Tag Archives: Creativity

The Doing of It

I imagine that we all think of ourselves as doers – people who can do what needs to be done to get where we want or need to be.  It starts with the encouragement that most of us got when we did something simple like pile of couple of blocks on top of each other at an early age.  (That felt good, I want to do that again.)

 

My father was a doer – he made his lists, he planned, he checked tools and supplies, and one by one he checked off the points on the list until it was time to make a new list.  He had many skills that are useful for a homeowner and each of the houses that we owned showed some result of his carpentry, electrical, plumbing or other abilities before we put that house on the market and moved to the next one.

 

Dad built these bookshelves at Mom's request

Dad built these bookshelves at Mom’s request

Growing up watching him and sometimes helping, I thought I was a do-it-yourself-er.  Despite his flashes of irritation, he made it look wonderful to craft a new thing or fix something up.  It seemed very industrious, and clearly this was something to aspire to be.  But, I have come to the conclusion that while I might be an itinerate helper of a do-it-yourself-er, I am not – myself – a do-it-yourself kind of person.  At least in relation to work around the house.  I am very good at admiring a finely done piece of handiwork and I have picked up a bit of knowledge about the right way to do some of the tasks which is helpful when I hire out.

 

Mom, while more of an imaginer – an excellent idea person, was a doer in her own way.  No lists, well maybe a jotted thought here or there or a cut out article.  She too had handicraft skills because of her fascination with creation.  She learned to sew, knit, and crochet.  She tried her hand at gardening and drawing (stick figures).  I whiled away hours watching her turn a length of fabric into an article of clothing.  She was a better teacher than dad, but there could be flashes of impatience if a question was ill-timed.

 

We never talked about the difference between talking, dreaming, planning and doing.  The difference between short-term effort on a project and long term industry to create a life and support a family. The fact that some doing leads to a greater thing and some isn’t so effective. Does anyone really talk about these differences?

 

How well we each are at creating our own success is dependent upon how well we internalize the lessons we experienced in regards to doing.  There is much to the doing of it.

 

© 2015 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Late Winter Trance

It does no good to tell ourselves that this winter has been relatively kind to us in comparison to last winter’s endless freezes and snow.  It is the physical discomfort of the here and now that wears us down.  And, please may it be so, will be easily forgotten once green things start to grow again.  (Hence why women go on to have more babies…)

 

Of course, kinder is relative and based on regions, I do believe that Boston is having a rougher winter, at least in terms of snowfall.  I have friends there and they show plenty of pictures of the snow excess on Facebook.  The snow machine up in the clouds in that area seems to be stuck on over-produce.  I know that snow blankets can feed off themselves to keep temperatures down, but does snow attract more snow?  It certainly seems to this year in that area.

 

We have an ageing snow blanket in my region.  A dusting here and there since our Super Bowl blizzard.  Which means that the snow is wind scoured and compacting as it loses the moisture it originally had.  And it is getting dirtier and cluttered with the flotsam and jetsam of suburban life.  The cars are all salt-crusted, which masks their normal hues.  Yuck.

 

My eyes are so tired of the color scheme – white, off white, dirty white, beige, and filthy black.  It seems to be putting my creative mind into a narrow rut of thought which is as difficult to break as Boston’s rhythm of snow storms.

 

public domain image - what I wish I saw out my window

public domain image – what I wish I saw out my window

I think of things that I could do to help my creativity to spark, but then there is that moment that I can’t seem to get past.  The one when I realize that I will have to bundle up, will have to slog through snow piles, icy spots, or slush to get where I want to go.  Ugh.  My couch, a mug of tea and a book, or Netflix, or some internet surfing will do for entertainment.  It is my late winter trance.  At least I have finally caught up with all 4 previous seasons of Downton Abbey.  And I found a new show on Netflix, Rehab Addict, that gave me some ideas for some updates on my house, when the weather gets better.

 

© 2015 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Crafting Things and Quiet Time

I have been trying to find my way back to writer mode.  Kitten is now 13 weeks old and the current challenges are normal kittenly concerns – don’t chew that electrical cord, not a good idea to pounce on a sleeping dog, unrolling the entire toilet paper roll is a bad idea.  (He has particular trouble with that last one as the unrolling makes him so gleeful.)  Now the vigilance is similar to parental, but not quite so intense.  Still, I am struggling with getting my mind into a fertile writing groove.

