Friday, April 19, 2013

Play Is Spreading + I Suck At Running

For some reason lately I have decided I want to become a runner.  This probably has something to do with the fact that my husband just ran a half marathon a few weeks ago (13 miles in 2hr 2mins!) and I felt like a lazy piece of !#(*! sitting in the bleachers watching all the other people (of ALLLL sorts of shapes and sizes) in the race actually getting off their lazy bums and kicking butt at life.   Although, as a knee jerk reaction to feeling lame in a sea of awesomeness I spent the whole day lying to people when they asked me if I was a runner too, saying how I had already finished the race, gone home, showered, changed and come back to meet up with some friends.  That part was quite fun...

The truth is, I am terrible.  I get about a mile (running pretty much as slow as death warmed over) before I start gasping for breath, or doubling over with a side stitch, or getting nauseous, or having a cramp in my leg, or a cut on my foot, or my eyes tearing so bad I can't even see… it's not a pretty sight people.

And then just because I apparently like public humiliation, I signed myself up to run a 5k at the end of next month.  Which leads me up to my main point which is, while I was "running" (or more accurately "spastically flailing around in a linear motion") in downtown Huntsville yesterday I saw something cool. True story.

Said Cool Thing:

I'm not going to lie, sometimes I'm pretty sure nobody else on the planet really cares about things like the importance of playtime besides me.  I talk to people about it, they nod politely and say something like… "hmmm, that's really interesting". (I've still never deciphered what exactly that means, is it good, bad? Anyone?)  So when I randomly stumbled upon this art installation downtown I was a tad bit excited! (that and the fact that it gave me an excuse to stop running for a moment and take a few pics while I sucked in air)

Don't projects like this just make the world a better place?  For more info on the project check out their website:  Any ideas how can you spread a little play into your community?  We'd love to hear them!!!!

Playtime… it's spreading people!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Take Umm… 40? With Hugh MacLeod

Image © Hugh Macleod and
This Thursday, instead of our normal take five post, I wanted to share some amazing advice from cartoonist Hugh MacLeod. I recently got the chance to read his book: Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity and was blown away by some of the really powerful observations he made about living a creative life. I'll be posting up all 40 of his key points below, but I highly suggest you pick up a copy of the book itself because it is definitely worth the read!!!  Hugh even lets you read the first 25% of the book for free if you click here!

Ignore everybody.

“The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you. When I first started with the cartoon-on-the-back-of-bizcard format, people thought I was nuts. Why wasn’t I trying to do something that was easier for markets to digest, like cutie-pie greeting cards or whatever?”

The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours.

“The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will.”

Put the hours in.

“Doing anything worthwhile takes forever. Ninety percent of what separates successful people and failed people is time, effort and stamina.”

Good ideas have lonely childhoods.

“This is the price you pay, every time. There is no way of avoiding it.”

If your business plan depends on suddenly being “discovered” by some big shot, your plan will probably fail.

“Nobody suddenly discovers anything. Things are made slowly and in pain.”

You are responsible for your own experience.

“Nobody can tell you if what you are doing is good, meaningful, or worthwhile. The more compelling the path, the more lonely it is.”

Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.

“Then when you hit puberty, they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the “creative bug” is just a weak voice telling you, “I’d like my crayons back please.”

Keep your day job.

“I’m not just saying that for the usual reason – that is, because I think your idea will fail. I’m saying it because to suddenly quit one’s job in a big ol’ creative drama-queen moment is always, always, always a direct conflict with what I call “The Sex & Cash Theory.”

Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity.

“Nor can you bully a subordinate into becoming a genius.”

Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.

“You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you don’t make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness.”

The more talented somebody is, the less they need props.

“Meeting a person who wrote a masterpiece on the back of a deli menu would not surprise me. Meeting a person who wrote a masterpiece with a silver Cartier fountain pen on an antique writing table in an airy SoHo loft would seriously surprise me.”

Don't try and stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.

“Your plan for getting your work out there has to be as original as the actual work, perhaps even more so. The work has to create a totally new market. There’s no point trying to do the same thing as 250,000 other young hopefuls, waiting for a miracle. All existing business models are wrong. Find a new one.”

If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.

"The pain of making the necessary sacrifices always hurts more than you think it’s going to. I know. It sucks. The being said, doing something seriously creative is one of the most amazing experiences one can have, in this or any other lifetime. If you can pull it off, it’s worth it. Even if you don’t end up pulling it off, you’ll learn many incredible, magical, valuable things. It’s not doing it – when you know full well you had the opportunity – that hurts far more than any failure."

Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside.

“The more you practice your craft, the less you confuse worldly rewards with spiritual rewards, and vice-versa. Even if your path never makes any money or furthers your career, that’s still worth a ton.”

Dying young is overrated.

“I’ve seen so many young people take the “Gotta do the drugs and booze thing to make me a better artist” route over the years. A choice that wasn’t smart, original, effective, healthy, or ended happily.”

