Category Archives: creativity

3 Tricks for Silencing the Self-Critic

I got my camera remote working yesterday which of course meant I had to play around a bit with some self- portraiture.

To be a bit transparent the result at the left here is about my fourth or fifth attempt. Every previous attempt had something I didn’t like about it, lighting, color, pose… the self-critic was in full effect as I sought to expose him through photographic imagery. (I’m not even sure I like THIS one the best but I had to just shut him down.)

Having just been through the battle against the self-critic I thought I’d share a couple tricks for defeating that nagging voice that stifles creativity and oft times leaves us staring at a blank page.

Trick #1: Dust
I find it incredibly difficult to come up with ANYTHING creative when my office is in a shambles, the state in which it most typically exists. It’s funny how much more easily the ideas start to flow when I have a clean desk. Even funnier that the process only gets better if the floor in front of my desk…which I cannot see when sitting there…is clean as well.

There is something about a well organized environment that frees up the mind to focus on being creative. In case you’re in need of a pithy reminder: Cleaning up your space allows the mind to race.

Trick #2: Doodle
Far too often we get focused on creating the specific outcome we’re after that we get bogged down at the start. Looking for just the right word, or chord, or color combination. One of the best ways I find to give myself a kick start is just to doodle.

Now, to be fair, I am a doodler. Most of my class notes, meeting notes, notebooks are filled with doodles. Doodles don’t take thought, they just take shape.

In this case though I don’t necessarily mean drawing squiggly lines. Doodling could be writing down bits of dime-store-novel-like dialogue. It could be putting on a piece of music and playing along with it. It could mean editing a photograph that has nothing to do with your current project.

Don’t let the critic tell you you’re wasting time doodling…you’re stirring the creative juices. You’re bouncing out of the rut you’re stuck in to get a different run down the path. The creative freedom of expression in doodling loosens up the log jam and get’s you going.

Trick #3: Drink
No, I didn’t pick this one just because it starts with the letter D, and yes, I know some people might find this one mildly offensive, but any college student can tell you that the first thing alcohol consumption does is lower your inhibitions. Guess what the self-critic is? An inhibitor!

There are actually studies that show that consuming a moderate amount of alcohol results in people engaging in more creative problem solving. Somehow loosing the inhibitors loosens the creative juice.

I’m not advocating getting sloshed, just a glass of wine or a good scotch will do the trick. But hey man, it’s science!

Next time you find the assembled self-critics yammering in your ear try these tricks to get them to just BACK OFF!

What other trick would you suggest for silencing self-criticism and getting a creative project moving to the next level?

Think You’re Not Creative? Guess Again…

I enjoy creative endeavors. I draw, paint, sculpt a little and dabble in computer graphic art.

I’m a musician, song writer, photographer, writer, and speaker.

I’ve done radio, television and theater and I’ve even dabbled in stand up comedy a time or two.

I’m the guy that gets the “creative” tag. I’m the guy that is expected to think outside the box. (Truth be told I lost the box years ago.)

More and more regularly I find myself coming across people who say, “I’m just not creative” as though they’re leaving that bit up to me. They always say it with a hint of sadness in their voice as though they WISH they were creative but, it just isn’t their bag.

If you’re one of those people who think you just aren’t creative let me let you in on a little secret…that’s crap. Let me provide three proofs:

Proof 1: The first man
As a Christian I believe man was created by God, in God’s image. When we’re told that in the Bible the only “image” of God we have is that of a creator. If man is created in the image of God then man is created, all of us not just Adam and Eve, to be creators…to be creative.

Proof 2: The foundational job
Pastors tell us, and the Biblical record supports this, that the first thing God gave Adam was a job.

Genesis 2:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

Now we know Adam didn’t have to tend the ground for food, that comes later, he was a vegetarian at this point, he was naked and unashamed so he didn’t have to make clothes,  so what were his jobs again? Decorative gardening, ornamental horticulture is you will, and coming up with creative names for the animals. HIS JOB WAS TO BE CREATIVE!