 

I have had time to think about creativity.  I always find it interesting to steer a conversation onto a person’s impression of their own creativity, especially if I consider that person to be creative in some manner.  It is rare for the person to define themselves as creative.  “Oh, no I am (fill in the blank with any number of adjectives)…”  Creative seems to be something reserved for the application of lofty projects and considerable talent.

 

Crafty is often the chosen adjective, more likely if my conversation companion is female.  Crafty seems to fall within the realm of hobbyist, putterer, occasional participant.  Somehow people are more comfortable identifying themselves as crafty – or some word that directly identifies their chosen mode of creative expression such as knitter, woodworker – than claiming to be creative.

 

Both of my parents were creative, crafty – dad with woodworking and mom with sewing.  I spent hours quietly watching each work on projects as a child.  Dad also painted, made models, and drew.  Mom also wrote, played the piano, and learned dozens of crafts over her lifetime.  I grew up expecting creativity to be a part of life.  Not only to admire what others did, but to participate in something creative of my own.

 

It takes time for quiet thought, this ability to create.  Melville said that a writer needs to be in a ‘quiet, grass growing’ mood to write and I think that applies to almost any other creative endeavor.  Time must be carved out of an overfull schedule, understanding of when the mind is most fertile for ideas to grow.  It should be a block of uninterrupted time.  Which is hard to arrange with a small creature in the house.

Egonforblog

I am eager to get my writing muscles back into shape, but fear I will not be a regular poster for some time unfortunately.

 

So, what about you – do you consider yourself creative?

 

© 2015 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Holiday Hoopla

Which is your favorite holiday?  Today is a holiday that has seen a tremendous shift in meaning since it originated, and the coming months will bring other huge holidays that tend to be high on the list of favorites.  Holidays are a great time to lift ourselves from our routine, celebrate family and friends, and connect with the past. And usually participate in the economy.

 

I haven’t put out a single decoration this year, though I have a sizable collection of Halloween dust catchers which have accumulated over the years of raising my boys.  There are the tall, slim figurines that I bought in a kit and painted myself.  And a hollowed out gourd, made into a ghost, that I bought on an afternoon spent in a quaint town with my mom and sister.  The scarecrow made from a softball by a fellow mom who was trying to impress the other homeroom moms with her creativity.  And plenty of other things, most of which have a memory or two attached.

 

public domain image

public domain image

One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving.  Because it is quieter and except for food hard to exploit with merchandise.  Even though my dad and I would regularly lament that it was difficult to find Thanksgiving decorations.  Now I have his and mine – mostly Pilgrim and turkey themed.  I love that the focus is around family and friends gathering to share a meal and think about gratitude.  (We won’t think about the fact that shopping for Christmas is encroaching upon this more serene holiday.)

 

I know plenty of people whose favorite holiday is this feast of Trick or Treat.  I know others who refuse to partake in the fun for religious reasons.  (To them I’d like to point out that Halloween is a contraction for All Hollow’s Eve, which is the precursor for All Saint’s Day November 1st – and a day for religious observance.  And was timed to counter a pagan ritual observing harvest and the coming of winter.  The Monsignor at my old church used to hold a great Halloween party for the families.)

 

We need these holidays to brighten up our days as the natural light grows scarcer this time of year.  Colorful décor, strings of lights, cheerful greetings for those known and not known – may all of our next few months be enjoyable – full of food, baubles and hoopla.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

What Do You Recommend?

A thoughtful recommendation is a fine thing to give or receive.  LinkedIn has made this process a whole lot easier.  My first attempt to get a recommendation from the Head Librarian where I worked during college didn’t go as well as I planned.  While she appreciated the work that I had done, she never did get around to writing that recommendation and sending it to me.  I think that she might have been more likely to follow through with her intention if she’d been able to post it to my profile.

 

Back in the day, a professional kept a portfolio that would include originals of recommendation letters on company letterhead, carefully saved in clear plastic sleeves.  I still have my dad’s judiciously built portfolio, in a nice leather binding, glowing letters spanning his career.

profile-plea

I have actually enjoyed writing the recommendations that I have given.  (I also see benefit in thoughtfully writing employee reviews.)  I spend time thinking about the characteristics and skills of that person that make them effective at their job.  I tie these to specific projects and tasks that the person has completed.  Sometimes if time has elapsed since we worked together, I might ask to meet and talk to refresh my memory.  Vague platitudes from me aren’t going to do anybody any good.

 

I learned about having that conversation beforehand from one of my HR friends.  I asked her for a recommendation and she asked me about my goals and expectations from the recommendation.  A nice addition to the question – would you give me a recommendation – and the usual casual answer – sure.

