creative perspectives

CREATIVE PERSPECTIVES

One Product to Rule Them All

EXCERPT: Yesterday I splurged on a shower gel that claims to have UV properties. I also bought some citronella-impregnated rubber bracelet things to ward off mosquitoes. So this morning, MJ & I brainstormed the perfect summer product - one shower gel to handle all your summer irritations. We proudly announce the

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The False Promise of Common Sense

EXCERPT: Most everyone values common sense, don’t they? It takes a lot of different forms, but typical Western-culture common sense seems to value self-protection of various kinds: carry an umbrella on a rainy day; only buy what you can afford; don’t walk barefoot where a glass has just shattered; don’t eat

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alternate “greater than” symbols

EXCERPT: The other day on Facebook my sister wished for mathematical symbols to indicate “more beautiful than” and “more delicious than” so I made her some.

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Completed

EXCERPT: Me with the final 24 freshly sewn Morsbags. Since June 2007, my friends and I made 406 bags from recycled and repurposed materials. Most of our sewing happened in the first 18 months and I’ve had a big box of fabric hanging around waiting to be used. Now it

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Christmas Tree, 2009 - hardcover edition

EXCERPT: For the past nine years I’ve crafted a Christmas tree out of found objects, bits and pieces, useless odds and ends and occasionally a purchased item or two. This year, we had a box of books that we’d been trying to give away since the summer. A dozen hardcover

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Cheap materials

EXCERPT: Sometimes I get so stuck on trying to do something well that I can’t even get myself to begin. A few timid attempts result in the Inner Critic telling me I will fail, or be proclaimed a terrible fraud of a creative person, or any of the other clever and

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Exaggeration and Embellishment

EXCERPT: What makes a costume different from street clothes? I’ve been exploring this idea for Spin Matsuri, where I will be leading a costume workshop. “Exaggeration and embellishment” is my answer to the question. Garment shapes are exaggerated by making them more of what they’d normally be: wider collars, puffier sleeves,

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Should I keep my creative bits & bobs?

EXCERPT: The most difficult part of ruthless kipple pitching is deciding what to do with my creative output. I have stacks of drawings and suchlike stretching back over a decade. Part of me says “This is your precious personal history - you can’t just throw it out.” Another part of

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Non-Imaginary Necklace

EXCERPT: 0=1+e^(-pi*i) Of the necklaces I’ve made for 365 Necklaces so far, I think this one has been the most fun. It was a request from my friend Moritz to do what I could with the mathematical imaginary unit, i. He made it easy by giving me his favorite equation

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36 Necklaces (for Free!)

EXCERPT: Waiting to go on Etsy I am falling far behind in the 365 Necklaces project. If I had followed my one-a-day plan faithfully from March 18th, I should have amassed over 150 necklaces by now. But as of today, I am up to 83. I will blame the inconvenience

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Handmade Envelopes

EXCERPT: Handmade envelopes Swap-bot members run crafty swaps that encourage me to try new things. Today I made some envelopes from origami paper, tracing paper, and an old map. I’d never done that before, but it’s easy and fun. I like these especially because they are pretty and practical, too.

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Destruction of History or Value-Add of Trash?

EXCERPT: Collaged pages using antique documents Yesterday, Greg & I explored his huge collection of ephemera and put together some collaged pages. We had an interesting discussion about whether it is OK to use old things and in the process of using them, destroy them or their context. These pages

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Round Robin Journalling

EXCERPT: Over on swap-bot, I joined a round robin journal swap. Each participant decorates a notebook and then pass it along to her partner who adds some pages and passes it along again. Each journal makes its way around the circle and after two or three months you get yours back

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Mutual Admiration Societies

EXCERPT: Last night, at Jim’s exhibition opening, I realised how lucky I am to have surrounded myself with interesting, creative people who respect and admire one another. It’s a remarkable feeling to be in a crowded bar and know that more than half the people there are friends whose work you

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Alternate Economies

EXCERPT: This past week I’ve visited the post office three times. I mailed out four books, two letters and six envelopes of small miscellany. Every one of these shipments was prompted by the Internet. Tod said to me, “Wouldn’t it be funny if the Internet was what saved the post office?”

