Category Archives: Creativity

The Mid-Year Review

Wherein, I rat myself out.

One of the great things about New Year’s resolutions is that, by this time of year, everyone has forgotten that you ever made any.

But I did make some (HERE), and the idea was to work towards them all.  So with half the year behind me, it’s time to see how I’m doing.

My goals for 2017 were:

Health Goals:

  • Lose the last 20 pounds (be The Guy)
  • Keep my blood glucose within ADA ranges and work toward the lower ranges
  • Maintain a minimum of 150 active minutes a week

UPDATE – I’m actually doing all right on these.  Weight continues down, blood glucose is going down and I’m averaging way above the active minutes.  WIN!

Creativity Goals:

  • Add six more songs to my guitar competence list
  • Finish a writing project
  • Create a minimum of one good photo a month

UPDATE – Ummm.  On the guitar front, I began the year with “frozen shoulder” which made holding the guitar painful.  I have begun to work my way back on that one.  Working on the writing projects.  The photo goal has been a bust.  NEEDS WORK

Activity Goals:

  • Bike the Cap2Cap from Richmond to Williamsburg
  • Explore the parks nearby
  • Log a minimum of 1000 miles on the bike

UPDATE – Some progress made on this one.  So for this point of the year – WIN

Fun Goals

  • Visit five more historical sites
  • Go to the beach at least twice
  • Visit 20 wineries

UPDATE –  No, no and no.  NEEDS WORK

Real Life Goals:

  • Find a new job
  • Find a new church home
  • Get involved with community group(s)

UPDATE – Not yet, YES!!!!, and not yet.  Call this one a PUSH

 

So it’s two wins, two needs works, and a push.  With lots of time to get things turned around.  Not where I had hoped to be, but I’m OK with it for the moment.  Where are you on yours for 2017?

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The Creativity Project – Let’s Go Short

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Seems like I’ve talked more about the obstacles to creativity recently than actually being creative.

Let’s see if we can’t change that.

I recently stumble across a blog for short fiction called “The Drabble“.  It has been a struggle to find quality short fiction sites that are active.  This site actually does fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.  And they are serious about “short”.  If you want to submit, it’s a maximum of 100 words.

Given that my first collection has a variety of very short stories in it, I thought this was an interesting challenge.  There has been an idea floating around in my head for the last couple days.  It had the feel of one of those flash fiction kind of stories, so I thought “Why not?”

The first problem I hit was that even my ultra short story was too long for “The Drabble”!  It took me about as long to edit down the story to 100 words as it did to write the original.

The “full-length” story is below.  I have submitted the short version, and if they like it, I’ll give them first shot at publishing it.  If that happens I will link to it.  If not, I ‘ll share the short version here.


The Intimacy of Driving

I’m all set. The car is clean, seat adjusted, my little “u” sign carefully affixed.

The first call arrives just as I leave the highway and enter the city proper. A young woman on her way to the gym. She’s forgiving when I’m a couple minutes late. The app and I are still getting to know one another.

Young women are an interesting balancing act. They are climbing into the car of a middle aged man they do not know. I want them to feel comfortable and safe. Should I talk? Should I remain silent? Is the guy who never speaks to them on the trip reassuring or creepy? Certainly, the guy who talks too much is no good.  I usually say a few things right at the beginning, then wait to see if they pick up the thread. If not, I will offer a companionable silence. Most of the trips are quick so it never grows uncomfortable. The younger riders tend to spend the time on their phone, a soundtrack of quiet beeps and sound effects.

Five rides in quick succession. To the gym, a coffeehouse, home from work or to the airport. The airport trip passenger is a man a little younger than me. We compare notes on airports.

I pick up a young woman at a local college. We’re headed out of town. When we arrive I ask where she wants to be let out. She’s never been here before, so we search a little. It’s a woman’s health clinic. It’s none of my business. I wish her well and say a little prayer that all is well.

Then I turn the wheel for home.

 


Never stop creating.

Peace.

 

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The Creativity Project – The Struggle

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Being creative is something I really want to do.

I want to be creative regularly, even daily.

Being creative starts to feel like just another chore, another item on the “to-do list”.

Creativity struggles.