The most important thing a creative person can learn professionally is where to draw the red line that separates what you are willing to do from what you are not.

“Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have. The more bullshit you will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and plan accordingly.”

The world is changing.

“Some people are hip to it, others are not. If you want to be able to afford groceries in five years, I’d recommend listening closely to the former and avoiding the latter. Just my two cents.”

Merit can be bought. Passion can’t.

“The only people who can change the world are people who want to. And not everybody does.”

Avoid the Watercooler Gang.

“They’re a well meaning bunch, but they get in the way eventually.”

Sing in your own voice.

“Picasso was a terrible colorist. Turner couldn’t paint human beings worth a damn. Saul Steinberg’s formal drafting skills were appalling. T.S. Eliot had a full-time day job. Henry Miller was a wildly uneven writer. Bob Dylan can’t sing or play guitar.”

The choice of media is irrelevant.

“Every medium’s greatest strength is also it’s greatest weakness. Every form of media is a set of fundamental compromises. One is not “higher” than the others. A painting doesn’t do much, it just sits there on a wall. That’s the best and worst thing about it. Film combines sound, movement, photography, music, acting. That’s the best and worst thing about it. Prose just uses words arranged in linear form to get its point across. That’s the best and worst thing about it, etc.”

Selling out is harder than it looks.

“Diluting your product to make it more “commercial” will just make people like it less.”

Nobody cares. Do it for yourself.

“Everybody is too busy with their own lives to give a damn about your book, painting, screenplay, etc., especially if you haven’t finished it yet. And the ones who aren’t too busy you don’t want in your life anyway.”

Worrying about “Commercial vs. Artistic” is a complete waste of time.

“You can argue about “Selling Out” versus “Artistic Purity” till the cows come home. People were kvetching about it in 1850, and they’ll be kvetching about it in 2150.”

Don’t worry about finding inspiration. It comes eventually.

“Inspiration precedes the desire to create, not the other way round.”

You have to find your own shtick.

“A Picasso always looks like Picasso painted it. Hemingway always sounds like Hemingway. A Beethoven symphony always sounds like a Beethoven symphony. Part of being a master is learning how to sing in nobody else’s voice but your own.”

Write from the heart.

“There is no silver bullet. There is only the love God gave you.”

The best way to get approval is not to need it.

“This is equally true in art and business. And love. And sex. And just about everything else worth having.”

Power is never given. Power is taken.

“People who are 'ready' give off a different vibe from people who aren’t. Animals can smell fear. And the lack thereof.”

Whatever choice you make, the Devil gets his due eventually.

“Selling out to Hollywood comes with a price. So does not selling out. Either way, you pay in full, and yes, it invariably hurts like hell.”

The hardest part of being creative is getting used to it.

“If you have the creative urge, it isn’t going to go away. But sometimes it takes a while before you accept the fact.”

Remain frugal.

“The less you can live on, the more chance your idea will succeed. This is true even after you’ve 'made it.'”

Allow your work to age with you.

“You become older faster than you think. Be ready for it when it happens.”

Being poor sucks.

“The biggest mistake young people make is underestimating how competitive the world is out there.”

Beware of turning hobbies into jobs.

“It sounds great, but there is a downside.”

Savor obscurity while it lass.

“Once you 'make it,' your work is never the same.

Start blogging.

“The ease with which a blog (or whatever social medium you prefer) can circumvent the gatekeepers is staggering.”

Meaning scales, people don’t.

"It may be modest, it may not be. It could be a little candle shop; it could be a software company with the GNP of Sweden. It doesn't matter. Meaning Scales."

When your dreams become reality, they are no longer your dreams.

“If you are successful, it’ll never come from the direction you predicted. Same is true if you fail.”

If this hit home with you, make sure to pick up a copy of Hugh's Book Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity so you can get the full story behind each of these amazing statements!

Hugh MacLeodHugh Macleod is a cartoonist, author and creator of and Social Object Factory.  He currently has three amazing books for sale: Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity, Evil Plans, and Freedom is Blogging in Your Underwear.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Creative Muscle - Use It Or Lose It?

Don't worry - it makes more sense in a minute.
Ah, life after art school. You graduate, you go get a real job because you don't know what else to do, and you let all that create-on-demand training that school instilled in you slip away, because now you don't have the time to create, much less the demand.

Just me? Okay then, consider this quandary I find myself in. I'm becoming convinced that all muscles can atrophy, including the creative ones. This week, we're challenging you to talk about your dreams with another creative person, not just because great minds come up with even greater ideas when they work together, but also because IT IS SO NECESSARY TO WORK OUT THAT PART OF YOUR BRAIN. If you're not an artist, it's still important, but for artists . . . well, let me put it this way:

As a runner, you must make sure to get out and run on a regular basis to stay fast. As a doctor, you must have an active medical practice to have a medical license. As an artist, your creativity and your imagination is everything - yes, there is technique involved, but the ability to visualize and make things up that didn't exist before is kinda where the rubber meets the road. If you don't practice that ability on a regular basis, I'm starting to think you risk losing a great deal of your artistic expertise. Not forever, thankfully (or so I hope), but you can find yourself woefully unprepared and feeling rather out of breath halfway into the race if you're not careful.

