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Photo courtesy of SXC.

Why Finding Time Is Better Than Having Time | Ancient Artist
Delightful post by Sue Smith about the challenges of making time for art in a busy life that includes other sorts of employment.

A sample of what she’s driving at:

“Perfect is what you have, not what you think it should be.

“Yes, there will be days when you’re too tired to try. Days when your frustration levels make you feel like you’re pushing rocks uphill.

“But these frustrations occur whether or not you have the time – because it isn’t the amount of time you have that makes the difference.”

Writing, Being, Playing And Sharing | Musical Assumptions
Composer and string player Elaine Fine reflects on the process of letting go of her musical compositions for others to interpret and play, and links to 2 pieces of hers that recently got their first public performance.

Things I Carry: Tools for Cultivating a Creative Workplace
IDEO’s Diego Rodriguez, writing on the LinkedIn blog, opens his professional backpack to reveal what tools he considers essential for creative collaboration on the go. That would be interesting enough, but Rodriguez gives us more, explaining how these tools help him in his role as an organizational gardener and creative cultivator. One of his primary rules for cultivation is “trust what is there.”

“Well-intentioned innovation initiatives are often stifled by timetables and metrics imported from the world of business-as-usual. But when you’re innovating you can’t dig up seeds to see if they’re growing. A paradox of leading in creative situations is that confidence in the outcome is in itself the enabler of creativity: a wise gardener knows that roses are the best authorities on the creation of rosiness, and until they bloom, only checks in to see if they need more food and water. So much about what makes an organization creative is emergent, and not from a ‘vision’ hatched by a few minds at the top. If you believe in people, they’ll do amazingly creative things.”

It’s Not Magic, It’s Your Creatively Unique Purpose | The Fertile Unknown
Rich essay from Michelle James about the role of seemingly “magical” coincidences and synchronicities that occur when one has discovered a purpose to one’s work.

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Posted by: Liz Massey | March 19, 2013

Guest post: Getting out of the way of your creative momentum

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A recent creation of Lisa Ferreri, creator of the World of Wiffledust. Lisa’s a little camera shy and sent us this beautiful art work in lieu of a headshot.

Editor’s note: Today we have a special treat. I chose Lisa Wiffledust, creator of the online creativity community Wiffledust, to pen Creative Liberty’s first guest post. Going forward, I hope to ask other artists and innovators the question I asked Lisa – “What does creative momentum mean to you?” Enjoy her answers to this question!

I am the creator of an organization called Wiffledust, which is dedicated to keeping creative minds wide open, so I was honored when Liz asked me to guest blog about creative momentum, a subject near and dear to me.

You would even think I know something about it, right? Well the truth is sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. Creative momentum can be as practical as reaching for the pencil or as mysterious as trying to channel spirits from another world. One thing I know for sure is that being creative comes as naturally to us as breathing, and figuring out a way to conjure up creative momentum is probably less effective than eliminating the obstacles to it.

For example, Liz speaks on this blog about de-cluttering as a way towards creative momentum. I have an ongoing relationship with clutter. Sometimes I need my clutter like Linus needs his blanket. I often use it as an excuse to not start a project, as an excuse why one is not yet finished, and an excuse why it wasn’t done correctly or on time. If only the damn clutter weren’t there, I’d be perfect. If only I could have a craft room like Martha Stewart, I’d paint some humdinger pieces of furniture. If that clutter hadn’t been blocking my light, I’d have not missed that spot. Boy oh boy would I be able to design a fabulous velvet ribbon tieback to those curtains if only the books on the windowsill weren’t in my way. If all of my magic markers were in one spot and color coded, I wouldn’t have spent all day looking for that dusty rose newborn baby cheek coral papal shoe red that I needed to make the color just right! Clutter must be the enemy if I would be perfect without it, right?

Well, shhh… don’t tell Liz, but I really have had some humdinger ideas and created some fantastic goodies in a cluttered environment. I have wrapped one-of-a-kind Christmas presents in a messy corner, baked delicious cookies in a messy kitchen, and I have had creative revelations in the middle of the night when it was so dark I didn’t know if it was cluttered or not. And I have had some dry spells when my stuff was as perfectly put away as if Mary Poppins had spit spotted them into perfect categories herself.

So does this mean that de-cluttering doesn’t matter?