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Cennino’s Apprentice

EXCERPT: This week I apprenticed myself to an Italian painter. He’s been dead for nearly 600 years. Cennino Cennini wrote Il Libro dell’Arte about the techniques of the professional painting in the 14th century. It’s been translated into English (several times) and is known as The Craftsman’s Handbook. It covers topics

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Light and Shadow

EXCERPT: Glowing shadow As the late afternoon sun streamed into my office at a steep angle, bringing my daily 30 minutes of winter warmth, I noticed a strange light flickering on my wall. The lenses of my glasses focused the sunbeams in the middle of my shadow. I had to

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Creative Accomplishments

EXCERPT: It’s time to review the year’s creative projects. I don’t think 2006 has been very kind to me. I feel as though it was a year of failures and false starts, but when I look back on everything I’ve done, I am truly surprised at all I accomplished. So your

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Yes! And…

EXCERPT: The other day I was listening to an interview with an author on NPR when a call-in comment made me stop and think. This caller, John from Chicago, explained the powerful creative tool he learned from doing improv comedy. “Yes! And…” Whoa. Two words that affirm and springboard to more

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Fun & Games

EXCERPT: Last night a large party of us were playing Catch Phrase, a game where you must beat the clock to describe a word or phrase without using the word itself. It’s a fun game - for Americans. For non-native speakers, it’s a little bit frustrating because it’s full of American

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Creative Playlist

EXCERPT: I’m not sure that I ever properly thanked everyone who did the Creative Perspectives mix trade with me a while back. I should shake your hands, all of you. These CDs have become the soundtrack for my sewing projects and they work like you wouldn’t believe. This week, I have

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Material Choices

EXCERPT: Do you have trouble choosing materials for your projects? I do. I can easily draft up the plans whether I’m doing a sewing project or some woodworking or jewelry or even a painting. And while planning, I get an idea for what I wood, metal or fabrics I want to

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Early Influence

EXCERPT: My mother sent me an interesting package a few days ago, crammed with schoolwork, report cards and childhood art. Of course I dropped my work to page through everything and I was interested to see something on my report cards that I had never noticed. My best marks when I

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5-minute t-shirt jacket

EXCERPT: Earlier this summer, there was a craze in the sewing/crafting world for “wardrobe refashioning,” taking an item of ready-made clothing and turning it into something else. There were some really clever ideas (here are some photos) and I wanted to play, too. Finally, today, I grabbed a t-shirt I never

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Exterior Textures

EXCERPT: Walking through my neighborhood recently, I’ve been paying attention to all the new construction. Most of it is terribly disappointing - generic, cheaply made apartment blocks - but I’m interested in all the different exterior facings that are popular now and how thy compare to exterior surfaces from a

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At the Library

EXCERPT: I took some of my own advice today. I changed locations to focus on my creative work. I walked over to the local library, and amidst some curious looks from the librarians and child patrons, plopped myself at the reference table and spent several quiet and productive hours poring over

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Textures Underfoot

EXCERPT: Walking home from the Kudan Kaikan beer garden Wednesday night, I reached Iidabashi, about halfway, and decided to spare my left instep from the growing blister my sandal was rubbing into it. I took off my shoes and walked the rest of the way home barefoot, taking great pleasure in

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Completed Jewelry Projects

EXCERPT: Ah, it feels good to finish something. At the moment it seems like I have a lot of loose ends and unfinished projects. But I can reduce the count by three now. I went through my jewelry project box a couple weeks ago and found a bunch of silver

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In a summer mood

EXCERPT: I woke this morning to an in-brain concert of Ella crooning “Too Darn Hot.” At 7 am, it was 28.3 (about 83ºF) with a likely high of 34 (93ºF). The hot and humid summer is upon us and I’m not enjoying it. I’ll spend the next three months waiting for

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Alternate Seasons

EXCERPT: With the summer solstice approaching and a series of comments on Dr. Dave’s blog I’ve been thinking about seasons. Of course spring, summer, autumn and winter are rational and natural, but why not some other more personal seasons? I made up a few of my own seasonal sets today. Two

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Stylise

EXCERPT: This week I’ve been working on illustrations for two different projects. For one, I needed a model. I browsed my collection of photos looking for someone turned at the correct angle, smiling and looking at the camera. No such luck. So I picked up the camera, tilted, smiled and snapped.

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What do you see?

EXCERPT: When you look at a scene, an event or a person, what do you see? Where is your eye drawn? What runs through your mind - consciously or subconsciously? These are hard questions to answer, but I think they are important to improving your creativity. If you know what you

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Creative Filching

EXCERPT: How do you feel about people using the creative output you share online? I put a lot of materials online for people to use freely - patterns and tutorials. I don’t mind, and really can’t keep track of, people who borrow an image and use it on their site if

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Mixing it up

EXCERPT: I’ve been thinking a lot about mixtapes and mixCDs (and m3u playlists). But I can hardly remember the last time I made a physical tape or CD with a narrative arc, a message, an ebb and flow of tempo and emotion. But I miss that, so here’s a mix trade

