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?

positive

Whether you’re still holding strong to your New Years commitment, or you’re just trying to be a committed person in general, your attitude will have a major impact on the results.

Some say attitude is everything. I don’t think I’d go that far, but it is super important.

The way you feel about a thing or task has a big impact on how you treat it. If keeping to that low-carb diet seems impossible, you won’t do it. If you don’t think you can become a better pickleball player, you probably won’t. But if you look at such activities and habits with a hopeful, expectant attitude then you’ll likely stick to them and improve.

The sage words from Diamond Dallas Page in his yoga video series keep forcing their way in my thoughts,

“If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Just after that, the venerable DDP turns and looks straight into the camera (I mean, your soul) and says, “Come on, you can do this!”

You know what, he’s got a point, even if his coaching methods are a bit cheesy. Then again, he’s buff and healthy, so he probably knows what he’s talking about.

When it comes to animals and children, positive reinforcement has often shown to be a more effective training method than the negative version. It helps to catch them doing the right thing and heap on the praise and treats. 

Don’t bother with cats though, they just do whatever the heck they want. No amount of catnip can get them to dance Merengue. Trust me on this.

Rewards and encouragement are a solid path to good actions getting repeated. But how often do we shut ourselves down with our own negative self talk?

“It’s too hard”

“I’ll never get there”

“It’s not worth the effort”

“I’m just not good enough”

I’ve caught myself saying these more often than I’d like to admit. The problem is, these statements only become truthful because we repeat them until we believe them.

It’s time to replace such statements with something more helpful.

“It’s worth a try”

“I can only get better”

“At least I can give it my best”

“I can do this”

Can these statements enable us to do humanly impossible things like jump to the moon? Well, no. But wait … no, still no.

However, they can change our attitude toward what is possible and get us to jump higher and farther than we ever believed we could. You just can’t know your limits until you try and push them.

What creative effort have you talked yourself out of? Why not give yourself a little positive pep talk (and surround yourself with encouraging friends) then try again? Where will it take you? You’ll never know until you try. 

Come on, I’m positive you can do this!

As You Were Saying

Here’s some exciting news: I just launched a podcast with a friend of mine, Gordon Burroughs.

Just in case you couldn’t tell from the title and image, the name of the podcast is:

As You Were Saying

And you can click the name above to find it in iTunes.

Throughout the show, Gordon and I will discuss a wide range of topics including, but not limited to, culture, technology, entertainment, and faith. We also have a jolly good time responding to feedback and surprising one another with ridiculous questions. You can listen to the introductory episode 0 if you’d like to find out more.

Creating the podcast has been a learning experience to be sure. We recorded three (or was it four?) practice episodes and have experimented with a few different software and hardware setups. Our first attempt at an official episode went, how shall I say it, a bit sideways. So we canned it and tried again.

But now we’re up and rolling. It’s been a growing experience. I’m learning to be less self-conscious about everything I say and worry less about how my voice sounds (it seems way better in my head than on the recording).

The podcast isn’t specifically about creativity, though it is certainly one of my creative endeavors, and a fun one at that. It’s actually being hosted from this site and, for the time being, you can find it right here.

I’m looking forward to finding out where it goes from here and hope you give it a listen and maybe even a review.

tags off!

After moving to northern Arizona, I felt obligated to buy boots. 

I should preface this by telling you I am not a cowboy in any sense of the word. Were the boots to help me fit in? Sure, I’ll take some ownership there.

But really, they’re just good to have on when working outdoors. There are all sorts of foot enemies about in this country: snakes, cacti, other pokey plants, biting insects, biting children, that sort of thing. Boots are a great preventative to injury. Plus they make me taller, which is always fun.

After purchasing said boots, I kept the tags on and walked around the house in them for a while. This looked especially ridiculous because it’s the dead of summer and I’m wearing shorts. I know, highly unfashionable.

Boots are not the exception though, I do this for every article of footwear I purchase. You see, I’ve got a tenuous relationship with shoes of all varieties. It takes me a good while to trust them.

