approach

respond

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Welcome to the fourth and final installment of my series, The Creative Approach. The title of this one might remind you of a similar post, but I promise it’s different. Read on and I’ll prove it to you.

To recap (to put your hat back on?), the first two steps in the creative approach are observe and question. Once you’ve begun to take a look around and see what there is to see, once you’ve made some inquiries based on your discoveries, the next step is to form a response—a reaction, if you will. 

Every question begs for a response,

This is true even if the response is “I don’t know.” But if that is your response, it’s high time to start finding some things out.

As I often like to do, let’s look at the role response plays in storytelling. A story where the protagonist does not respond to events around them is hardly a story at all. If Bilbo from The Hobbit stays in the Shire, we’ve got no adventure and he's Ringwraith meat in no time. If Luke stays on Tatooine, the rebellion loses and he's Jawa jerky. If Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen from You’ve Got Mail doesn’t stand up and fight for the survival of her little book shop, it simply goes under and the story is over. Yes, I just referenced a chick-flick, what, it’s a good movie and it's got Tom Hanks, so there!

If we refuse to engage with our world, if we wall ourselves in, close the blinds and click shut the ten locks on our doors, what will we gain? A sense of security? Possibly. But it looks like more like defeat to me. What happens when everyone lives this way? Creativity dies and we have no stories to share. A downright shame, I say!

To respond is to do something, to take action.

It’s not enough to wish and wonder. Take a look at the information you have gathered through your observation and questions then find creative ways to address it. Here is one question that will lead you to a response, "what now?" When you live out the answer to that question, you put your creativity to work.

I knew a guy in college who discovered a unique way to potty train his boy: playing the ukulele. According to my classmate, it was the only thing he found that would work—after many other failed attempts. He had a problem (a kid who refused to be potty trained) and his response was to look around at what he had available and test it until he found a solution.

But the answer to the question “what now” doesn’t always have to be a solution to a problem. Perhaps you simply want to develop a hobby. For example: if you’ve learned about a local scrapbooking club, why not join and see how you like it?

There are so many ways to respond to, “what now?" If there is a group of neighborhood kids you often find kicking cans down your street, why not go play hacky sack, show them how to yoyo, or set up a little soccer field? Maybe invite their parents over for dinner afterwords. 

If you see the same homeless woman on the way home from work every day, why not buy her a flower, or make one out of paper? Hey, nothing makes me feel special like a little origami. 

If you pass by an interesting little shop, why not pay them a visit, ask the owner a bit about their life and maybe even write a story about it (or at least a journal entree)? 

Instead of just hitting the like button the next time you see a good post, why not comment how it made you feel, or even talk to the one who posted it in person, who knows where your discussion could lead? Engage, engage, engage.

Is there someone in your life—such as a coworker or acquaintance—who might be able to mentor you or teach you an interesting skill, say woodworking or how to play drums? Is there someone in your life—a friend’s kid perhaps—with whom you could share your experience and offer help through instruction?

A creative response can be as big or as small as you want it to be: a 15 minute project or a lifelong work. However, if you haven’t given much time to creativity in the past, I encourage you to start small. 

As you’ll see, the more you take the creative approach, the more you will exercise your creative muscle and the stronger you’ll become.

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That’s it for now folks, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little romp through the creative approach. If you’ve got any thoughts or experiences on the subject, why not respond by sharing them?

 

Creatively yours,

A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, when has your response led to an unexpected reaction from someone else? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Links to the rest of the series:

The Creative Approach

Observe

Question

Respond  (current)

question

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And now, the third installment of my series The Creative Approach. As a reminder, the three parts of the creative approach are: observe, question, and respond. We arrive at the second part: question.

During observation mode, you took a good look at your surroundings, a practice I encourage you to continue for the rest of your life. Now it's time to ask some questions, even the silliest, most ridiculous ones; there is no bad place to start.

As I've mentioned in other places on this site, "what if" is one of the most important questions you can ask to get your creative brain in gear. Asking, "what if" can lead to some very big ideas, but it starts out small.

What if the mailman really wanted to be a psychiatrist? What if the birds outside my window started singing Elvis? What if my commute took me through a secret tunnel to a magical world made of creamed corn?

All fine questions. But let them lead you somewhere more practical. What if I took time to say hi to the mailman (or woman, or mailperson) and find out what their interests are? What if I took a little time every morning to pause and listen to the birds chirping before getting caught up in the usual routine? What if I shifted my schedule or carpooled to shorten my commute?

“What if” is a great place to start, but don’t stop there. There is an endless list of questions you could ask about an endless number of things. The point is to get your mind working in a certain way, to open it up for possibility and potential and then to hone in on a purpose. If I can wonder about the possible existence of some magic city built upon creamed corn (instead of rock and roll), then finding a way to get my life a little more organized isn’t such a stretch.

Let your questions take on more focus. Write down a few problem areas in your life (start with small ones) and begin to ask questions about those. For example, if your problem is: I don’t get to sleep early enough, you might ask yourself the following: why do I want to get to bed earlier? What keeps me up so late? Do I know other people with this problem and what have they done? What will happen over time if I don’t fix this?

Questions lead to new thoughts which lead to change. However, it isn’t instantaneous. Just as it takes an entire novel for a character to complete their arc (sometimes a whole series), it will take time for you to change, for you to become a change-bringer. However, questions are an important and necessary step on the yellow creamed corn-brick road to change (yeah, it’s more than super corny, it’s kinda gross).

Once you’ve spent enough time asking questions which lead to other questions, like any good detective, you will eventually want some answers. Stay tuned for the next and final gripping post in the series: THE RESPONSE! (I’ll leave your mind to play that dramatic horn sound)

 

Creatively yours,

A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, when has a question led your mind down unexplored avenues? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Links to the rest of the series:

The Creative Approach

Observe

Question (current)

Respond

observe

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What you are about to read is a continuation from my series, The Creative Approach.