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Using Up the Supplies

EXCERPT: Over at Simple Sparrow, a crafter’s weblog I’ve just run across via Whip Up, I found a challenge I will take on. Use What You Have Month No new supplies in April. I’m not, perhaps, as crazy about purchasing supplies as some people are, but even so, I’ve got a

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When words collide

EXCERPT: Sometimes I reel at my own denseness when a twist of perspective opens my eyes to the obvious. Tonight in the conbini, we were picking up some odds and ends to snack on and I saw a lovely can of chu-hi, - flavored soda with alcohol - with a beautiful

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The Harder Path

EXCERPT: I read this quoted on my colleague Chris’s weblog, and was struck by its simple insight. This is from Paul Graham’s How to Make Wealth but I think it applies equally to creativity as to commerce. If you have two choices, choose the harder. If you’re trying to decide whether

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Blind Spot in the Window

EXCERPT: My sister told me about the Johari Window yesterday. I thought I’d share it with you so you can try it. This is a 1950’s pyschology tool that gives a glimpse into how everyone’s perspective is different. From a list of 55 adjectives, you select half a dozen that you

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Power of a New Pen

EXCERPT: Last week I found myself in a favorite art supply store to buy some new technical pens. I’ve worn mine out with all the drawing and travel (pens do not survive many air trips before they get all splurty or dried up). In the section of disposable technical pens, I

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40 x 365

EXCERPT: My friend, Dan, one of the most exuberant and creative people I know, has just celebrated his 40th birthday. To mark this milestone, he launched a new project: 40x365. Every day for the next year, he will publish 40 words about someone that he knows. “But not just anyone, it’s

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Color shifting

EXCERPT: As I mentioned last week, I’m about to start redecorating the house a little bit. This week I moved all of the art on the walls through out the house to our little toilet room. It’s surprisingly nice to have it crowded there, but the rest of the walls look

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Changing all the art

EXCERPT: We’ve renewed our lease for another two years, so it’s time to make some changes around the house. Because the sofa is slowly disintegrating, I need to either reupholster it, or buy a new couch, which means I can think of redecorating the living room. One small thing that will

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Mapping (III)

EXCERPT: I’m going to close out Creative Perspectives for 2005 with another example of mapping. This time, I’ve mapped each month’s key event—whether it was very good or very bad. There are five bad months and seven good ones. It’s a very personal event calendar. 2005 - good and bad. Click

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Mapping (II)

EXCERPT: A lot of my maps are abstractions of my emotions. What is the state of my heart? My mental state? How am I being influenced by things I think or see or hear or do? It’s cathartic and sometimes I don’t even know I’m doing it. Idle doodles become outpourings.

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Mapping (I)

EXCERPT: For most of this year, I have been playing with map-making. Some of my maps combine time and space: the last day of the trip to NYC, my trip from Tokyo to Pittsburgh to Paris and back. Some show the tasks I’ve laid before me. Others lay out the sounds

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Bursting

EXCERPT: The other night I had a dream about a friend blowing soap bubbles for me as I delightedly chased them around a grassy lawn. The bubbles started out small and numerous but he combined them into bigger and bigger bubbles. I caught a silvery-grey one nearly as tall as me

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Come sketchcrawl

EXCERPT: Gather up your sketchbooks and drawing materials tonight and get ready to come out into tomorrow’s sunny, brisk weather to draw! When: noon - 3 Where: Kinokuniya bookstore, Shinjuku (at Takashimaya Times Square) My tentative plan is to plop down in the Kinokuniya plaza and draw the grey granite and

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Sketchcrawl - Sat Nov 19

EXCERPT: Borrowing an idea from Danny Gregory at Everyday Matters, I’m planning a sketchcrawl in Tokyo. Come draw in the field and meet other people who like to do the same. Let’s meet on Saturday, November 19th at noon at Kinokuniya Bookstore (out side the ground floor entrance) in Shinjuku. We’ll

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Doing with Dreams

EXCERPT: What do you do with your dreams? I sometimes have dreams with good storylines. They could be expanded into a short story—sometimes they even feel like a film. But usually I forget them upon waking. And when I do recall them, I don’t usually act upon them. My sister keeps

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Altered States

EXCERPT: Is your creativity enhanced, influenced or improved by drugs or alcohol? Certainly in the history of creative geniuses, there are many tales of drunken brilliance and drug-induced visionary work. Maybe in some cases, chemicals bring creativity. But how many of us try to induce a creative frame of mind with

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Dominant sense

EXCERPT: You may have noticed that lots of the Creative Perspectives articles deal with one or more of the five senses. They are, after all, where we get the foundation for many of our ideas. But have you ever considered which one is your dominant sense? We all are aware of