 

I have to keep reminding myself that it is not, never has been and never will be, about creating a masterpiece every time I begin.  This is a false argument.  Songwriters write lots of bad music along the way to the good.  Writers write bad stories on their way to good.  Photographers will tell you that they shoot dozens, even hundreds of images to get one truly great one.  Part of being creative is the process, a step by step approach to the goal.  A path that comes with missteps and detours.

Creativity isn’t magic.  Lots of people think of it in those terms.  You say the right words, you make the appropriate gestures and, POOF!  Creativity achieved.  I think it was Michelangelo who said the process of sculpture was simply chipping away everything that didn’t look like what you were sculpting.  Creativity is the process of trial and error, imprecision honed to precision, the exploration of imperfection in pursuit of at least near perfection.

Somedays creativity is one long failed experiment.  The next day you come back and try something different.  It is the learning of technique and the rejection of the same.

There’s only one thing that can stop me from creating.  That is to stop trying.

Never stop creating.

Peace.

 

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2017 Goals

No resolutions this year, just simple definable goals.

2017goalsHealth Goals:

  • Lose the last 20 pounds (be The Guy)
  • Keep my blood glucose within ADA ranges and work toward the lower ranges
  • Maintain a minimum of 150 active minutes a week

Creativity Goals:

  • Add six more songs to my guitar competence list
  • Finish a writing project
  • Create a minimum of one good photo a month

Activity Goals:

  • Bike the Cap2Cap from Richmond to Williamsburg
  • Explore the parks nearby
  • Log a minimum of 1000 miles on the bike

Fun Goals

  • Visit five more historical sites
  • Go to the beach at least twice
  • Visit 20 wineries

Real Life Goals:

  • Find a new job
  • Find a new church home
  • Get involved with community group(s)

All of these are doable, one (the 1,000 miles) is a real challenge.  But it will be a very good year if I can hit all of them.  Let’s see how we do.

Hoping that the new year is what each of us desire.

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The Creativity Project – Creative Obstacles

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It’s amazing the places that will put things in your way when you’re trying to be creative.

 

With my first book available (paperback and e-book), I’m trying to keep the writing momentum going.  The holidays are not helping.  Places to go, people to see, chores to be handled.  Just ties up time when I could be doing something creative.

On the other hand, I’m unemployed so I have a lot MORE time to fill.  One of the things I’m doing is trying to do some reading on various kinds of creativity.  So I’m checking out photo blogs and newsletters and writing blogs and newsletter.

And then they decide to throw some roadblocks in my way.

Really people?

They don’t mean to, I know.  But the writing community is ticking me off right now.  First, struggling writers are apparently rolling in money, and can easily be separated from said money.  Because it seems like everyone has something to sell you.  Books (on writing books, or blogs, or newsletters or whatever), and seminars and webinars and consultations.  After a while, it sounds like a con game.  Which is depressing.  Which creates a roadblock.

Then you read some of the “articles” in the newsletters.  They are free and written, we are told, by people who have achieved some level of success as writers.   Oooooooh, secrets to be shared!

I opened one titled “5 Steps to Writing A Bestseller”.  Let me be honest and say I generally hold out very little hope for articles like this.  It is usually very general, not particularly helpful bits of fairly obvious advice.  From the very beginning, you have to know this is a losing proposition.  There’s no formula for writing a best-selling book.  There just isn’t.  But you never know till you read it.

Step 1 – Write a Good Book.

I stopped reading.

I’m having real trouble trying to put into words how much that first step ticks me off.  Apparently, I’m stupid.  I must be since the writer seems to think that it has never occurred to me that writing a good book was part of the goal.  Shoot, any old piece of semi-articulate drivel can be tossed off and it will sell like hotcakes (spare me the reminders about “Fifty Shades of Grey” or “Twilight”).  This person honestly thought that for this story, that was where they needed to start.

All that irritation creates another roadblock.

What I need to do is ignore all the “experts” and just do what I do.  Work on getting better every day.  Not letting anything block the creative road.  The holidays will pass.  I’ll get a new job.  People will write silly articles about creativity.  I need to remember my single concept.

Never stop creating.

I am taking next week off from creating these blog posts.  Taking an end of year break is just a thing I do.  See you in the new one.  Be safe, be happy.

Peace.

 

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The Creativity Project – Creative Thinking For Christmas

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Creativity comes in the strangest places some days.

