Tag Archives: creativity

Problem Solving–Creative Style

Everyone faces problems at work. Some you feel responsible for (either in the making or the solving) but at the end of the day you do your best to separate yourself from “work issues,” and head home–to your life.  Writers, musicians, visual artists, and other creative types have a harder time differentiating their problems from their person. It feels like something’s wrong with you when your book is rejected or the art jury doesn’t select your work. You are the problem–that’s the way it feels.

Giving up, moving on, avoiding, denying–these aren’t really problem solving strategies. Trust me, I’ve done them all. Here are a few things that are helping me work through my creative problems.

1. write a letter to your issue. Talk to it.  Tell it how frustrated you are, but then take it a step further ask it what it needs. Time? Space? To talk to someone who has had a similar situation? Getting it on the page really helps.

2. Break down the problem into bite-size components. The whole book doesn’t suck. Your whole portfolio doesn’t need chucking. Let go of the dramatics and  become a tinkerer. Chunk it out, make a list, and look at each component of the problem and seek solutions for smaller segments.

3. Investigate how it’s not working. So your plot stinks. How does it stink, at what page number does it start to fall apart? So you love the melody but the bridge just isn’t working. Keep going. Maybe it’s the key you’re playing in. Maybe it’s because you got lazy at a certain point.

4. Find a mentor. Not a mentor who’s never had a problem. Find a mentor who openly discusses just how infuriating the creative process can be. Talk to somebody who gets where you’re at. Sometimes you need to think out loud–and a mentor is the perfect person to actively listen, ask new questions, and push you past your comfort zone.

5. Take a break. A long break–and go create something else. Don’t let a creative problem paralyze you. So one song isn’t working. So one novel (or two) is in a box under your bed spending some quality time with the dust bunnies. So what? Doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. Not all creative projects pan out. Do you really think that Michaelangelo didn’t have any busted half-done marble busts out back? Of course he did. Attempts, even lousy attempts are part of the process.

6. BONUS: Do one thing different. If how you have your novel arranged isn’t working, then try the opposite approach. Change first person t third, or shift protagonists–remember Nick Carraway in the Great Gatsby? Not your typical viewpoint, but it worked. (BTW, the book didn’t sell all that well and Fitzgerald died thinking it was pretty much a failure–now it’s considered the quintessential American Novel). Consider getting physical–shoot hoops, put on some music and dance till you sweat. Flood your brain with fresh oxygen and amp up those endorphins. New ideas need new blood flow!

I read in Michael Gelb’s Think Like a Genius today that the word problem solving root meaning in Latin is pro–to be active blema–to move forward, and solve/solving is to loosen up (such as a solvent), so problem solving is to actively move forward by loosening up! Amazing.

As I’m writing this I’m about to tackle a novel that has a snag in it. Honestly, I wrote this post way more for me than for you, but maybe we can kind of help each other through a hard patch. Creative problems need creative problem solving, so I guess I’ve got to dive in and see what happens.



Filed under creativity, overthinking, publishing, rejection, self-doubt, Uncategorized

100 Questions, 100 Pebbles: Blasting Through Your Creativity Walls

Questions are incubated in a curious mind.

Leonardo Da Vinci was known for his curiosity. He turned those questions into notebooks filled with notes and drawings, and then he took those details and turned many of them into paintings, sculptures, experiments, and used his ideas to create canals, aquifers, and military applications. He’s a genius, you argue. You don’t have time to doodle in a notebook. But the truth is, we ask questions all the time. We just don’t always listen.

In truth, you do have time to doodle. so make time to doodle. Curly Q’s aside, keep a notebook with you all the time. Jot down ideas, book titles, quotes and jokes, recipes and names. Spend five minutes of your lunch hour drawing a pod you found by your car that morning. It doesn’t have to be great. It’s not about your artistry, it’s about your curiosity.

Start by asking yourself 100 questions.

You won’t even know what bothers you, what worries you, what creativity walls are boxing you in, or even what fascinates you until you get it out of your head and onto the page. The power of 100 questions is emptying your mind as hard and as fast as you can. No censor. Blast through. Ask the mundane to the profane. Should I buy a smart car? Why did my parents divorce when I was two years old? How can I improve my running time? How do I ask for a raise–and get it? Do woodpeckers get headaches? Why isn’t my character in my new novel relatable? Why does the riff in this song bother me? And what is anti matter, anyway?