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Creative Languages

EXCERPT: A conversation with a trilingual friend at dinner last night got me thinking about non-verbal languages. She told me the story of how her grandmother would watch Japanese TV dramas with her every week, and each week at 8:40 when the director pointed out very clearly who the bad guy

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Avoidance

EXCERPT: I’m doing an art project now that I keep putting off. I really want to work on it, but it’s causing some controversy here in the McQuillin household. So rather than upset my mate or work out a reasonable compromise or really explain what I’m doing so he’s not freaked

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Personal Days

EXCERPT: It’s time to rethink the holidays. Many of use simply follow along with the nationals and relgious holidays that are presented to us without thinking too much about them. But I suspect that there are more significant holidays for each of us. For example, my wedding anniversary has more signifigance

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Perfect Space

EXCERPT: Have you ever imagined your perfect personal space? Mine is a large room, well shaded and insulated from the outdoors, but with a wide wall of windows onto a sunny veranda and garden with a fountain. Inside, there is a fireplace for chilly nights, a wall of books, a big

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Book inspirations

EXCERPT: I’m a little tired of my drawings. It’s not the drawing process itself, but the way the pictures are turning out. Some days it’s hard to get into the right frame of mind and as you have seen, they sometimes end up not well-observed or well-executed. So to find a

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Stress and senses

EXCERPT: Have you ever wanted to turn on your creativity, but for some reason just can’t seem to settle into it? Maybe you’re stressed. “Nah, I’m not stressed. Everything’s fine,” you say to yourself. “Work’s going well, the bills are paid, and the kids are healthy. I don’t feel stressed at

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Drawing Sounds

EXCERPT: When you’re sitting down to draw, do you pay attention to things other than the visual information in front of you? One morning at camp I listened carefully to my surroundings, put myself in the center of my paper and drew the noises all around me. a page from my

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Pencils or pixels?

EXCERPT: This past week in China I experienced many exotic and fascinating places. I drew some, photographed a few (on b/w film with a camera older than me, thanks to Jim). I looked. I listened. I leapt into the unknown and the creative. But was it enough? It was extremely satisfying

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Light Therapy

EXCERPT: We’ve reached the zenith of long days and now we move into a slow shortening of daily light as Earth makes her way around the sun. For most of us, that means lingering summer evenings and a billiant noon light. Have you noticed? If you haven’t given thought to the

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Away

EXCERPT: I’m about to embark on a creative project I have dreamed about for years. I’m going to go draw, sketch, paint and collage in cities worldwide—and rural areas, too. The next six months are devoted to travelling and creating. I realised recently that there is nothing to stop me from

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Home

EXCERPT: “Home is a place not only of strong affections, but of entire unreserve; it is lifes undress rehearsal, its backroom, its dressing room, from which we go forth to more careful and guarded intercourse, leaving behind us much debris of cast-off and everyday clothing.” —Harriet Beecher Stowe Oakland, NJ —

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Publish

EXCERPT: You probably know about CafePress, the online shop where you can sell your own custom t-shirts, mugs & other stuff. Do you know abotu Lulu? Lulu is an on-demand book publishing service. What a cool thing! You upload your content and with a few additional steps (choosing cover artwork, setting

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Value of Fun

EXCERPT: I am well motivated by pleasure and fun. Money is useful but I’d rather be underpaid to work with people I like than to be overpaid to work on a project with a bad team. Two days ago, I jumped into the end stages of a web development project. My

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Color theories

EXCERPT: A couple of weeks ago, Tracey was asking me why some colors look better on people that other colors. “Maybe you can explain it on Creative Perspectives,” she suggested. Well, that’s a tall order—books have been written about color theory & professionals charge an arm and a leg to give

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Call to Podcast

EXCERPT: Remember the college radio station you listened to late at night? It was an odd mix of musical styles, on-air personalities and funny PSAs…and if you were more than 500 meters from the broadcast tower, you couldn’t listen in. A new project—an online radio station—is taking off and you are

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Creative Achievement

EXCERPT: When I was about 14, I won a prize for a drawing in a coloring book contest. My picture was not a masterwork but it was in perfect coloring book style—big, simple shapes that reproduced well as outlines to be colored in my little kids. I knew what the contest

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How to Catch a Thief

EXCERPT: Well, our house robber has struck again after we laxly left the door unlocked when we came home last night (this morning at 5 am, actually). He’s ventured farther into the apartment, opening two briefcase bags in the hallway and stealing 5,000 yen in coins from a basket tucked out

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Observation vs action

EXCERPT: I’ve observed that there are two ways of figuring things out: observation and action. I’m an observer. I look at something new, study it, and gain understanding. Sometimes I’ll test it out after I have observed. For example, when Jeremy was teaching me a swimming technique, he showed me by

