Saturday, October 29, 2011

Principles of Creative Engagement

Last weekend, I had the amazing experience of attending the 2nd Creativity in Business conference held in my former hometown, Washington, DC and organized by the brilliant Michelle James.

The day was filled with so many insights that I am still slowly processing them all. As I was leaving, I noticed the above instructions tacked up to a wall. I snapped a quick image on my phone. Apparently, they were the guidelines for the entire conference that I somehow initially missed.

A few days later when I looked at the image again, I realized that it did sum up, in a few short phrases, my entire experience at the conference. And here's how:

Yes - and
A foundational principle of improv, yes- and implies that you will accept whatever happens and flow with what comes next. When I got to the conference, I was torn about which sessions to attend but the creative energy of the event guided me to choose the perfect ones for me.

Make everyone else look good
For me, this meant enthusiastically participating in each session demonstrating my engagement for the presenter to notice. I believe the more involved the audience is, the more creative energy the presenter receives.

Creativity is messy
In one session, Gregg Fraley led our group through an actual Creative Problem Solving process. One of the things he mentioned in doing so was how we should gravitate to and explore what makes us uncomfortable. It is here that your greatest creative discoveries will occur. Creativity is not a neat process.

Have fun
Above all, the conference was a day for me to play and explore new processes while meeting other like-minds folks. I tried improv, doodling, and storytelling.

What I ultimately learned is that when you combine the creative passion and enthusiasm of a group diverse individuals, you will see and feel magic happen. And that's what I'll reflect on most from the conference, as I continue to ponder the creative transformation that occurred within me.
  • How do you create and keep your creative engagement alive?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Altered Book Project

So you may be be wondering where I've been for the last month. Well, I'd like to say that I have been working on an altered book project but that's not true, it only seems like I've been working on it for a month!

Late in the summer, two of my longtime twitter friends Cat and Roisin suggested that all of us participate in a round robin altered book project. I was excited because I had already done one for a friend as a birthday gift several years ago and even took an all day altered book workshop with Gayle Pritchard.
This new project would require each of to start our own altered book by prepping the pages, creating a spread or two, and then sending it off to the next person to complete a few spreads and then pass along. By the end of the project we will each end up with our own book and mine will be filled with not only my art, but also Cat's and Roisin's art, which makes it even more exciting.

It took me awhile to find my book and to come up with the concept. I tried looking through my own selection of books, went to a used book store but ultimately found my book at a library book sale. The size was perfect - smaller than a typical hardcover fiction book and the cover was the right shade of purple. The title, The Looking Glass, set the tone for my  theme.
Then I began looking through all of my supplies to select possible materials that matched that theme. I set aside a slew of  items in pale tones that felt right for the book. My most challenging and lessons learned part was next: prepping the book.

To prep my book, I needed to create a thicker surface on which to create spreads by gluing large blocks of pages together. With my previous book, this process was tedious but doable. For some reason the type of glue I used this time made the process unbearable! It took me about 3 weeks of gluing to complete one and half blocks before I gave up. The glue was not drying and so everything was still sticky.

After a brilliant idea popped into my head, I switched directions, gave up the glue and pulled out my stash of purple duck tape to seal the pages together in blocks. While all the days of gluing taught me immense patience, the spontaneous switch to the tape showed me just how unpredictable the creative process is. That one simple idea appeared at just the right time when I needed it!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Disciplined Dreaming

Do you or does your organization need more ideas? Well then Josh Linkner and his book Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity may have just the solution for you or at least just the right idea generating tool!

Filled with proven techniques and the success stories to back them up, Linkner has written a resource that you and your team will come back to over and over. He believes that creativity is a skill that you can learn and even quotes from renown Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen to prove it:
"Studies have shown that creativity is close to 80 percent learned and acquired."
From there, Linkner provides a simple framework to increase your creative thinking capacity and also teaches you how to encourage it your organization or team.  His five step process is similar to the actual creative process.

1. Ask: Define your creativity challenge by asking what needs to be solved. Then use your curiosity to seek those clues.

2. Prepare: Like exercise, creative thinking requires warm-ups. Also if you are in an organization, cultural alignment is necessary.

