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Creativity (104 posts)
"You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down."
The author of everyone's favorite assigned high-school reading, the visionary Ray Bradbury, has died at the age of 91. There are many very thorough remembrances of the man and his work out there. But when I heard this news, all I could think of was the story "The Third Expedition" in The Martian Chronicles (the book, incidentally, that first indicated to me, and so many others, all that the maligned genre of science fiction could be) in which the astronauts arrive on Mars only to find a place that looks a whole lot like the Earth of the past, peopled with their own long-dead friends and relatives. It all seems pretty fishy, but the astronauts can't help but give into their nostalgia, to their desire for it to be so. Mars, it seems, is heaven.
Well, (spoiler alert!) it doesn't turn out to be so: the idyllic world is actually a nasty trick on behalf of the hostile Martians. And when we read the story we feel a little foolish by the end, for wanting, as the astronauts did, the sunny, picture-perfect freeze-frame of Americana to be truly preserved up there on a rock in the sky, for believing for a few seconds that we were seeing heaven. Still, isn't it pleasant to think that somewhere in the universe, the people we miss are carrying on their lives on some sunny planet untouched by death? Isn't it pleasant to think that Ray Bradbury might be landing any minute?
Here, Bradbury shares his advice on how to live to be 90, and his take on the essence of life.
Bradbury on his Love of Libraries
Bradbury on Life and Creativity
Here, a moment of pure strangeness from the master of wackiness, Jim Henson. This short film, which according to boing boing was nominated for an Academy Award, is an off-kilter meditation on time -- time as a running Abraham Lincoln, time as a painted elephant -- but I think what I love most about it is that it's also so off-brand, Jim Henson-wise. No puppets. Not for kids.
In our creative and work lives, we're always getting the message to, well, stay on message. To consider each public showing, each event or idea or tweet, as a part of our persona, to build the brand of self. So it's good to have a reminder, now and then, that you do best is being yourself. We can watch this odd film and figure out how it fits into the brand of Jim Henson -- he just had to concern himself with making the things he wanted to make. Like this. Which is totally weird. (via boing boing)
Whimsical Japanese Animations
The Whole-Body Way to Tell Time
Or so says software developer Ed Weissman in his blog post about how working at McDonald's as a teenager prepared him for building software. I know, it sounds crazy. But Weissman lays out the lessons he learned as a burger-slinger in a way that proves their usefulness for any career. Among them: "In order to do heavy volume, you have to be set up for heavy volume." "When you're operating on the razor's edge, every detail is critical." "Ideally, managers can do and doers can manage." Read the whole post for his advice on being prepared for anything, and for what he sees as the single most important lesson he learned from working at McDonald's, which applies to anyone trying to do anything at all. Don't worry, it has nothing to do with french fries.
The Best Response to Getting Fired
How to Be a Star at Work
Apparently every one besides me already knew about the weird, wonderful world of sidewalk chalk illusions, but I just discovered them and have the same feeling as when I first learned about the existence of those enormous sand sculptures -- kind of mystified and vaguely excited and happy that such things happen in the world. At first blush, I think, how wonderful that this art form usually relegated to children has such gorgeous, grand applications. And then the more I study these images of Edgar Müller's chalk art from the addictive site Mighty Optical Illusions, the more I have this visceral urge to walk across this icy abyss. Don't you just want to do a jig on that ominous crevasse? Perhaps it is this that makes the chalk illusions so delightful -- the way the darkness tricks your brain into feeling scared, releases in your body the shaky feeling of a near-miss, allows you to do the daring and impossible... all from your completely safe vantage point on solid ground.
For more amazing chalk-art, take a behind-the-scenes look at the O Magazine chalk art cover.
Chalk Murals For Releasing Fear
Imagining MC Escher's Workplace
Latte Art Contests
After reading the collection of mini-memoirs in the February issue ("You...In Six Words"), Tish Pollack, who teaches English as a second language in California, wrote: "I was so moved by how others were able to tell their stories that I posed the same challenge to my students, who are all adult immigrants." Here's a look at their work, posted on their classroom wall.
3 ways to see your world with fresh eyes
13 quotes to inspire your creativity
Luckily for us, The Wall Street Journal asked the 18 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies what they thought would help women to succeed in the workplace. The whole article is full of helpful, enlightening advice, but here are a few of the gems (that we haven't heard a million times before):
"For a lot of women, they think the myth is true, that if they just do a good job and work hard, they'll get recognized. That's not the case...Men selectively listen. When [I made a point and a male later said the same thing], I'd stop the conversation and say, 'Do you realize I said that 10 minutes ago?' Women have to take responsibility for the dynamic around them; you can't just say 'Woe is me.' "
-Maggie Wilderotter, CEO of Frontier Communications
"I developed a strategic process for my career plan that set the final destination, developed the career track, identified skills to build, took line positions to gain experience, and sought leadership and management training on the job, through special assignments, coaching and networking. For example, as VP of Marketing for Nestle, I actually worked in a manufacturing plant which gave me a deep appreciation for how the supply chain works."
-Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell Soup
"In order to lead an organization, you have to be incredibly comfortable in your own skin, and the only way to do that is to be confident in who you are."
-Gracia Martore, CEO of Gannett
Identifying your own successes, learning new skills, and being comfortable in your own skin? Seems like good advice for all of us, aspiring CEOs or not.
4 Mistakes Women Make at Work
How to Start Your Own Business
But what about life block? I think many of us suffer from this affliction too. Its symptoms are the same -- feeling like you have no new ideas, feeling like you don't know how to communicate the ones you do have. It's that potent sense that nothing can change. You have no new ideas for dinner; no energy to get exercising though you know it will make you feel better. You just noticed no one has worn or sold the cut of pants you've currently got on for the past five years or so. You're sick of the downer coworker you always eat lunch with but never manage to meet a friend instead. You'd like to cut bangs but you're too afraid.
One tried-and-true way to skirt writer's block is the prompt, which is why the writerly online community Figment.com offers Figment Daily Themes: daily exercises, often suggested by beloved writers like Judy Blume, Susan Orlean, and Nell Fruedenberger. The prompts offer great ideas for anyone looking to shake off a slump, whether it's a writer's block or a more general sense of blah. For example, acclaimed novelist Jennifer Gilmore offered a great exercise in perspective: "Using the same POV–first person, third person, whatever you choose–write a piece that centers around a single moment from three different perspectives. Each perspective offers new information...Each perspective sheds more light on the moment while also revealing more." A great way to unstick an inert scene in a piece of writing, but also, a great idea for untangling a stuck personal situation. What if you actually saw that argument from your friend's perspective?
I would write more but guess what? Blogger's block. To the Fig!
3 Ways to Break Through a Block
How to Get Unstuck
I see her IRL sometimes and she's always wearing something adorable and carrying an armful of peonies and demurring, "Oh no, you're just seeing my online persona." Then she offers a twinkling smile and excuses herself because she's always on her way to a Special Yoga Class in the Park for Perfect Ladies or something like that. Total girl crush.
The girl crush, despite what its name suggests, is no small matter. As Thessaly la Force writes in W Magazine, "The 'girl crush' may sound silly, but sometimes it takes something unserious to get us talking about a serious subject: the ambitions of young creative women and the need for worthy role models." The girl crush is that woman who seems to have the perfect life. She's someone you want to befriend, if possible, but even more than that, she's someone you want to study, the way all little girls intensely study slightly older girls. La Force writes about her own girl crush, an illustrator and author of whom she writes, "I adored her from afar, and I suppose a part of me wanted to be her."
In the W Magazine piece, la Force enumerates her nominees for inaugural members of the Girl Crush Hall of Fame: "Zadie Smith, with her daring, brilliance, and wild success; Joan Didion, with her cool, spare prose; Patti Smith, with her soul and wisdom; Sofia Coppola, with her chic grace and unmistakable taste; and Tina Fey, with her goofy smile and razor wit. Each of them has accomplished something the rest of us dream of doing. And because they’ve done it, we feel we can too." That's what makes the girl crush more than just a regular old friend crush. The girl crush is the mentor (whether she knows it or not), the role model. She's the template for how to do the things you want to do; she's proof that it can be done.
For more girl-crush fun, check out Thessaly La Force's effervescent blog-zine, Girl Crush.
Okay, maybe it's not actually true that the right tools can make a person more creative, but I know I'm not the only one who suspects that the perfect combination of things will make any project easier, and maybe even make working a bit more fun. Which is what makes this site The Set Up so very appealing. Creative types from all different fields share the tools of their trades: SNL writer Paula Pell swears by Apple products, sharp No. 2 pencils, and Hersheys bars with almonds; music producer Chris Zane favors high-tech gadgets with mystical sounding names like "The Nocturne;" illustrator Amy Jean Porter is addicted to gouache; vegan cook Isa Chandra Moskowitz loves Canon cameras, her Nintendo DS, and Le Creuset cookware. It is fascinating to scroll through the diverse list of interviews, and everyone from the techie to the luddite can find some inspiration here. What do you use to do your work? How could your own set up be working better? How could YOU be working better?
Apes Love iPads Too
Your Internet Passwords, Daily Affirmations?
Artist Bartholomäus Traubeck has created an auditory experience that's also a powerful antidote: an antidote to the digital-everything world; an antidote to alienation from nature; an antidote to the life of constant earbuds. Here is his record player that plays pieces of wood. I love how he's taken two growingly-obsolete objects, paired them, and created something we never knew was there: the song a tree sings.
Kinda makes you want to listen to, well, everything, doesn't it?
Flemish Portraits in Airplane Bathrooms
A New Old Way to Make a Portrait
The Fine Art of Folding Air