This also happened tonight. This pretty
much happens to every art project attempt.
That's what happened to me tonight. I have a live painting event coming up -- Denim Day Tucson (it's going to be awesome!!) -- and today is my time to do some prep work. I have two pairs of jeans I need to paint before models wear them this Saturday, and I am supposed to lay the groundwork for my painting tonight, to avoid any awkward crotch brushstrokes at the event.

It started out swimmingly (once I talked four very interested animals into leaving me alone), so I decided to go wild and sketch out my design on the jeans themselves. Or at least that's what I was attempting to do -- I reached the back of the jeans only to realize that I have no idea what I'm going to paint there

I know how you feel, marker sketch lady.
Now I'm stuck, hopefully only until tomorrow, when I'll wake up full of ideas and fresh perspectives. But in the meantime, I'm left wondering if this is due to my not making art for the last two years. Did my creative muscles atrophy? Do I have to make a New Year's Resolution to get them back into the gym of art school?

Hopefully not. But I can tell you one thing -- I will not be going so long between art projects in the future.

As long as no one needs to look at the back, these jeans 
are looking fabulous. Too bad they'll be on a model . . .

What about you? Do you have any quick fixes for creative atrophy? Don't be shy, post your solutions below!!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger: The Art of the Breakthrough

This week, we've challenged you to get it on. But why, you might ask?
Why do we have to venture outside of our comfortable circle of thoughts and dreams, and go tell someone about this thing that we may not even understand yet??
Don't be so coy -- think back to the times when you were learning the most in school, or when you were in a particularly productive work group. What was the common element between these experiences?

It usually is for me, too. 
(Photo from the amazing and delicious I Am Baker blog)

But besides cake and other delicious edible objects, do you remember anything about the people you were working with?

I know that in my experience, being around other creative individuals -- and spending time talking with them about a problem I'm trying to solve -- tends to lead to the creation of some brilliant solution that I never would have thought of otherwise. But I'm not the only person to have experienced this: Steven Johnson, best-selling author of six books on the intersection of science, technology and personal experience, has written another book, "Where Good Ideas Come From," and he breaks it down like a boss in this animated talk:

The reality is, having the beginning of a good idea, a hunch, is fantastic -- but without being able to collide that hunch with another, you're putting a lot of unnecessary limitations on what that hunch can grow into. Need more of a reason to go engage in some super-powered mind melding?? Check out Johnson's TED Talk on the subject (and learn a new respect for the coffee houses of yore):

Don't forget, if you're doing this week's challenge, why don't you throw this nifty challenge badge we made for you up on your blog or Facebook? Now get out there and start bumping into people! 

Said Nifty Challenge Badge. You're welcome.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Challenge Number 2: Getting It On

You heard me… this week we are challenging you to hook up and get it on with a friend.  Well, your ideas that is.

Living human brain by Rutger Hauer
My life recently has been a bit all over the place.  I’ve been uprooted, dragged all across the country and now find myself living in Huntsville Alabama… and let’s just say the creative arts capitol of the USA, it is not.  When we first got here I felt totally out of my element.  I even told my husband that I thought I was suffering from hipster withdrawal syndrome.  I swear that is a thing…  I felt miserable for weeks and I kept growing more and more depressed.  I also started doubting myself and my ideas.  Every time I would sit down to work I felt like I was hitting a brick wall and then I would tell myself how silly my idea had been and how it would never work out.  

Turns out my husband is the most brilliant man ever and in a very manly fix-it moment told me that what I needed was a good long Skype date with my friend Kate.

We talked my art, her art, my life, her life, dreams, passions, goals and at the end of the conversation I felt amazing, empowered and energized to get to work on my ideas.  It was a conjugal date of ideas if you will, and it was what had been missing in my life. Here’s why:

1) Dreams need to be said to be seen.
2) Ideas need to play in order to grow.
3) Passions need to be shared in order to spread.

In the words of Matt Ridley our ideas need to have sex.  Our creativity flourishes best when shared with others, we need that exchange of ideas to grow our knowledge base and form new and varied connections we may not have seen on our own.  And to be honest, often times we just need the affirmation and excitement from another intelligent human being who isn’t our spouse to tell us that our ideas aren’t stupid or crazy.

Grab your challenge badge to share!
So your challenge this week, if you choose to accept it (sorry I had to say it just once), is to get your idea swapping on with a friend, over coffee, over Skype, over the phone, over drinks, I don’t care where or in what position.

Go now, spread your seed, and be fertile my friends!

* Wanna help share the love and inspire you friends to join in on the fun?  Grab this weeks challenge badge to post on your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or other social media feeds then hashtag it with #bravetheabyss