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Personal Symbols

EXCERPT: Do you have a shape, sign, or mark that you consider your personal symbol? Something that resonates with you or sums up your connection to the world at the moment. It might be something you habitually doodle. What shapes and patterns end up in the margins of your notebooks? I

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Work outside

EXCERPT: It seemed like winter would never end, but at long last April’s sunny days are warm. Today the weather is glorious and I’m feeling the urge to be outside. But I have work to do. Well, work’s not going to stop me from enjoying this glorious day. I’m taking everything

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Compare-contrast

EXCERPT: This week, we’re going old-school with our creativity. I’m sure you remember (perhaps with some dread) the compare-contrast papers from your 9th grade composition class. With practice, you should have gone from basic observations to more finely noted details and finally on to the larger ideas that linked your compared

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How to self-promote

EXCERPT: One of the more challenging aspects of being a creative person, especially if you’re a freelance whatever-you-do like me and so many of my friends, is promoting yourself. How do you let people know what you can do, and do well, without coming off as an overinflated egotist? You get

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Shape of Creativity

EXCERPT: Imagine that your creativity is an entity of its own. What does it look like? Does it have a shape? What color is it? Does it move or is it static? Does it have a name? Where does it reside—in you, near you, somewhere apart? My creativity is a sphere

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Armatures

EXCERPT: Armatures are wire frames buried deep inside scultpures for structural support. They are a necessity for providing strength to the clay and direction to the artist. Painters use frameworks, too. If you look at many of the old masters’ paintings, you will find evidence of their armatures—figures arranged in the

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Creativity cards, set 3

EXCERPT: Here is a new set of five quick and easy creative activities on printable cards. This set takes a slightly dark turn to match my mood this week. But never fear, these activities are more likely to buoy your spirits than to bring you down. Be silly with them and

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Creativity cards, set 2

EXCERPT: Did you do any of last week’s creative activities? I baked a pie—the coconut cheesecake featured in yesterday’s Recipe Thursday. Here is a new set of five more short, fun things to do on printable cards. If you have ideas to share, pass them along and I’ll include them in

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Creativity cards

EXCERPT: I think my year in school was labeled Grand Guinea Pig Class. It seemed that every year there was some new textbook or learning tool that we had to try. Most were a bust, but I really loved the SRA reading lab. It was a box full of slick colored

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Finishing things

EXCERPT: Last year, I set my self up with a new year’s resolution to “Do More.” And I did quite a bit in 2004. I learned to knit, created over a dozen short films, wrote tens of thousands of words, sewed some clothes, invented a scores of recipes. When listed out,

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Dreaming

EXCERPT: This new year is bringing a series of vivid dreams that make me want to act on them. Here are three memorable dreams and what I’m doing (or might do) to make them come true. Book Dream: I bought a graphic design book, marked down from $1,600 to only $1,000.

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The summing up

EXCERPT: For the past few years, I’ve made a point to summarise my year in exactly 25 words. It’s not easy to do and I end up skipping some of the main points but now that I’m gaining a collection (2003, 2002, 2001), I appreciate the effort I’ve made to try

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Inventing a tree

EXCERPT: There are no towering tannenbaum for sale here in Tokyo, unless you are a millionaire or plan well in advance. I make our holiday tree from whatever we have in the house, plus a small stock of 100 yen shop decorations I found a few years ago. This little burst

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Color matching

EXCERPT: Looking out my window last night, I saw the most amazing thing. The color of the sunset sky matched the color of the lights in the stairwell of the building next door. I took a photo and checked in Photoshop: #F29D30 and #F0942F. Maybe not an exact perfect match, but

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One Creative Accomplishment

EXCERPT: After you wrote out that list from last week’s column, didn’t you feel better? Lighter? I know I did. But there’s a long list on my desk now! I’ve crossed off many of the mundane chores, but the creative To Do items get pushed aside somehow. Well, let’s do one

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Uncluttering

EXCERPT: Is your head cluttered with things you need to do? All those mental reminders - don’t forget to pick up Sally’s birthday present; ask Mr. Jones about that e-mail; prepare the invoices - important as they are, they all get in the way of your creativity. When you unclutter your

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Let’s write novels

EXCERPT: Hurry, hurry! It’s not too late to sign up for Nanowrimo, National Novel Writing Month. It kicks off on November 1 and runs for 30 days. Your goal is to write a 50,000 word novel. It doesn’t have to be a good novel, just has to be finished. It’s a

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Your own religion

EXCERPT: My darling husband asked me the other day “If you could start a religion, what would it be like?” Oh, interesting thought experiment. I let the ideas rattle around in my brain for a few minutes, dismissing thoughts of lofting stone chapels with velvet draperies and deep pipe organ

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Vintage items

EXCERPT: Here’s a change in perspective that slapped me in the face today. I was walking through Jimbocho and passed by a “vintage goods” shop full of Rolleiflex cameras, Zippo lighters, and Omega watches. What shocked me were the two neon green and orange plastic Swatches from the early 80s.

