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Creativity (104 posts)
Admit it. You've yelled at the television before. "Don't marry her!" or "Don't go into the BASEMENT!" or "How could you do this?!" -- getting a wee bit more emotionally involved than a glowing screen probably deserves. And you've probably cried at a novel, knowing the characters were fictional. And you've certainly heard a song and passionately sang along and felt inexplicably moved, even though it was telling a love story not your own, recounting drama you hadn't yet encountered, because, well, you're in kindergarten.
Enter: these kids, rocking out in the backseat to Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know." I could watch this video eighty-thousand times. They are FEELING this song, they really are. And as Lauren Yapalater points out over at BuzzFeed, they run the gamut of emotions, from ferocity to indifference to heartbreak:
I love that these six-year-olds are feeling this song so intensely, full as it is of raw emotion that they have, surely, not yet experienced for themselves. But isn't that what art is to kids (and maybe to us adults too, really) -- emotional practice? I think this must be why toddlers insist on hearing the same scary story over and over from the safety of a parental cuddle, why kids love the parts of picture books where everyone cries, why tweens rock out to endless love songs: they know on some level that these are experiences they are destined to have, and that the pop-song-version is an easy, safe tutorial for how to deal when the trouble comes. From the looks of things, these ferocious, passionate, hilarious kids will be just fine.
The Song Guaranteed to Make You Sleep
The Empty Coca-Cola Bottle Way to Multitask
Why do we do this? Why does it feel so wrong to say "I want" (or even worse, "I need")? If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say it has something to do with not wanting to seem incapable. Then I happened upon the "I want" list of the sculpture artist Louise Bourgeois. Part poem, part therapy, part life list, this document feels extraordinary (and not just because of the purple ink, although let's face it, that helps).
"I want to feel," reads the list. "I want to be good. I want to be better. I want to do it." It's striking, reading through this list, how empowering the idea of wanting becomes. It's not about being selfish; it's not about requesting goods and services. It's about connecting with that primal part of yourself, that inner kid who is all want and love and fury. It's about wanting to grow, to change, to connect -- it's a kind of wanting that's about reaching out, not reaching in.
The list is part of a new exhibit focusing on the influence of the subconscious and psychotherapy on Bourgeois' work, at the Freud Museum. According to The Guardian, the list "was inspired by the discovery of a cache of the artist's writing, which revealed that she had undergone psychoanalysis, a fact she had previously kept secret." The show's curator, Philip Larratt-Smith, told the Guardian that Bourgeois went from "making these tall, monolithic statues in the early 50s, then re-emerged with a totally new body of work in the 60s. It was always a mystery how she got from A to B. These writings fill in the story."
Looking inward, it seems, reinvigorated this artist's work. And perhaps pinpointing what she wanted was a part of this process. When you really get to the bottom of things, when you really acknowledge your desires, pushing past the politeness and the inbred "no, no, no!"s -- what is it you really, really want? Above all, the lists suggests, Bourgeois wanted to accomplish mastery. Ambitious. Inspiring. But not needy, or greedy, or incompetent in the least. Even in want, it seems, there is room for graciousness.
Increase Your Abundance
How to Say What You Want
LaPorte acknowledges that each of these personality types are "cousins in talent," and that it can be hard to distinguish between them. So take a look at her descriptions of each. Then ask yourself: Do you love to connect people? Are you a ninja at good advice? Can you dream up a plan to solve any problem in 2 seconds flat? (And if so, can you call me?) Pinpointing which role comes most naturally to you can be an immense help, whether you are trying to make a career move, establish your brand, or just think more clearly about yourself and what you do. Hint: your response to LaPorte's post is likely to offer some clues about which role you play in life...
How Your Shadow Behaviors Affect Your Career
Getting Started on a Strong Life Plan
Forget for a moment, if you can, any dorm-room associations you may have with the topsy-turvy artwork of MC Escher, and while away a few minutes/hours clicking through the artist's visually fascinating, mathmatically-inclined work. The intricate patterns, the carefully-crafted optical illusions, the things turning into other things. Remember the wonder you felt on first seeing them?
Spanish artist Cristóbal Vila has imagined, in his new short film, Inspirations, what MC Escher's workplace may have looked like. Open Culture calls the video "three minutes of unbridled imagination," and it is indeed an interesting tribute to a beloved artist, a way to peek inside a creative mind:
What would inspire you to create something new? Chess sets and lizards? A tin can full of feathers (as I vividly recall from the studio of an artist friend of my mother's)? A vision board covered in clipped magazine images? Tell us in the comments!
Rather, Buckingham uses this term to refer to Generation Y. As in, "if you drop them, they break." Inc. contributing editor Donna Fenn reports that recently at the Inc. Magazine and Winning Workplaces Leadership Conference, Buckingham said, "You would expect GenY to be very strengths-focused. But they're actually more focused on weaknesses." According to Buckingham, Gen Y'ers, who feel that fixing their weakness will make them more successful, ought to instead concentrate on building up their strengths. I admit I had to read this about ten times before it sank in. You mean...trying to fix a weakness isn't the same thing as building up a strength? You mean...obsessing over a weakness makes you fragile? Oy.