No. It matters, not because of the clutter itself, but because of the meaning we bring to it. And most of us don’t enter a cluttered workspace with the thought, “Oh goodie, I can’t wait to create a big mess in here”. Most of us look at a big pile of clutter and feel a sense of inadequacy. Clutter more often than not creates anxiety in people who are already trying to be “perfect.” So unless you are the type of person who really doesn’t notice the clutter, you are more likely than not going to use the clutter as a way to beat up on yourself. And anxiety and self-flagellation are the opposite of creative activity.

The answer for me is a combination of making peace with the fact that a creative life is one that is constantly making continued use of the material world. Therefore, there will always be clutter in your creative life, unless you are just starting out. So I accept that the clutter is part of the process, while simultaneously recognizing that too much of it will make me anxious and drag me down to the point of procrastination. So having a few projects going at the same time is OK and even inspiring. Having 40 out and begging for your attention is going to make you go out for coffee.

I believe everyone can access their creative momentum … just try to not get in its way!

To learn more about Lisa’s creative online community, visit World of Wiffledust or follow it on Twitter.

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Photo courtesy of SXC.

A Growing Push for Data-Driven Documentary Filmmaking | Current.org

Interesting report about a talk given by Wendy Levy, the director of arts consultancy group New Arts AXIS, who called for documentary filmmakers to embrace  “big data” tools as a permanent part of their storytelling process during the keynote address at the Media That Matters Conference, held Feb. 15 in Washington, D.C. Levy said baking in interactive and collaborative data into the release process of a film provide avenues for increased audience interaction and engagement, and create opportunities to provide useful real-world tools and information.

How Important Is Craft in Art? | Art Biz Blog

Art business coach Alyson B. Stanfield kicks off an interesting and robust conversation about the role of craftsmanship in fine art today. Some say it’s dying, some say it’s alive and well. All ages and many artistic disciplines seem to be represented in the comments.

3 Paths Toward A More Creative Life

Bruce Nussbaum, author of the new book Creative Intelligence, discusses a trio of activities that can help anyone aspiring to be more creative in their work or in their daily life: to be mindful, disconnect; to create meaningful things, delve into the past; and be masterful. Here’s what he has to say about meaning-making and understanding the past:

Being meaningful is important for leading a creative life because it allows you to understand the deeper meaning of relationships, outside and inside the marketplace. That includes our relationships to things and our relationship to one another. For example, we just celebrated Valentine’s Day. But do you really know what a gift is? We are mired in swag, “free” gifts we give away at nearly every event. But do you know the intense underlying psychology, social, political, and economic dynamic that goes with giving and receiving a gift? Knowing the anthropological and sociological literature on the gift–it is extensive because the gift is perhaps the most celebrated and common of all human rituals–provides meaning to your creativity.

Inventing A World With A Pinhole Camera

A lovely radio story originally broadcast on Kansas City NPR affiliate KCUR-FM about photographer Ruth Thorne-Thomsen and her otherworldly seeming pinhole camera work. This link includes the 26-minute interview with Keith Davis, senior curator of photography at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, who discusses Thorne-Thomsen’s work as it relates to a new exhibition at museum, plus 8 images that demonstrate her distinctive style.

Understanding How To Frame Your Creative Expertise

Brief but insightful piece by Tara Mohr, writing on 99U, about how to present your creative expertise when working on a project. In addition to the traditional specialist, who has formal training and vast experience to help them solve a problem, there is the survivor, who leverages his/her personal experiences in a topic area to share something meaningful; the cross-trainer, an expert in another domain who applies that knowledge to a related area; and the called, who bring immense levels of passion and vision to a project. Each frame has strengths and pitfalls, but this article clarifies the best way to use the good points and avoid the bad points.

Posted by: Liz Massey | February 27, 2013

App of the Month: Creative Whack Pack

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This is the first in a series of reviews of smartphone apps that relate to creativity and innovation.

What It Is : Roger Von Oech, author of the creativity classics “A Whack on the Side of the Head” and “A Kick In the Seat of the Pants,” has developed an electronic version of his card set designed to stimulate innovative thought.

How It Works: The app features the 64 cards offered in the physical deck – divided into 4 suits: Explorer, Artist, Judge and Warrior. Each card features a whimsical drawing by Von Oech and a snappy yet detailed explanation of the concept behind the card. For the app, Von Oech has also added 20 cards that illuminate the wisdom of the Greek sage Heraclitus, whom Von Oech refers to as “the world’s first creativity teacher.”

