Posted by: Liz Massey | June 4, 2009

Surf’s Up: Top Creativity Links for June 4, 2009


Photo courtesy of SXC.

Move Your Body, Solve Your Problem!

Writer, academic and all-around interesting creative entrepreneur Gretchen Wegner recently posted her thoughts on a study by University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras backing up the thesis that movement and cognition are related.

Lleras’s thesis on “embodied cognition” involved test subjects trying to solve a math problem. Subjects were given a total of eight two-minute sessions to solve the problem, which involved figuring out how to tie two lengths of rope together that were suspended from the ceiling and too far apart from each other to tie together normally. Subjects were asked to spend 100 seconds to finding a solution, interrupted by 20 seconds of exercise, per “round.” Some subjects were told to swing their arms forward and backward during the exercise sessions, while others were directed to alternately stretch one arm, and then the other, to the side.

The subjects in the arm-swinging group were more likely than those in the stretch group to solve the problem, which required attaching an object to one of the strings and swinging it so that it could be grasped while also holding the other string. By the end of the 16-minute deadline, participants in the arm-swinging group were 40 percent more likely than those in the stretch group to solve the problem.

Lleras concludes, based on his study, that embodied cognition may be a whole new way to approach creative problem-solving:

“I guess (the) take-home message is this: If you are stuck trying to solve a problem, take a break. Go do something else. This will ensure that the next time you think about that problem you will literally approach it with a different mind.”

Gretchen is doing her part to help shake creative folks into new mindstates with her MuseCubes, which are hand-crafted dice designed to help owners break out of mind-only thought jams. One die has suggestions for a body action (crouch, bend, etc.); the other suggests some sound to make.

Here’s a video showing the MuseCubes in action:

100 Most Creative People in Business

Fast Company has assembled a list of cool movers and shakers, as they often do as America’s unappointed trend-watchers.

In announcing the list, the magazine said:

“There are no rules about creativity. Which made constructing our list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business a tricky task. We looked for dazzling new thinkers, rising stars, and boldface names who couldn’t be ignored.”

The list is truly diverse, including well-known celebrities such as writer Nora Ephron and talk-show host/media empress Tyra Banks, but also including thumbnail sketches of lesser known people shaping the creativity and innovation landscape, such as Genevieve Bell, director of user experience for the Intel Digital Home Group, as well as Dan Barber, executive chef and co-owner of Blue Hill restaurants and a champion of regional farm networks. Overall, it’s an exciting mix and one worth perusing for creative cross-pollination—or perhaps to search for supporters for that next great idea of yours.

Ironically, I read about the Fast Company list via an e-newsletter produced by the magazine and viewed most of the profiles online. I may be more of an outlier in my social media consumption (which I would peg as “moderate”) than I previously thought. Fast Company produced another article in conjunction with its 100 Most Creative People in Business showcase, “Why Are the Most Creative People in Business Skipping Out on Web 2.0?”

Writer Dan Macsai notes in the piece that as the FC team assembled the mini-profiles they noticed something interesting:

“We started—where else?—by looking for online profiles … when it comes to sharing themselves–not just their businesses, but their business–our creative class clams up. Only 33 have Twitter accounts. Just 19 maintain personal blogs. And four have Flickr pages. In fact, when we emailed bicycle designer Larry Chen (#89) for a link to his blog or photo account, he started cracking jokes. ‘I don’t have anything like that,’ he replied. ‘I use my computer for two things: Drawing and flight simulation games.’”

Macsai offers several possible explanations for the trend, including lack of time, lack of familiarity (especially for older creatives on the list) or a fear of seeming arrogant or narcissistic by leaving a cyber-trail of Flickr photos, playlists, or Twitter tweets. The comments that follow the article are even more interesting; the opinions truly run the gamut of opinions about the advantages and downsides to social media.

Tips for the Traveling Artist

Celine Roque, posting on the Vagablogging site a few weeks ago, gave a few pointers on how to bring your painting supplies on the road.

She notes that as much as she likes to paint when she’s on the road, bringing lots of arts supplies usually ends up violating her one-bag rule. She notes that watercolors seem to work particularly well for her when she’s traveling.

“For trips where I’d prefer to paint, I’ll take a very small sketchbook and watercolors. … When watercolors get too dry, all you have to do is add a bit of water and you can use them again. Also, since watercolors require a lot of water, small quantities can last very long on the road.”

She also has a very inventive alternative to watercolors…

“If you want to take a more exciting and challenging approach, you can use readily-available materials. Some artists I know use coffee, tea, and natural dyes from plants. While these materials might not last as long as synthesized paints or inks, you can always coat them with a layer of transparent acrylic latex, fixative, or a preserving spray when you return home.”

One of the commenters on this post also recommended Dick Blick, an art supply company offering several types of watercolor travel kits.

Bonus Links!

Literary Tweets: 100+ of the Best Authors on Twitter

From Literary and genre fiction writers who are on Twitter.

A Summer Project List (part 1)

Beginning of a nice series on organizing children’s art projects throughout the season, from Daisy Yellow blog.



  1. Wow, Liz. Thanks! I’m honored that you would highlight both my writing AND MuseCubes. Ya know — I’m someone with a zillion creative ideas, but I rarely act on them! When I thought of the MuseCubes, my first thought was, “Someone should invent…” and then I realized that I get to be that someone! 🙂

    I especially appreciate you highlighting the piece about embodied cognition & MuseCubes because this is the nearest and dearest to my heart. I aim to get as many people shaking and howling in public as possible (and I surmise we’ll all be smarter, happier, and more productive because of it).

    grins to all,

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