Posted by: Liz Massey | February 7, 2009

Surf’s Up: Creativity Links for February 7, 2009

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Photo courtesy SXC.

Books that changed the world (or at least a few lives), how to deal with nasty critics and how to use the power of podcasts to propel your creative career to the next level are all on tap for this week’s link-mania post. Plus, as always, several useful and just plain fun bonus links.

1. Everyone’s squeezed for time these days, it seems, but reading is a pleasure and a joy most artists won’t forego. If you’re looking for lists of quality books that are worth your life energy to read, the UK newspaper The Guardian has compiled a list of what it considers the 1,000 best novels, covering a broad assortment of topics and genres, including love, crime, comedy, family and self, state of the nation, science fiction and fantasy, war and travel. The list was compiled by the Guardian’s Review team and a panel of expert judges, and includes only novels – no memoirs, no short stories, no long poems – from any decade and in any language.

If you’re looking for an interesting alternative to the Guardian’s list, or want more information on the books than that list provides, you might try the Open Culture post listing readers’ favorite life-changing books. The stories associated with the books are interesting, and this list, too, is pretty broad, and also includes non-fiction and short stories and poems. The OC list includes everything from A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson  to Crooked Cucumber: The Life & Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki.

2. Feedback is essential to progressing as an artist and honing one’s craft, but non-constructive feedback mostly just stings. Christina over at the Summerglen Files has written a simple, but effective post about dealing with rude audience members and other nasty critics.

She recounts a recent irritating encounter with a critic (at a church performance, of all places) and gleans a couple of pieces of wisdom out of it, namely…

Sometimes people will judge your work by your appearance, no matter how far removed from your artwork that may be. Christina admits, “I’m regularly asked what grade I’m in, and when I play clubs, the bouncers suspiciously eye the birth date on my driver’s license,” and wonders if the rude person she encountered just mistook her for someone far younger and less experienced simply because she looks young.

Sometimes people are just bullies. She notes that her persecutor’s criticisms focused on something that happened in rehearsal before the church service where she performed. I agree with Christina when she says, “Some people are overgrown schoolyard bullies, only feeling good about themselves when they knock others down.” If you didn’t get anything constructive out of the feedback, but still feel lousy about yourself, this is likely the reason, in my experience.

It’s easier to critique from the sidelines than put some skin in the game. Sorry to mix music/sports metaphors, but the proliferation of pundits around Super Bowl time (and the fact that they can have 48 hours of “pre-game” coverage) is testament that talking about something can be a lot easier than actually doing it. Coaches differ from pure critics in that they usually have deep experience in the areas that they coach, and good ones can provide helpful advice in a way that you’re able to hear.

Overall, a great post on a situation that can trip many of us up.

3. Looking for new ways to get your work out there, and simple blogging not just cutting it anymore? Or do you work in a media that would benefit from online visitors being able to see and hear you at work in real time? The Web 2.0 revolution is touching more and more folks these days, and since many of the tools are free or cheap, artists should consider adding their intelligent use into their marketing, promotion and communication repertoire.
Monica O’Brien of Twenty Set blog makes a very persuasive case for how podcasting and vidcasting can improve your presentation skills and career. She notes that other ways to reach your audience exist, such as public speaking, but that podcasting and vodcasting have one major advantage that speeches and other tried-and-true analog methods do not:

“There’s something that sets a podcast/vodcast apart from just doing lots of speeches – instant feedback.
“Have you ever had yourself videotaped during a speech? I have, and it’s probably one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve ever had.  People can tell you how to give a speech and you can do reasonably well, but nothing compares to showing you what everyone else sees and letting you critique yourself instead. That’s what a podcast or vodcast allows for, which is why your presentation skills will improve more after a few ’casts than after an entire semester of Required Speech Class 101.”

O’Brien sagely notes that there are other benefits to podcasting/vodcasting, like gaining a larger audience, reaching people who don’t like to read, building authority, and getting more personal with your current audience.

If you’re interested in learning more, you might want to check out some podcasts done by Len Edgerly, an arts and podcasting enthusiast who has recorded talks about how to use podcasting and vodcasting as an artist. Last May he gave a talk on this very topic to an audience at the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod that is recorded as—what else?—a podcast.

BONUS LINKS!

PracticeSpot: Ideas and resources for great music lessons
Mentioned first in the Summerglen Files blog. A great resource for music practice ideas.

ēno interactive whiteboard
Very cool presentation/teaching equipment from Polyvision. Great for presenters or teachers who can afford it!

Art project turned lunch
From the blog The Artful Parent: The Intersection of Art and Parenting. An art project with the blogger’s kids aimed at learning about faces quickly turns into a post-lunch treat.

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