Options: Users can access the cards in at least 3 ways …

1) Give Me A Whack – provides a card at random – sort of like shuffling the deck and pulling out a card.

2) Card of the Day – A new card is offered in this category every 24 hours.

3) Workshops – Users describe a problem they’re seeking guidance on and the app provides 4 cards to advise the seeker. This option reminds me of doing a Tarot reading in the way that it can induce cross-pollination from the various cards.

My Likes:

  • Index of all cards – easy to find and explore new cards
  • Detail level of suggestions
  • Note-taking and bookmark options

My Dislikes:

  • Sounds on the app = silly
  • Hard to scroll to read the text on each card without flipping the card back to its cover image

The Take-Away: The Whack Pack is a great tool for establishing innovative thinking as a daily habit or for pulling fresh ideas out of one’s subconscious.

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Posted by: Liz Massey | February 14, 2013

In the Studio With … Patricia Sahertian

A self-portrait of Patricia Sahertian.

A self-portrait of Patricia Sahertian.

Today on the blog we feature Patricia Sahertian, a New York-born artist who now lives in an historic neighborhood in downtown Phoenix.

I met Patricia through professional colleagues at my day job at Arizona State University. The first time we spoke, I was fascinated to learn that she had produced “Cut Back,” a self-funded documentary on ageism in the workplace. That film is only the tip of the iceberg of what Patricia has done artistically. According to her website, “Lately Patricia’s focus is painting miniature portraits on reprinted old photographs … along with small books, collages, and bottle vignettes. Her works have been shown both locally and internationally.”

Patricia has strong opinions about her creative process and what works for her. I found them invigorating!

Tell us about your creative pursuits, paid and unpaid.

I work in a variety of mediums, from ceramics to painting and graphic design to website building. The words creative pursuits are strange to me. I do what I do because that’s what I choose to and like to do, I don’t think about it, I don’t say “What can I do that’s creative today?” I don’t think about being creative, I think that’s a false perception about people in the arts, as if we are somehow different. Because I think we all have creativity, it’s part of our curiosity, our questioning about how things are and how they work. I don’t think it’s limited to the arts.

Do you have any formal training in your creative discipline(s)? Do you feel training is important in creative development? Why/why not?

Again, I don’t think you can teach someone to be creative. That comes from your mind. From your imagination, from your experiences, from what you see. I do have formal training in fine art and art history. That has helped me to be more observant. But it did not teach me to be more creative, it did not give me more talent or motivation either.

My knowledge in the arts has helped me think about how I approach my work. It’s all connected, as well as my experiences in life. I think learning is important, curiosity is important, reading is important, watching TV is important, because all of these things give you more to think about, which can be tapped into when you work, no matter what you do.

Visual art is a way of communicating. It can be funny, sad, emotional or empty. And it also relies on the reaction of the viewer who also brings their experience with them.

What habits do you cultivate to facilitate your creative “flow”?

None. Because if I feel like I am not motivated to work, it’s not about creative flow, it’s because I can’t think of a solution to a particular problem. If that happens, I try to look at what other people are doing, maybe study about the topic I want to express, look at how others approach the topic, what are the techniques? tools? am I keeping up with the technology to be able to accomplish my goals?

"Panama." A tiny antique typewriter ribbon tin with a story inside.

“Panama.” A tiny antique typewriter ribbon tin with a story inside.

What advice would you give to a “blocked” artist in your discipline to free up their creative energies?

I have never met a really blocked artist. Some days I don’t feel like working. Some days you have a lot of other things on your mind, your family, your surroundings, your bills. I think everyone has days that they don’t want to work. If you can, take the day off. Stimulation can come from any source – calling a friend, seeing a commercial, reading an article. It’s about thinking and then wanting to do something.

Which artistic project that you are working on excites you the most right now?

Everything that I work on interests me. I am very, very lucky at this point in my life that I don’t have to do commercial work. I did that for many years and you have to keep up with deadlines and restrictions. Now my work is mostly work I want to do. I broke my arm at the end of last year. Now I am making paintings of people with Xs on their arms and researching stories in newspaper archives about broken arms. Sometimes I find a story that is much more interesting, and that could be my next project.

"Times 3."  3 x 3 inches, acrylic on photopaper.

