creative types

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No, despite what the title may have you believe, this isn’t a post about fonts. You’ll need to find a professional typographer if you want one of those.

However, this is much more fun.

You’ve probably seen those online personality tests that tell you what type of person you are, like what Disney princess you most identify with or something like that. Yeah, I finally saw Wreck it Ralph Breaks the Internet. Fun movie at that.

Well, someone shared this on a Facebook writing group I participate in and I gotta say, it’s pretty cool. Even if you care not for such quizzes, the visuals alone are worth the journey.

So, enjoy this brief and splendid test brought to you by Adobe Create Magazine.

Creative Types


If you’re curious, you can find descriptions for all the creative personalities right here.

So, what were you? And do you feel like it’s accurate?

According to the test, I’m The Visionary. It seems right, or at least pretty close to the mark. I mean, let’s face it, us creative types don’t adhere to labels, amiright?

mindset

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I may have mentioned this a time or two before, but the way you view something can really impact your behavior. This is just as true when you’re learning something new.

Along those lines, I got this email from a health coach friend of mine, Jennifer Brown, who works for OPTAVIA. I enjoyed the content and thought it was more than worth passing on, so here it is:

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

According to a Stanford University study, researcher and psychology professor Carol Dweck, demonstrates that people cultivate one of two mindsets in a learning experience. In a fixed mindset, people believe that their qualities are innate and unable to change. They also believe that pure talent leads to success with no effort required.

On the other hand, those that have a growth mindset believe that learning and intelligence can improve with time and experience. They believe that their effort has a direct impact on their success, so they are usually more willing to put in the time and work since they believe that their abilities are just the starting point for potential.

It’s important to develop a growth mindset to realize your ability to succeed, no matter what obstacle you may face. It can also have a positive impact on your self-esteem and relationships. Here are some tips for developing a growth mindset:


View challenges as opportunities.
 Embrace challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow. The more we challenge ourselves to achieve a healthier lifestyle, the more opportunities we open up for ourselves.

  1. Choose learning over approval. If we’re more concerned with getting acceptance from others, we lose perspective on the real benefits for reaching our goal. It’s important to focus on improving ourselves for our own benefit to increase our growth potential.

  2. Focus on the process. Major change usually does not happen overnight, so it’s important to be realistic about the timeline for reaching our goals. Implementing new, healthy habits in the learning process will make them more likely to stick over time.

  3. Reward your effort. Set mini milestone goals to reward yourself for all of the effort and progress that you’ve made along your journey. For example, if you’ve stuck to a healthy sleep schedule for two consecutive weeks, treat yourself to a massage or movie date with a friend or loved one.

  4. Reflect on your learning. Journaling is a great way to reflect on the new lessons you’ve learned. Keep track of healthy tips and also document your physical and emotional feelings to allow the lessons to sink in. This can help identify what is working well or if there are any changes that need to be made. 

authentic

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Authenticity has been a big buzz word for a few years now. These days, calling a product or person “authentic” is high praise.

But I have a problem with it. 

Now, I’ve got nothing wrong with being authentic in itself, but when you’re trying to be authentic or when your authentic appearance is part of some ulterior motive, that’s another thing altogether. 

This quote sums it up pretty well:

“Sincerity - if you can fake that, you've got it made.”

― George Burns


There’s another side to that coin. If something is practiced and performed, does that make it dishonest? I expect all manner of content creators have asked this of themselves.

As a side note, I felt like the movie Galaxy Quest was a pretty enjoyable little exploration of that issue.

In my very brief experience recording for a podcast, this is something that has come up frequently. Even though I’m talking off the cuff for most of it, the whole thing still feels like a performance in a way. Knowing I’m being recorded and that the recording will be freely available online has a very heavy influence on how I think and what I say.

I don’t expect that will ever change, but I also don’t believe it’s necessarily a bad thing.

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was a scripted show, but it felt as genuine as anything I’ve seen. On the other hand, many ”reality” shows feel completely fake.

