Posted by: Liz Massey | January 19, 2009

Surf’s Up: Creativity Links for January 19, 2009


Photo courtesy of SXC.

Our weekly survey of the creative blog-o-sphere includes a look at websites documenting the Obama inauguration tomorrow, a multi-part series about Zen, jazz and creativity, and a good read on the relationship between collecting and creative obsession. Plus, we include our always-intriguing bonus links.

1. Tomorrow is a new era in presidential politics and Amanda Hirsch, author of Creative DC blog and a former PBS staffer, recently posted a list of multimedia websites documenting preparations for the Obama inauguration. She made her remarks on PBS’s P.O.V. Blog as part of her regular feature, Outside the Frame.

If her PBS blog post wasn’t enough for inauguration-o-philes and the documentary-minded, Amanda also had a great post on her own blog of what sorts of creative and cultural sites to take in if you’ve traveled to DC for the event!

2. Zen, creativity and jazz are three of my favorite words. I discovered Zen Buddhist philosophy and jazz music in my teens, and have read widely on both. And creativity has been a part of my life … well… forever.

Garr Reynolds of Presenation Zen blog (and his awesome book of the same name) recently posted a three-part series on Zen and jazz and their relationship to creativity.

In Garr’s first post, which discusses jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis’ book “Moving to Higher Ground,” he rightly links exposure to music, and jazz improvisation in particular, as vital to inculcating young people to skills that will serve them well in the world of work:

“Every student should have a good exposure to jazz (and classical music for that matter) in their education — music education is not a nicety, it’s a necessity. Organizations and schools are always talking about the need to foster creativity and innovation, the need to encourage dedication and self-discipline, and the importance of developing skills for collaboration. Yet the arts — especially jazz — teach all these things.”

He also makes a lovely point about how jazz musicians approach a piece of music that they will play improvised solos in, and how that relates to preparing for a data-rich public presentation:

“If you approach the presentation of the data like a jazz musician approaches a piece of music then you will indeed be true to the message and the meaning of the data and you will make it “sticky and sweet” and not dry in the sense that you are understood. You will know you are understood when you see the heads nodding just like the musician sees the feet tapping.”

Wonderful stuff! Garr’s second post discusses structure and spontaneity in jazz and the third post relates the philosophy of Zen (which Garr sprinkles heavily into his design advice for PowerPoint presentations in his book) to jazz and includes a delightful list of 21 things he has learned from the aesthetics of both, as they influence creative expression.

3. Is your art studio, writing nook or other creative workspace stuffed with stuff? When you’re working on a project, do you tend to feather your creative “nest” with photos, books, posters, photographs and other items that help fire your neurons with inspiration? If so, you’re not alone, apparently. Lateral Action blog recently posted a thought-provoking entry discussing the relationship between collecting and creative obsessions.

The post mentions the immense collections of filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and legendary rock concert promoter Bill Graham. Post author Mark McGuinness posits that such collections may play a key role in developing an artist’s critical faculties.

“One theory of creativity suggests that sharp critical judgment is what separates truly great artists from the rest. And to exercise judgment, you need plenty of material – photos to sift through, books to read, records to play. So perhaps this kind of obsessive collection is inevitable for some kinds of creativity.”

While I am a huge advocate of de-cluttering in order to create a space for art-making, I am not a minimalist in terms of my own possessions. I agree with McGuinness that carefully thought out collecting in the service of our art, particularly related to specific projects, can be vital to maintaining our creative momentum.

I would add, though, that collecting can become an end itself, so it is important to allot time for actually doing the project and not let “priming the pump” activities crowd out time for actual creating.

Bonus Links

2008’s New Words

Shared by Marsha of the Writing Companion blog. Neologisms on parade!

Music, Art and the Perception of Pain

An interesting new study on pain perception and how it can be modified by exposure to art or music, from the Cognitive Daily blog.


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