. If you’d like to sink your teeth into some of humanity’s most pressing social issues, you can join a team on the OpenIDEO platform and submit projects that address challenges that include healthy aging, improving community wellness, and preventing acts of mass violence.  If your creative contributions run in a more hands-on direction, you can participate in the Quirky crowdsourcing site, which profiles scores of inventions in various stages of development.

5. Get help from someone else – If you’re developing your own creative project, one way to attract an audience and test its viability before you do a big launch is to post it to a crowdfunding site, such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. The nature of such campaigns requires you to attract an audience of invested supporters, who are committing to your success on a level beyond a simple consumer exchange (although it’s nice to provide good bling for your donors).

6. Read something inspiring — My library card is the primary way I “test drive” good books on creativity. (I’m also lucky enough to get books to review for this blog from time to time, which I greatly appreciate.) A couple of books I’m looking forward to exploring in the new year:

7. Watch something inspiring – Beyond the latest crop of TED Talks, which present experts sharing ideas from areas as diverse as medicine, design, psychology and urban planning, there are also great, thought-provoking presentations from the Ignite presentation series. The live storytelling festival The Moth has a YouTube channel filled with some of its most compelling performances. And if that’s not enough, 99U has curated a list of 10 awesome videos on idea execution and the creative process.

I love these two brief videos, based on audio from talks by the late philosopher Alan Watts:

8. Listen to something inspiring – Think you don’t have time to refill your creative cup because of housework or a long commute? Think again! Podcasts and radio shows can be thought-provoking, fascinating and stimulating. One of my favorites is Roman Mars’ 99 Percent Invisible, which focuses on design and the man-made environment – but which addresses these topics in innovative, mind-expanding ways. I also enjoy NPR’s TED Radio Hour podcast, which remixes the audio from TED talks with recent interviews with the speakers, and Nate DiMeo’s Memory Palace, which brings the human touch to random moments in American history.

9. Go for a walk – Or a run. Or ride your bicycle. Or dance to club music. Moving your body in a focused yet repetitive way gets all sorts of positive chemicals flowing inside of you, and can also provide the stage onto which great ideas can step into your consciousness.

10. Spend time with a child – Young children don’t question whether they can draw, tell stories, or sing – they do all of those things, and many more, for the pure joy of it. They test ideas and develop new ones on the fly. You can get in touch with your own child-nature by interacting with your own children, or by hanging out with those of your relatives or friends.

11. Take time to dream and daydream – Don’t plan out every minute of your life. If you’re like me, someone who loves to create structures and sculpt her schedule, this can be tough, but some of our finest moments of creation can come from having down time where we just think about what could be and how much we’d enjoy that alternative version of the future.

12. Feed your creative momentum – You can avoid creative blocks by practicing a few simple habits. Creative momentum is maintained by decluttering your life to make space for creativity, developing positive habits and rituals, attending to practice regimens that work for you and fine-tuning your technique, and finding worthy projects that inspire you.

13. Improve your creative focus – For some people, staying tuned-in to their creative activity comes naturally. Most of us have to work at it, especially in a world filled with alluring distractions. I’ve developed some audio meditations for unplugging from electronic devices, doing one thing at a time (aka single-tasking), and how to creatively improvise with focus when following a prepared script just isn’t working. Perhaps they’ll help you hone in on your desired creative tasks, too.

14. Begin – A few years ago, I named this action as one of six master creative habits, and it’s one of the most important, because without it, no creation is possible. I quoted the Creative Something blog, which exhorts readers to “just do it,” and explains why.

“Have a creative idea for something? Make it a reality right now. Don’t wait. The more you get into the habit of jumping on your creative thoughts, the more you will discover how great your ideas really are. Too often people put off their creative ideas, only to find out that someone else has gone ahead and done it and that it was a great idea. I’ve said it before and I can’t emphasize it enough: don’t worry about the risks right off the bat, jump into your ideas. Your creativity is strongest when it first hits, so take advantage of that fact.”

Your creative dreams for 2014 will only become reality if you let them into the world. Risk, reach and discover, and may your year be filled with innovation and delight!

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Photo courtesy of Daniel Moyle/Flickr.

Posted by: Liz Massey | October 27, 2013

Recommended Reading: The Myths of Creativity, by David Burkus

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The Book: The Myths of Creativity, by David Burkus

The Take-Away: The Myths of Creativity is a highly readable book that’s a solid summary of research and anecdotal evidence about what really works when it comes to encouraging creativity and innovation.