3. Discover: Seek creativity in the unlikely corners of your life. You may be surprised by what you find.

4. Ignite: Where the rubber meets the road. Use as many different tools and techniques to spark ideas individually or in a group. 

5. Launch: Bring your analytical mind back into the picture to sort through all of the ideas you generated in the last step in order to choose the best ones to  pursue.

Now, I can't guarantee that you will become a creative genius after reading this book and following the Disciplined Dreaming process, but I am pretty certain that Linkner's infectious enthusiasm about all things creative will at least make you look at problem solving and creativity a lot differently.

  • Now go and create some new ideas!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Creative Slump

After a really productive and inspired late spring and early summer, I hit a creative slump - you know the one where it feels like all of your ideas have evaporated and you panic because you don't know when a new set will show up?

Yep, that's me!

At first when it hit, I just tried to ride it out and enjoy the downtime. I figured, like most blocks, if I ignored it it would go away. Well after several weeks, I started getting frustrated, because it was still there.

So then, I started to take my own advice. I got up on the opposite side of the bed, tried new foods, met old friend in new locations, but nothing.

Last week, I thought the slump had been broken. Things in my life began to shift, and I felt change was approaching. I rode this wave for a couple of days, but it didn't last, and I ended up back in my dry spell.

As I enter the second month of this creative slump, I am desperately looking for a breakthrough. That is why I am turning to you, my loyal readers.
  • Tell me how you've overcome a creative slump.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Spark: How Creativity Works

"Work comes out of work." ~ Richard Serra
This memorable quote leapt out of the pages of Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein, the producer of Studio 360. The book, which chronicles the creative process of many of today's creators, is filled with little nuggets like this to inspire you.

As you know, I am all about the process - the creative process that is! While the finished product is a feat, for me it is the process that is really intriguing.

That's why this was the first non-school related book, in a long time, that I not only read but devoured. From the first story that takes us on a journey with the artist Chuck Close as he discovers his renowned painting style despite his physical and learning challenges, I was hooked. According to Close,
"Inspiration is for amateurs, and the rest of us just show up and get to work. But so much of it comes out of the process..."
The rest of the book continues to explore the creative process, in all its forms, with examples from writers, architects, musician, and actors alike.

There are stories on how artists have dealt with adversity, created modern alchemy through their work, worked with partners and collaborators and just got to work. In this last chapter, the writer, Isabel Allende discusses, in fascinating detail, her ritual of starting a new work each year.

This book provides a deeper look into the creative process of some of the most intriguing contemporary artists and is a must read for process lovers.
  • How have your life experiences influenced your work?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

30 Days of Creativity

In my last post, I mentioned that I had just begun the 30 Days of Creativity challenge, where I was required to make one thing a day for the entire month of June.

Honestly, I didn't think I could do it, when I started. I am notorious for leaving projects and ideas abandoned. So I this time I made a conscious choice to follow through with this challenge.

And, guess what? I am halfway through it, and I am glad I pushed myself to stick with it. Working on a small project (5 minutes max) a day has been so beneficial to my development as an everyday creator.

Here are some of things I have learned:

1. Use what you have. Often my projects are inspired by my day. This beach glass sun catcher was the end of result of a day at the beach. I picked up the glass while there.

2. Set a timer when creating. I have found the 5 minute increment to be just enough time to get me into my creative flow, which I then take with me to other projects.

3. Experiment with techniques and materials. So far, I have used paper clips to create a bracelet and a dollar bill to create an origami heart.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Build Your Creative Dream in 5 Minutes a Day

Yesterday, while looking through my google reader, I noticed a post by my fellow creative blogger Tanner Christensen on creating the work you dreamed of.. It was a deeply personal post that touched a nerve with me and I am sure many other "creatives" out there.

In it, he tells his story of being a creative who, listening to everyone around him, forgoes a career as an artist to become a designer - considered to be a much safer choice. But like a lot of us out there in similar situations, he still longs to be an artist and challenges his readers (and I assume himself too) to take just 5 minutes a day to do something creative, whether it's writing a quick poem, taking a photograph, or doing a simple drawing to get back to your creative dreams.

I believe the reason his post and suggestion resonated so strongly with me was because, I too, have gotten into a place where I am safe and doing work, that while still part of my dream, is comfortable. No matter who we are, we get in that rut of doing the same thing almost everyday and forget about our lost creative dreams.

