Tag Archives: Creativity

Do the Lady and the Tiger Still have Power?

Certain events and experiences have a powerful impact far beyond the time that they take to occur.  I think that is a safe assertion to make.  We all know someone who still brings up their glory moment from their distant past every chance that they get.

 

I won’t bore you with a long ago glory moment.  But story moments, now those are worth bringing up again.  In some cases I have let the author (shame on me as someone so interested in writing) or the title fade but the storyline comes back fresh as the day that I read it.  There are many stories from my early teens that have this resonating factor to this day.  Some I read in a classroom and some I stumbled upon in a library.

 

Frank Stockton’s “The Lady or the Tiger” is one such story.  I read it in Mr. Bruno’s 7th grade class which would make me about 12 I think.  We read some great stuff in Mr. Bruno’s class – I’m sure that I have mentioned him here before.  (The search function in WordPress declares my memory to be faulty, I wrote about him on my old blog – Take it for Your Share and Go On)

 

public domain image

public domain image

Mr. Bruno gave us a writing assignment to determine the end of the story because crafty Frank Stockton left the reader hanging.  Well, I couldn’t settle on a convincing argument for either resolution so I got crafty myself, got into the main character’s head while he pondered his choices and just as he reached for the door he had chosen, my essay ended.  Mr. Bruno loved my piece and gave me an A.  And I learned a great deal about decision making and storytelling.

 

Now I have come home with a new book – bought from the clearance table (double bonus) – that is an anthology of stories where the writer leaves it up to the reader to tie up all the ends.  Guess what story is in the book?  Yes, my old favorite.  Plus it seems Frank Stockton wrote a follow up story and I just adore the title already, “The Discourager of Hesitancy”.  I hope the story lives up to that fabulous title.

 

First, I will have to read “The Lady or the Tiger” again.  And I am a bit hesitant because Thomas Wolfe famously told us You Can’t Go Home Again.  What if the Lady and the Tiger have lost their power over me?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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Not so Great Now, But Later…

My niece had a bad few moments yesterday afternoon that is primo material for a great story later.  I am part of the phone tree for the alarm on my sister’s house and sometime before 3pm today my cell phone rang but I was in the middle of something so I let it go to voicemail.  When I checked the phone later, I had a message from the alarm company that ended by telling me that the police had been called.  Curious, all this time that I have been on the phone tree and this is the first time that they have called.  (I couldn’t tell you what I am supposed to say to them…  I think I have it written down somewhere.)

 

Anyway, my niece got home from school and set off the alarm and got to have an unpleasant conversation with a local police officer.  I feel empathy for her embarrassment frustration and worry, she is that lovely age of 13 when almost everything is potential for embarrassment.  I won’t mention yet that she will be able to tell this story for years.

Capture

I think back on some of my moments that still get laughs when I trot out the stories…  There was my high school graduation when I was the only one out of 700 plus proud graduates who managed to catch the sleeve of my gown on the stair rail and I had to walk backwards up the steps, in high heels, to unhook myself.  There was the time when I was dressed like a ghoul and I locked myself and my kids out of our house and car when we were trying to go to a Cub Scout Halloween party.

 

I have to laugh when I think about the time when I was dropping off my older son at preschool and accidentally locked my younger son in the car.  He just kept smiling and waving at me when I tried to pantomime him unlocking his car seat and hitting the button to unlock the car doors.   (I had a bad habit for several years of locking myself in or out of places.)

 

I’m not going to say that I don’t lose my cool when things go a bit haywire, but honestly having something go a bit off just makes better memories.  I try to remind myself of this in the moment.  To err is human, and makes for a fine story.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Creativity Clocked In

The number of people who say that they aren’t creative astounds me.  Maybe they have a very narrow definition of creativity?  Maybe they don’t want to talk about their creative efforts because they don’t want to be judged?  Maybe someone once told them that they aren’t creative?

 

I think that we all have our creative moments, if we don’t define creativity too tightly, with too many restrictions.  To my thinking, creativity should be pleasing to the creator and build positive energy.  It should be something that we encourage in everyone.  A little quiet time, some mental space and more people might be able to tap into their own creative vein.