 

But I don’t want to be told exactly what to say either.  Any more than I am going to answer a survey on a company when they tell me that they want to hear that I was highly satisfied.  (If you already know the answer, why bother to pretend to ask the question…)  The reader will be able to tell when I have taken the time to craft my impression of that person from my own experience and interactions.

 

I’ve come to see recommendations as another facet of writing as communication.  It might be simpler to ask and to post now, but that just means the effort can all go to being thoughtful in your expression.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Pursuing Ideas

I have trouble getting my mind to quiet down.  Tick, tick, tick it goes – all the time.  Sometimes it is a gibberish jumble and other times laser focused on a single topic.  I think that is part and parcel of writing since writing begins with the formulation of an idea.

 

What makes a person a writer is the compulsion to write, to put that idea on paper (virtual or real) and pursue it, build it, launch it, nurture its growth.  Sometimes that idea that started out as a tangle of gibberish becomes a viable, wonderful thing.  And sometimes that laser clear idea collapses into useless mush.  For now.  (I don’t fully discard any post that I’ve started, it might have a seed for a future idea.)

 

Walking and driving distances are great for mulling ideas but lousy for capturing them.  I now try to remember to keep a recording device in the car on long trips, and can find myself chanting a couple of sentences when hurrying home from an amble.

more Jisco West

Waking up slowly is also fertile idea time.  My mind likes to tell me the things it has been pondering while asleep if I let it.

 

Sometimes repetitive tasks can bring forth a good thought or two that have been wandering in the back of my mind while my hands are busy.  It can be annoying when the thought gels in the morning when I’m getting ready for work so all I can do is jot it down on my way out the door.  And hope that I can pick it back up at the end of the day.

 

I like the discipline of posting regularly as a bit of pressure to complete an idea.  Although there are periods when too many ideas don’t pan out.  And nothing that I have previously completed appeals to me at the moment when I should post to meet my self-imposed deadline.  Sometimes my post meets the writer’s version of software developer’s minimum viable product.  And sometimes a post that I felt came together quite well is received with a thud or echoing silence.

 

What the writer writes isn’t always what the reader perceives.

 

Or maybe I am overthinking.  What is the right amount of thinking on any one topic, idea or issue?  My hat is off to the person who gets the answer to that one right more often than not.

 

Now that I am rounding up in a couple of months to completion of my second year blogging, I have been thinking about objectives.  (Different pursuit of ideas.)  My first objective was to set up a blog and see if I could sustain it past the average of 4 months.  Counting my first blog, I have certainly met that objective.  Then I thought a year was a fine goal.  Met, check.

 

As I became more familiar with the blogosphere, I realized that I wanted to find a community of bloggers, and I have managed to find or be found by others with similar interests.  Not quite a community since there is little cohesion beyond the fact that we are all blogging on WordPress.

 

Not being content with blogging for the sake of blogging, I have been wrestling with the open question of ‘now what?’.  I don’t have an answer for myself.  I will keep pursuing ideas to blog about while I pursue this larger idea.

 

Any suggestions?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Things I did Instead

I have a post that I have been working on for the past couple of days, but it isn’t ready to show yet.  I have other half done posts that aren’t even that close and time says it is up, post time is at hand.  Crap.

 

How many others have sat down to write today’s blog post and noodled on one thing until it petered out, and then fiddled with another until it seemed garbled?  How often have you stared at the screen for a little bit and thought about how you got farther today than yesterday when you didn’t even bother to open up a new post and stare at the screen?

public domain image

public domain image

 

When writing isn’t happening, eventually I stand up and wander about the house and:

  • Clean the tracks on the shower stall and the tracks on the sliding door
  • Water the indoor plants
  • Take inventory of the kitchen and bathroom for a grocery list
  • Pull out the lambswool tool and get rid of cobwebs
  • Go for a walk (and I’m even nice enough to bring my son’s dog along)
  • Collect quotes cut out from various magazines that have appealed to me and put them in the book that I keep for that purpose
  • Go through the pile of mail, flyers and papers that breed on the table
  • Ponder what to make to use up the 2 overripe bananas on the counter
  • Watch Sneakers or other dated, but still entertaining movies
  • Thought about going out to get plants for my 2 hanging baskets but then realized that wouldn’t appear to be writing in the slightest

 

And this is the post that you get today.  What do you get done when you are ‘writing’?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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