The thing is, I’ve got some very real (and completely undiagnosed) foot issues. This has been the case ever since I went on a week-long backpacking trip in Yosemite and then lost feeling in one of my toes for about half a year. I blame the hiking shoes for this.

My shoe problems have persisted since then to the point that even when shoes feel comfortable in the store, they’ll become pain-inducing by the end of the week. It took me three total trips to a New Balance store before I could find cross trainers that felt good on my feet. The clerks were rolling their eyes by my final return. The struggle is real, people.

Back to the boots. Yes it looks silly stomping around the house wearing shorts, high socks, and boots—but it’s completely necessary. The good news is, the boots have been feeling good and I’m about 90% sure I’ll keep them.

So, why the long story about boots? This realization came to me as I was clomping about: many people treat their creativity the same way. They try it out, maybe wear it around the house where its safe and free of judgement, but don’t really own it or take it out. They keep the tags on, so it can be returned if it turns out to not be so great a fit.

I can’t tell you how many highly creative (even artistically talented) people I’ve talked to who will not admit their own creativity. It’s truly shocking.

Creatives, it’s time to tear those tags off and own it! It’s time to have your “first rodeo” and show the folks what those puppies can do. There are puppies at the rodeo, right? Again, not a cowboy here.

inspired

Have you ever wondered where creativity comes from? Why do some people seem to be more creative than others? Is it an innate ability only a select few are gifted with or do we all possess the same creative potential?

Here’s one thing I’ve noticed: all the really creative folks I know hold a genuine and ongoing interest in many things. They’ve got an increased receptivity to inspiration. 

Is this something they’re born with or something experience has developed in them? I couldn’t say, but I do know this: it’s a posture everyone can develop—a wellspring available to all.

There are times in my own life when I have kept myself closed off and closed in. As a result, my sense of inspiration waned dramatically. But when I’ve focused on dissevering and appreciating more of the world around me, BAM, inspiration hits like a load of bricks (though not as painful).

Chances are, you already have a good idea of what you find inspiring. Consider what excites you, what piques your interest; what do you find fascinating? 

Dig deeper until you gain an understanding of why you find inspiration from such sources, this will help you look for it in other places.

When it comes to the inter-webs, Pinterest is a very popular source of inspiration. I hardly find a baked good, craft, or room design that didn’t have a little help from Pinterest these days. In fact, my wife recently used it to get some ideas for our son’s dino-themed first birthday. 

She discovered a clever way to cut watermelon so it looked like a monster’s head. However, we didn’t just straight-up copy the design, we added some flavor of our own, including little cantaloupe wedges for teeth and head spikes. Personally, I think it made a nice improvement, and the kids loved it.

Check it out:

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Pinterest hunting is fun, no doubt about it. But heed my warning, oh hunter of inspiration, once you find it, never take it as-is. When using it for your own creations, you’ve got to change it in some significant way—make it your very own. 

This might not seem like a big deal for cake pops and bookshelves, but the more serious you are about growing as a creative, the more important it is that you don’t just steal another person’s work.

For a little more on the subject of inspiration vs. stealing, check out my post: The Planets.

Death Cloud

In case you haven't noticed, I like to share other creative projects from time to time, usually ones completed by friends of mine.

This week, I present the super ominous, super cool Death Cloud. It's a novel by my buddy RJ Batla from his Senturians of Terraunum fantasy series.

He's trying something new this time and running a Kickstarter campaign. Naturally, I've backed it.

If you're interested, you can check it out right here!

 

And hey, if you've got some cool creative project you're ready to share with the world, let me know about it. You never know, I might just check it out and post something.

AlphaMystica

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So, what’s the deal with AI these days?

What do they know? What are they capable of? What do they want from us? And how do they feel when we abandon them in the woods with their sad little faces staring longingly into our swiftly departing rearview mirrors?

You’ll find out all that and more from this article.

Designer Diary: The Search for AlphaMystica

Alright, I confess, it’s not really about that stuff I said before. But it is about AI and boardgames. 