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Some other tools

EXCERPT: I’m sitting here working on a friend’s new computer and I’m surprised at how different his setup is. We both use OSX, but how strange to discover that he uses trackpad clicking. I keep accidentally launching applications. His controls are on the opposite side to where I keep mine. I’m

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Try jumping in

EXCERPT: A blank page. An uncarved block of stone. The guitar you haven’t picked up in months. A long To Do list. An e-mail left unanswered too long. Scary, scary, scary things that require an action and effort. Easy to put off a little longer. But be brave. Try your best!

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Supplies

EXCERPT: During a recent bout of editing work, I found myself watching a lot of interviews with consumers. The interviewers were leading them a bit, trying to get the women to say how they liked to buy the fashion product that was the focus of the project, while their menfolk preferred

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From junk

EXCERPT: A friend was telling me about his creative endeavors as a kid growing up in Spain. He comes from a family of 11 and money was a bit tight when he was young. Once his father scavenged some old, broken TVs and gave them to Santy so he could strip

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Reflections

EXCERPT: The city drained the park’s reflecting pools in preparation for cleaning. Denied my daily downward glimpse of sky and leaf, I sought out other reflections on the way home from this morning’s swim. The range of reflective surfaces seemed limited: glass doors and windows, traffic mirrors, highly buffed cars, rearview

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Naming conventions

EXCERPT: I am the sort of person who names inanimate objects—cars, stuffed toys, and particularly computers. I tend to work in computer-rich environments where names are necessary to identify the machines. At the bank, all the computers had alphanumeric codes. I think my testing suite server was tk2t126-something. Neither creative nor

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New Spaces

EXCERPT: My recent decision to abandon my container garden has opened my eyes to the possibilities of the spaces around me. After removing the planters and tiered shelves, and washing down the tile flooring, I discovered that the little garden space is quite a bit bigger than I remembered. It’s a

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All for free

EXCERPT: A newcomer to Tokyo was going on about the expense of keeping entertained in the city. When I countered that there are lots of low-cost and no-cost things to do, he challenged me to list them. And I did, but what struck me is that most of the things I

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Spectator

EXCERPT: Last night I went to a festival with two photographers. I didn’t have a camera, so I spent my night watching them taking pictures. “Oh, this is going to be dreadfully dull,” I thought. I knew I’d be frustrated as I saw things to photograph but didn’t have an instrument

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Whitewashing the fence

EXCERPT: Today’s creative solution to heat-induced stupor and writer’s block in the form of a transcript of a conversation on iChat Kristen: I need to write my Creative Perspectives column Kristen: I’ve started it four or five times Kristen: but I can’t get my head wrapped around anything MJ: hmmm MJ:

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Skinning cats

EXCERPT: When faced with a creative challenge—or even a mundane one— I devise a list of 10 ways to face the quandary. I end up with the usual, obvious answers and some off-the-wall notions, but there’s always one line in the list that will work. There’s more than one way to

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Exercise

EXCERPT: Sometimes, you need to give your body a workout to get the brain flowing freely. I know I sit too much at my computer cranking out words and images. When I go for long walks or swim laps, my brain changes gears and I enjoy a meditative state while my

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Dear Inner Critic

EXCERPT: You have an inner critic, don’t you? I think most of us do. Mine’s a middle aged man—the ringleader of all reviewers—who lies in wait in my head, looking for a chance to tell me what’s wrong with what I’m doing. He’s harsh. But today I’m going to write him

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Unplug

EXCERPT: Here’s a challenge. Unplug yourself this weekend. Turn everything off—the TV, your computer, radio, stereo, cell phone, answering machine. Take in no media and be completely unreachable for a day or two. At first this is going to be uncomfortable. At least it is for me. No computer? How will

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Change of focus

EXCERPT: I’ve been floundering. I can’t seem to get anything finished. None of my projects are going where I want them to. There are lots of hurdles and blocks— some are of my own making, others not. It’s rather frustrating. My frustration morphs into a series of bad feelings, irritable moods

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Articulation

EXCERPT: I’ve caught myself sending quite a few e-mails recently with writing full of trite and meaningless phrases. Most of them are “bread and butter” thank you notes which aren’t really intended to be masterpieces of writing, but “I had a great time; let’s get together again soon,” may be the