 

I have tried my own hand at sewing, knitting, painting, drawing, wood burning, wood working, writing, photography, acting, music, gardening, cooking, baking, crochet, embroidery (even designing my own pieces), and other pursuits that refuse to come to mind right now.  I tried each of these things because they interested me.  I have been somewhat more successful at some than at others, but I enjoyed learning about the process even if I was disappointed in the result.

Some of my past creative output

Some of my past creative output

 

I suppose there are those who might say some of the things that I listed aren’t creative – back to defining creativity.  I do define almost anything that can be subjectively applied and have a different end result as potentially creative.

 

I am impressed by the creativity that other people show.  I am particularly impressed by people who are able to make a living using their creative skills.  For many of us, creativity is something that is mostly applied to hobbies – though I have used creative thinking more than once at work.

 

I’m not entirely sure that I could be creative on demand.  Though sticking with any creative pursuit does require a certain amount of discipline.  And one of the biggest keys to creativity is being able to tap into the right mindset, so perhaps creativity on demand is just a matter of making sure that you tend the path, or paths, to that mindset.

 

I was very lucky to have two parents who were highly creative in their own ways.  (Though I am wondering now how they might each respond to being called creative.)  Both of my parents encouraged us to take on creative pursuits, and each spent time on their own creative outlets to lead by example.

 

The results of other people’s creativity are easily found on the internet and these can be inspiration to try something out for ourselves, or hindrance out of fear that our own effort won’t be so accomplished.  I don’t think that deciding to express creativity requires accomplishment.  Do you?

 

Writer’s note:  I am changing my writing schedule because summer is a very busy season at my workplace.  I love the challenge of coming up with topics to share here, and was proud of myself for keeping up with it during this last frigid winter when my thoughts were frozen, but I hope to find a balance between keeping things fresh here and keeping my team motivated through our busy weeks.  I will be posting on Tuesdays and Fridays, which hopefully will give all of us a bit of time to enjoy the summer months.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Mr. Nobody’s at it Again

Two boys can get into rather a bit of trouble in the blink of an eye.  Especially when led astray by a rapscallion like Mr. Nobody.  I never clapped eyes on the fellow, but he apparently freeloaded at our house for quite a few years – from the time that my boys were 3 or 4 years old on up until they figured out how to get into mischief on their own or with their friends.

 

He just came into being one day – the day before the standard answer to questions about what was going on was the universal ‘I don’t know’ accompanied with a shrug and shifty eyes, the next day with a wink and a nod the answer changed to ‘Mr. Nobody did it’.  I took to sharing pointers with the boys that they should pass on to Mr. Nobody.  Like respecting property and what was considered acceptable or not.  They would listen and solemnly agree to pass on the lesson or concern.

 

Mr. Nobody was a safe scapegoat who, to the best of my knowledge, never got into anything really awful or unforgivable.  Well, there were the two broken windows (of the two windows in the boys’ room), but luckily no one was actually hurt.

 

Mr Nobody won't show up for a few more years, but the mischief is there.

Mr Nobody won’t show up for a few more years, but the mischief is there.

Boys have a lot of energy and curiosity which can be a dangerous combination – it is proven that males have a higher mortality rate from conception onward.  Mr. Nobody allowed us to talk about dangers, actions and consequences without accusations.  Sometimes the boys even participated in talking about how Mr. Nobody should be punished so that he would understand the gravity of his actions.

 

Mr. Nobody probably had a hand in helping the boys to develop their critical thinking skills – his invention was certainly a bit of creative thinking.  He came about as a bit of avoidance, a hope of deflection – a sophisticated use of humor for boys so young – and he stuck around as long as he was useful.

 

Is there a Mr. Nobody in your life?  An inspired invention that fulfilled much more than its original purpose.  (My younger son says he was a diabolical super-villain.  Ah, perspective.)

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

What Has Your Comfort Zone Done for You Lately?

It’s comfortable, I know.  But there needs to be more, yes really.  Now, I’m not suggesting something outlandish like going camping with nothing more than a tarp and a book of matches.  (In fact, I’m not suggesting camping at all, there are limits to going outside of your comfort zone.)  We don’t have to endanger our lives to shake up the limits of our comfort zones.

c1907 camping, photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

c1907 camping, photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

How many people do you know just keep doing something that doesn’t particularly fill them with joy just because it is familiar?  The evil that we know, as the saying goes…  If that something is a job, or a relationship maybe it will just take a bit of thought about how to freshen it up a bit.