From every day questions to is there a God, questions are like pebbles we carry in our pockets. One pebble doesn’t weigh us down, but 100 might. Some questions lead to answers that make our lives easier while other questions lead to more questions–and some questions send us down wonderful rabbit holes that enrich our lives.

The assignment, if you choose to accept, is to get a pen and paper, or sit at your computer, and give yourself about one hour. Write out 100 questions as fast as you can. Don’t worry if they repeat. Don’t worry if they seem trite, or if they really don’t have an answer. Expect a few pauses. Just sit and wait. Reread some of your other questions. Ask really silly questions–why haven’t I ever seen a double rainbow? Why can’t I blow bubbles? Should I take up clogging? Sit until a new river of thought forms.

After you get your 100 questions on paper, keep it somewhere you can look at them often. You don’t have to go about solving your own questions. For the most part, in the next few days, weeks, and months, the subjects you wrote about will appear in your life. You’ll watch a movie and it’ll mention something. You’ll turn on the Discovery Channel and there it is–your sister-in-law will tell you about a friend of a friend of a friend–and there’s your solution. It doesn’t even take effort (overt effort) on your part. It just happens. Other questions will float to the surface and you’ll look it up online or buy a book. One by one, your questions will begin to pop up in your life–and your pockets will grow light.

What’s the purpose of 100 questions?
To see what’s been taking up space in your brain.
To see what bones you’ve been gnawing on.
You’ll begin to see patterns in your questions.

What to do with your questions once you’ve written them down.

Color code your questions.
Get some highlight markers and dot each science question in green.
Highlight any relationship questions in red.
Highlight any questions that have to do with your creativity (art, music, writing, inventions, etc.) in yellow.
Look for a few other categories.
Rearrange your list so your groupings hang together.
Notice what has been weighing on you.
Consider getting help–ask a friend who has faced a similar dilemma, get a book, a coach, do some journaling, or talk with a professional, and by all means, take that first step if you need to make amends. Pebbles have a way of turning into boulders if we hold onto them too long.

Here’s the fun part:
Choose one item to explore.

Say, for instance, one of your questions was, “How can I move to France?” Although that might not be feasible in the near future, you could start renting French films, buy Rosetta Stone or another language course and learn French, pick up a French cookbook at your local library sale, collect Eiffel towers, or start writing letters to your great aunt to happens to have lived in France after college. That one question doesn’t lead you straight to dual citizenship. Instead, it leads you on a glorious winding road trip, and if you ever move abroad, you’ll be much better prepared, and if your desires change, then you’ve enjoyed a journey of the mind and heart without ever having to apply for a green card.

So often we feel stuck. Our creativity juices are more like mud-pies, and we have no idea nor inclination as to how to get unstuck. 100 questions is just that–100 tiny curiosities. Give yourself permission to explore. Ask questions, big, little, silly, absurd. Turn a concept over and over, look at the backside, look at its counterpart. Let your curiosity run amok.

Where will 100 questions lead you?
Now, that’s a good question.

***This exercise is taken from Michael Gelb’s Discover Your Genius.

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Why Adults Need to Play: The Play Challenge

It’s Sunday afternoon. You’re 7, 11, pick an age. Your parents are asleep and you can’t go anywhere.

What would you do?

Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.

Abraham Maslow
American psychologist

When my children were little and would come to me and say, “I’m bored,” I’d tell them, “Good, you’ll find your true self on the other side.” I had to resist giving them suggestions, telling them to clean their room or call a friend. I knew that they, like me, needed to fall in–and through–their boredom. We have to putz around and go through our usual excuses to get past all that and find what’s on the other side.

Why do we need to play? Because it’s healing. It’s like re calibrating your brain, your soul and your body.We need to play in order to rest, in order to let go, in order to process. We need to play like we need to breathe. It feels good. It fills us with more than oxygen. It fills us with hope. Kids play even they’re sad, even at funerals or when they’re sick. They fall into play and it takes them beyond their sorrow and beyond their pain.

How you play says a lot about who you are, where you grew up, if you had siblings or friends nearby or if you were more solitary in how you played. Play holds more nuggets are to who you are, what drives you, intrigues you, allows you to fall deep into your easy and true self than all your secrets do.