“Times 3.” 3 x 3 inches, acrylic on photopaper.

I am also trying to learn more about Arizona, since I live here now. Coming from New York I didn’t know much about the West or the desert. As I try to learn about it, I like to do work that relates to it.

How do you select your creative projects? What elements of a potential project tend to intrigue you the most?

Ideas come. I sit there having a cup of coffee with someone, they start talking about their grandma’s button jar, I start to think, could I make something out of buttons, related to buttons, the history of buttons? Sometimes it’s all too silly and I might say, forget that idea. But as I was looking for button stories, I might have read something about orphanages. Then I make a painting about a motherless child, because that had some impact on me.

I also like to be challenged, and tend to keep up with computer technology, current programs and applications.

What intrigues me is somehow related to others’ personal stories. I tend to collect old letters and read old newspapers and think, what were they thinking? why did they do that? who were they? how did they live? and sometimes I find an answer and sometimes I make them up. I think I have a certain desire to be a bit like “Sherlock Holmes” and find clues and interpret them.

"He Just Got Married One Year Before." yuma prisoner 2977, 3 x 3 inches, acrylic on photopaper.

“He Just Got Married One Year Before.” yuma prisoner 2977, 3 x 3 inches, acrylic on photopaper.

Any other advice to artists to help them make their creative activity more satisfying?

No, not at all. I am an individual, I do my work in a way that suits me. I think sometimes you could learn a technique that might help you make something easier to do, or open opportunities that you did not know how to do before thus making your work more multi-dimensional. But I could never tell someone else how to make what they do creatively more satisfying. It’s like telling someone how to eat more satisfyingly.

More by Patricia Sahertian:

The Studio PS

Patricia’s main portfolio website.

Escape Artist

A website created by Patricia that uses her paintings, archival movie stills, and a story about escaped prisoners who have ties to Arizona.

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Photo courtesy SXC.

Why Creativity Is Like A Slot Machine | Brain Pickings
Maria Popova discusses the book How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer by Debbie Millman, paying particular attention to her interview with branding and identity goddess Paula Scher.

Scher admits her creative process has some elements straight out of Las Vegas:

It’s so hard to describe how things happen intuitively. I can describe it as a computer and a slot machine. I have a pile of stuff in my brain, a pile of stuff from all the books I’ve read and all the movies I’ve seen … It’s all on one side of the brain.

And on the other side of the brain is a specific brief that comes from my understanding of the project and says, okay, this solution is made up of A, B, C, and D. And if you pull the handle on the slot machine, they sort of run around in a circle, and what you hope is that those three cherries line up, and the cash comes out.

I found Scher’s description of creative cross-pollination quite intriguing.

Boost Your Creativity With Simple Acts Of Mindfulness | LinkedIn Today
Steve Rubel interviews author Maria Konnikova, whose book Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes posits that greater creative thinking comes from following one’s curiosity, taking time to concentrate, getting into a flow state, drawing comfort and inspiration from the natural world, and learning how to filter an avalanche of data.

Photography Is The Art Of Our Time | The Guardian
A powerful and provocative essay by Jonathan Jones about photography’s place in the modern art pantheon.

Jones is unequivocal in his assessment of the medium:

Moving or still, and however it is taken, whether by pinhole camera or phone, the photographic image is the successor to the great art of the past. It is in pictures by Don McCullin or films by Martin Scorsese that we see the real old master art of our time. Why? Because photography relishes human life. The greatness of art lies in human insight. What matters most is not the oil paints Rembrandt used, but his compassion. Photography is the quickest, most exact tool ever invented to record our lives and deaths – 17th-century painters would have loved it.

Do you think his assertion goes too far?

What Innovators Can Learn From Artists | Design Mind
A wonderful list of a dozen parallels between the strengths and characteristics of successful artists and innovators. Some of my favorites: artists are craftspeople; artists are comfortable with ambiguity; artists are great storytellers; and artists are contrarians.

Posted by: Liz Massey | January 27, 2013

In The Studio With … Kenny Thames

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Today we speak with Kenny Thames, a pianist, composer, music teacher, author and speaker who lives in Phoenix. I’ve interviewed Kenny several times as part of my work as managing editor (and later freelance contributor) for Echo Magazine in the Valley of the Sun. I knew from that connection that Kenny’s always working on something creative, and that he has been able to make a living doing what he loves for nearly two decades!