Like Tanner, I believe in the power of short - planned or unplanned stints of creativity. Small steps are what helps to build a larger practice of creativity. Recently too, I've tried to weave this into my own life, whether it's creating redesigned website wire frames on post-it notes during my lunch break, or snapping images of my daily life and altering them on instagram, or even pledging to create one thing a day for the next thirty days.

Let's start a Build Your Creative Dream in 5 Minutes a Day Challenge, where we take that short amount of time each day to express ourselves and rediscover our lost creative dreams.
  • What can you create in 5 minutes?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Even More of My Favorite Creativity Blogs

It's that time of year again. Yes, the time time where I recommend my favorite creativity blogs to read. I hope you'll check them out and grow to enjoy them as much as I do. Also, have a look at my lists from 2009 and 2010 for further inspiration.

The Artist's Road
I am so glad I discovered this blog and even more so, it's wonderfully creative author. Patrick delves deep into the creative experience and topics that other blogs just gloss over.

Cup of Creativi-Tea
Another kindred spirit I found this year is Thien-Kim or you can just call her Kim - I do! Her creativity blog covers everything from inspiration to food to crafts. Truly one of the most well-rounded blogs on creativity.

Creative Instigation
I am not sure why it took me this long to add Jan's blog to this list, because it's probably one of the first creative blogs I started reading. Jan's brevity is something I really admire, as well as her creativity tips, which are inspired by everything and anything and are (in my opinion) pure genius.

Creative Liberty
The best part of Liz's blog is her interviews with artists and creators, and I am not saying that just because I was once featured. Her interviews really give you an inside glimpse into the various creative processes out there.

The Creative Practice
Kira's blog is relatively new to me, but her content is outstanding and worth checking out. She dives into expression and creativity with a sense of thoroughness like no one else.
  • What creativity blog(s) are you reading?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Gets Your Creative Juices Flowing?

Earlier this year, while flipping through my favorite magazine, Whole Living, this question leapt off the page. Immediately, I began thinking about it and how in my own life I get my creative juices flowing.

A couple of days later, while feeling very inspired, I sat down and wrote the above statement and emailed it off to the magazine never imagining that I would be chosen as the grand prize winner.

Actually, I let it go completely from my mind until just a couple of weeks ago, when I excitedly received the May issue that arrived on a particularly busy Saturday. It wasn't until later in that day, when I opened the magazine to start casually reading it that I saw my entry had been chosen as this month's winner.
  • What gets your creative juices flowing?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lessons From a Creative Genius

    Image Source: the-colossus

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear a real creative genius speak. Ann Hamilton has been one of my art heroes, since I attended graduate school and studied public art in the same city Ann had moved back to only years before.

Her large scale installations, with an amazing attention to detail, have fascinated me, so when I saw she would be speaking at the Cleveland Museum of Art, I cleared my schedule and made an intention to be there.

The trip and the experience were definitely worth the wait. Ann delighted the audience with a historical trajectory of her work and infused it with inspiring tidbits that I was able to capture in my small notebook. Here are a few of them, along with my interpretations:

"Work is created through acts of (our) attention."
This pretty much sums up not only her work, but any work that we do as creators. It is truly the focus that we put into art that makes it come to life.
"Making (work) is falling open to possibilities."
Another accurate assessment of the creative process. If it were not for the possibilities we would not be able to create anything. A nice reminder for all creatives.

"(You) need to be uncomfortable to make work."
How many times have you waited for the right time to create or the perfect idea to fall from the sky? Probably always. And how often has it happened? Probably never. Work is hard and you need to be uncomfortable to find the friction to create.

"Follow your questions and trust the things you don't know."
None of us has all the answers and that is why questions are so important to the creative process. Start with your questions and see where they lead. You may be surprised by the result.

  • What lessons have you learned from a creative genius?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Guest Post for Indie Biz Chicks

I was excited when Crissy Herron asked me to write a post on creative inspiration for her amazing site Indie Biz Chicks. The site provides useful information and tips on business, marketing and publicity for small women-owned businesses. It was a natural fit for me, so I jumped at the chance.