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Approaches

EXCERPT: “Attack life. When you drink a beer, drink the hell out of it,” UltraBob suggested the other day. And that got me thinking. How do you approach life? Do you go slowly, savoring all the details? Do you rush through activities to get to the next thing? Do you hang

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Neglected color

EXCERPT: Look around you. What colors predominate in your environment? My furniture is light wood, chrome and black, accented with green and red, sitting in rooms with pale walls and carpets. How about your wardrobe? My clothes are mainly shades of pink, maroon, olive, brown and black. And what colors are

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Date yourself

EXCERPT: Sometimes it’s a challenge to get away from the normal routine of work, family, household chores and all the other things we fill our time with. But stepping outside that routine can kickstart your creative juices. Take out your calendar and pencil in a date with yourself. If you can

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Floorplans

EXCERPT: As a kid, I sketched out the perfect places to live—my personal castles and villas complete with all the necessities: libraries, interior courtyards, gardens, swimming pools, and stables. I also loved dollhouses—the ones that were built for me and the ones I made myself. The three story string-action elevator in

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What’s in a name?

EXCERPT: On my sister’s site, Wild Mushrooms, Jenn sometimes posts poetic writing assignments. Today’s creative perspective draws on one she titled Buttered Poetry (now with more salt!). Write out your name — First Middle Last—and find words using just those letters. How many can you find in 30 minutes? Do you

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Game plan

EXCERPT: Yesterday afternoon, I was listening to the neighborhood kids playing. They were laughing and running around, but most of their playtime was spent planning what to do. They were making up rules and setting up situations to act out. So today, it’s game plan day. Gather together your playing pieces—cards,

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Foolish Consistency

EXCERPT: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Ralph Waldo Emerson What is a foolish consistency? Emerson never said, but I think a foolish consistency is something we do unfailingly without thinking about it. We are brand-loyal to our toothpaste; we travel a consistent route to work; we take

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Only one

EXCERPT: Sixteen years ago when I was teaching kids to read and deciding if education was my life’s calling, an essay contest announcement crossed my desk. I don’t recall who was sponsoring the contest but the theme has become embedded in who I am and how I think of myself. It

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Alphabetical Order

EXCERPT: For the next 26 days, I’m going dedicate each day to a letter of the alphabet. I’ll incorporate things and actions that begin with the day’s letter. Sounds a bit odd, but it will encourage me to do things I might not normally do, or at least to think up

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Hairstyling

EXCERPT: When I’m feeling blah and uncreative sometimes I mess with my hair. I create a new look with ponytails all over my head or little braids or curls or gelled sections. The “new me” is more likely to think creatively. I get inspired when I’ve just turned my head into

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You’re a legend

EXCERPT: Do you remember all the myths and legends that we learned in school? Three of my favorites are from Americana: Paul Bunyan, a giant logger who traveled with his blue ox, Babe, Johnny Appleseed, who planted apple orchards across America, and John Henry, a railroad worker who won a race

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New logos

EXCERPT: Wow, what a great response. Thank you! I was impressed by the variety of ideas you sent. Every one of them was had its own personality. I hope you had fun with them and that thinking about the logo inspired one of your own projects. They certainly inspired me. One

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Creative logo

EXCERPT: I’ve never really liked the logo I use for Creative Perspectives. I tried to abstract the elements-earth, water, metal, wood, water—and ended up with something that looks like it might say “Hello My Name Is” on top. Not quite what I was going for and I’m ready to try again.

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Journals

EXCERPT: Do you keep a journal? As a teenager, I kept a diary for six or seven years—full of the angst or exams and the trials of never having a date—that I wrote in frequently, if not daily. During the dormitory years at college, my diary transformed from lovelorn ramblings to

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Light of Day

EXCERPT: Because of my unusual household schedule, I usually don’t leave my apartment until mid-afternoon. But recently I’ve had the good fortune to get away from my desk in the morning. I’ve noticed how different the light is at 10 am. Shadows of trees point in northwest across the sidewalks; light

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Sinister hand

EXCERPT: Today is a tough one; we’re going to write our names with both hands in all different orientations. Grab a pen and a sheet of paper. First write your name with your dominant hand, then with your non-dominant hand. Then write it backwards. Start with your initial at the right

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Your Doodles

EXCERPT: Last week, I invited you to make some doodles using loops and mail them to me. Did you have fun? Here’s a very brief gallery of submissions. Jennifer (http://www.wordpainting.com) Me and Tod: Angry Pig-Cub and Bird

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Loopy

EXCERPT: Sometimes being bored is great for your creativity. When I’m bored, I doodle. I picked up a pen the other day and started doodling in a style I haven’t done in about 20 years. If you were to peek into any of my school notebooks between 6th grade and graduation,

