Art

Quote on emptiness

Inspiring quote nuggets for your snacking pleasure

A personal journey has me on a quest for good thoughts. So I’ll share some of my favorite ones with you.

IMG_8057IMG_8058

Apparently this pilot was hired to write this into the sky as a joke. But I’m sure that many of us can identify with this message, at many points in our lives.

Accept misfortune as a blessing. Do not wish for perfect health or a life without problems. What would you talk about?

– Zen Judaism by Someone Clever (from Puscifer’s website)

 IMG_8066

2 ways to be more creative right now

I gave this as a speech recently.

I’m a freelance copywriter and every day, I work on projects that require me to think creatively. Creative thinking is a big theme right now in the world of work, and sometimes we have a hard time finding creative juice when we need it. So today I’ll share a few ideas on how to get unstuck.

Both of these have helped me in a slump:

  1. Messing up my desk.
  2. Wasting time going for a walk.

Let’s start with the first one:

  1.  Messing up my desk.

I’ll confess: my desk is always a mess. (Maybe my entire house actually, but we won’t discuss that.) I wrote this piece on a desk so messy that I had to carve out space for the keyboard. For me, a messy desk makes it easier for me to jump from lily to lily in the creative pond. Ideas don’t hide in boxes, but sit tucked away in jagged corners. A mess on my desk keeps my brain from becoming too comfortable with its surroundings.

And there’s a scientific basis for you logical thinkers out there. In one study, people were given 2 environments to complete a creative project. The first was a messy room–jagged lines, stuff strewn all over–and the second was a neat and tidy room–straight, clean lines, everything in its right place. The two groups sat in these rooms and collected ideas based on a theme.

When all of the ideas were submitted to an independent panel, who do you think had the better ideas?

The ideas from the messy room. They were rated as much more creative and innovative than the ones from the tidy room. That’s because we work more freely in an environment that encourages messy thought. We don’t restrict ourselves.

And a fun fact: Even Einstein seemed to know this trick.

  1. Wasting time going for a walk.

I’ve had some humdingers of delicious problems handed down to me from clients lately. One afternoon I was working through something so intensely that I realized I hadn’t taken the dog out for 8 hours. (Whoops.) To atone for my sin, I took him to the dog park. It takes about 20 minutes to walk there.

To be honest, that kind of break is a big waste of time for me when I’ve got a big push. But something happened to me on that walk: As I walked, I felt my brain relaxing. The structure of the problem in my head began to rearrange itself. Thoughts and ideas started coming faster and faster–so fast that I started talking to myself out loud about what was going on in my head.

(At this point, I put headphones on so I looked like I was on a call. I couldn’t be “that crazy lady” at the park.)

When I got back to my desk, my brain had somehow worked out the problem I had been struggling with for the past three hours. I looked it up and found that my experience is backed up by science:

This year, a Stanford University study found that the simple act of walking can boost your creativity up to 60 percent.

That means if you are working on a specific problem, you are measurably more creative while you are walking and for a short period of time after you finish walking. It doesn’t matter where you walk – people experienced the same effect when they walked around a drab office and when they walked on a green, tree-lined street.

So next time you’re on a desperate deadline, throw a few papers around the room and then waste some time by taking a walk. What happens in your brain might surprise you.

Creativity is a state of mind you can choose. Last year I had another big breakthrough in creativity, and you can read about that one here.

If war poetry can be beautiful, then Kevin Powers is your poet. Here’s a short poem for Memorial Day.

There are so many war stories and so few that make us stop and think what war actually is.

I recently heard writer Kevin Powers on NPR’s To The Best of Our Knowledge. Powers spent 2 years in Iraq as a machine gunner, and recently published a book of poetry about his experiences. It’s elegant, casual, jarring poetry that makes you stop what you’re doing and be quiet. I’ve posted his title poem below. When I read this poem (and his others, which are also fantastic) I realize:

Death is not the most shocking thing about war; it is often the life that comes after.

For Memorial Day.

Image

Find more of his poetry here. Or here. Or just buy the damn book already.

A few downtempo songs to listen to while writing

My partner calls this “coding” music. He’s a software engineer. To me, it’s “writing” music. You say tomato.

If you have any to add… I’m listening.

 

In photographs: An eerie glimpse of urban life… right before mobile phones

I came across these photos today in PAPER magazine: images of New York City, taken by Gregoire Alessandrini in the 1990s. (Alessandrini was, according to his website, “a film student and a young writer/photographer in the 1990s.”)

Christopher Street. All photo credits: Gregoire Alessandrini.

I remember New York during these days. I grew up 3 hours from the city, and visited with my mother who lived there in the 80s with my dad, while she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and he the Culinary Institute of America. My mother knew the city well, and I’d tag along on trips while she picked up fabric or whatever (I was a pre-teen, so everything she did was boring).

I still visit New York sometimes when I’m on the East Coast, and I’ve noticed a big change during the time gap: Manhattan now feels like one single flashing television screen, blasting things into my face. The place offends me.

These images remind me of a quieter time in that city. But why do I feel like it was quieter?

Unknown location; some people might remember these gas prices.

Because while I loved looking through these photos, something struck me.

Lafayette Street.

Location unknown; New Yorkers stand on street corner.

Nobody is holding mobile phones. No faces are obscured by people holding up iPhones to take photos or videos.

In fact, people are actually reading papers. Real ones.

East Village.

Location unknown.

Not even just phones – our experiences of, and the ways that we encountered music, were so different. Because the iPod wasn’t invented until 2001. In the 90s, New Yorkers walked down the street to the sound of the city and their own thoughts in their heads. (Unless they had a Walkman.)

Location unknown.

As I scrolled through the images, I wondered about how the people passing through them entertained themselves without a squawking Bluetooth or streaming podcast to do it for them.

Location unknown. But does it matter where it was taken? How many of these same people would be holding phones if this photo were re-staged and re-taken now?

The world has changed a lot in just a few years, folks. It’s a little eerie to look back. And I’m turning off my computer now and opening a real book. I’ll probably have to dust off the cover.

Before you do the same, visit Alessandrini’s original archive. It’s a journey – make sure to get all six parts.

Gorgeous illustrations of ‘untranslatable’ words from different languages (link)

see entire post on DesignTAXI. My favorite:

I’ve needed a word for this for a long time.