Proof 3: The forgotten tree
We always remember the tree of the knowledge of good and evil being in the garden. You know, the apple tree? But we too often forget the tree of life was there too. Supposedly eating from the tree of life made it possible for Adam and Eve to LIVE FOREVER. That was why they were kicked to the curb by the way, so they wouldn’t live forever in their post apple eating state.

So in other words…

God created man as a creative being, gave man a creative job, and gave it to him in a place where he was supposed to be forever. That means we’re all BUILT to be creative!!!! If you think you’re not it is only because you’ve forgotten how!!!

I hate the fact that there is a growing trend, in churches and beyond, to refer to a certain select group of people as “creatives” Yes, I know it easier than saying: musicians and artists and writers and painters and, and, and…

But if we call one group the creatives then the other group is the “not creatives”. I really do believe this subtly reinforces the notion in many people that they are not creative.

But if God created all of us to BE creative, and we start to tell one group of folks they’re not, whose message are we spreading there?

What is one creative activity you can engage in today that will produce a tangible result?

 

 

Innovation = Invention+Problem+Connection=Solution

I’m currently traveling in Australia for work so I really have no idead when this post will…post. It is entirely possible that I will post it Monday night for publishing Monday morning.

As part of our endeavor to connect our body clocks to our wrist watches today we had an interesting conversation about innovation and connections. The example we used was weaponry and the simple challenge of putting a hole in a man.

The progression went something like this: rock – knife – sword – spear – lance – bow – gun – drone.

Each step recalls not onthe the original problem but it makes a connection between that first problem and the evolution of the next level problem.

  •  A rock will put a hole in a man but it takes a lot of effort
  • To use less effort put a point on it, you get a knife
  • But you still have to really close, so create a longer knife, sword, or strap a knife to a stick, spear.
  • But as armor evolves the sword or spear needs more thrust.
  • To get more thrust ride a horse and use a lance.
  • But what if you could start the same distance away and NOT have to ride at the man? You get a bow.

You see how it works? The innovation is really just evolution in response to a specific problem.

Too often people sit down to “be creative” and come up with something “innovative” and completely miss the key ingredient…the problem they are trying to solve.

This little exercise/conversation leads to a set of simple steps for innovating.

Step 1: Capture the original challenge: In the case above, how to put a hole in a man. We’re not creating something from scratch here, we’re looking at a next generation innovation.

Step 2: Identify the problem to solve: Above it is how to put a hole in a man from a greater distance. So you don’t wind up leaping to a new thing, you put a small amount of distance into the equation.

Step 3: Solve the step-wise problem: To often people kill the sword idea, no pun intended, as being “not far ENOUGH away” but it DOES solve the problem. You might choose to jump to the spear as a kind of “yes/and…” to the sword.

The key is to remember that all three ingredients are equally important. If you leave out step one you may drift too far from the original problem/solution match. If you leave out step 2 you risk getting into the creative weeds or go the wrong direction again. If you leave out step 3 you don’t land on anything.

Where are you trying to innovate? What is the original problem and what is the connected problem?

Church Movements, Evangelism, and ol’ Jacques

In the center of town around High Street and Main
five churches were started in 2010.
Two bought out old chapels, one met in a bar
one met at the Bijou and one in the park.

Each sought for a word to distinguish their flock
from the other four gatherings there on the block.
Community, Village and Friendly all worked
some called it a Meeting, still others a Kirk.

But when names weren’t enough to set each one apart
each sought to distinguish the core or the heart
of their groups unique style of spiritual improvement
by coining a term to inspire a movement.

One said, “We’re Emergent and by that we mean
something new coming out from the old Christian scene.”
Another said, “Close but that’s not quite the thing
instead of emergent we are Emerging

One tied to their heritage lit on Resurgent.
While the ones on the narrow path, they chose Divergent.
The fifth and last church sadly took a long time
Before choosing “Mosturgent” because they liked the rhyme.

Well one fine summer morning ol’ Jacques came to town
to check on the doings and have a look ‘round.
He saw all the churches ensconced at the center
and tried to determine which one he should enter.