Life coach Martha Beck is on a new mission–to remind people to play. She’s on a month of what she calls, “radical fun.”

“Just look back on your childhood and find what you did when no one was forcing you. Did you climb trees? Did you play computer games? Did you build forts? …”

There are clues and keys in what you did on those Sunday afternoons. The building blocks of who you are were already peeking through–director, engineer, writer, nurse or artist…all have their roots in the games and make believe of our childhood.

Here’s my list of what I loved to do as a child:

  • Climb my dogwood tree and see the world from that high perch
  • Pretend–I was a fairy, a fighter, a teacher, a trapeze artist.
  • Draw, paint, color–lots and lots of coloring.
  • Making up stories, creating my own books.
  • Swinging, climbing, riding my bike for hours (oh the freedom and wind in my hair) while pretending–already multitasking!
  • Singing, “performing”
  •  Hiding in the garden, under the hydrangea and azalea bushes and using sticks, nuts and flowers as my props

And here I am…writing, painting, performing, still riding my bike and gardening. We are who we have always been.

So here’s my proposition:

Come play with me.

Play every day.

Ask yourself, what would be fun today?

Play hopscotch on your driveway.

Sing in your car.

Buy some bubblegum and blow giant bubbles.

Get some molding clay and make tiny people and animals. Smush them all together and start again. Play isn’t about finishing. Play isn’t about perfection.

Get some crayons and drawing paper, doodle, color, repeat.

Jump on a bike and do some figure 8’s.

Break into spontaneous play.

That’s my challenge, to play every day.

I don’t want to make play yet another project, but to have that thought of play, of fun, of exploring whatever is at hand, whatever my mind and heart leaps to next close enough to reach out and grab it.

Play isn’t hard. Not adult hard, but play is serious. Kids wear themselves out playing. They come in dirty, exhausted, and exhilarated. Didn’t you hate it when your parents interrupted your play with something as mundane as eating???  When is the last time you were so engaged, so enamored with what you were doing that you had no interest in eating? Not many adults can remember that. Eating as become an obsession in part because we’ve forgotten the power of play.

It is a happy talent to know how to play.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
American writer

I hope you’ll write to me, share what you did as a kid, share your moments of play.



The importance of play: TED talk


Why do we play?




Filed under art, creativity, happiness, Uncategorized, writing

“I Feel So Alone, I Need to be Alone,” Isolation and the Artist’s Journey

The primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid: the state of being alone.

(James Baldwin)

It’s so difficult to get into–and out of your art. I’ve devised an elaborate list of avoidance tactics–and yet I resent the hell out of anyone to interrupts me once I’m in my zen-creating state. I can get downright nasty if you interrupt me in what feels like a mid-genius moment. This push-pull is the life of a writer, the norm for any artist. 

Creativity of any kind means spending a lot of time with yourself. In your head, in your work, in your office or studio. It’s quiet. It’s methodical at times. It’s alone. Most writers and artists I know crave that alone time. We vacillate between wanting to get together with other artists and friends and have a beer, hang out, unwind and just talk, and then all that gets on our last nerve and we ache to get back to “our work.” 

Artists and writers run the gambit from being introverts to extroverts. Some of us a gregarious, others are downright anti-social for the most part. We’re torn between our need to connect, to get out of our heads, to love and be loved–the the ever present drive and hunger to create. 

I’m a Gemini,and if you get into such stuff, it means I live in ambiguity. In some ways (for my art) I wish I were less social. I have a wide net of writer and artist friends as well as an amazing collection of family and friends. I’m glad I have them. They keep me from being too weird, and yet I think my art, my writing suffers at times. I need walls in order Imageto create. 

This photo is the garden at Hotel Dieu, in Arles, France–where Vincent Van Gogh was taken after his “ear incident.” 

I have a hard time jumping worlds. When I’m creating I want to stay there, in that bubble and not be interrupted–for weeks sometimes. When I’m enjoying a glass of wine, a round table of great conversation, laughter, good food, travel, it’s hard to step over that invisible line and go into the quiet. 

To our loved ones, it must feel like we have an invisible lover. The worst kind. You can’t go all crazy, pull a gun and threaten their life if they ever come near you and yours again. Art and the need to create crawls in the bed with you, settles in between the sheets, and draws on the minds and hearts of the creator in a dizzy, heady, sensual lure that few lovers could ever maintain. 

