Tag Archives: Self expression

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

This is Me, this Might be Me, Is this Me

I am currently reading Harriet Reisen’s biography of Louisa May Alcott.  I was given the book by my aunt and I am greatly enjoying it and learning a lot.  I am also remembering how much I enjoyed Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys when I was younger.  I am named after Beth.  (She dies you know, which devastated me when I read that part at the age of twelve.  Thankfully I survived past the age of fifteen despite the fate of my namesake.)

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Anyway, her parents were idealists and the part that I want to ruminate about today is something that the author mentions had an effect on Louisa – falling short of who you should be.  I am taken with this concept.  I’m not sure which thought thread to follow first.

 

Who decides who you should be?  What criteria do they apply if it is someone other than yourself, such as your parents?  What criteria should you apply to decide for yourself who you should be?  Who is to decide if you are falling short of this ideal of who you should be?  How long should it take to get to who you should be?  Maybe you are just still on your way to this end point.

 

From an ethical standpoint, I do agree that there are aspects of self that you should be.  You decide what this ideal ethical self is like, where your ethical barriers lie.  And life is all about falling short of this ideal of who you should be, in small moments and less than ideal circumstances, and then striving even harder to be it.

 

What do you think?  Are you intrigued by this notion of falling short of who you should be?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

An Accomplished Grumbler

In our house, growing up, we learned early on that whining, wheedling and grumbling got you banished.  Who wanted to be banished?  We kept our grumbling to ourselves when we just couldn’t help but indulge in it.  (Especially when dad was around, he ‘would give us something to grumble about’!)  I did my best to instill this same message in my boys that grumbling wasn’t an effective method of getting what you want.

 

My son’s dog grumbles.  (Hrumphf, hmmrrr, rrrmmm, sigh)  It is hilarious as long as she only does it occasionally.  And only hilarious because she is a dog.  I never knew that animals wheedled before.

pleading eyes

What isn’t hilarious is the percentage of the adult population who didn’t get the same message that children got in my family – that grumbling isn’t effective in getting your point across.  There are an amazing number of grown people who must have had their childish grumbling validated and have carried this annoying trait into adult life.  Who have become accomplished grumblers.

 

What does grumbling cost the grumbler?  Why were we banished when we got in that mode as kids?  My mom was a Pollyanna type – amazingly positive and sunny.  (Not sickeningly, perky cheerleader so.)  One of the ways that she stayed that way was to focus on positive activities, which grumbling is decidedly not.  Grumbling is gloomy and low energy and draining.  It sucks you in rather than drawing you closer and you can’t wait to get some distance.

 

I try really hard not to laugh out loud when the dog does her grumbling thing.  She is a clown and I don’t want her to think this is a good method to get what she wants.  I don’t want her to be added to the list of accomplished grumblers.

 

© 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.

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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

Determined, Stubborn, Obstinate

I’ve been called all of these things.  I think sometimes it was meant to be unflattering at best.  I remember one conversation when I was told that I am rigid and I said if the word disciplined were inserted instead, I would accept the charge.  The accusation was wielded by someone who had a more unstructured method of approaching life than I.

 

Determined I accept and include in my own self-definition.  It is a trait that I am proud to claim, one that I cultivate on more hesitant days, in uncertain moments.  Figuring out how to call it up in moments of need is almost like discovering a super power.  I picture determination like a muscle – we must all have it – but as we who are over a certain age have found, muscles must be regularly activated or they go soft.  (But there are always exercises to revive them.)

 

Stubborn can come in handy and I have been known to warn a potential adversary that I practice stubborn quite well.  I have to really believe in the cause and you had better have a really compelling argument for your position.  Compromise is an acceptable end.  But then again, I might just be reformulating my points that I conceded for now for another run later.  I do understand that stubborn should be applied in small doses, or it can turn into this next word.

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia

Obstinate, hmm.  This one has been leveled mostly by people whose most compelling argument is ‘because’.  Obstinate means “characterized by inflexible persistence or an unyielding attitude” (per http://dictionary.reference.com/).  I don’t see any point in obstinacy, unless a person has no interest in learning new things.  Of course, I mentioned above that stubborn can become intractable and turn into obstinacy – no for the sake of no.  If I know that I am right then I imagine that can appear obstinate to my opposite.

 

Being determined is a good thing when tempered with an openness to new information.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Poetic to Prosaic

Prosaic is one of those words that I come upon infrequently and in such context that I never bothered to look it up in the dictionary.  So I never had a clear understanding of its meaning, only gleaned it from the situations where I found it used.  I’ve recently discovered that I had the wrong idea of this word all along.