Each one’s vinyl banner puffed up by the breeze
declared why their own was far better than these.
The MOSTurgent, Emergent, Resurgent all cried
Divergent, Emerging said, “Please, come inside”

‘Ol Jacques chuckled because he had heard each ones claims
as he took the first letter from each of their names
saying, “I’ve listened to all of you now and I’ve heard
your irregular movements combined into MERDE.”

So ol’ Jacques left the town satisfied in his search
Having never once darkened the door of a church
For he thought, “Now if that is the best they can offer to me
then perhaps I’ll just watch politics on t.v.”

Fin

No hard feeling towards any particular movement, just the competitive nature they’ve all seem to have taken on. What does it say about being “in but not of” and “striving for unity”?

An Exercise in Obedience

Stop, read no further. Do not carry on.
The words on this page are not meant to be read
so leave them alone and be gone.

Do you not understand? You’re here so you don’t.
The following lines are not for you to read,
I’m hoping you’ll stop but you won’t.

Ok, I have asked and I’ll ask once again.
You’ve come all this way without manners or shame
but please do not read to the end.

I know you can read you are doing so now.
So turn your attention and your comprehension
to ending this folly somehow.

How long will you batter proprieties bounds?
A last opportunity, cease and desist
your arrogance simply astounds!

Alas here you are come to sample the fruits.
Can it be that your life is an endless parade
of such stubborn and foolish pursuits?

I wrote this as an experiment in what I sometimes refer to as “visceral poetry”. By that I mean poetry designed specifically to elicit a visceral reaction…intentional provocation. Did I succeed?  🙂

If you made it to the end please leave a comment so that others will know they weren’t the only ones not to follow instructions.

What will make today different?

For those who missed it I’d like to briefly share the history lesson from the 15th:

It is a little known fact that the term “March Madness” is borrowed from the madness that ensued when Julius Caesar was murdered by a group of senators, including his friend Marcus Brutus, (Et tu Brute?) on March 15, 44BC. This is also the reason the tournament starts on the Ides of March, “the day the madness began.”

In another interesting twist, the first time the term “March Madness” was used to describe the spring basketball classic, the tournament had a corporate sponsor: Brute aftershave.

Feel free to amaze the entire bar with your knowledge of these facts as you watch the tournament, just don’t bet any money on them. 😉

This was an insane week.

My iPhone all but died Wednesday. I had to do a factory reset. Took multiple attempts. Thought I’d lost everything. Fortunately my contacts and pictures were saved even if my ringtones and apps have to all be reloaded.

My work laptop died today. This is the second laptop death in a month. Fortunately I am scheduled to get a new one in a few days anyway…but several urgent documents are now trapped in a digital no fly zone ensconced in heartless black plastic.

On top of it all I feel like I’ve been stuck in about a 4 week rut. Been sick for most of that. You ever have a stretch like that?

Tomorrow it all changes.

Why? Because I decided it will.

You see today I set the stage. I edited about 100 photos that were sitting on my home computer while on a conference call. I finished the rough draft of a white paper for work. I created about 6 ringtones from songs I’ve had stored forever. And that was just the warm up act.

In short, I created.

When we create…anything…we tap into that bit inside us which desperately wants to stay out of ruts. When we accomplish, even small feats like creating a ringtone, we put a notch in the creativity belt.

The picture above is from an all day meeting. Oh MAN do I dislike all day meetings. We had the table full of “creativity” goodies, silly putty, colored pens, pipe cleaners. Some people get into that sort of thing. I tend to immerse myself in it. Why? Because if you want to “think outside the box” on the work stuff you can do it by moving WAY beyond with the creative goodies. It’s funny too how far other people started taking their creations after I had “given them permission” by being so oddly out there.

So if you’re stuck in a rut, or feel one coming on, what will you do TODAY to get out of it? Not later, not when (fill in the blank) happens, not when you get time…today, now.

Drive a different way to work, go without socks, create a fake history lesson, ANYTHING different and moderately creative will tap the keg on your creative juices.

Don’t wait, do something different today. The first thing that comes to mind? That thing you just dismissed? Do THAT one.