Tysen Streib, an AI developer for games shares his insights and struggles as he works on an AI for a digital version of the game Terra Mystica.

I’ll admit, the article gets very technical by the end—even for a genius like me (yes, I still have to look up how to spell the word ”genius”), but the beginning part is especially interesting. It turns out that not only can AI beat the best chess player, they can also beat the best Go player.

First, there was AlphaGo, which learned by studying human games, then came AlphaZero, which was completely self-taught and markedly better than AlphaGo. It’s kinda freaky when you think about it too much (which I do), especially if you’re really into boardgames (which I am).

What other areas of life will AI develop complete mastery over their human competitors?

Well, I have yet to meet one able to make a better quesadilla than I can, so we’re still safe for the time being. But when that day comes ... be afraid, be very afraid.

mystery

I figured I’d continue on the Star Wars trend (ha, I almost wrote trek) from last week.

Most people over the age of 7 agree the Star Wars prequels (episodes 1-3) are not great. I suppose they have some redeemable qualities (if you look really hard) but I found most of the content to be either forgettable or unforgettably bad. Sorry, George. 

One of those memorably bad decisions has to do with the introduction of “midi-chlorians.” Apparently, they’re microscopic life forms that facilitate The Force, or something like that. Anyways, midi-chlorians brought The Force down quite a few notches on the coolness scale. 

But why are they so bad? Don’t we love getting a scientific explanation for things we don’t understand? Sometimes, yes. But not always. Here’s the big problem: they explain away the mystery.

Without mystery, creativity dies a slow, boring death.

More recently, Lucas announced his original plans for the later trilogy in the main storyline (ep7-9)

“[The next three Star Wars films] were going to get into a microbiotic world. But there’s this world of creatures that operate differently than we do. I call them the Whills. And the Whills are the ones who actually control the universe. They feed off the Force… If I’d held onto the company I could have done it, and then it would have been done. Of course, a lot of the fans would have hated it, just like they did Phantom Menace and everything, but at least the whole story from beginning to end would be told.”  

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a terrible idea to me, for the very same reason. It takes everything people love about Star Wars, throws it out the window and instead dives into a detailed explanation of how The Force works. It mercilessly slaughters the mystery.

Without mystery, creativity becomes quite dull. Rather than surprising and exciting, it morphs into a prison of predictable pattern. It ceases to be new and therefore ceases to be creative.

Magic tricks are fascinating, but once the trick is revealed, that sense of awe and wonder is lost—it becomes a rational, ordinary thing.

As a writing teacher often reminded the class: RUE, resist the urge to explain. A story is much more interesting when it unfolds slowly. Readers enjoy the excitement of each reveal that comes with a new plot point, rather than being given all the juicy secrets in chapter one.

There is something to be said about not knowing. True, not knowing can drive us crazy sometimes. In our information overloaded world, we want to know everything. But there are times when knowing can be even worse than not knowing. How many times have you discovered something you were curious about only to look back and realize you would have been better off remaining in the dark?

Take the TV series, Lost, for example. When the writers tried to explain all that weird stuff happening on the island (smoke monsters and polar bears anyone?) during the last season, and especially the last episode, it felt like they were taking all the magic they had created and dumping it down the toilet.

Sure, it’s good to be well-informed and prepared rather than confused and befuddled, but there are times when a state of confusion can lead to greater innovations. Confusion forces you to question what you know, to look for a solution that isn’t obvious.

So, I say, don’t be afraid of the mysterious and strange, they might open a new window and allow a light of inspiration to shine on that creative mind of yours—one which is completely (and blessedly) devoid of midi-chlorians.

Con-unity

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This summer, I attended a Christian writers conference called Realm Makers. It wasn’t the first Christian conference I’d been to, but it was my first writers con.

In short, it turned out even better than I had expected (not that I had a lot of expectations going in, good or bad). I met many a fine folk and gleaned quite a bit from the seminars and panels I attended. I boarded the plane home feeling rejuvenated and restored. Plus, I have a few new books and a bunch of new friends now.