This past week, it came in the realm of finding Christmas presents for the Lady in My Life.  (If that reference is new to you, I simply mean my wife.  I’ll share the story that goes with that phrase early next year, I promise)

My Lady has a creative husband and a creative child.  There are days when I think she feels like she’s letting the team down.  She doesn’t see herself as creative.  I believe that everyone has the ability to be creative.  It doesn’t mean that we are all “great artists” (whatever the hell that means).  I will never make my living playing my guitar or singing.  That’s not why I do it.  Those things bring me joy.  Naturally, I want to help my Lady find her joy.

My assigned task was to find a hobby for her.  Something that could produce something of some value or use.

THAT was going to call on all my creativity!

So I have been thinking creatively about a hobby for someone I know well and love better.  We began by walking through a local arts and crafts store.  Her assignment was to simply look and tell me if anything jumped out at her.  Don’t worry about skill or cost or anything except “That looks interesting”.

One of the most important things about creating something is knowing when to stop.  I kept reminding myself that all these ideas were on a tryout basis.  Some may not make the cut, so there’s no point in buying the advanced, specialist bits.

Plus I had a budget.

I’ve made my selections.  Now we’ll see how it works out.

Never stop creating.

Peace.

 

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The Creativity Project – NaNoWriMo

 

One of the easiest ways for me to drift away from the creative side of my life is to get hung up on “getting it right”.  I’m not sure where this comes from, I imagine that it has many authors over the course of my life.  I know perfectly well that learning a new skill takes time, and that creation tends to be a process.  One that can have starts and stops.  It also has its share of total dead ends.  Ideas that simply don’t pan out.

And, to quote a friend of mine, it’s all good.

Every dead end, every failed attempt helps in honing whatever skill/talent I may have.  If I’m paying attention, I will learn something from each one.  I’m trying real hard right here to avoid words like “mistake”, “failure” or “total screw up”.  Thinking like that simply keeps me from continuing.

Which is one of the great things about National Novel Writing Month, known affectionately (and somewhat obscurely) as NaNoWriMo.  I know that gives lots of folks trouble when they try to say the word, so let me help.  It’s Nah-no-rye-moe.

And it’s about not stopping for the mistakes, the failures, the dead ends or the total screw ups.

NaNoWriMo is dedicated to getting people writing.  the idea is to write 50,000 words of a story in the month of November.  To do that you need to write 1,600 words and change every day for a month.  that is actually easier, and exactly as difficult, as it sounds.  The most important thing to remember about this challenge is that you never look back.  You don’t stop for misspellings, dropped words, or totally improbable story lines.  Your dialogue stinks in that last chapter?  Forget it.  There is no editing in November.  That’s what the other 11 months are for.  For the perfectionist, this is a form of torture.  If you commit to the concept, however, it is incredibly freeing.  You have total permission to simply plow on.  Write yourself into a corner?  Easy.  Drop back to some point where the story still made sense and begin again from that point.  Don’t delete the dead end!  You still wrote those words and they count!  Besides, later on, you may figure out how to use that stuff.  Just write.  Write whatever.  Stuck?  Write the backstory to your main character, or whatever character is thwarting your authorial desires.  Eventually, you will come up with something to write about again.

What’s the worst that can happen?  At the end of thirty days, you will have fifty thousand words of complete drivel.  But you will have spent thirty days writing, being creative.  Or you could end up with something that, with a little work, might actually be OK.  Some NaNoWriMo books have gone on to be published, sell many copies, or even be made into a movie like “Water For Elephants”.  There are at least fourteen other novels that began as NaNoWriMo projects that have been published.  My book “Shorts” was inspired by the month of writing but was written over a much longer span of time.  I have two projects that began as NaNo projects that I’m still messing with.

creativity-illo-2This most recent NaNoWriMo was not great.  A good idea that I’m still working at but the job loss and politics took me out of the mood to write.  I’m only just getting back on that bandwagon.  I will not make 50,000 words this year (I’ve only made it once).

What NaNoWriMo teaches me each year is that the only way to lose is to quit.  I picked up this year’s project just two days before the end of the month and cranked out another four or five thousand words.

If you want to be creative all you have to do is create.  Don’t worry if your creation is perfect immediately.

Just don’t stop.

Peace.

 

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