And yet there’s nothing like it. The buzz that comes with a new idea. The hum that sings as a story or a painting takes shape. Even the agony is ecstasy. I love it when I hate it. I long to get back to it more than I longed to take a break. 

For me, art equals meaning. It gives me a purpose, and that’s great but it can wear on me. It can leave me wondering who I am if I’m not writing. It’s hard to remember that rest and play and space between the words, between the stories is crucial–to me and to my work. 

I don’t know if others feel this torn, do you? 

What we do is a solitary endeavour – a distillation of our own mind, of our own talent, of our own feelings, and a ripping open of the gut to bear the fruit of our ‘art womb.’

(Treza Bordinat Ager)

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The Science of Play

Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.

Diane Ackerman

If you mention you’re going to play people tend to think you’re going to sign up for softball, push a kid on a playground swing, or join in a shuffleboard match.  We’re so serious we exercise like it’s a board meeting–no smiles, no silliness allowed. Yet there is a science that backs play. Play is practice for dealing with the future or the unexpected and teaches us how to adapt  (like a kid playing house, or fake battles) Play allows us to explore possibilities without committing to just one.  Play frees our brain. You can’t be in full play mode and worry, plot, or analyze. Play absorbs the body and the mind.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, play is my word of the year. I’m studying play but more importantly, I’m playing. You can’t (0r shouldn’t) be too serious about play. It would defeat the purpose. I’m also collecting play items: balls, kaleidoscopes, bubble paraphernalia, kazoos, silly hats–figuring out what attracts me and how exactly I like to play. My plan is to then draw a correlation between the way I play and the way I create. I guess I’m my own lab rat. I want to see if I can increase my creativity, my joy, my health and outlook by play–but I don’t want it to be that linear. I don’t want demand play to perform for me like a trained elephant that has no choice but to join my circus.

All of us have a history of play. How we play, who we play with, what we consider the best kind of play, what play doesn’t interest us, whether we’re “team” players or would rather putz and play on our own. Some of us play by building, others by imagining/role play. How we played as a child greatly determines how we play as an adult. Our bodies hold memories of play.

Dr. Stuart Brown,  co-author of  Play — How it Shapes Our Brains, Opens the Imagination, and Shapes the Soul, is also the  founder of the National Institute for Play  explains the science behind play:

“The evidence is broad. It starts objectively by watching animals at play and seeing what it does for them — it improves their performance, immune system, their capacity to remember things. And if you follow that through to a human system, those same benefits appear to us — particularly in fertile imagination, in a sense of optimism, in capacity to persevere and to do things that you enjoy — are all by-products of play. And if you then hook someone up to a brain imaging machine you’ll find out that when they’re at play, the brain lights up more from that than virtually anything else they can do.”

When it comes to being (and staying) a creative person, whether your creativity is expressed in writing, visual art, the performing arts, inventions, or even in the sciences, society isn’t likely to encourage you to play at work. You have to know and believe how crucial play is for yourself. You have to carve out (and guard) your play time. You have to incorporate an element of play into your work. That means to stop analyzing and start exploring. That means to figure out how you get into the flow where you brain and body are on the same wave length (literally). That means imagining, saying “what if,” turning your idea inside out and upside down. That means going for a walk, or a skip, or turning on some music and dancing, even at the office. That means honoring that play is ironically, serious and necessary “work” and crucial to your process.

When I’m writing I often have to stop and go for a walk. I take my characters with me. I talk in their voice (out loud). I argue with them, ask them what they’d never do and then I make them do it (the human contradiction), I play with my basket of balls (some spiky, some gushy) while I’m bouncing on my exercise ball. There’s something about all that roundness that makes me think. And sometimes I take a nap. Play is exhausting and often asks for its complement: rest. Some problems can only be solved by the subconscious. by not forcing the solution.

How do you play?

Does play spark your creative process?


Think back at ages 4-6–what did you like to play? (include organized sports, what you played with your siblings or parents, what you played alone, classes and free play)

Ages 7-10?

Ages 11-14?

Ages 15-20?

How have you played as an adult? (Classes, workouts, free-time, etc.)

Name those who have been your best play buddies (throughout all the time periods).