What will you do different today that will spark your creative energy?

Why I Love Picasa 3, Google’s Image Management Tool

One of the things I absolutely loved about using a MAC at my last job was iPhoto. It was such a great tool for managing digital photos, uploading albums, facial recognition etc that I found myself managing a ton of personal photos on my work computer. I knew that probably wasn’t a great idea so…

A year or so ago I started looking around for something akin to iPhoto that I could use on my Windows machine at home and landed on Picasa 3 from Google. For the past year or so I’ve been managing my photos in Picasa and enjoying it, until today. Today I discovered I love it.

I take a ton of pictures. The photo above, from my son’s rugby game last Saturday,  is one of about 500 I took at the game. Obviously I need an easy way to manage that many pictures. So why do I love Picasa? Let me tell you…

1. Organization
Picasa imports my photos into folders grouped by when the pictures were taken. Even if my memory card has several events still on it Picasa separates them into unique folders. It even groups folders by year. This makes is easy for me to either allow Picasa to give the folders names by date, or for me to create unique folder names based on event. Downloading from my cameras memory card into multiple folders takes all of about four clicks.

Not only that, Picasa will also look for images folders already on your computer and index those for you as well. Taking pictures with your iPhone? No worries. Picasa easily imports those too.

2. Editing
Now don’t get ahead of yourself here. I love Photoshop and will always use that for precision creative stuff. But Picasa has some quick editing tools that are pretty powerful.

I got this shot as part of a series when my son had a breakaway run through the opposing team. I’m still earning the customs setting on my new camera so some of the series were under-exposed. Bummer…

With a couple of clicks and some sliders bar adjustment in Picasa I was able to crop and correct to get a half way decent edit of the same image.

What is GOLDEN about this though is that while I could do the same thing in Photoshop I would have to save it as a separate image, doubling the space taken up on my hard drive.

With Picasa I do the edits in the software digitally. Picasa shows me my edited version, which I can export as I did for this post, but it doesn’t change the original. That means I can fiddle with edits all I want without doubling up on memory OR losing the original.

3. Sharing
Obviously photo sharing is a huge deal these days. For the rugby parents I created a group room on Walgreens Photo so that anyone could easily order pictures of their son without having to get hold of me to provide it.

Picasa has a share button that connects you to multiple options, Walgreens Photo being one of them, which allows me to, with only about three clicks, upload my edited album to the web.

I was able to crop, color correct, and edit around 85 photos today in just under two hours, including uploading the album to the web. I didn’t lose ANY of my originals and I didn’t have to create multiple folders on my image hard drive.

I thought I just needed Picasa as a viewing tool. Now it is a central piece of my work flow and I think I have probably only just scratched the surface. What more can you ask for for free?

What do you use to manage images on your computer?

New from Apple: An app, a bundle, and a cool device

Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay area it stands to reason I have friends at Apple. Every so often I get a sneak peak at what’s “coming soon”.  Forget iPhone 5 or iPad 3 this stuff in the iLife series is cool!

Ever found yourself in a conversation struggling to find a way to connect? Never again. This cool little app will prop up your social skills in a heart beat. iKnow,Right? listens in on the conversation then it quickly parses the language for content, tone, and emotion. Within seconds your iPhone prompts you with statistics, photos, video…even your own stored stories…that have relevance to the conversation.

  • Green bars mean a great connection – you can jump right in: “I know, right? Just like this one time…!”
  • Yellow is iffy – a little riskier: “I know, right? I think I heard a song that was almost like that.”
  • Red is high risk: Your app found something you can use but you’d better push the button to save it for next time! “I know, right? I wish there was a video like that!”

Features include:

  • OneTouch saving
  • iNtellistory – save your own anecdotes in easy to retrieve format
  • Multiple search engine access
  • Instant connection to iTunes

Sound knowledgeable, come off savvy, and climb the social ladder!

Next up this little bundle of joy. With so many couples finding each other over the internet these days the iDo is the perfect way to tie the knot.

The perfect bundle of hardware and software that’ll make your special day memorable….and portable to anywhere!