Kenny offers some good advice about timing, calming one’s mind to create, and living in the moment as an artist. Enjoy!

Tell us about your creative pursuits, paid and unpaid.

I have been fortunate to earn my income from my music, on a full time basis, for the past 20 years. Though I have always been involved in music, my first career did not allow the time to engage in musical pursuits.

I became music director for my father’s church at the age of 17. I wrote my first cantata and my first song at that time. I have written almost 100 songs – from gospel, jazz, country to children’s songs.

In 1990, one of my children’s songs, “God Loves Ugly” won first prize in a Rambo Music songwriting contest. I released the song, along with a coloring book, in 1992. In 1993, I made a decision to earn my income solely from music. It has required a lot of discipline and a change of lifestyle, but the rewards have been tremendous.

In 2008, I wrote a play which I have produced in Phoenix several times called “Kleo the Kat.” I am currently working on releasing it for publication, and re-writing it as a children’s book. In 2010, I released an audio-biography of my life, “Lona’s Son.” I perform throughout the state in country clubs, resorts, and casinos. I have recorded 5 CDs.

I am currently music director of Unity Spiritual Center in Sun City, Ariz. I also teach out of my home/studio in central Phoenix, and have helped more than 500 people to realize their dream of playing piano/organ.

Do you have any formal training in your creative discipline(s)? Do you feel training is important in creative development? Why/why not?

I studied private piano for 16 years. At the age of 13, my parents enrolled me in the Stamps School of Gospel Music in Dallas, Texas, for two consecutive summer semesters. I continued my studies in theory, performance, and composition at Glendale (Ariz.) Community College and Florrisant College of Music in Florissant, Mo.

To me, training is an ongoing process. There are so many facets of music, from writing and performing to the business of music. Knowledge increases the creative development. However, in music, I think it is essential to gain knowledge, yet not lose the individuality of the artist in the process.

What habits do you cultivate to facilitate your creative “flow”?

Meditation and “quiet” time are essential for me. I must be silent to hear the voice of the musician within. When I am centered and focused, the creativity flows through me, most often to my surprise. I do not attempt to force a “project”, but have learned to wait until the work comes through my mind and fingers. I determined many years ago to give myself the same energy and time I would give an employer. I do not turn television on during my work time at home. During my music time, my home becomes my studio/office. When I am done, I consider it my home … to be used for relaxation and entertainment. I do not mingle the two concepts.

Kenny Thames playing at a local community event.

Kenny Thames playing at a local community event.

What advice would you give to a “blocked” artist in your discipline to free up their creative energies?

If an artist is feeling “blocked”, I would say set the project aside and wait until the creativity flows. Sometimes a song or arrangement comes quickly and immediately. At times, it is a work in progress. With myself, the delay is usually because I need to experience something to continue. The “something” could be enlightenment, a “dark time” of questioning. Music touches the emotions, so I often have to feel the emotions. It took me five years to complete “Kleo the Kat.” “Kleo” started out as just songs I had written for my animals (pets). Over time, a story evolved, with a message of acceptance of diversity.

Which artistic project that you are working on excites you the most right now?

I am preparing to release “ God Loves Ugly” with updated music and coloring book cover. I am also forming a performance troupe of talented vocalists and musicians, and producing a musical show for performances.

How do you select your creative projects? What elements of a potential project tend to intrigue you the most?

Great question! I don’t actually select … I think they select me. I have learned that timing is important. When I first began writing, I would arrange and perform it immediately. I now wait until I feel it is time. However, there are times that a song comes through me, that I have performed the next day. Again, timing is important.

Any other advice to artists to help them make their creative activity more satisfying?

For me, all creativity comes from tranquility. When I am in touch with the Creator within, the project flows. If the flow stops, I stop and wait on it to begin at another time. Also, it is important to emulate other artists, but develop your own individuality in your creation. Shakespeare’s words are timeless: “to thine own self be true.”

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Photo courtesy of SXC.

Make It Visual | Design Thinking

Tim Brown, CEO of design consultancy IDEO, gives a quick tip for nurturing emerging creative ideas: find a way to make it visual.

He explains why this is so powerful:

Try describing in detail the bedroom you spent your childhood in. My guess is that you will have a hard time describing it well enough for someone else to recreate it. The same is true for new ideas. Words may be a start, but they often lack the precision and clarity required to describe a new idea to someone else. Photos, sketches, and data visualizations can make complex ideas easier to understand and share. That’s why portfolios beat résumés, and young designers are still encouraged to carry a sketchbook.