As you may remember, the three steps to a creative approach are observe, question, and respond. Let’s tackle that first one: observe.

What does it mean to observe? 

Open your eyes. Seeing those words, I can’t help but think of the opening lines in the song, “Always,” by Erasure, which is obviously about the endless struggle to be creative amidst a contrary society. Alright, it’s open to interpretation. 

Where were we … oh yes, observation! So, where exactly should you begin? Why not start at your own front door? Step outside and take in the world. Take off your headphones for a minute and look up from whatever mobile device you’ve been glued to. This is more than a brief glance—let it all in.

While you’re in observation mode, don’t worry too much about trying to get something out of it. Just let things come to you as you discover them. Notice all your senses: what are the sounds, smells and even tastes? Don’t go licking light poles though, people might call the authorities on you—trust me on this one. 

Consider, how do you feel when you first step outside? Refreshed by the first breath of a new day, reluctant to be shoved around in a tight crowd like cattle, dread for an oncoming storm? Is it hot or cold, wet or dry, windy or calm? What sorts of people or animals are nearby and what are they doing? What do nearby buildings or landscape features look like? All these things may seem mundane at first, but when you really stop to take notice and record, you will begin to see things you haven’t seen before.

One common struggle is to look outside oneself. We spend the vast majority of our time thinking internal thoughts about our own wants and needs and, because of it, our surroundings go unnoticed. 

To be creative, you first have to appreciate your environment. Your environment is where you can draw inspiration. To be stuck inside your head all the time is to miss out. As you begin to look around, you’ll be surprised how a shift of focus will change the way you see the world.

A friend of mine recently published his first children’s book, What Do You Notice, Otis? I love how it encourages kids to pause, observe, and interact with the world around them. Sadly, this has become a neglected practice for many a person (regardless of age) today.

Observation isn’t hard, most of us have just gotten out of practice. But anyone—even a distracted, oblivious guy like myself—can do it. 

For example, on my drive to work I’ve noticed many things I found peculiar: a man wearing blue latex gloves while driving his beat-up silver Honda, another guy holding his leaf blower upright and swinging it as if he were playing a guitar, a girl with a large brace on her leg following her friends who were all in fancy dresses, and a young man who didn’t appear to be homeless with a sign asking for college money. Each of those could be the makings of a good story.

Now it’s your turn; take a moment to pause and observe in the world around you, or, even better, schedule some time and find a place to so do. You might even want to take a journal along for recording purposes. 

When you stop to look around, you’ll discover a world which was previously hidden to you, though it may have been right under your nose (it also helps you avoid stepping into anything … unpleasant). This will set off the sparks to ignite your creative drive and get those wheels in your head turning right round. Besides all that, you’ll find observing can be very fun (I myself am an avid people-watcher).

 

Here’s looking at you kid,

A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, do you make it a point to stop and take in your surroundings? If so, what have you noticed lately? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Links to the rest of the series:

The Creative Approach

Observe (current)

Question

Respond

approach

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Here you are at the first post in a four-part series, The Creative Approach. This is the first series I've done for this site, though probably not the last. Enjoy!

What is it to approach something, if not to draw closer? To approach requires movement. When you make an approach, you move away from one thing toward another. 

By taking a creative approach, you are allowing something to come to life: an idea, a thought, an inkling. You move away from an unfulfilled, unenthusiastic life toward one of purpose and excitement. It’s more than just a shift, it’s a move from nonexistence to existence, and that’s no small step, even for Neil Armstrong.

It all begins in the mind—your imagination. But how do you get there, from nothing to an idea, from a dead standstill to a sure-fire approach? Well, rocket boosters and 2,000 tons of fuel would help, but lets say you don’t have that on hand.

It starts with motion. Without this, nothing happens. 

Creativity often comes to us while we are actively doing something, not sitting around staring blankly at a screen with our minds in a cat-GIF induced coma. It also comes when we set circumstances in its favor. For example, when we aren’t distracted by one million to-do’s or news updates and instead allow our minds to wonder a bit. So the creative approach is not just about movement toward something, but also away from something. We move from distraction toward focus, from inactive toward active.

Newton knew well enough that objects without motion tend to stay that way while moving things keep on a-movin’! This is why starting is often the hardest part: it takes focused effort to get from stationary to mobile, to build momentum, but it’s no less necessary.

A story doesn’t begin until something happens—something that matters to the plot and character. Your creativity won’t kick in until you get your groove on and move on.

But how do you do it? How do you transition from still to loco-motion? How do you get the ball rolling, the crank turning and the hopper hopping—just how do you generate creative motion?

The creative approach is a three-step dance. The first step in the creative approach is to observe. Next, you ask questions based on your observations. Questions get the gears turning, which get you thinking in new ways. Finally, we come to the third and final step: respond.

Let me repeat all that, but with different words: you must first take a new angle, head in a new direction. After you do, questions allow you to look at the matter from a different perspective, or as they say in the biz, get a new view (no, they don’t actually say that in the biz, I don’t even think they say “the biz” in the biz, who are we even talking about?) and, once you’ve gained your new view, you’ve got to do something about it: you must respond.

Give it a try, take some time to examine the world around you, even if it’s just a 15-minute walk around the block, then ask some questions and, lastly, find a way to respond that is unique and engaging. Hopefully this is something you do naturally, but it never hurts to pick a time and place to focus specifically on this practice. As you’ll see, an approach isn’t all that hard once you make the first move.

 

Creatively yours,

A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, when was the last time you took a creative approach to something ordinary? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Links to the rest of the series:

The Creative Approach (current)

Observe 

Question

Respond