creative

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.

Warfare

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What sort of act is creativity? Is it an act of love, of defiance, of expression?

Were this a multiple choice, I’d say all the above. Honestly though, I hate when they put that as one of the options in multiple choice tests—it’s seems kinda cheap and non-committal.

Anyways, authors like Steven Pressfield and K.M. Weiland claim creativity is an act of war.

Weiland wrote a nice little post about the subject based on this quote from Twyla Tharp,

“Creativity is an act of defiance.”

It got me stirred up and ready for battle—in a good way. Really, you should check it out and let me know what you think.

recommend: funtherapy

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A recommendation this week: 

Funtherapy

What is it?

It’s the newest podcast I’ve been listening to and, in my totally unbiased opinion, it’s most excellent.

Funtherapy, hosted by Mike Foster, is a very creative way to do a therapy session. It’s also many other things. Beautiful, simple, heartbreaking, and moving—just to say a few. 

Besides that, many of the interviewees are creatives I already enjoy and respect, like Sleeping at Last frontman Ryan O’Neal and Caitlin Crosby, founder of The Giving Keys.

While listening, I've heard some great discussion about the challenges of creativity and the world we now live in.

Here is their own writeup/intro/spiel:

Each episode will feature a candid “therapy” session with a key leader, influencer or artist (with a smile). No talking points. No shameless self-promotion. Only beautiful imperfectness on display as we discover tactics to turn our setbacks into superpowers.

Give your ears a treat and give it a try.

You can listen to the trailer right here

success

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What is the measure of success?

I’ve thought about this often. I expect most people, if you really pressed them, could give you specific details for what they would consider a successful life. It may be obtaining a job, reaching a level of popularity, achieving world-changing accomplishment, getting married to someone, reaching an amount of wealth, living to a certain age, becoming a member of a group, etc. 

We all want something out of life and quite often, we don’t yet have the thing we want.

But the problem with success is that we believe once we obtain it, we’ll be completely happy and utterly fulfilled. Often, whether we reach our far away measure of success or not, we end up disappointed.  

This disappointment can be soul-crushing at times. The many tragic celebrity stories of the past bear witness to this.

Toward that end, I found hope and inspiration from the experience and advice offered by K.M. Weiland in this lovely article:

6 Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Protect Creativity

The way we measure success is important, but before we even get there, we ought to consider how we define it.

In Derek Doepker’s book, Why Authors Fail, he points out that success and failure can work for or against us based on how we define them. 

His argument is that we should view success as a process, not an event. The same goes with failure. 

If you only see success as achieving some milestone, then you’ll have some problems: first, if you don’t reach your goal, you will feel the weight of discouragement and failure. But if you do reach your goal, despite failures and setbacks along the way, the glorious feeling of achievement only lasts a little while. When it passes, you’re on to the next thing or stuck trying to repeat or hold to what you just did in order to keep the blissful feeling of success. You’re constantly searching for success, but never truly reaching it because there will always be something more, something bigger you can do.

If success is a process, then you can be continually successful, not just when you reach a goal. 

As long as you are doing the right thing today, you are living in success. 

Doesn’t that sound more rewarding than basing your success on some far-offgoal? 

Sure, you’re not gonna bat a thousand every day—you’ll have good and bad days—but you will have the same opportunity every day. 

Not only will success always be an option, it’ll be within reach. With this mindset, success is right in front of your nose, or rather, between your ears.

I believe every day is an opportunity to decide, and reach, your measure of success. So here’s to a successful today.

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

creative magic

One of the things I love about creativity is the magic inherent in every creative act; it’s one of the reasons creativity never gets old.

For me, there is a difference between the mystical and magical. Mystical is unapproachable, indefinite, confusing. Magical, on the other hand, is wonderful, amazing, awe-inspiring and fun. They are both strange, but for different reasons. These aren’t opposites, but they can be at odds.

It’s easy to relegate creativity and those who practice it to the mystical side of the spectrum, to believe only the elite can obtain it—that it must be earned in some way no one quite understands. But I see a different side to it. I see sparks of magic every time someone dares to be creative, like something from Harry Potter but with no Muggles and a more balanced and robust magic system.

To be clear, I’m not talking about witchcraft, spellbinding or similar practices, but something deeper, the same magic with which the world was made, the same which flows in each person and allows us to see a thing and call it beautiful, to be stirred deep in our souls—beyond the grasp of mere words.