I also loved that the tag line for Crissy's site is:
"For Women Who'd Rather Work For Themselves, Than Work for the Man"
My post focuses on helping those of you who've been feeling that you need a way to re-invent yourself or your business, keeping in mind that Spring is the best time to make a fresh start!

5 Creative Tips For The Uninspired 
by Melanie Sklarz

We’ve all been there at one time or another. We found ourselves just stuck. It may have seemed like everyone else had already come up with all of the good ideas, and we had nothing. Or we had been working so hard on our passion that once we finished it, we didn’t know where to go next.

The best thing to do in a situation, like this when you feel stagnate, is to create movement, no matter how small, day every day. Movement increases the flow of energy around you and your ideas and before you know it, you’ll be inspired!

I’ve created 5 simple tips to try when you’re feeling oh-so uninspired.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Inspired Conversations

When was the last time you had a REALLY inspired conversation? I mean the kind where you learn something new about yourself or gather interesting information from someone else.

Earlier this month, I had one of those kind of inspired conversations with @Cnvrgnc. Rasul and I bonded on Twitter over an article that I tweeted about creating a Rock 'n' Roll theme throughout the city of Cleveland. We played online tag for the next several months promising to schedule a phone conversation. Finally, our schedules cleared and for about an hour we chatted on the phone like creative kindred spirits.

From this experience - that left me creatively invigorated -  I developed some tips for inspired conversations:

1. Meet Offline. I am sure you know a lot of people online. I know I do! But how many of them can you you say have met in person or at least heard their voice? Meeting offline gives you a space to really explore the nuances of your conversation.

2. Ask Questions. Want to know more during your conversation? Just ask. Asking questions is the perfect path to new knowledge.

3. Connect. Look for places in the conversation to connect and bring in your personal experiences. In my case, I had lived for many years in Washington, DC, where Rasul currently lives and works. It turned out we had some common acquaintances and friends.

4. Continue Sharing. Not only is it important to share ideas and resources during your conversation, but also keep the dialogue going. After the conversation, send them interesting links or leads relevant to what you talked about.

Before long, not only will you have a new perspective, you may also have some new creative ideas or at least a new creative cohort to add to your circle.
  • Schedule an inspired conversation today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Creative Dreamtime

In college, I took a 2D Design class. One of the required text books was on the philosophy of art. In that book, I remember a term taken from the Australian aboriginals that has always inspired me. It's called dreamtime. The aboriginal people used it to describe their stories of creation, but I like using in conjunction with creativity.

For me, creative dreamtime does not just occur at night when you are sleeping. In fact, I like to use it before I drift into sleep and usually during the day when I am taking a nap. Oftentimes on the weekend, I will retreat to my cozy bed to work through an idea.

When I lay down, I start to meditate on my idea and the possible creative solutions for it. It is during this time of relaxation that I get some of my best and most creative ideas.

I also make a point to get up before I actually drift into the real dream land to jot those ideas down on a pad of paper in near my bed. I find that once I fall asleep, I have forgotten most of my ideas. And I am not usually a person, who can work ideas out in my dreams, so I found creative dreamtime works best for me.
  • When's your creative dreamtime?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Creative Birthday Wish

Today is my birthday. I am another year older, and hopefully another year wiser. This year is a milestone birthday for me (I am not telling which one!), so I thought I'd make a creative birthday wish for the year ahead.

For the next year, my wish is to fully embrace my creativity and all that goes with it. With that said, here are the ways I intend to use my creativity in the upcoming year.

  • I will create a community around creativity both locally and nationally. I will work to connect with my fellow creatives both online and in person. I will treasure the insights I gain from this community and give back all I can.
  • I will share my creativity with others. I will inspire them through my writing and offer them tips to help them be more creative in the upcoming year. I will let my light shine and let it lead the way for other aspiring creatives.
  • I will express myself through my creativity. I will use it to improve my well-being and create balance in my own life. I will even explore new mediums in this quest to express myself more fully.
This my birthday wish. Well, ok 3 birthday wishes for a more creative year ahead.

  • I hope you'll join me!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Creative Visioning

A big part of my creative process involves visioning. If you haven't guessed already, I am a highly visual person. So it seems only natural that visioning would play a large role in my creative process. But not just my creative process for designing a collage, website or poster but also for creating my own life.