The Review: I became acquainted with David Burkus’ writing through LDRLB, an online publication of his that shares insights from research on leadership, innovation, and strategy. Unlike many academics (Burkus is assistant professor of management at the College of Business at Oral Roberts University), his writing is accessible and easy to digest. So when I saw that he was producing a book debunking commonly held beliefs about creativity, I knew I had to see it.

He was kind enough to send me a review copy, and I have not been disappointed. The Myths of Creativity covers a range of erroneous assumptions members of our culture tend to make about the creative process, from the Eureka myth (creative insights come out of the blue, like lightening bolts) and the Breed myth (creatives are a special “type” unlike other people), to the still all-to-commonly applied Incentive myth (which posits that increasing external rewards will amplify the level of creativity being produced).

Burkus is not the first person to explore this territory – Scott Burkun covered much of the same territory in his Myths of Innovation. However, Burkus’ new book has an exceptionally high level of readability without “dumbing down” what he is writing about. He’s also focused on helping readers understand why perfectly good ideas do NOT thrive at a certain moment in the marketplace or world stage, then blossom later, either in the hands of the original creator or a new innovator who tries a different approach or combines the original creator’s inspiration with something else.

The Myths of Creativity is a good read for any artist or innovator who wants to understand why their creations are getting “stuck” before launching out into the world, or for anyone who wants fact-based responses to those who reduce creativity to a simple set of outdated and stereotyped notions.

Bonus!

Watch David Burkus explain “why great ideas get rejected”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT8dq2D593U

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Photo courtesy of Thad Zajdowicz via SXC.

Scientists Discover Source of Imagination in Human Brain

This write up in Science World Report discusses a recent study that confirms what scientists had already posited – that there isn’t just one place in which imagination (the ability to manipulate mental images, etc.) resides in the human brain, there is a neural network throughout the brain that helps people construct non-reality-based images and combine “real” images to make something entirely new. Particularly intriguing is their language to describe this network, as the researchers say it creates a “mental workspace” where imagination can take place. (Yes, that means we all have a little artist’s studio, right in side our own head!)

3 Ways to Overcome Creative Block

Adventure photographer Dan Bailey provides three very good tips on how to get your ideas and works of art/innovation flowing again: change your environment, use a different tool, and use limitations or aribitrary “rules” to shake up your mind.

I really like his use of the parallel between changing tools in music (he plays guitar for fun) and changing tools as a photographer to break up creative blocks:

A few weeks ago, I bought a harmonica. Totally new instrument that requires completely different techniques that my brain and body aren’t nearly as familiar with. I’m still playing music, but since I have to think and work in a new way to make sounds and melodies, my creative mind is being exercised in an entirely new way. I come up with original ideas that I’m able to expand on when I go back to the guitar.

Sometime I’ll even switch to an entirely new medium for awhile, such as sketching or writing. Stuck on picture taking? Try writing a story or drawing a picture. It’s not pictures, but it’s still creativity.

The Real Reason Creative Workers Are Good For The Economy | The Atlantic Cities
This is a very cogent piece by Richard Florida, who wrote “The Rise of The Creative Class,” about a recent UK study that backs up a key thesis of his – that it is the activities of creative individuals, regardless of whether they work for a firm or industry categorized as creative, that drives innovation in a city. He argues that cities should shift away from focusing on innovation at the company level and note instead the creative individuals that carry novel practices from employer to employer in a given geographic area.

Why Our Creativity Depends on Who Surrounds Us | The Creativity Post
Dr. Jonathan Wai interviews a colleague who studies the impacts of creative work at the macro level, Enrico Moretti, the author of “The New Geography of Jobs.” While some of the work of these men confirms Florida’s approach, they differ on what the causation is. Moretti says:

I think part of the reason Florida was so successful was that he offered a very simple and cheap solution for localities to turn around their economies. He was providing an easy-to-achieve blueprint for economic redevelopment, centered around the idea that all a city with a stagnant economy needs to do to jumpstart its economy is to provide cultural amenities to appeal to the “creative class”. But the data tell a very different story. If you look at the history of American creative cities, what I would call the innovation hubs today, typically they first became rich and prosperous and then they became creative and cool. The evidence point to a blueprint for economic development where jobs come first, and cultural amenities follow. This is exactly the opposite of Florida’s blueprint.