The sweet thing is, no one owns this magic, it’s available to everyone. Sure, there are self-proclaimed watchdogs, people in suits who own big companies, make labels or give out awards. They’ve had their day, but the doors they guarded are blown wide open, I think this is for the best. Not to say the curators aren’t important. I think they’re even more important now, with such a flood of creative content available. The difference is it’s not just about the money and those with the money don’t get to make all the big decisions on what is and isn’t creative.

I recently heard an interview with the lead singer of The Flaming Lips. He talked about how much their process has changed over the years, gotten easier because of all the great audio tools available. But he also admitted they still don’t really know what they’re doing, despite all their experience making albums. The process may be faster for them, and smoother, but they’re figuring it out just as much as anyone else every time they begin a song.

I found this inspirational: no one gets to tell you the right or wrong way to be a creative because no one really knows for sure, it’s just an ongoing wonderful journey. The professionals are still figuring it out and novices discover new methods all the time.

Sure, you can get some great advice from people who have been there before, but they’re all still learning how the magic works the same way you are. It’s a magic that’s always there but always changing. Creative accomplishment, like tomorrow, is guaranteed to no one and those who had it might not always keep it. It takes effort every time and the moment we stop putting in the effort, we lose our grasp.

With the tools and technology available today, the bar to entry is low. It’s become very easy to make something wonderful and share it with the public. On the downside, it’s also easy to make junk and give it to a lot of people, which makes people more skeptical. This is why we need the curators. But the junk inevitably floats to the bottom and the creamiest of crops rise to the top.

So what am I trying to say in this half-crazed ramble? Perhaps, like a winged granny, I'm off my rocker, but I can't help being a little squirrely here—I'm just nuts about creativity and its endless possibilities. Here, I suppose, is my roundabout point: take time to enjoy the creative process, be open to new discoveries and stand back in wonder at the magic of it all.

 

Creatively yours,

A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, do you think of creativity as more magical or mystical, or is it something you approach with logic and reason? Let us know in the comments below.

never normal

A few months back, our family went hiking near a lake in Arizona. It was quite a lovely hike, if I do say so. I got to try out my Christmas present: a backpack in which to carry my little girl. I felt like Kronk from Emperor’s New Groove when he’s carrying Yzma through the wilderness. But that’s not the point of this story.

My brother-in-law brought his dog along: a young but already sizable Boxer. He put these hiking shoes (lets call them booties, because it’s a fun word and probably the more accurate one) on his dog to protect its feet on the ruff trail. Without fail, everyone we passed on the hike had a comment to make about those booties. And we passed a lot of people. Everyone noticed.

We saw a few other dogs on the trail and none of them had hiking booties. I wouldn’t be surprised if the poor pup was a little self-conscious by the end of it, I know I’d be (yet another reason I don’t wear booties).

Here’s the thing: people can’t help but notice when something is not normal. Those dog-booties were definitely not normal, and so people pointed them out.

I’ve noticed the same thing with my daughter. She has exceptionally curly hair and it’s often the first thing people mention when they see her, even if they know her well. Why? Hair that curly isn’t normal—most people don’t have it.

Things that are not normal get noticed

Those who subscribe to my email list know I often encourage them to “never be normal.” I do this for many reasons. Partly because normal is boring but also because when you aren’t normal, you stand out as a creative.

Problem is, not everyone wants to stand out, not everyone wants the attention. And, I’ll admit, not all attention is good. People are prone to laugh at and ridicule the irregular. Perhaps you have been subject to this, I know I have and it ain’t exactly fun.

But here’s the thing: unless you are willing to depart from the world of normal, you will never be exceptional. You will forever be run-of-the mill.

When it comes to opposites, “creativity” has a few, likely because the word itself has more than one meaning. One obvious (and more literal) opposite to “creative” is “destructive.” Though destruction is very different from creation, I still think the strongest opponent to “creative” is “normative.”

Creativity and normalcy never go hand-in-hand. They are like two school kids that fight every time they’re near each other. They are oil and water: they simply don’t mix.

Is normal bad? Not necessarily. In truth, it can be very healthy. But if all you have (and all you are) is normal, you will never stand out from the crowd, you will never know the thrill of creativity, you will remain unmistakably like everyone else.