To be authentic is to be true to form, the real you. But what does that mean exactly? It seems to me a performance can be more revealing, more vulnerable, than a candid recording. Not always though.

This is still pretty fresh for me and I’m sure I’ll have more to say later, but I’ll leave you with these last few thoughts:

When you pour yourself into your artwork, whatever form that may take, it’s impossible to hide the real you. On the other hand, if you’re trying hard to be yourself, you’re probably failing at it.

a beautiful game

Some time ago I finished Patrick Rothfuss’s book, The Wise Man’s Fear, the second volume in The Kingkiller Chronicle. It’s not a book I’d recommend for everyone, but I did enjoy it. Now if only Rothfuss would hurry up and finish the series instead of working on all those side projects! I only kid (mostly).

Anyways, there’s this game in the story called Tak. Though only briefly described in the story, it bears similarities with Go. I only just learned that notable game designer James Ernest actually worked with Rothfuss to create a real life version of the game, which was successfully funded on Kickstarter. Neat, huh?

Anyways, in the book, the main character Kvothe plays Tak against Bredon, a mysterious acquaintance who later becomes a friend. Though Kvothe is ingenious and a quick learner, he has a hard time beating Bredon. At one point, Kvothe celebrates after a near victory, but he receives no congratulations from his opponent.

Bredon instead corrects Kvothe’s approach. He’s been going about it all wrong. The point of the game is not to win, the point is to play a beautiful game.

Obviously, this isn’t just about the game, it’s a metaphor for life, and one I find profound. 

There are so many ways we can “win” at life (I mean the real thing, not the board game with the same name).

Winning (at least in the world’s eyes) usually involves acquiring wealth, property, possessions, fame, family, or even making significant contributions to society.

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of those, but it is possible (I’d even say easier) to gain them without having played a beautiful game. On the other hand, it is possible to have not gained those things, and yet to have played (lived) beautifully.

But what does a beautiful game look like, exactly?

I think the Apostle Paul says it pretty well in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

When the goal is to live and love beautifully, we are the only thing standing in our way.

No loss, no defeat, no setback can deter you from it. The beautiful game, much like Tak, is simple yet deep. It is easily understood but takes a lifetime to master.

So, how’s your game going?

attention

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In the past, I’ve made a big deal about focus and how important it is to maintain. I still stand by my words. Or most of them anyway, generally in the same order they were written.

That said, research is showing a particular quality of creative people: something called a leaky attention. I know, sounds kinda messy.

Apparently, the propensity to shift attention often can lead to more creative thought. It makes sense to me;  creativity often means noticing the things other people ignore. And most creatives I’ve met are pretty easily distracted.

Hey what’s that over there?

Whether it’s noticing the sound of a paper bag crunching underfoot, a particular shade of blue painted on the wall, an unusual bug crawling across the table, or the fact that the man in the purple trench coat has been following you for the last three blocks—creatives have a special ability to take in their surroundings and use it toward a creative act.

But there’s a catch, this leaky attention can also become a hindrance when attempting to actually produce creative work, it can distract you from finishing the work itself—or even getting started for that matter. Hey, someone should write a course on how to overcome that. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.

As the Psychology Today article points out:

Artistic creativity is a delicate balance of spontaneity and deliberation. 

I’ve found this to be true in my own life. There is a time to be open, to breathe in the inspiration around you. But once that spark has ignited a flame, you must nourish and protect it. You must concentrate your efforts on building that flame into a bonfire, sheltering it from the winds of distraction. Like a vacuum cleaner, you’ve gotta flip the switch from intake to output. However, unlike my metaphors, fires and vacuums don’t mix. You can take my word on that one.

There are times when it’s best to pay attention and times when you’re better off taking a rain check on it. It takes time and practice to learn the difference. Still, there’s nothing keeping you from trying it now.

But first, I recommend ditching that trench-coated creeper on your trail. Based on his fashion sense, he’s either up to no good or he’s a distant relative of Grimace. Either way, not one to be trusted.