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Photo courtesy SXC.

Don’t Just Learn – Overlearn! | Annie Murphy Paul
Paul, a journalist, provides her take on a recent study by assistant professor Alaa Ahmed and two of her colleagues in the integrative physiology department at the University of Colorado-Boulder, which found that over-rehearsing a skill eventually helped the neural process underlying the skill far more efficient, even once there was no further visible improvements in the skill.

Paul speculates on what this might mean.

The brain uses up energy, too, and through overlearning it can get by on less. These gains in mental efficiency free up resources for other tasks: infusing the music you’re playing with greater emotion and passion, for example, or keeping closer track of your opponent’s moves on the other side of the tennis court. Less effort in one domain means more energy available to others.

Overall, the post underscores the value of deliberate practice.

The Jobless Innovation Era | Innovation Excelence
A bit of a wonky read, but this post walks readers through the reasons that our current business environment is not producing big breakthrough innovations that are also producing lots of new jobs. He bases much of his post on Professor Clayton Christensen’s essay “The Capitalist’s Dilemma” and offers ideas on how to chart a bolder, more productive way forward.

10 Treats To Keep Your Creativity Happy
A simple, upbeat reminder to reward your creative side on a regular basis with “treats” it can anticipate. As post writer Jessica Baverstock puts it:

Like dogs, dolphins and small children, Creativities perform well when coaxed into action by the promise of treats. Small outings or even a simple change of routine can replenish the creative well that keeps we Creativities functioning at our whacky best.

Some of my favorites on the list include a trip to the museum, visiting an inspiring friend and having a “do nothing” day.

10 Rules for Creative Projects from Iconic Painter Richard Diebenkorn

Debbie Millman, a friend of and frequent contributor to the always-interesting Brain Pickings site, has created a hand-lettered list of Diebenkorn’s ten rules for beginning a painting — which is a sort of manifesto that applies in various degrees and various dimensions to just about every creative or intellectual endeavor. My personal favorites on this list are …

3. Do search. But in order to find that other than what is searched for.

9. Tolerate chaos.

10. Be careful only in a perverse way.

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Image courtesy SXC.

There’s No Such Thing As A Bad Idea. Or Is There?

This useful post from the SmartStorming blog clarifies one of the most controversial tenets of Alex Osborn, the father of modern creative brainstorming – that, during the heat of a brainstorming session, there are no bad ideas.

The key to understanding this rule, the post asserts, is to realize that brainstorming is a process with many stages:

When searching for new, innovative solutions, it is important to give even ideas that resonate as undeniably “bad” a chance to be considered, debated and developed. As Osborn put it, we should suspend judgment. He did not say to eliminate judgment, just to suspend it. This would imply that we will eventually evaluate and judge whether some ideas are unacceptable, impractical or simply off-target. But we must suspend that judgment until an idea has had a chance to “percolate.”

Useful stuff for those caught on either side of this brainstorming debate.

Losing Count of Creativity | A Great Big Creative Yes
Dan James says that attempting to do to do yoga for 1000 days in a row and stopping on day 902 taught him that time is meaningless when we’re in a state of creative flow. His post is a discussion of why ultimately trying to rely on numbers to describe our art-making experiences is useless.

He writes,

When we create – when we’re truly fully immersed in that experiencing of pouring every fibre of ourselves out on to that page, that canvas, that microphone, that stage, or through that lens – time is meaningless. … So in this sense, it’s fruitless trying to measure how much time we’ve created for, how many consecutive days, and so on. What does matter is that we are creating these opportunities for ourselves.

Bravo!

Studio Reading and Research – A Monthly Goal

Tina Mammoser, a painter of the English coast who shares much of her process and product on her blog In the Studio, On the Shore, shares her monthly reading list for May, saying “It’s when I’m reading that my mind is working more and finds more connections (or disconnections) between the reading and my own artwork. So reading is vital to the evolution of creative work!”

Her nonfiction selections are wide-ranging (from the history of salt to a retrospective of the first 50 years of the NASA/Art program, which encourages artists to interpret America’s ongoing space exploration initiatives) and I found the entire idea of sharing one’s reading list and relating it to one’s current or prospective creative work intriguing.

