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Creativity (104 posts)
Part of the reason is, actually, ironically, the deep satisfaction of crossing off finish tasks. As the article puts it, "It’s too easy to get that smaller thing crossed off first... When smaller things are too easy to get done, smaller, less important things are all you will get done." And then, horror of horrors, you're not controlling the list—the list is controlling you. That's a definite to-don't.
It makes sense when you think about it: When you're in the midst of a longer, more complicated project, it's easy to get lost and lose perspective, but a done list helps you to stay focused on the long view, and to celebrate your accomplishments as you go. Personally, I will still always need a to-do list just so I don't forgot what the heck I'm supposed to do next, but I love the idea of adding a done list to, and will be sure to add "make a done list" to my to do list. Read the article to find out more about how Done lists can help you to be more productive.
Getting Rid of Your Mental Lint
The Magic List That Gets You What You Want
We're always hearing about how we multitask too much. After I typed that last sentence, for example, I checked a text-message that popped up on my phone, then perused my twitter feed, looked up to greet a friend (hazards of coffee-shop-working), all while listening to music and eating lunch. And I was not meaning to be ironic. The problem with this constant stream of doing-ness (soon I will go home, make dinner for my toddler while throwing pieces of cheese at the baby, probably all while making a phone call and plotting how to carve out some minutes to write an article that's due) is that while I find myself doing many things at once, it seems that I'm not doing any one of them particularly well.
No matter how many articles I read about how being overstimulated is frying my brain, I have to admit that the multitasking is not going to stop anytime soon. The only choice, it seems, is to improve the way we multitask, so that we are multitasking AND having fun. So, like, multi-multitasking. Like this gentleman, Dicken Schrader. Behold, the master of the joyful multitask:
Watch those four camera angles! This guy is playing percussion (an empty Coca-Cola bottle and a tambourine), keyboard, xylophone, kazoo, and singing all at the same time. Oh, and he's hanging out with his kids, teaching them about music and resourcefulness (all those hacked instruments!) -- and they all seem to be having a lot of fun. His joyful celebration at the end of the song makes me feel like I've participated in something incredibly exciting. Well, that and also like they must have gone through a lot of takes.
It got me thinking: why not take a page from Mr. Schrader's book and involve the children? My toddler loves to help, so tonight she can be in charge of doling out the finger food to the baby. And increase the fun quotient? Maybe we'll channel that witching-hour energy into a kitchen-cleaning-dance-party. Sure, we're all busy and trying to do too many things at once, but that doesn't mean we can't be having as much fun as the family in this video. After all, everything counts...even the busy, stressed-out moments.
Because of course I couldn't just enjoy this video for its insane cuteness. That's so single-tasking.
(via Apartment Therapy)
February is many things to many people: American Heart Month, Black History Month, Valentine's Day, a collection of gray weeks on the long sloppy slog towards spring. But did you know that it's also The Month of Letters? According to GalleyCat, the idea is to mail something through the post every day for the month of February. How fun, to revive the lost art of letter-writing, and most of all, to get to do things like buy stamps and find the nearest mailbox! Still, I admit the idea of this challenge makes me little nervous. I know I was a pretty killer letter-writer when my Australian penpal and I were doing our thing back in the early '90s, but at this point do I even remember how?
Luckily GalleyCat has our backs with a Spotify playlist devoted to the art and science of the letter. Seriously, there are more songs about writing letters than I ever realized. So fortify yourself with a cup or three of coffee, sharpen that pencil, rustle up some paper, and get inspired by Nick Cave, Natalie Merchant, Johnny Cash, and of course, Dolly Parton, all crooning epistolatory tunes. February is feeling better already.
A Love Letter to the World
Write a Note to Your Future Self
So I was perusing the Facebook page of one of last year's finalists, the extremely talented Peregrine Honig, and saw a great post she shared with Jerry Saltz (the Simon Cowell-ish Work of Art judge). "This is great--have you seen this?" She asks, posting a list of "Commandments" by the novelist Henry Miller, written in the 30s. "Work on one thing at a time until finished," Miller commands himself. And— "Don't be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is at hand."