26 Creative Ideas – How To Be Creative When Creativity Is Blocked | Brainzooming

Mike Brown (no relation to Tim), founder of The Brainzooming Group in Kansas City, has written a post that is a veritable encyclopedia of idea incubation techniques. From doodling while eating out to using exercise to knock the mental cobwebs loose, there are more than two dozen suggestions for keeping your creative momentum when outwardly the ideation process appears stopped.

The Potentially High Cost of Not Implementing An Idea

Jeffrey Baumgartner, owner of the Belgian-based Bwiti company, discusses something that is often omitted from discussions of corporate innovation – opportunity cost. Using Polaroid as an example of what can happen when one doesn’t realize the proper way to calculate opportunity cost over the lifetime of a potential innovation, he demonstrates that figuring out which potentially revolutionary ideas (which are usually also very costly to begin with) are worth the risk to implement.

The Four Fears Blocking You From Being Creative | HBR IdeaCast

An audio interview with IDEO founders Tom and David Kelley with HBR’s Alison Beard. The Kelleys say that many creatives are blocked by the fear of the messy unknown, the fear of judgement, the fear of getting started, and/or the fear of letting go of control. They discuss how they help people develop “creative confidence” through a variety of exercises and techniques. The page that the podcast sits on also includes a transcript of the conversation.

Kid Inventors Day

An intriguing, if brief, Pinterest board put together by the To Get Her There initiative of the Girl Scouts of America. It features the inventions of girls and young women ranging from 5 to 15, including glow-in-the-dark writing paper, a step-stool made especially for kids, and a urine-powered electrical generator (yes, really).

Posted by: Liz Massey | December 31, 2012

13 Tips To Improve Your Creativity in 2013

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Photos courtesy of SXC.

It’s a new year! As unoriginal as it may seem, the beginning of our calendar year is an excellent time to re-dedicate oneself to creative activity. The catch is that sometimes resolutions or grand pronouncements aren’t as effective as other approaches, such as setting small daily intentions. Here are a baker’s dozen suggestions for integrating (or re-integrating) creativity into your life in 2013. I hope they are helpful to you – please provide your own suggestions in the comments section!

1. Sharpen your focus and do less, but cross-pollinate more. Instead of feeling obligated to follow every interesting creative lead to its natural conclusion, perhaps those outside your focus area can provide inspiration for what you are working on now?

2. Look to your day to day life for ideas and inspiration. Those who practice design thinking often carry “bug notebooks” to document problems with systems, machines, or interactions that could be fixed through more thoughtful, constructive responses. Those notebooks (whether electronic, audio, or paper) can also document flashes of insight arising from the activities of your day, or moments of inspiration and gratitude.

3. Bring back the concept of downtime. It’s OK not to fill every moment you are waiting in line or waiting for your next scheduled activity to begin with a round of Facebook, Angry Birds or email/texts. You don’t even have to think. Sometimes emptying the “bucket” that is your mind is necessary before refilling it with nourishing, helpful things.

4. Start big changes on a small scale – make good use of your slivers of timeFor any even modestly ambitious or complex goal or project, practice breaking it into very small component parts. What can you do in an hour? A half-hour? Even 15 minutes a day can help start you towards your goals.

5. Find new ways to fail/iterate/recombine ideas when they veer off-course. Dealing with negative feedback or outright failure of your creative work is one of the most crucial strategies for long-term success. MyFailTale.com is a web platform for sharing failure stories in a way that allows the sharer or others to be inspired and learn from setbacks and failures and make failing less of a stigmatized experience. Another approach to dealing with failure is to take a prototyping mindset and view less-than-successful versions of an idea as iterations or drafts, not embarrassing wrecks.

6. Learn to view creative blocks as creative pauses. This goes back to the concept of downtime as essential to creative productivity. Maybe you’re not blocked, maybe your brain is full! Or your habits aren’t supporting regular creative practice. Or something else is standing in the way of your creative momentum. In 2013, perhaps you can view a “block” as a diagnostic tool rather than a threat or an illness.