The iDo bundle includes an iPad preloaded with:

  • 500 customizable invitation templates to choose from
  • marriage licenses from all 50 states
  • an interactive officiant*
  • 250 song reception play list
  • and much more

Of course the bride and groom each get their own His and Her iPhones. And for your wedding party? Eight iPod Shuffles in a bouquet of colors for attendants or family.

* Officiant application licensed in Colorado. Colorado State law allows any person to perform a wedding ceremony, not just clergy or judicial officers. This means you can meet online and get married on line as well!! An in app purchase option even allows you to select from over 100 celebrity voices!

Don’t get stuck depending on a location or a preacher to do your wedding. Take it on the road with iDo!

But if you’re still out there playing the field and you’re not yet ready to settle down then perhaps you need this cool device. Don’t be fooled, iGlasses aren’t exactly what you’d expect.

Imagine you’re out on the town with your compadres and you’ve ingested a few more beverages than is good for promoting sound judgment. As closing time rolls around you may or may not know it but you’re wearing a full fledged pair of beer goggles.  iGlasses to the rescue!

The sweet piece of hardware is designed to work with your iPhone. Simply plug it in and put ’em on. The inside of the lenses are coated in photosensitive retina scanning film that allows the device to quickly register literally thousands of micro expressions. Sensors in the temple capture heart rate, skin temperature change, and nerve conductivity. The result is an accurate assessment of your interest level!

The pay off? Leveraging FaceTime technology your phone displays both the person you’re looking at (in the small window) and the person you THINK you’re looking at (in the big window) based on your level of interest. This gives your wing man the chance to step in and save you from yourself! The picture is even saved on your phone as proof, just in case your buddies let you down!

No worries ladies there is a version for you too! (Although an anonymous source inside Apple confesses that the ladies version won’t sell as well. It seems ladies are less apt to wear beer goggles in the first place.)

Apple doesn’t expect consumers to jump on these too quickly though they do believe there is a HUGE market for bars and clubs to have multiple pairs on hand as rentals. Expect to see these popping up at a watering hole near you.

Features Include:

  • MicroScan technology
  • Image capture
  • Warning alerts with sound
  • Icon alerts as to whether you’ve got their phone number already
  • Also available soon as iGlasses FS (flying solo) with more sound based alerting, multiple frame options, and wireless connectivity

“Which is clearer, number one…or number two…one…or two…” iGlasses

Obviously any similarity between these Apples releases and actual products is purely coincidental. I just needed something to stir up the creative juices.

What fanciful iCreation do you have in mind? What would you ask them to create in the iSeries?

3 Keys to Unlocking Creative Energy

Image created using Bryce and PhotoshopI confess I am a deadline guy. Looming deadlines seem to spur the creative juices.

I hate it.

Why you may ask? Because I generally look at what I create just in time to meet the deadline and come up with a hundred ways it could be better. If I had finished it sooner I could have made the fixes!!

Truth be told different folks have different methods for getting the creative juices flowing but I believe there are three keys that pretty consistently serve to unlock the valve, if not the floodgates.

Key #1: Emotion
There are studies that show a direct correlation between positive emotion and creative problem solving. This is no surprise. When we’re happy the world and possibility seem to expand, it’s all big and bold and good.

Interestingly the same studies show a direct correlation between negative emotions and focus. This is no surprise either. When things are going downhill quickly, like when our lives are threatened, a heightened sense of focus comes in handy.

So which emotional state is best?

I land on anything that is deeply felt that does NOT instantly create a fight or flight response. Fear and anger, both negative emotions, generally produce flight or fight responses but deep sorrow or longing, also potentially “negative” emotions tend to produce reflection.

Anything that you feel deeply that doesn’t make you want to instantly sprint or destroy is an emotional state that can unlock the door to creative endeavor.

Key #2: Motivation
My love hate relationship with deadlines is a motivation thing. That extra blast of “have to” helps get me going even if I haven’t had a solid idea working prior to crunch time.  For a lot of folks who claim to have trouble “being creative” the problem is not creativity but motivation. Ask yourself ‘why?’ Why is it that I am trying to create something here?