 

Or maybe it would be to take a step or two in a forgotten or new direction.  When was the last time that you drew, or danced, or sang, or grew something, or biked, or, or, or?  Things drop out of our lives, or interests get forgotten as we settle into our adult pattern.  My dad kept his hunting gear in the bottom of his closet through move after move even though he didn’t hunt throughout my childhood.  He returned to it in retirement and his eyes would light up as he told us about it.  I have a picture of two camouflaged hulks standing in my kitchen from his turkey hunting adventure with my then-husband.

 

This picture both makes me smile and sad.  Why did he feel that he had to turn aside from this activity for so many years?  Finances certainly played a role, but perhaps didn’t need to be the absolute hindrance that they appeared.

 

I remind myself of this when I miss out on yet another Broadway in Chicago event because I couldn’t justify the cost of the experience.  There is huge benefit in trying new things and revisiting old interests.  I say this as much to myself as to any reader.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Patterns, Collections & Repetition

What is it about a certain thing that makes us want more?  It makes sense that we want to categorize things, like solving a puzzle by snapping the pieces into place, we know what we need to go and find based on the items that surround the missing piece.  But most of us want to create combinations of things that are pleasing.  Either by shape, size, color, texture, sound, usefulness – what have you.

DSC03754

Patterns can also tell us when something goes wrong and help us to figure out how to set it right again.  When one customer tells a company that they are having a problem with a product, it might be assumed that it was an anomaly but when the same complaint comes up again and again then the company better get busy on that pattern.

 

I used to watch my mom sew clothes when I was little.  There was a pattern to her whole effort; deciding what was going to be made, going to the fabric store to pick out all the needed items – which included the pattern to make the piece of clothing – preparing and cutting and then finally sewing.  Some of the pattern pieces made sense right away – you could see it was going to be a sleeve or other recognizable part.  But some of the pattern pieces looked quite random, they only made sense when combined with other pieces.

 

Collections can be useful or informative, say tools, or aesthetically pleasing.  My dad had quite a few tools, some had been his father’s before him.  The hand tools were made to last, worn smooth by years of use.  My grandfather’s power tools were a bit scary since they were produced long before safety features had come into being.  Belts and other moving parts were all open and ready to snag a finger or worse, not hidden behind plates and covers as they are now.

 

I think that I am in the majority in finding comfort in my collections and something soothing in repetition.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Cures for the Bromidic in Deep Winter White

Winter and increasing mounds of snow appear to have taken permanent hold on my part of the world as I dream of green and balmy breezes.  Snow and ice are here for one season, thankfully since I find the incessant white and cold, the blanket of snow to be a blanket on my creativity.  I know that I am not alone, plenty of arts facilities and events are reporting lower than expected attendance due to the weather.

 

I have been lucky enough to arrange little breaks from the winter bromide for the last three weekends and it has helped in a small way.  I have met with three different friends once each weekend for either a meal and a movie or a trip to the symphony to listen to a tone poem that described warmer weather.

 

My urge to hibernate through most of January just fueled my winter grumpiness each time I had to venture out for work or errands.  Hibernation meant that entertainment choices were limited to what is at hand at home.  Same stuff, same four walls.  Bleh.

 

I know that other people like to plan trips to warm places for a week or two while home is locked in cold and ice.  I don’t know whether that would work for me, part of my thoughts would be focused on the required return to Nordic weather.  Now, if I could figure out how to live somewhere else for this one season every year that would be ideal.

 

Ah, at least I have thawed my creativity enough to dredge up and dust off this old word, bromide, and use it in a non-pharmaceutical manner.  I only recently realized that the word had alternate meanings.

public domain image, FDA

public domain image, FDA

 

Another mental exercise that several of us have taken up is how we would be happy to box up all of this snow and send it off to the areas on the West coast that are in the midst of an exceptional drought.  We have plenty to share.  Each of our regions needing a bit of what the other has, each sighing ‘enough’ to the weather pattern we are in.  Sadly, it doesn’t appear feasible.

 

I hope that everyone is able to find a cure or two for bromidic winter.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Jumbled Approach

I said that I would bring a treat in to work this morning.  I said it on Monday, so I had time to plan – sort of.  Other than being at work most of each day in between, sleep, eating, household chores and so on.  And it doesn’t help that I haven’t really been to the store in over a week so some supplies are short.  A few challenges.