7. Pay attention to your studio or creative workspace. Artist studios are as unique as the artist who works there. If yours isn’t letting you do your best work, perhaps it’s time for a makeover. There are plenty of good books from which you can gather inspiration, including Art Making & Studio Spaces and Inside the Creative Studio.

8. Make a wish – no, really. Wishes can bring out your deepest desires. And your desires can form the basis of a worthy project – a creative challenge that has intense meaning for you, which will help you maintain your momentum as you hit the setbacks and challenges that befall every endeavor, large or small.

9. Recharge your creative batteries by changing media. It’s easy to allow ourselves to be driven when we’re trying to do something creative. Our society lauds the persistent – people who don’t know when to give up. But as important as persistence is in general, it’s important to learn when to take a break from a project and do something completely different. If you’re a painter, try making or listening to some music. If you’re a musician, perhaps you can do a little dance around your living room. If you’re a writer, draw a cartoon. You get the idea. And don’t forget to tend to your basic needs – recharging through housework and daily activities can also be very effective and grounding.

10. View rejection in a new light. If you didn’t make the creative cut this time, do you sulk or do you roll up your sleeves and think, “I’ll show them!” As noted above in the suggestion about failure, creatives who learn to learn from rejection, rather than letting it throttle their progress, tend to become more successful in the long run.

11. Learn how to scale your best ideas. If you’ve come up with a killer idea, but it is one that will need the support of others to see the light of day, understanding how to demonstrate its awesomeness on a small scale before seeking mass support can make the difference between steady progress and periods where you think everyone hates your “baby.”

12. Consider time v. impact for managing your creative projects. One insight that has stayed with me for the past couple of years is the idea that I can do ANYTHING I choose to do, but I cannot do EVERYTHING I might like to do creatively. Sometimes finding those time slivers requires saying no – to TV, to tangential requests, to activities which are popular but not particularly meaningful to me. As entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky says in the link at the top of this suggestion, “I see time as sailors see wind, or photographers see light, as something to use, manage, and shape, not as something to be a victim of, or to watch pass by.”

13. Act on your creative impulses – it’s the master habit of successful artists and innovators! No one but you can bring to life your creative ideas and impulses. If there was one suggestion I felt was more important than the other 12 in this post, this would be it. Nothing happens without action. Take time to think deeply, learn to fail well, construct an environment that supports your creativity – but step out and create, create, and then create some more. It’s a journey I can guarantee you won’t regret.

Posted by: Liz Massey | December 19, 2012

12 Reasons Why I Choose Creativity Over Cynicism and Despair

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Photo courtesy SXC.

These are dark times – literally, with the coming of the winter solstice, as well as metaphorically, what with the horrible news of multiple mass shootings this month in the United States, and apocalyptic forecasts related to the end of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21.

But I find my connection to my creative nature to be a source of light in this darkness, and I hope many of you do, too. What follows is a list of a dozen reasons why creativity is part of my answer to combating cynicism and despair.

And when I say creativity, I am referring to arts-based creativity, as well as many other types of creativity: business innovation, inventiveness in the world of nonprofits and social entrepreneurship, and tiny acts of creative improvisation – from discovering a new route home from work to engineering a better omelette using only 3 ingredients.

I hope my list provides some comfort and sparks some conversation. And please share your list with me in the comments!

1) Creativity comes naturally to me – as it does to us all. Creativity is our birthright.

2) Creativity helps me focus on solutions, rather than exclusively on the problem, and makes me envision the result I DO want, not just what I am trying to avoid.

3) Creative collaboration amplifies individual ideas and encourages all who contribute to take ownership of what is created/implemented.

4) Creative activity prompts me to consider the underlying design of that which I create, promoting creations that are in tune with the needs of the situation.

5) Creativity expands my imagination and encourages coping well in unexpected circumstances.

6) Creativity makes me feel good! Creative activity increases happiness and resiliency and decreases anxiety.

7) Creativity is constructively subversive.

8) Creativity connects me to others, by our mutual development of things that delight, entertain, inform or help each other.

9) Creativity connects me to my spirituality, encouraging gratitude, mindfulness, and love.

10) Creativity requires me to let go of ego and pretension, and surrender to the slow, demanding path of practice and mastery.

11) Creativity provides a positive routine around which I may structure my days. In order to create consistently, I must take care of myself and tune into my needs on moment by moment level.

12) Creativity is the surest route to a happier tomorrow. As computer innovator Alan Kay said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

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