Ask me to come up with a commercial jingle for toothpaste as an assignment for a class and I’ll deliver something passably good. Ask me to write one to win my kid a college scholarship and I’m primed to go. EVEN IF THE EFFORT I PUT IN IS THE SAME!

If I sit down to write a blog post because it is Tuesday and I need something for Wednesday morning that’s low motivation.  If I sit down to write a blog post that I think will get re-posted and think about how it might help the folks who regularly read my blog the motivation is at an even higher level. If I believe I’ve come across a unique perspective that is a game changer the motivation goes through the roof. Don’t take your motivation for granted, ask yourself why.

Effort counts, don’t get me wrong, but checking your motivation and getting THAT right helps the juices flow.

Key #3: Path
A lot of folks have a creative process…which feels like an oxymoron to me…or a place where they create. Those processes and places become part of a path to delivering the goods. But lets take an example from physical exercise. Studies show that over time your body gets used to the same types of exercise and thus your return diminishes.

The places and processes that form our paths can also become hindrances over time. Sometimes we need a different perspective, we need to take a different route, perhaps change our surroundings just to shake things up a bit.

Starting out down a different path leads to new discoveries which become the fodder for creative inspiration.

Emotion and Path are usually pretty self evident but how do you handle the Motivation question?

5 Rules that Build Creativity

 

Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re one of those people who think creativity exists “outside” the rules. “So”, you ask,” how can there be ‘rules’ that build creativity?”

Since I could probably write a couple weeks worth of responses to that one silly question I’ll settle instead for just giving you the rules and let you sort it out for yourself.

Rule 1: Stop Forgetting
You were “created in the image” of God. You remember God? The CREATOR? That means you ARE creative BY NATURE. It’s funny how creative a room full of four and five year olds can be. Creativity doesn’t start being forgotten until later in grade school when the strong desire to “fit in” takes over.

So Rule 1 is: stop forgetting that you ARE creative and always have been.

Rule 2: Stop Criticizing
Once the desire to fit in kicks in the inner critic shows up. The inner critc shuts down ideas before they get anywhere. The inner critic tells you you’re not (full in the blank) enough.  Shoot that dude. The inner critic kills ideas at the idea stage. Learn to muzzle him.

So Rule 2 is: stop the inner critic. Sometimes the best ideas grow out of a chain of bad ones that you just run with.

Rule 3: Stop Comparing
I find it interesting that we label a whole group of people as “creatives”. What does that mean? Bill Gates is creative but would he be labeled A creative? Does the title refer solely to people who make a living at pursuing artistic endeavors?

I’ve known some people who have creative positions who aren’t.

The trouble with the label is that it segments people. Now the whole “fit in” thing is applied to a non-creative category of people who aren’t “creatives”

So Rule 3 is: Stop comparing and labeling yourself.

Rule 4: Stop Hesitating
Your brain is insanely fast. Generate enough ideas and you’re bound to find a good one. Too often the inner critic stops the flow. Fast and furious free association is a great way to generate ideas. Don’t try to get the final thing all at once, lets the bits flow, sort through them and pick the ripest ones.

So Rule 4 is: Let the ideas roll, even the bad ones.

Rule 5: START
Being creative doesn’t mean learning to paint, or write music, or sculpt. It really just means doing something in a new enough way that it catches someones attention. THAT CAN BE ANYTHING! It can be the way you hang tools in the garage. It can be the way you dress. It can be the way you schedule. Find something you have a passion for and start there.

So Rule 5 is: Pick someplace you’re comfortable, think creative expression, and start there.

As someone who is often labeled as creative but who doesn’t make a living as a creative I really enjoy helping people who are either labeled as non-creatives or who make a living as something others than a creative re-discover that they are in fact creative.  🙂

Exercise:
1. Picture your inner critic as a person. They do NOT look like you because you ARE creative. So what do they look like? In detail.
2. Your inner critic needs to be subdued. Based on the detailed description you created of this villain what creative method will you use to dispose of them?
3. What are some of your favorite activities? Incorporate one of them into your method for stifling the critic.