If, instead, you are creative, you will stand out. Might someone laugh at you? I (along with Men’s Warehouse) guarantee it. But I highly doubt there is a single successful creative on this planet who didn’t endure a few laughs at their expense. Turns out, it’s easier to point and laugh than it is to be the different, to stand apart.

I heard an interesting tale about the history of the pineapple. It used to be the most coveted fruit in the whole world. It was so rare, only the wealthiest could obtain it. Why, it was so prized, people would host exclusive parties where all they did was stand around and admire a pineapple, without even eating it! But today, well, you can hardly find a plain ol' fruit salad without some pineapple tossed in for good measure. You can hardly throw a pineapple these days without hitting a pineapple (don't do that though, they're pointy and could hurt someone's coconut). 

What is extraordinary eventually becomes normal.

That which we now consider safe and expected was once strange and unusual. It helps to keep this in mind: while your daring departures from normal may be mocked today, they could very well become the norm tomorrow.

So go ahead, wear your funny booties with pride and do your hair the way you like, I’ll be cheering you on. And don’t ever be normal.

 

Creatively yours,
A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, do you find being different difficult or easy? Let us know in the comments below.

I am a creative

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When I first recognized the word creative being used as a noun, it sparked something inside me. Everything about it felt right. The person using it was author and entrepreneur, Joanna Penn, in reference to herself. She said it with boldness, complete confidence. As I’ve grown accustomed to it, I realize it’s the only way the word should be said—as if you’re standing high atop the Swiss Alps like you’re in some Ricola commercial, shouting, “I’m a creative!” for all of God’s green earth to hear. 

There is something so freeing, so revitalizing about coming to the place of accepting yourself as a creative, without question. It’s a badge of honor, a password to a secret club, a ticket to the chocolate factory, a written edict from the king, one which gives you permission to be who you are and do what you want. It’s really something special—something no one and nothing can take from you. It’s yours and you’ve earned it by right. When you’re a creative, you know that you’re neither a hack nor a fake. You stop caring what the critics say because you know, deep down inside, you’re the real deal.

At least, that’s how it should be. But there is a struggle—a feeling of doubt. Am I really a creative? What right do I have to call myself by such a title? Sometimes it feels more like claiming you’re an artist after having just made your first scribble on newsprint with a crayon. But an artist and a creative are two different things. I’ll not get into what is and is not an artist (tis a worn road with many side-trails) but a creative, well, anyone can be one. And by anyone, I mean you. Yes, you can be one. All you have to do is want it, then turn your desire into action. If you do, then you are, unequivocally, a creative. Name it and claim it my friend.

What if you don’t feel it yet? That’s fine. Do I spring out of bed every day, fueled by incredible currents of creative juices pumping through my veins (eew?) like water from a firehose? Heck. No. Some days all I want to do is hit snooze, repeatedly. But I get up anyways, most of the time. And even when I give in (which I sometimes do), then I make myself get up and step up the next day. Part of being a creative is the struggle. Some days you will feel like a fake, afraid one day everyone will see through the mask and realize you didn’t have an invitation to the party. But it’s not true. When you’re a creative, you, my friend, are the party. 

Wait, how can you be a party? Do you have to wear a chandelier on your head and hold a punchbowl in your arms? Well, that would be an interesting costume, but that’s not quite it. What am I getting at here? I’ll make it plain: if you want a life of creativity, if you take steps toward such an end and you work at it, then you’ve earned yourself the title. Trying is being.

What is a creative? It’s someone who looks at the world in a different way,  who finds new solutions to old problems, who inspires others to do the same; one who not only uses creativity, but lives it. Do you think you can do that? Well, I know you can. If you do, if you are, then you have my permission to let the world know: 

You! Are! A! Creative!

And if you are one, welcome! You’re in good company.

 

Creatively yours,

A.P. Lambert

 

“Let them call you a failure, incapable, hopeless, useless, incompetent, wrong, a lost cause—you'll be in good company, with some of the greatest people to have ever lived. But if they ever call you uncreative, consider it your chance to prove them wrong, about that and everything else.”
-Me (A. P. Lambert)

 

Hey Creatives, have you struggled with this? What causes you to doubt your own creativity and how do you overcome it? Let us know in the comments below.