And here’s the link to that article one more time:

The Cognitive Balancing Act of Creativity

childhood dreams

Have you seen Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture

The video has been around for a while, but I just saw it for the first time recently. As a guy who works in the digital gaming industry and at a studio that has been part of multiple VR projects, this is right up my alley.

But even if you care not for such things, this final lecture is more than worth watching. In it, Randy talks about achieving his childhood dream, helping others achieve theirs, and what he’s learned in the process.

He also shares some great insights into brick walls and head fakes. I guess head fakery and walls of brick don’t usually go well together, but they’re great here!

I’m sad Randy isn’t still around, but I think you’ll agree the world is a better place for having had a guy like him in it.

Check it out, why don’t ya.

agency

How much control do you really have over your own life?

That’s a tough one. It’s a question I’ve often wrestled with and I’m not going to pretend I’ve found the perfect answer. 

I can tell you this much: it’s somewhere between absolute control and none at all.

I know. Helpful, right?

There’s a benefit to finding the balance here. If you believe you have no control, you might wonder what the point is in trying. If you think you have total control, you’ll be frustrated and disappointed when, inevitably, things don’t go your way.

Somewhere, there is a place of healthy surrender that allows you to accept what you can’t change and a determination to change what you can.

If this is sounding familiar to you, it’s likely because I’ve touched on it before.

There’s a word that’s come up a lot this past year, one I’ve rested my thoughts upon like a bag of potatoes on a scale. The word: Agency.

Just what is agency?

From wikipedia, agency is:

The capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices.

Even in Christian circles (and squares too) there are some major disagreements on how much is up to us. Is God doing everything here or do I have some say in the matter? It all comes down to agency.

In story writing, the necessity to create characters with agency comes up again and again. Characters with strong desires and inner drives—the kind that make things happen—tend to be more interesting than those who just get bullied around by the plot and don’t put up a fight.

Indeed, some of the best stories (in my opinion, and probably yours as well) are those in which the protagonist refuses to back down or give up the fight, no matter how grim the odds. The movies IP Man and Unbroken come to mind here. Sorry, Japanese, you don’t get a lot of love in either of those. Does it help if I say Studio Ghibli is amazing? I mean, come on, a cat bus? Wow.

Where were we? Oh yeah, so where does agency come from? Do we muster it up ourselves or is it granted to us from a higher power? Why do some seem to have more of it than others?

Quite frankly, my dear, I’m not quite sure. There is much to consider about agency.

Like most things, it’s helpful to start with a few investigative questions:

What does agency look like in your life and in the lives of people around you?

Is it something you strive for?

Do you take responsibility for your actions?

Do you own the work you do?

Is anything truly yours?

Like I said, I don’t have the answers. But it’s something to think about isn’t it?

How about this: when I figure it all out, I’ll let you know. Until then, I’m going to try my darnedest to do my best at the things that matter most. But at the same time, I want to work on being humble and thankful for even getting the opportunity to try. 

Can any of us really say we’re the masters of our destiny? Or maybe secret agents of agency?

I have my doubts, but, at the end of the day, I’m just glad to be here and I’m glad to be me. And I’m glad you’re here too.

change of place

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Do you ever find yourself in a mental rut?

You’ve been chewing on a problem for a while, much like a cow and her cud, but so far you’ve got nothing to show for it but the bland taste of cud in your mouth. Ew.

You sit down to write and nothing comes. You just can’t figure out the next step for your grand business plan.

Here’s an idea: why not try a new locale?

This article I found (actually, it landed in my work inbox) offers some strong support for changing your environment as a way to stimulate your brain and help you be more productive, whether you’re on the job or working your creative craft.

Here’s a snippet of said article:

Checking off your tasks in a new location is a way to exercise your brain’s neuroplasticity. Essentially, when confronted with new stimuli your brain responds by creating new pathways and mechanisms to accomplish tasks. So what you see as being more efficient in a different location is actually your brain thinking about the tasks in a different light. By doing this, you are climbing out of the stale rut you were in before, activating your brain’s ability to think about things in a new way. 

