Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Thinking about overthinking

One of the things that make us human is the ability to think. "Cogito ergo sum" I think therefore I am, and all that stuff. Sometimes thinking is quite simple, like tonight I thought "I'll make macaroni and cheese for dinner." It was quite good, by the way. Other times we may thing quite complex thoughts, like when we think about algebra.

As creative folk, we think all the time. Do I use a bright red or pale green? Create a retro design or futuristic one? Write about tornados or daffodils? Do I think about this project or that one? But we can overthink. We do it all the time. We spend so much time thinking that
  •  Nothing gets done.
  •  We never finish the painting, song, or book.
  •  We make molehills into mountains.
  •  We miss the deadline.
  •  We have too much going on because we think we can do everything.
For example, we turn molehills into mountains. I think I have to write a formal proposal for something I want to do. I try to think of all the information I should assemble to write this proposal. I think of all the information I should include. I think I should include other information, references perhaps. So then I realize that continuing on the path I was on that I would either not get it done at all or miss the deadline. What to do? What to do?

I sent a short inquiry and asked what information do you need? I got a quick reply. We have a questionnaire. Do you want us to sent it to you? That's it. Fill in the blanks. I can do that.

So my thought for you tonight is don't overthink. Breathe.

Oh, and another thing, that makes us human, is laughter. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day!

Do you use cobalt arsenate to make violet paint? Or maybe you've inhaled mercury fumes lately while developing your photographs. How's that lead-based make-up working out for your acting troupe? Castrated any boy sopranos for the church choir recently? Still tickling the ivories?

I pray that some of you don't understand all these examples. The truth is that although we make art to give beauty and meaning to our lives, in the past is was often produced at the cost of our lives, our sanity and our world. Things are different now. Producers of our supplies test products for safety. Even our toddlers' chalk and crayons have Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) available on-line. But we cannot give all the responsibility to the companies we frequent.

Call it "going green." Call it environmental awareness. Call it just plain old common sense. Look at your art, how you do it, where you do it, where you perform it, how you sell it. Are you acting in a environmentally responsible manner? Have you ever even considered that you should? What changes can you make? Change the lightening in your studio? Recycle paper and plastic? Is there a way to reduce packing of your work when you ship it? Is there a letter you need to write to a manufacturer or an elected politician?

Do some research. Read some articles. Learn what's out there. For whatever form of art you create, there is someone looking at its impact on our world. If there isn't yet, then perhaps you are the one to begin. Recognize that we no longer have to pollute and poison to create beauty and meaning in our world. We can create beauty and meaning and leave not just an artistic legacy but also a better, safer world where our children can safely create.

(This article originally appeared in roughly the same form in the June 2013 Creativity Coaching Association newsletter.)          

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The best laid plans or how to felt a sweater.

Have you ever watched an ice skater before a performance or a pilot before a flight? They mentally skate or fly their plan, sometimes following a tape outline on the floor. Well, when I planned to make a wool tote and show you every step of the project, that's what I did mentally. Then I got out what I thought was an old wool sweater. I had not looked it in years. The damn thing's acrylic!

Now, if you are not into fiber, that may not sound like a big deal to you. It is. The first step in the project was to felt it. Let me describe felting a sweater to you.

Take an old 100% wool sweater, size XXL and put it in a bathtub of hot water and a bit of dish soap. The water should not be scalding. Swirl the sweater around a few times with your hand. Drain the water. Refill with cold water. For good measure, throw in a couple of trays of ice cubes. Swirl the sweater around with you hand. Drain the water.Lay the sweater out to dry on a few old towels. Your 100% wool sweater, size XXL should now be about the right size to fit a toddler.

Next, take an old 100% acrylic sweater, size XXL. Punch some holes in a steel drum. Add some of those big old round river rocks. Now, put in the sweater. Toss the whole thing in a geyser, scalding sulfuric water, anaerobic bacteria and all. Wait to the geyser blows. Watch the steel drum fly into a convenient nearby glacier lake. Take the sweater out of the steel drum. Lay the sweater out to dry on a few old towels. Your 100% acrylic sweater may have a few holes from the rocks but otherwise will be exactly the same XXL sweater you started with.    

So it's back to the drawing board to find a project to demonstrate my creative process for you.