There is something to be said about being around creative people with similar goals, mindsets, and experiences to your own. The sense of belonging I felt there was wonderful. It was a little like being home but with 300 people I’d never met before.

Generally, while out in public I have my guard up. Now, I’m a rather friendly guy, but I operate with a sense that most people I’ll meet don’t truly understand or resonate with where I’m coming from. Meeting someone I have a strong affinity with doesn’t happen often, even at other conferences and conventions I’ve gone to.

This event was an exception. Not a single person I talked to felt like a stranger, despite how different our personalities, backgrounds, and even appearance might have been. There was a connection, a feeling that, on some level, this person gets me, they’ve dealt with (and maybe still are dealing with) some of the same struggles I have.

Creatives, if you can find a place and people such as that—people who you can truly identify with—I highly recommend you make a strong effort to attend. Yes, such things can be expensive (besides just the registration, there’s travel, accommodations, and a time commitment). Despite my severe lack of sleep during the con, I felt refreshed by the end.

It’s healthy to live and work around people who have a different outlook and walk of life than your own, rather than living in an echo chamber of people who all sound the same. But it sure helps to take the occasional opportunity to refocus your creative energy as you glide along, squawking merrily with some birds of a feather at your side. 

Oh, did I mention we ended the whole shebang with an epic Nerf gun war? Totes awesome. And the sweet pair of mugs I won in a raffle didn’t hurt neither!

a place for everything

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Everything has its proper place. 

This statement holds more weight for some people than others. Is there really a right place for everything? Furthermore, is there a proper place for creativity?

As for the first question, I believe it’s a personal matter.

For many people, organization is a big deal. Being organized is especially helpful when you want to be able to find something again quickly. Besides that, it's aesthetically pleasing. A disorganized room can be a real eyesore!

After helping my family move, I was reminded again how important it is to label boxes before loading them up into the moving truck—otherwise, you’re bound to misplace something you need on the other side and spend a good long while searching for it. And you'd better mark that dish wear fragile with a few underlines if you don't want it getting smashed up.

Organization itself is a booming industry. Whether you’re organizing clothes, emails, work tasks, or pictures, someone is always coming up with a new and improved system of sorting all your stuff and making it easier to find in the future. For me, the simpler the method the better. After all, even our organization methods can get cluttered.

Organizing your time by scheduling and time blocking is a great way to make sure you get the most out of your day and finish things of highest importance first. It's something I'm very slowly getting better at. As I've found, it takes time just to plan out your time. But it's worth it in the long run. Living moment by moment with no laid-out plans is a bit like living paycheck to paycheck—you just hope you have enough to do the things you need to.

Without organization, life can begin to feel chaotic, out of control, and unwieldy. Some people don’t mind that so much. I heard an argument in favor of just leaving piles of papers wherever you place them on your desk because the last one you used—and thus the one you will most likely need to use in the future—will always be on top. While I can appreciate that on some level, I’m sure glad we have a filing cabinet in our office, otherwise tax filing would be a nightmare (instead of just a couple of lame nights). 

Organizing is often a left-brain activity—it’s logical and methodical. This could be why creatives (who are often stronger with right-brain activities) are stereotyped as working in cluttered environments. How often have we seen depictions of the painter’s studio or inventor’s shop where everything appears strewn about haphazardly? Even then, there is often a method to the madness.

Fear not—organization can certainly be handled with a creative approach. For instance, I like it when items are sorted visually, such as clothes grouped by color or board games lined up by size. In the social media landscape, Pinterest has proven to be a popular way to save and share images and links, often as a source of inspiration and ideas. I can't tell you how many times I've seen furniture with a nifty new way of storing your stuff (like wavy bookshelves or hanging shoe bins).

The next time you find yourself in need of sorting your sock drawer or archiving old project, why not look for a fun new way of doing it? Besides just being more interesting, creative organization can help with recollection as our minds are more apt to remember something done in a unique manner.

Now, how about a proper time and place for creativity itself? Why, it’s everywhere and all the time, of course!

I leave you with a quote often attributed to Einstein, though I'm not entirely sure he actually said it:

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?