There is other good advice here for anyone tackling a creative project (Miller was talking about writing novels, Peregrine and Jerry are referring to visual art). I especially loved "Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it." But perhaps what I love most are the many comments that follow—dozens of artists, aspiring and established, chiming in with what works or doesn't work for them. After all, creativity, any kind of creativity, is a process, and everyone has to find his or her own way. Still, it's nice to listen in for a moment here and there, get advice on issues like losing one's nerve, or not believing one's voice is worthy of being heard. To hear that even the Greats—Henry Miller, Peregrine—are sometimes in need of a little guidance.
6 Steps to Get Unstuck Creatively
How Anyone Can Be Creative
For cozying up with the ones you love: "As kids we didn't have a television at home, but we did have a record player. After school I'd sit by the window while my mother, who loved Elvis to bits, played 'Love Me Tender.' For me, this song still captures that feeling of being little and secure, thinking the world was perfect and simple."
For a mood boost:
"There's a tradition in Ireland that on St. Stephen's Day, the day after Christmas, kids go house to house singing for money or candy. Once I got older, I realized people are more generous after a few pints, so I started singing in pubs. 'My Irish Molly O' was always a good song—it's strong and boisterous."
For a little nostalgia:
"I have such great memories of singing Marty Robbins's 'El Paso' in the car with my dad, who enjoys anything cowboy related. When I brought my husband home to Ireland, he was wearing a cowboy hat, and my dad was totally impressed. Now I love listening to this song with my own kids."
For feeling young:
"I often put on the Smiths to relax—especially 'There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.' I loved them as a teenager, and when I listen to them now, I'm instantly transported to adolescence. I think, 'I'm young!' And then I look in the mirror and go, 'Oh shit, wrinkles!'"
Books that made a difference to Scarlett Johansson
Diablo Cody's aha! moment: how to weather any storm
The world according to Gayle: 6 things I'm crazy about
My husband and I frequently bicker about taking pictures. He—a man eight years older than me, mind you—believes that regular photographs are obsolete. In his view, all we should ever take is video—long, cinéma-vérité videos that relive it all, from the kids opening Christmas presents to the falling of a pine needle to a shaky pan of our trashed kitchen and living room.In my view, nobody wants to sit through great stretches of our non-essential family life, and, further I love the capturing of a single moment with single photograph—one that doesn't re-live it all but let's me do that job, in full color detail, in the my head.
A few weeks ago,a n ordinary guy named Mike Matas put up some of his vacation shots on Vimeo. He went to Japan with his girlfriend and took 4,000 (!) sill pictures. Then he spliced them all together into what appears to be a running video—except that it's not, the film jerks a bit in between pictures, reminding us that it's made of stills—as you can see:
Living in the moment, the how to guide.
Quiz: Who Am I Meant to Be?
The world can look a little dark and ugly sometimes. I think what we're supposed to do when we lose perspective (I'll never find a job I don't despise! I have no real friends anymore!) is to say bright, inspiring things to ourselves like, "You're healthy! Be grateful!" Or, "Somebody somewhere loves you!" Or "You're not starving in drought-ridden country with no medical attention!"
This never works for me.
Which is why I was so happy to stumble onto this Sightseeing Heat Map of Popular Spots Around the World on Peta Pixel yesterday.The map is generated by a site called Sightsmap that takes "the geographic data from the photos uploaded to Panoramio...and uses it to generate a..map."
The point here for most of us is to visualize where the most popular sightseeing places on the planet are, and where people are taking the most amount of photographs. (If you were traveling and wanted to really get away from the hustle and bustle of it all, for example, you should go to gray Northern Russia). For those of us who are having a lack-of-perspective day, though, the map can help out. Barring war journalists and experimental artists, why do people take photographs? Because they see something beautiful—be it the Eiffel Tower in Paris or a mud puddle in Victoria, Texas or their mom, smiling in front of rickshaw in Bombay, India. Each dribble of purple or red or orange or yellow is a concentration of strangers realizing hey, there's something out there I want to remember, there's some wonderful worth looking at a second time. I'm just saying...that many people can't be wrong.
