inspiration

Okay, okay. I was wrong. I need a portfolio, and here it is.

Admissions of error are easier swallowed with a donut.

Admissions of error are easier swallowed with a donut.

After writing an entire post about not needing a portfolio, I made one. It’s a bit sparse right now, but it will grow as things get pushed out over the next few months.

There you go, haters. Now I’m off to smell the rain that has gloriously touched down in California today, curl up with a cup of tea, and forget all of you.

(Except those of you who need a writer. I’ll listen to anything you say.)

On another note, I’m currently enamored with this artist. Suits the rain quite well, or a drive at night on a lonely road.

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.

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.

 

Einstein’s last desk

Einstein's last desk

The day Einstein died, a photographer snuck in to take a photo of his last desk. This is exactly how he’d left it.
(Courtesy of Forbes.)

Yesterday

I’m in the UC Berkeley Extension writing program, and I was invited to read a piece of my writing at an event yesterday. I’ve done a few readings before. They always give me a ton of anxiety, but I love doing them. This one was different, because my piece was different. It was a highly personal essay, about the journey I’ve been on the past few months. I’ve never shared anything so personal before, and parts of it were scary to read.

But I knew it would be that way – I planned it that way. I don’t see much point in sharing something that feels comfortable. The whole time I read, I wondered if people were bored and sitting politely waiting for me to finish, wondering why I was reading some version of my personal diary out loud. Since I’ve never shared anything personal that didn’t have a plot of any kind, it’s hard to know what others will find interesting.

After the event was over, a dark haired woman approached me and told me that she’d like a copy of my piece. “When it’s finished,” she said.

I was struck dumb that anyone would want to read it again, or share it with anyone. It was about me. All about me – no other characters, no plot, nothing. Just me, and something tough that I’ve gone through in the past six months. “You can have this copy,” I said, holding up the printout that I’d brought for myself.

She smiled big. “Really? You’ll give me your copy?” I felt like I’d done something for her personally, changed the course of her day, helped her, without even doing anything. I handed her the stapled pages, so surprised at the conversation I’d just had that I didn’t even ask her name. She asked for my blog address, which I gave her.

As soon as she walked away, I felt like an idiot. I suddenly hoped that she would never visit this blog. The only things I’ve posted about here are utter crap, and I couldn’t imagine them inspiring anyone. I started this blog with such a sense of obligation and frustration. I wouldn’t want her – or anyone – to be inspired by something I’ve written, only to feel disappointed upon further investigation into my work.

As I sat there by myself, I realized that I should be writing in this blog. If I inspired her, then it must be true that pieces of writing, about people, can help other people. So I’m going to start posting, and I mean REALLY posting. Before I went to sleep last night I realized that I had thirteen ideas swirling around. So, Ms. Brunette, if you do end up coming to my blog and reading this, I want you to know that you inspired me. Thank you.

I’m doing a little research, though. I may migrate to Blogger in the next few posts. I’ll update if that’s the case.

Onward and upward for me now. I’m not resisting this process anymore. Maybe this project will get some good work out of me.