Fenn counters the statement that Gen Y'ers are fragile "teacup people" with a thoughtful run-down of the instability and chaos in which this generation has come of age. But regardless of your age or generation, there's an interesting question at the heart of this argument. Is focusing on your weaknesses turning you into, well, a teacup?
Principles for Success
Only Failure Can Teach You...
But Meena and others like her have found that secret literary groups, where they phone in poems for literate women to transcribe, allow them to express themselves -- their frustrations at their controlled existences, at being forced to marry people they don't want to, or not having access to education or ways to support themselves. In Meena's case, tradition dictates that she marry one of her dead fiancé's brothers. According to the Times: "She doesn’t dare protest directly, but reciting poetry to Amail allows her to speak out against her lot...Pashtun poetry has long been a form of rebellion for Afghan women, belying the notion that they are submissive or defeated."
Can you imagine it -- really imagine it -- not being allowed to so much as express an opinion? Can you imagine the release you would feel, finally having a chance, through poetry, to communicate -- even if it had to be shrouded in metaphor and mystery? These women (the poets, the scribes who help them) are truly brave. But they also remind us of the power of art -- whether it's poetry or music or dance or whatever it is -- to say the unsayable. In this case, literally.
Afghan Girls Who Box for Sisterhood
The Age-Old Art of Spoken Poetry
There is a portrait in my in-laws' house that I am completely obsessed with. My husband (then a blond cherub of 5 or 6) and his brother (at 9 or 10) pose, bedecked in matching polo shirts, in front of a stone-washed background. Big brother is scowling. Little brother grins sweetly even though he totally has a black eye given to him by big brother just moments before saying cheese. It's as if the anarchy of childhood has broken through the attempted restraints of the Civilized Sears Family Photo. Because isn't that the way? You try to take a nice family picture and get goofiness.
Here's one father who has cracked the code with equal parts creativity and craziness. Instead of fighting the wackiness of youth, Jason Lee channels it, getting ideas from his daughters for their unusual family pictures. Observe:
The photos are great fun to look at, but they also serve as a helpful reminder: there are so many things in our lives that we take too seriously, when we could be just embracing the craziness and having fun with them. Documenting the kids, working, being creative -- whatever it is, take a page from the Lee family's scrapbook and loosen up a little. And when all else fails: bubble beards for all. (via Bored Panda.)
(Check out all of Jason Lee's gorgeous photography at his site.)
What Makes Work Fun?
Why You Need More Fun In Your Life
We are living in an era of portraits: the held-at-arm's-length-iPhone-Instagram, the slightly fuzzy webcam profile pic, the Mad-Men-yourself-ed avatar. But artist Moyra Davey, one of the artists featured in this year's Whitney Biennial, has created a different kind of portrait, both older and newer than our everyday barrage of digital images. Davey's work "Mary, Marie," is a portrait of the Romantic writer and proto-feminist (and mother of "Frankenstein" author Mary Shelley) Mary Wollstonecraft, created from letters Wollstonecraft wrote to her lover, along with photographs and other images, which Davey then physically mailed to her own mother, sisters, and nieces.
Here she is, discussing her process in creating her work:
There is something so poetic in the way Davey has taken the original medium -- a portrait created through Wollstonecraft's words -- and added her own dimension. Mailing the hard copies of her creations draws in another floundering medium, the increasingly-old-timey postal service. And the fact that she mails them to the women in her life suggests another way we create the stories of our lives, through the other people in them. After all, we are more than just our chosen snapshots of our faces. We are the people we write to, and we are the people we want to share with.
Airplane Lavatory Self-Portaits
The Self-Portrait that Made Kate Capshaw Weep
As anyone who's ever tried to do anything knows, this business of trying to emulate your heroes can be as soul-crushing as it is self-defeating. Guillebeau goes on to hypothesize that while very few people have one thing that they excel at as excellently as, say, Thelonious Monk excelled at playing jazz, most people have unique combinations of skills that they are fairly decent at, and that it's this unique combination that gives you your very own value. (Read the whole post to learn what Dilbert has to do with all this!)
Which made me think of—stay with me here—last week's episode of Mad Men, in which office sniveller Pete Campbell tries to channel Don Draper, to disastrous effect. Why would you be a second-rate Thelonious Monk or Don Draper, when you're the only you there is? What is your own unique combination of talents, interests, and experiences? Just sitting down to make a list of these things might help you to uncover a value you never realized you had.
Trust Your Intuition for a More Meaningful Life
Martha Beck's Guide to Self-Acceptance
So I was very relieved to learn that as an adult in possession of a calculator and tax accountant, as long as I'm not too picky about things like grocery bills, math actually can be largely avoided. Hooray! Then I read this post on Dim Sum Thinking on the beauty of math and the facile question "When Will I Use This?" It seems this whole time I've been asking the wrong question.
The post argues that looking at math's practical applications is not the best way to get students interested in the horrible torture beautiful elegance that numbers have to offer: "The hard part is that math is so darned useful. There is math everywhere. It’s easy for us to think about learning the math we need to do science or economics." But to this math teacher, math is every bit as enjoyable for its sake as the more beloved activities of playing band and football, disciplines kids enjoy without asking how they use the skills they hone later in life.