Besides relocating, there are other things you can do as well. Try listening to some classical music or alpha waves. Try activating your olfactory senses with some new spices or going to a fragrant restaurant. In short, shock your mind by giving it something out of the norm.

Just be careful where you put your nose while you’re out on the hunt for some creative stimulation. Not all smells were created equal.

pain zone

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There’s the cone zone and the danger zone. But what about the pain zone?

Let’s be honest, no one really likes pain, at least not when it’s happening to them. Let me rephrase that, no sane person likes pain. I myself happen to have a very strong aversion to the stuff. I must be quite sane.

Pain is not fun. Pain is not enjoyable. Pain is highly unpleasant.

However, pain is a great indicator when something is wrong. Those who are unable to experience pain often end up causing themselves severe damage. They are a danger to themselves.

But what about those unwilling to experience it? It’s another sort of danger.

For many, pain is a limiter. Once they reach the threshold of pain, they stop. For others, it’s an open invitation.

After reading this post from Pressfield (who else?), I can’t stop thinking about what it means to be deep in the pain zone, and how to willingly stay there.

It’s a very short post, but in case you just can’t be bothered, here’s the gist: the difference between someone who is good and someone who is great is their capacity to go deeper into the pain zone and stay longer.

Personally, I’ve been holding this thought while doing my regular sets of pushups. Even when it’s burning and I want to collapse to the floor, I think, can I stay in the pain zone a little longer? Can I do just a few more?

Not all pain is physical. Indeed, some of the greatest pains can’t be felt in the normal sense. 

How many get stuck, unwilling to press on because their own personal pain zone is too much for them to bear? 

Does that pain zone keep you from accomplishing your goals and reaching your dreams? Does it leave you stuck in Decent-ville, right outside the threshold of Great-topia?

I invite you to feel a little bit more of that burn, to let the sting endure just a moment longer before you back down. Then, when you come back to it again, stronger than before, go just a little further. 

Is it fun? Heck no. But when you learn how to endure and you finally watch your  pain lead to progress, you’re gonna smile through the tears.

self check

When our daughter is getting out of control, my wife will often pull her aside and lovingly suggest (or strongly require) that she do a “self check”.

The self check is a reminder to pause and reassess how things are going, whether or not she’s behaving the way she ought. Sure, it doesn’t always work, and it’s still her call whether she’s going to make the right decision, but it often helps bring her back from the edge. It helps us temper our own anger as well.

The self check can be a handy practice, not just for kids on the verge of crazy, but also for your own personal discipline.

I’ve been reading through Dr. Wayne Andersen’s promotional booklet Stop. Challenge. Choose. It’s mostly about recognizing our habits and turning the unhealthy ones into healthy ones. At least, that’s what the parts I’ve read are about.

It’s Andersen’s own brand of the self check:

-Pause when you’re faced with a choice that could lead to unhealthy action.

-Confront the temptation by considering whether it will lead you in the direction you want to go.

-Make a decision.

Besides just examining my daily habits, I’ve been trying to pause and do my own form of self check. At present, I’m focusing on my posture (it can get pretty bad) and breathing.

At different times throughout the day, I’ll do a self check to assess where I’m at and what sorts of thoughts I’m holding. Then I’ll straighten my back, and breathe deep. It actually makes a difference. I’ve noticed I can think more clearly and just feel better and more emotionally stable.

I’ve even found it helps promote creative thought as I end up being less distracted and more open to new and exciting ideas.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy to remember to do this and it’s not like I’m transported to some happy place where everything’s peachy and I’m floating on a cloud. But at least I come away a little more refreshed and with a better perspective.

So, next time you feel out of control or faced with temptation, try a self check. Take a little break and a big breath. Think about where you’re heading. Examine your thought patterns. Then straighten up and press on (hopefully in a better direction).