 

On the plus side, I have been baking for a lot of years – since I worked on my Girl Scout cooking badge and realized that I liked to bake.  And I’ve been a parent for more than a few years, so I know how to make do in a pinch.  I do like structure, but I have learned how to take the structure I can find and make new connections to get where I want to be.

 

Butterscotch chocolate chip bars are the result.  Baking requires more precision than other kinds of cooking, true enough – but experience in combinations and an understanding of the different ingredients means that a recipe isn’t absolutely rigid.  A calculated risk or two can lead to success.

 

Substitutions need to have similar properties to account for consistency of the batter and the potential for flavor changes has to be considered as well.  After looking around the kitchen and thinking about recipes I actually had a couple of choices.  Since my energy level remains low thanks to the ongoing winter, I opted for a simple recipe even though I’ve never made it before.  (A word to non-bakers and cooks – it is almost never a good idea to try out a recipe for an audience the first time.)

 

The bars smelled fabulous while baking, but that isn’t necessarily a good indicator.  My son hovered ready to be my first taste tester, but he has inherited my sweet tooth so also not a good indicator of success.

DSC03744

I have had my share of spectacular failures as a baker.  Mainly due to an excess of hutzpah and a glaring lack of experience plus knowledge.  But I learned more from those flops than I would have if I had taken a more conservative route in my baking past.  I think this is true in most aspects of my life.

 

Now it remains to be seen what my team thinks of my approach.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Favorite Ways to While Away a Winter Day

I think that my brain might be freezing up this long winter.  I’ve tried to start a few new posts and they are all now waiting for me to find a way to finish the ones that are worthy and dispose of the ones that aren’t.

 

So perhaps I can at least conjure up a list of pleasant things to while (or wile, if you prefer) away some hours rather than wishing them away for some better weather:

  • A good book, a mug of tea, and my cozy fleece throw (in a fine shade of green to remind me of seasons to come)
  • A marathon session of Sherlock on Netflix
  • A leisurely soup and sandwich lunch with a friend
  • Slowly and calmly putting a space to rights (and not thinking about how long it may stay that way)
  • Learning something new, or getting better at something
  • Perusing a map or atlas – to remember a trip, plan one or trace a historical event
  • A game with my sons and daughter-in-law, perhaps Settlers of Catan
  • A hot as I can stand it bath with great scents, some music and a good book or magazine
  • Normally, writing would fit on this list…
  • A look through old photo albums
Wikipedia snip-it of Sherlock

Wikipedia snip-it of Sherlock

 

I think that I need to add a new craft to this list perhaps, or revisit an old one.  Maybe getting some ideas from people in the blogosphere will help me out.  What would go on your list?  If you put any outdoor activity on the list, do give a compelling argument why, please.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Return to Doodling

I used to doodle.  Mindless scribbles in my school notebooks.  Once I hit the working world, I made myself stop because I didn’t want to be seen in a meeting with my doodles – I didn’t think that it would enhance any image of professionalism.  So I’ve taken to twirling my pen (and trying really hard not to click it repeatedly) in meetings instead.

DSC03739

Now seeing this news clip, CBS News Sunday Morning: The Higher Purpose of Doodling I might just go back to my doodling habits.  Perhaps this will keep my mind present in the room when a meeting goes on.  I have found that even when I am interested in the topic, or it is in some way pertinent to me I have a terrible time keeping my thoughts in the room after about 20 minutes or so – which bears out research that I’ve read about adult attention spans.

How will I balance this return to doodling experiment with perceptions of professional behaviors?  Hmm, not sure just at the moment.  Hunching over my paper so that no one can see doesn’t seem like a viable solution.  Why, exactly, any of us feels that we would have to explain our note taking habits in the work world is an entirely different blog post.  Regardless of any of my actions, I cannot direct, control, or shape someone else’s perceptions of me.

Perceptions of doodlers is a main theme in the hyperlinked video clip – and how we should reconsider them.  Why do we perceive doodling to be such a bad thing other than we can all probably recall a moment or two in our school days when a teacher called out someone for doodling instead of paying attention?  Engagement takes on many forms, as does disengagement.

The other main theme is the point that doodling serves a purpose beyond occupying your hand.  I find it very intriguing that researchers found better detail retention in the doodling group when playing a tedious voicemail.

How about you, do you doodle?

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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