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Rotate 90

EXCERPT: I’m borrowing today’s idea from Jeremy at Antipixel, who was inspired by this creativity series…it’s a small, circular world. Turn your work sideways. Jeremy tried taking vertical photos rather than landscapes. Maybe you will turn your journal sideways and write the across the long edge of the page. Or design

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Upside down

EXCERPT: When I was a kid, I would lie on my bed and hang my head over the edge so that I could see everything in my room upside down (that position also made it easier to braid my very long hair) As a young woman, I spent part of a

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More more more

EXCERPT: Do you have a New Year’s resolution? I have one: Do More For me the creative process is iterative. I try something, take a look, make a change, compare my results, find inspiration or see a new twist, try again, and often end with something wonderful and unexpected. The more

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Cartoon yourself

EXCERPT: Let’s pick up a pen and draw today. We’re going to cartoon ourselves from two perspectives. Don’t worry, this isn’t about your drawing skill. There’s no “right” way to draw a cartoon, so let yourself have fun with it and do your best. If you get stuck, think of all

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From the floor

EXCERPT: If you’ll just stretch out on the floor for a moment, please. Yes, that’s it…on your stomach, arms & legs relaxed. Rest your chin on the floor. Good, good. You have become a child, a Borrower, a puppy. What do you see? The carpet looks different from down here, doesn’t

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Favorite letters

EXCERPT: Today’s perspective comes from a conversation with UltraBob yesterday. What are your favorite three letters, and why? Answer in as much detail as you can. Here are mine: Q: As a little girl, I loved writing the curvy 2 shape of a cursive capital Q. It confused me that numbers

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Nengajo party

EXCERPT: Today was the Creative Perspectives get -together. We spent our afternoon making nengajo, Japanese holiday cards. Jo is carving her first-ever stamp. She’s going to use it on the beautiful marbled paper she made today. Bob spent most of the day sketching monkeys. His final product is a print block

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Rules, rules, rules

EXCERPT: When you’re faced with a trivial but impossible decision put a creative spin on it. Make up arbitrary rules. Then stick with them. “I’ll buy a book that has san-serif type on the cover, is thicker than 3 cm, and is written by a woman.” “On my day off I’ll

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In the dark

EXCERPT: Tonight when you go to bed, after you turn out the light but before you fall asleep, sit in the dark for a few minutes and take notice of your surroundings. Examine all your senses before you conk out and then see if it brings you creative dreams. As your

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Sing a song

EXCERPT: Nothing loosens up the spirit & gets ideas flowing like singing. It doesn’t matter whether you can carry a tune, shatter crystal or have a tin ear, singing increases the oxygen in you blood, and gives both hemispheres of the brain a nice workout, plus it’s just plain fun. So

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You’re Invited

EXCERPT: Sometimes it’s easier and more fun to be creative if there are other people involved. You can expand on one another’s ideas—a creativity jam session. So this week, I suggest that you plan a creative get-together. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate event or a formal party, but invite

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Shhhh, listen

EXCERPT: Stop what you’re doing now and listen to the world around you for two or three minutes. Go ahead and close your eyes; it’s sometimes easier to focus on sounds when you’re not distracted by seeing things. But it’s fine to leave them open, too.. What do you hear?

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Scented Day

EXCERPT: Scent is a very powerful sense—can’t you conjure up a lot of memories by recalling the smell of fall leaves, pumpkin pie or wet wool sweaters? Today we’ll tickle our noses and see if our creativity is enhanced. I’m not much for wearing perfume, but I love fancy soap

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Shift work

EXCERPT: Today’s creative assignment: pick a day next week and shift your schedule by one hour. You can shift forward or back—I’m a morning person so I’ll get up and go to bed an hour earlier than usual. That means I can also get to work an hour earlier—leave an hour

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A dozen details

EXCERPT: Even though I try to keep my desk tidy, there are lots of things on it. Most of them don’t merit a second glance; they are just the things I use every day. To open my eyes, though, I’ll take a close look. You follow along. Grab something from your

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Breakfast for dinner

EXCERPT: Tonight, put on your PJs and turn on the Cartoon Network. You’re going to spark your silly side by having breakfast for dinner. In my household, a sit-down breakfast is usually only a weekend event. But if we pretend, we can have breakfast any evening. Classic Breakfast: Pancakes, bacon, juice.

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Creative perspectives

EXCERPT: Following on the success of Recipe Thursday (which encouraged me to cook more often and make notes on what I was doing), and Video Saturdays (which helped me get back to my video projects), mediatinker will feature a column with ideas for sparking creativity and focussing your creative genius. Most

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