I've written about this before in Create a Visioning Collage to Inspire You, where I described the process for designing a visual collage of your dreams. But, I've never showed you one of my personal collages till now.

I started with an idea of what I wanted the coming year to look like based on the following quote:
"Kindness can make miracles happen!"
Then I followed the steps from the book Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams to construct what this would look like visually. I found images, words, and colors to represent and reinforce the image I created in my mind of what my goals for this year would be.

I placed this collage on the inside of my planner and look at it every day, when I open my calendar to plan events and goals for the upcoming day to support my vision.
  • How do you use visioning in your creative process?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Creating More Little Aha's

Maybe it's the new year or maybe it's the winter weather, but recently I've had some revelations that have changed the way I think about creativity.

First, I had an inspiring conversation with a very creative friend. We were discussing our thoughts on creativity and comparing them to what we normally see portrayed by other creatives. What we came to the conclusion is that unlike of them, we were more interested in practical creativity.

The kind of stuff that gets you through your day. The small innovations you make to your daily life to make it easier, more interesting, etc.

Then, while reading ahead for one of my classes, I came upon a chapter on creativity and business innovation. There was an abbreviated version of an article published in 2006 in BusinessWeek, entitled The Myth of Creativity. In it, the author declares the whole concept of creativity training to get the big aha out of people as merely a waste of time.


Because creativity is more about the little aha's and the small changes we make to our lives than the big idea that would make us a hero. Every one of us does this on a daily basis, whether we are conscious of it or not. So instead of encouraging people to have grandiose creative ideas that change the world, let's encourage them to start with the little aha's that grow into big aha's.
  • How can you create more little aha's?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Becoming a Life Change Artist

Are you planning to look for a new job, new career, or just a new perspective on life this year? Then Becoming a Life Change Artist: 7 Creative Skills to Reinvent Yourself at Any Stage of Life by Fred Mandell, Ph.D and Kathleen Jordan, Ph.D is the book for you!

Before I planned to interview Kathy Jordan for my Five {5} Creative Questions series, I won a copy of her book. I was so excited that I dove right into it and have admitted that I never wanted it to end. Yes, it was that good.

I also have to admit, that as a trained art historian and personal development enthusiast, this is the book I wish I would have written. It explores the creative process through the work and life of such artists as Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Frida Kahlo. Using the creative process of artists and translating it to personal growth is genius.

Throughout Becoming a Life Change Artist, Mandell and Jordan, share accounts of people, just like you and I, who have overcome adversity to achieve their goals, whether it was going back to school, switching careers, or choosing to stay home and care for their children. Interspersed with this are the stories of successful artists and how they used the creative process to complete some of the finest paintings and sculptures in the canon of art history.

Not only will you learn about the creative process of artists, but you'll also learn the specific skills involved to make your change real. And with plenty of exercises after each chapter to get you thinking, this book keeps you involved in your own creative process.

Finally, my favorite part of the book happens to fall at the end, in the appendix. There you'll find some pretty amazing resources including the Creativity Calculator, where you can test your own creative skills and learn which part of your process could be improved. Plus, the Preparation Activities appendix provides a ready-made list of creativity-enhancing triggers.

It looks like Becoming a Life Change Artist will be my go-to creative companion for the next year, as I get ready for big changes in my own life.

  • How can you creatively reinvent you life?

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Year, New Creative Goals

As I looked at the list of my creative activities from  last year, I was startled and saddened how few there were. Yes, I started school, took a few art/jewelry classes, attended some exhibitions but none of those were planned, they just happened.

I have also mentioned in the past how much I dislike New Year's resolutions, because, well I never have time to do them in the beginning of the year and then I just feel bad for the rest of the year because I don't have any!

This year I've decided to be more intentional about my creative activities. That's why I've chosen to focus on three specific creative goals. The activities for each goal are meant to not be spontaneous but involve planning and stretch my creativity in ways that may have scared me in the past.

Here they are:
  1. Learn the art of glass blowing by taking a class at the Glass Bubble Project.
  2. Try improv by taking a class at Something Dada.
  3. Write some poetry and have it critiqued during a workshop at the LIT.
As always, I'll be blogging about my creative adventures during the year. I hope you'll join me!
  • So what are YOUR creative goals for this year?