Posted by: Liz Massey | September 13, 2009

Surf’s Up: Top Creativity Links for September 13, 2009


Photo courtesy SXC.

Four years after my pleading essay, climate art is hot

Bill McKibben, noted nature writer and co-founder of the global-warming website, notes that the state of climate-based art is improving in this post to, a site dedicated to cutting-edge environmental journalism.

McKibben published a plea in 2005 for more climate-related art-making, and he says that he is pleased that artists have responded on a large scale.

He writes:

“That torrent of art has been, often, deeply disturbing—it should be deeply disturbing, given what we’re doing to the earth … But for me, it’s been more comforting than disturbing, because it means that the immune system of the planet is finally kicking in.

“Artists, in a sense, are the antibodies of the cultural bloodstream. They sense trouble early, and rally to isolate and expose and defeat it, to bring to bear the human power for love and beauty and meaning against the worst results of carelessness and greed and stupidity. So when art both of great worth, and in great quantities, begins to cluster around an issue, it means that civilization has identified it finally as a threat. Artists and scientists perform this function most reliably; politicians are a lagging indicator.”

McKibben writes in this current essay about his excitement around the art-making that will be associated with a day of action on Oct. 24, when people around the world will rally to call attention to the need to reduce the Earth’s CO2 levels to 350 parts per million (for reference, we’re currently at 387 ppm and rising), a level scientists consider the outside of the planet’s “safe zone” as far as global warming is concerned. The day of action section of lists ideas for ways to take action, including art installations and other art-related events, such as concerts and film festivals.

I was tipped off to McKibben’s essay by a post on the website of the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, an interesting group dedicated to providing a network of resources to arts organizations, in order to enable them to be ecologically and economically sustainable while maintaining artistic excellence. If you want information on how to “green” your theatre company’s practices, or how to open a cycle-powered cinema, this is the place to check out.

Reclaim Focus, One Day at a Time

Brittany Ancell, writing on The 99 Percent blog, a product of the design industry consultancy Behance, has a radical tip for de-cluttering your time and your mind.

Ancell was responding to an early blog post by Scott Belsky about the dangers of “reactionary workflow,” in which the urgent perpetually supplants the truly significant (usually creative) work we need to do.

Ancell says that she took Belsky’s post to heart and began exploring her own workflow habits.

“In an effort to gain control over my own reactionary habits, I decided to experiment with segmenting my focus out by day.

“Each responsibility was designated a day – Mondays for project management, Tuesdays for finances and HR, and so on – taking care to group like with like, if necessary. From there, I reassigned each of my upcoming tasks to the appropriate day and began working within the framework.

“Although adapting to the idea of delaying tasks was initially jarring, this system became a great framework for outlining my days. Allowing myself to focus on only a few topics a day vastly increased my ability to innovate within those areas and created an important sense of control over workflow.”

Ancell offers tips for transitioning to a segmented-focus approach to work tasks, including the caveat to allow for true emergencies and the need to re-focus to respond to the urgent, when appropriate. Another good tip is to stop acting like one is on-call all the time. As she puts it, “You’ll be completely surprised by how many of the things you need to do are elastic.”

Both Ancell’s post and the post that inspired it are good reading for artists seeking to reclaim time for art-making, whether it’s for their livelihood or simply for their life.

Do You Mind Creative Clutter ?

An interesting post on the role of clutter in the creative process, from Barbara Martin of Reptitude blog.

Martin links to Lori Woodward Simons’ assertion that clutter must be abolished in order for her to work in her studio, but also presents the case that other artists use physical clutter as fodder for creative cross-pollination and that having some disorder in one’s creative work environment may invite a sort of “warm up” ritual, in which sorting out materials before diving into the work at hand provides a nice bit self-hypnosis to prime the creative pump.

This brief post raises some tantalizing questions. I find myself falling somewhere in the middle of this order-disorder spectrum. On the one hand, I have touted de-cluttering as an important aspect of maintaining creative momentum, but I also find myself needing a profusion of books, films, articles and photos around me when I write in order to spark new associations and find new slants on old themes.

Still, disorder has its limit—and, as a case in point, I used part of my Labor Day vacation last week to clear out the mountain of paper waste in my office, as things had reached a point where I was spending more time looking for vital documents than planning creative work.

Bonus Links!

A Letter to “Beginner” Creatives: What Our Heart Desires, She Also Fears

Awesome letter of encouragement to new creative artists from Christine Reed of BlissChick blog.

100 Great Resources for Design Inspiration

Another great mega-list from, this one full of web resources for designers.

Top 5 Free Creative iPhone Apps

Phone apps to please artists and creative types, gathered by Creative Perch blog.


  1. Thanks for including my list of creative iPhone apps in this inspiration list of resources! I recently learned about a new storyboarding app that I am really excited about reviewing, as well. I don’t review applications that often, but I love how they can add a little bit to and enhance the creative experience.

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