Being Creative While Avoiding Outsider Status | The Artist’s Road

Patrick Ross opens an interesting conversation in this post (which is continued in the comments) when he discusses a passage from Eric Maisel’s book “Creativity for Life” in which Maisel ponders whether artists can find community among themselves. Many points of view are represented in this dialog. I personally feel, based up on years of sharing my excitement about my own creating and the wonder of the creative process on this blog, that yes, artists can definitely experience community with each other, but that we must come to realize that one artist’s success, even if on some financial/business level it might challenge us to find our own unique niche, raises the profile and stature of our entire field. Doing excellent work, and being excellent to each other (to quote Bill and Ted) go hand in hand.

Posted by: Liz Massey | June 5, 2013

App of the Month: MindMaple Lite

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(This is another in a series of posts evaluating smartphone apps that aid the creative process.)

What It Is : MindMaple Lite is a mind-mapping application that allows you to create detailed mindmaps. It has a version for devices running on Apple’s iOS system, as well as Windows desktop systems.

How It Works: Download the app and review the sample mindmap. You start with a central topic in the middle of your map and add branches and sub-branches off of that topic. You can shift the location/position of your branches, add notes, links and images to the map, and export to a variety of platforms, including Google Drive, email and your phone’s camera roll (as an image).

Options:

  • Compatible across platforms (You can exchange/update maps across iPhone/PC versions of the app)
  • Full versions for iPad and PC offer ability to export to Microsoft Office, save maps as PDFs, etc.

My Likes:

  • Easy, intuitive interface – no real “training” needed to get started making maps.
  • I love that it works across platforms – I had “test driven” other apps and disliked that I couldn’t work on a map I had started on my iPhone when I got home to my home PC.
  • Export to Google Drive is very easy and helpful for saving your map to create an off-device archive.
  • Saving the map as a camera roll image and emailing to myself = I could print easily and map components were clear.

My Dislikes:

  • To save maps as PDFs, you have to purchase the paid version of the app.
  • The paid version of the app is not yet available for iPhone.
  • Lite version offers a limited number of color/theme options. (But the ones that are offered are nice enough.)

The Take-Away:
MindMaple Lite has exceeded my expectations as a mind-mapping application. I’ve become quite enamored of mind-mapping as a tool for organizing my writing assignments, as well as mapping out other complex tasks or brainstorming options that may have inter-relationships or just benefit from being displayed visually. The other key to love of this app for me is that it offers PC and iOS versions – I had a very hard time finding any other system that operated as well, produced as nice a map, and worked on my Windows 8-based PC and my iPhone 4.

Posted by: Liz Massey | April 29, 2013

App of the Month: Zite

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(This is another in a series of posts evaluating smartphone apps that aid the creative process.)

What It Is : Zite is an application for smartphones and tablets that helps readers find interesting content on topics they select as important. As the company explains on their blog:

“Zite evaluates millions of new stories every day, looking at the type of article, its key attributes and how it is shared across the web. Zite uses this information to match stories to your personal interests and then delivers them automatically to your iPad or iPhone.”

How It Works: Open an account once you have downloaded the app and Zite will guide you through a topic set-up. You can add more topics later based on your Twitter or Facebook feeds, or delete ones you don’t like. You can then review your news feed either topic by topic or through the “top stories” mixed feed.

Options:

  • Ability to “like” and share stories
  • Thumbs up / Thumbs down buttons on content allows user to see more or fewer stories of that type

My Likes:

  • Can play audio and video in app
  • Your Top Stories mixes all feeds together
  • Suggestions provided for new additional feeds

My Dislikes:

  • No way to adjust profile settings once it is set up – I think it is drawing on the Twitter and Facebook feeds on the mobile device and if you want to change what feed it draws from, there is no easy way to do that.
  • The settings tab takes you to a lame FAQ page on Zite’s blog and an email link to support – extremely misleading!

The Take-Away:
I evaluated Zite with an eye to its suitability as a tool for creative cross-pollination. It has proven to be useful in that regard, although the flaws I pointed out related to the profile settings limit its ability to provide content if you divide your digital life across several social media accounts.

BONUS
Zite recently began a series of interviews with VIP users. Several of those profiled are creatives and their answers shed additional light on the potential of the app as a creative tool.

Nina Garcia – Marie Claire’s creative director and a Project Runway judge

Donna Brazile – political strategist and contributor to CNN and ABC News

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