Fill in this blanks:  If I had all the time and money in the world I’d play by _______________.

The most playful person I know today is ___________________.

I play the longest when I’m ___________.

I’ve never sculpted a bust before, so the only way I know how to enter new territory is play–commit to nothing. Explore, ditch, and start again.


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My Word of the Year: Play

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.

I always  choose a word of the year. It’s much better than a bunch of broken resolutions, and I’ve found it’s a barometer of sorts, a way to gauge how true to course I am throughout the year. I had decided on “play” as my word for 2012 back in December. I’m studying several books on creativity (risking, playing, thus the title of the blog) and I’m finding that for our minds and our souls, play is vital.

Then, my brother died. Unexpected. Heartbreaking. I grieved. My family grieved. We reeled and wailed against the incomprehensible thought that my brother was gone. He’s not, but his physical presence is a void in our lives. It took (and is taking) some time to walk through the early side of loss and acceptance, and for a time, I felt as if the concept of play far away or somehow inappropriate. To play, you have to have a light heart, and that was something I just didn’t have.

But I had already named my word for the year. I had already begun to attract and create play. I had already signed up for the gym and for Zumba classes, and I started going. At first I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I was literally spinning in circles and almost knocking me and everybody else down. But I loved the music. I love the movements. Seventy percent of Zumba music has to be international, so there’s African music and Indian (from India) music, and lots and lots of Latin music. My hips were attempting things it didn’t know how to do…

Finally, it started making sense, and then the other day I’m grapevining across the floor and turning and booty shaking, and I’m smiling. I’m doing all this and I have the biggest goofiest grin on my face. I’m so happy I’m almost levitating. Sweat is pouring off me and I don’t look at the clock because I don’t want the hour to end. Some days I go twice. And on that day when I’m booty pumping and yelling a “whoo-whoo” I realize that what this feels like is kindergarten.

In kindergarten I learned to skip. We’d line up and take turns and I practiced and practiced until I was the best skipper in the room. I loved how it felt to be suspended in air. I loved the lilt and sway. I loved that I felt light and easy. It felt like play.

In that Zumba class it hit me–Zumba feels like skipping and skipping feels like play. Zumba feels like play. I’m playing.

And when I’m playing I’m not making lists. I’m not scheming. I’m not incessantly checking my email. I’m not people pleasing. I’m just playing.

In some ways, I think I’m getting out of my own way. Good things are happening. Things are in motion. It won’t do any good to fret about it or check on it 50 million times. .Whether it’s about writing, publishing, art, or family, I tend to obsess (who doesn’t?) Playing allows my brain to stop over-analyzing and places it in that zen-state where it can work out problems, create, and generally muck about without my telling it what to do.

I don’t know where this word, play, will take me this year. But it feels right.

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.
Carl Jung

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Writers, Artists, Are You Creating Momentum?

So much about art and writing is a game of hurry up and wait.  There are lulls and pauses in the creative process and all this stopping and starting can be a challenge. So how do you create and sustain momentum? Why is momentum important?

The roots of momentum is (of course) Latin and means “moving power.”

It’s a  measure of the motion of a body equal to the product of its mass and velocity–thanks Webster.com.

Momentum is also a physics term:

A measure of the motion of a body equal to the product of its mass and velocity.

momentum = mass x velocity

How does all that correlate to creativity?

Quite easily. We come up with an idea (that’s what creating is–first in the mind)–and that’s mass. Then we have to do something with those thoughts–write, paint, sculpt–and that’s our velocity or power.

Or, you can look at it this way: we create (mass) and then we have to put it out in the world (aka market) and that’s where we need velocity.

(If I’m impressing you with my math/physics genius then trust me, it stops here).

I know as an artist when I have momentum and when I don’t.

That makes me think of another word–the doldrums–which is actually a place on a map. It’s the place where the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean come together–and it’s a place sailors dread because when there’s no wind  it’s completely dead. That’s the doldrums. I’ve been there, creatively and otherwise.

Usually, my creative doldrums are because I’m in a place of doubt, or I’m perplexed as to how to get to the next place my art needs to be. I feel stymied, paralyzed, and it’s not that I don’t want to “do the work,” I just don’t know how.

The whole publishing cycle can shut down a creative soul. You can get so wrapped up in waiting to hear about your last book that you don’t latch on to your next spark of an idea.