The New and improved way to happy
Dr. Oz's 28-day plan to mind and body renewal
To convey creative spirit of this issue on our cover, we invited Brooklyn-based chalk-lettering designer Dana Tanamachi to run wild on a blackboard. The artist, who had previously worked at a high-end graphic design firm, found her calling at a housewarming party two years ago. "My friends had a chalk wall, so I grabbed a piece of chalk and started drawing the word Brooklyn on it. Pretty soon people were saying, 'This is awesome.'" Her first commissioned design was for a small SoHo furniture gallery. "I'd been making chalk designs for friends and around my community, so discovering that I could do this professionally was exciting."
Typically, Tanamachi finds inspiration in typography. "For an Americana-themed piece I looked to stamps, old currency, and documents." The O cover called for something dynamic and fun. So Tanamachi grabbed a box of bright chalk—a departure from her usual white—and got to work in the Chelsea studio where we were shooting. She doodled and sketched before taking her work full-scale. "Chalk is so temporary. I can make big, messy strokes, then erase and add. I just carve away and embellish until I end up with my final design."
One artist has come up with a brilliantly simple way to face his fears: writing them all down. Brian Rea has created two large-scale murals by listing all of his many fears, from debt to head trauma. As he told Fast Company, "I discovered like most people I had a lot of fears...I began to catalog them: physical fears, natural fears, political fears, random, emotional." One of the murals resembles a large diagram, listing Rea's many fears grouped into categories, while the other features illustrations of one of his main fears. (Visit Fast Company to see the striking images of the murals and to learn what Rea's main fear is!)
It's a great idea for an art exhibit, but I also think we could all learn something from Rea's technique. As journallers everywhere can attest, sometimes all it takes to start feeling better about something is to write it down. Anyone can put up a chalkboard, grab some chalk, and start scribbling away. You could even invite everyone in your family to join—that's sure to inspire some interesting conversations. And maybe those really scary things (like Ricky Gervais) will start to seem less scary after all.
6 Ways to Conquer Your Fears
Advice For Living Without Fear
If one of your resolutions was to be more creative, perhaps you should take part in a large-scale art project and have your work exhibited in New York City. No, really! All you have to do is sign up for The Sketchbook Project, an exciting community arts initiative. Thousands of artists, from novices to seasoned veterans, are participating, and there's still room for more to join. When you sign up they send you a blank sketchbook and a due date. You then traipse through daily life buoyed by inspiration, seeing the beauty in everything. (I mean, I'm assuming that's how it works.) Then, starting this summer, all the sketchbooks will be archived and displayed at the Brooklyn Art Library, where the public can view it and proclaim your creative genius. (Again, I'm assuming.)
Here is a great video made by one of the participants, documenting the evolution of his sketchbook's cover:
One collaborator, a retiree from Australia, says of the project, "I was inspired by previous sketchbooks that participants have made. It gave me a purpose, a deadline, and a challenge." Another says, "Knowing that my work will be out there for people to people is an amazing feeling."
If the idea sounds daunting, let me just say that even an amateur like me can vouch for the transformative power of
keeping a sketchbook. I took an art class in college where one of the
assignments was to keep a sketchbook in which you would draw or paint
the same thing—I chose the view from my kitchen window—a different
way every week, and I can still viscerally feel the deep satisfaction I
got from my crappy oil pastels of pigeons. The teacher assured us that
tackling the same subject again and again would help us to see the thing
more deeply and what do you know, she was right! I haven't lived in
that apartment in almost a decade, and yet I can picture the view from
that window precisely. Seeing things more deeply, and having your artwork on display? Whether you're an artist looking for community or a creative person seeking a an assignment, The Sketchbook Project might be just the thing to get you through the winter.