 

In gleaning a meaning, I give weight to the way that the word sounds to me and prosaic has a pleasant little lilt to it.  But it means the same as mundane – which sounds as it is intended, stodgy and dull.  In enjoying the way that prosaic sounded, I was uplifting it to be similar in meaning to poetic instead of its opposite.  Being a word in the periphery of my awareness, I never thought about the origin; its direct relationship to the word prose.  A word which encompasses all of my efforts on this blog, a cousin of my chosen word essay.  Around 1746 the dictionary says prosaic’s meaning was “having the character of prose (in contrast to the feeling of poetry)”.  This was almost 100 years after the word came into being.

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I love the huge variety of words that we have at our disposal (and yet we still have so much difficulty expressing ourselves at times), some of which have been with us for centuries.  With such a vast selection, is it odd or understandable that most of us use so very few words repeatedly and some words become so overused as to be akin to nails on a chalkboard?   (Think of just about any buzz word, which I wrote about on my old blog last year, Buzzspeak, Hmmm.)

 

It seems understandable to me that we become familiar with a narrow selection of words and then use what is most familiar.  In our constant search for meaning and value, we cling to the things that are comfortable and familiar.  Regardless of how prosaic they may be.

 

© 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.

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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

Cultivate Your Inner Two-Year-Old

I don’t think that this post will interest people who like to have a steady, few task oriented occupation.  I was thinking the other day that 2 year olds have it right to be so inquisitive.  The world is more interesting when you want to learn more about the things around you – how they work, why they are the way that they are.

 

Going farther back, I had a revelation about colic as I tried to soothe my sons when they were babies.  And suddenly I saw the world as they saw it and while my realization didn’t ease my own exhaustion and wish that they would just stop crying, it did give me empathy to continue my quest to bring them peace.  The revelation was just this – there is a tremendous amount of stimulation around us every waking moment of every day, lights, sounds, movement, touch and our senses are bombarded, we have learned how to process it all to the point that we are nearly unaware of how much stimulation is around.  But to a baby it is all new and disorienting.

 

By the age of 2, we can filter through the familiar stimuli and get drawn to anything new that tickles our senses.  We explore this new thing with delight and share this pleasure with anyone who might be around.  Who can’t help but be charmed?

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Somewhere along the line, the curiosity and delight in new things dries up for many of us.  New things might start to mean more to do, or harder to understand, or any number of unpleasant associations.  Sadly.

 

I won’t deny that much of this reasoning can be true, but we miss out on new things that could be good by this wholesale shutting down.  I was thinking the other day about one of my least favorite responses to the cheerful good morning that I offer around the office, which is ‘what’s good about it?’.  I’ve gone to the effort to fire up my cheer and get a snarl in return?

 

Well, here is my hard-won answer to that question – the possibility.  I’m breezing through my own apprehensions and morning grumpy to cultivate my inner two-year-old.  There is possibility for something interesting, potentially delightful just ahead.  And I don’t want to miss it because I filtered it out.  If I channel this inner curiosity, I might just make more opportunities for myself at work by expanding my knowledge of the how and why of my work place.  What do you think?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Coloring, Color, Colorful

Did you like to color as a child?  A boxful of crayons and a coloring book, a rainy afternoon, a good spot at the table – happiness was mine.  I envied the kids who got the big box of crayons but I could do a lot by blending colors.  I manage to revisit this simple pleasure periodically – with my own boys, then nieces and nephews.  The kids grow out of their coloring stage and my urge goes dormant.

My Crayon Stash

My Crayon Stash

 

But not the joy that I get from color – I am not a monochromatic person – my preference for color is always active.  Over the years the colors on the palette that attract my eye the most have changed.  In childhood it seemed that everyone said their favorite color was blue, so I decided that I wasn’t a fan.  Until cobalt blue came into my life.  And I had a sweet little electric blue car for a few years.  Plus combine blue with green and I can feel my muscles relaxing.

 

Walk through a garden with its green and splashes of color and suddenly you realize that there are countless shades and tones to a single color.  I dare you not to smile.  Your heart not to feel just a bit lighter.

 

I live in the suburbs, more green that many cities, but mostly shades of concrete.  Bleh.  When I can get in the car and drive away until green is the predominant color, I can feel my breathing getting deeper and my eyes seem to see more clearly – cleansed of all the suburban tans.

 

I do wear the neutrals – your grays, blacks, browns and tans – as a basis for some type of color.  I would have made a terrible Goth going around trying to add a spot of color to everyone else’s outfit.  Just ask anyone I see regularly who wears too much black.

 

How about you – how does color affect you?  Or doesn’t it?

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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