How do we create our own momentum?

Momentum in art comes in two main forms.

Momentum is birthed from discipline. 

Boring word, discipline, but it’s what separates the creative wimps from the creative iron men, so to speak. When you finally take the leap and claim that you are an artist then you have to stop playing around with only doing art whenever you feel like it. That muse excuse is old.

Creativity coach Eric Maisel and other artists attest to getting up and going to your art–first thing in the morning–and committing to a word count (Eric says 1000 words a day), or a time period where you show up for the art–and whether inspiration or momentum occurs or not, you’re there on a consistent basis.

I believe that momentum invites vulnerability and authenticity. Why? Because you don’t have time to fake it when you’re truly in the vortex of momentum. You aren’t posturing, thinking about how you’ll look or what others will think–you’re in a pure state that doesn’t need these pretenses.

Momentum, like opportunity, is a wave that builds–so be ready, grab your board and ride it all the way to the shore.

When momentum does grace your shores, then ride that baby. Get up early, stay up late, drink more coffee and keep working through the backaches and ignore the interruptions.

Why? Momentum is pure magic, and once you’ve got it don’t you dare let go.

Why? Not out of fear that it won’t come again, (who knows when it will), but because it’s a life force and an amazing high. Momentum is precious and can be rare and once you’ve experienced it, well damn, it’s right up there with crazy-wonderful sex and butter brickle ice cream. Sometimes you just have to go all the way.

Momentum isn’t an either-or, it’s an and. 

Invite momentum by showing up at the page or in front of the canvas every day. Show creativity you’re serious.

And then, when you feel a surge in your soul, dive deep, balance as best you can, and let out a “WOWEE! –cause you just caught the magic wave.

Enthusiasm is the energy and force that builds literal momentum of the human soul and mind.
Bryant H. McGill



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Art, Writing, Creativity and Scientific Validation of the Power of Intention

Every painting, every novel starts with an intention. Inspiration lights up our brain–an idea, a spark, a melody, a character…and we’re off. This power of intention now has scientific backing. Medical breakthroughs allow us to bypass paralyzed limbs and short-circuited spinal cords and help people communicate via computer or use bionic limbs that enables wheelchair bound folks to walk again–all through the power of what they intend.

How does it work?

Before we reach for that coffee cup or lift one foot to climb the stairs we make an intention. We decide–to flinch away from the candle flame, to extend our arms in a hug–our brain can do this in a nanosecond, almost as an involuntary response to pain or fear, or it can be very deliberate–as in drawing a line or conducting an orchestra. First comes the idea and the intention, then comes the movement.

The next step in bionics

Photo: CBS Sunday Morning Show: The Next Step in Bionics

It’s the same with our art. We get an idea for our next novel, we ask, “what if?” We get an inkling of the place, the crisis that is to come–all before we ever type one word.

Wayne Dyer should be smiling about now. He’s been talking about intention for years–and even wrote a book about it: The Power of Intention.  He’s not the only one–everyone wise one, shaman, guru, minister has their own language–ask and ye shall receive, name it and claim it, visualization, law of attraction, many of these messages all come from the same kernal of truth–that the mind and spirit has a powerful effect on the physical world. Turns out they were on to something and science is just catching up to speed.

And while all of this feels like something that should be in the sequel of Push (love that movie), it’s not outside our own grasp. Artists have long tried to explain where or how their inspiration comes. It often sounds quite woo-woo and magical, which I happen to love, but woo-woo rhymes with poo-poo, which is what we get when we start talking about our sparks of insight, dreams and visions, and tingly sensations we often get when creativity bursts into life.

Some people like JK Rowling knew Harry Potter’s fate from the moment she intended to write the first sentence–she “saw” (felt it might be more accuarate) it all at once. Other times, our visions roll in like a fog bank, lifting slowly, revealing more and more over time.

Intention, Dyer reminds us isn’t just about wanting something. It’s about allowing–making room for possibilities. Intention is in essence, about connection. I take this concept to my art–forcing it to deliver or pay up isn’t the way I want to approach my artistic journey. If I do that, my ego is driving the car.

I don’t always know the direction it will take, whether something has mega-buck potential, and I don’t want to know. Being inspired means being “in spirit,” and that’s pretty cool.

Exploration allows for all I don’t know.

Dyer further explores the concept of giving without expectations by quoting the great poet Hafiz: “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth ‘you owe me.’” Dyer finishes his thought, “Just think of what a love like that can do. It lights up the whole world.”

Sunrise and the Power of Intention

Science is just now tapping into what the brain can do–and I’m pretty jazzed about living long enough to witness this breakthrough. On the home front, I’m pretty jazzed at what I can might be able to accomplish and create with the time I have left on this earth, too.


How is the intention to create art different than the intention to complete art?

Which is harder for you–the early stages of creating (the first page, the first lines of a painting or song? Or is it harder to go that last minute, polish and submit?)

Carol O’Dell



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Steve Jobs and Creativity: The Legacy Lives On

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” ~ Steve Jobs

The world is grieving the loss of Steve Jobs. His legacy–of creativity, risk, and play are hallmarks of this life well lived. Not only did he give the world innovative technologies, he attracted energy around these projects. Meeting the world in a black shirt and jeans, he was a quiet rock star and the whole world listened.

Steve became synonymous with his creations.  Apple products are always fresh. Crisp. Simple and elegant, they invoke loyalty and passion. People love their macs. Love their iPhones.

They’d rather lose their wallet than to leave  their iPad on a plane. All of this seems gushing, but it’s true.

And yet his beginnings were dicey. He was adopted and raised in of all places, Silicon Valley. He dropped of college in the mid 70s and “invented Apple in his parent’s garage.

 He slept at friend’s apartments and walked across town to the Hare Krishna temple for free meals. This “drop out” period gave him time to take a calligraphy class, which later would be used in the first Mac’s typography aesthetics.

“If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do,” he said in the commencement speech at Stanford.

It wasn’t smooth from there on out–he was dumped by Apple, the company he and Steve Wozniak started–and didn’t come back for fifteen years. But he wasn’t off in some corner pouting–he started Pixar. Not a shabby side job.

And all that creative juice just marinated.

Simplicity and focus became his mantra.

When he stepped back into Apple in 1997 he brought a new surge of ideas and revitalized a saggy company. iPod followed by iTunes followed by iPhone followed by iPad. How’s that for a string of home runs?

We may not have Steve with us, but cancer didn’t win, not really. We have his spirit and example, and that has now become a part of our collective conscience. His DNA is in the stars above us and the dust around us, and I for one invite his lessons–his dare-devil do what you love and you better be passionate about it–into my life.

Each of us leave a creative legacy and Steve’s life is a North Star.

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
BusinessWeek interview, May 1998

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Creativity and Writing and The Art of Doing Nothing

Never clearing our schedules is like never emptying the sink trap–your life starts to stink after a while (based on a quote my Martha Beck). We tend to believe that busy equals important. Being authentic and being creative means not always being busy. Yet most of us (self-included, most days) act afriad to sit still–to be quiet.

Maybe it’s our upbringing–idle hands are the devil’s workshop kind of thing. Most parents think that if their kids are busy they won’t get into trouble (they’ll get ulcers instead). I like to ask in my writer’s groups what they did on a lazy Sunday afternoon when their parents were napping and they couldn’t leave their house or yard unless by foot–what were they drawn to?  (Before video games and cable with a thousand channels) Drawing? Writing sappy poetry? Building a tree fort or baking cookies?

Our true selves are somewhere beyond boredom.

I like to spend most Sunday afternoons doing nothing. Putzing. Napping. Wandering around the yard, watching the birds migrate. Watching the sun sink below the horizon.

This no-thing time wipes my “Beautiful Mind,” a million jumbled OCD thoughts and images clean. I stare. I lay on the couch and then lay on the hammock. I snap a photo of the birds. I trim back the rose bushes and abandon the shears and my half-finished job and take a mid-day bath.

Why not? It’s Sunday. No day.

I get frazzled if I don’t do this at least a couple of times a month. Does it better my art and writing? I think so, but I have no inclination to analyze it. Maybe the half a Mary Oliver poem I read in the hammock at sunset before dozing off sparked a memory that will turn into a prize winning short story, I’m not sure. I don’t care. If it feeds my creativity and writing, then I’m grateful, but doing nothing loses something if I pimp it out to force it to feed my art.

Blank is blank. Empty is empty. And that alone, is Divine.




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