creativity

The Opposite of a Story

We humans are made for stories. We love to hear stories. Stories make ideas more relatable and memorable.

I have been learning about the art of storytelling, both written and verbal. Basically it comes down to this:

  • Cut the BS
  • Build tension
  • Stay focused on your message

Whatever you do, don’t be boring. ✔️

I personally want to tell engaging stories to inspire people.

But the latest Invisibilia episode raises an interesting point: Yes, stories are powerful. But is that always a good thing? What if stories can be weaponized to manipulate you? (For example, I don’t know, maybe “The election was stolen.”)

To that end, Invisibilia decided to look at the opposite of a tight, message-driven story. They decided to focus on super slow, boring non-stories. For example an uninterrupted 9-hour train ride through Norway. It originally aired on Norwegian TV. They also did a ship’s 11-hour journey and more.

I have to say that the result is oddly satisfying. I mean, it’s not The Usual Suspects or even Citizen Kane, but it hits right if you want something relaxing. And it definitely will not manipulate you into thinking anything more than, “Gosh, Norway is pretty.” or perhaps just, “Ahh, trains…”

Hell, I have it on in the background right now just for the sound. They describe this kind of video as having “weak narrativity”. 😆

The video is so slow that you have to make sure it’s not paused after you start it. 🤔

But it picks up (kind of). 🚞

👉 The podcast also suggests that this kind of non-narrative might promote democracy, individualism, and community. Not bad for some train footage.

And don’t forget slow radio.

creativity · entertainment

Don’t Be Like Uncle Colm

Writing a full-length novel turns out to be hard. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Even if you know the story you want to tell, there are myriad challenges such as finding your voice, getting into the creative mood, and consistently finding the time to focus.

My latest challenge is pretty basic – figuring out what level of detail to use in the story. I want to make the story is engaging and specific, rather than just sweeping over things with the wave of a hand. 👋

But too much detail quickly turns into sounding like Uncle Colm from Derry Girls.

So if I ever find myself adding unnecessary detail and de-emphasizing the main story line, then I need to watch Uncle Colm as a little kick in the butt.

Or soon enough, people will be saying, “Alright, Colm, let’s pack it up. You’re tied to the radiator…” 🤦🏻‍♂️

creativity

“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.”

John Cleese gave this speech back in the 1990’s about creativity. Apparently he was a bit of a student of the topic. 🤷🏻‍♂️

His main point was that creativity is not something that you have or don’t have. And it is not related to traditional intelligence.

Creativity is a mood – an open, curious, and playful way of operating. He calls this playful, creative state “open mode”, whereas we normally go through life in “closed mode”, basically trying to get stuff done.

To be fully effective, a creative person needs to juggle both modes well. After all, you’ve got to find the creative flow and keep your projects on track to actually get sh*t done.

(Thoughtfully subtitled in German 🤷🏻‍♂️). Full version of the speech here.

This creative “open mode” is subconscious and requires de-focusing in a way. In other words, you can’t force creative breakthroughs. It is in this relaxed open mode where the creative magic happens. You just need to allow yourself the time and other factors to let yourself be creative.

This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If just you keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.

One reason I liked improv class was that it forces you into this open, playful mode (even when you are terrified).

Hopefully, when creativity is applied consistently over time, then great things can happen. 🤓

creativity · You

Doing Great Things is Boring ðŸ¤·ðŸ»â€â™‚️

It’s all about consistency, process, and patience… I know, yawn. But also, wow!

Interesting story here about how this guy changed his life in one year.

👉 How I Changed My Life’s Trajectory in Only 1 Year

For him, it came down to a few simple behaviors applied consistently.

  • Being curious
  • Meditating
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Saying no
  • Deemphasizing external approval
  • Doing these things consistently

I’m trying to do the same, but I would add exercising, playing music, and goofing around with the kids to the list as well. 😛


See also

This article about going slow and sticking to the process.

The moment you start enjoying the process, you’ll realize that this is what life is all about.

And this article about consistency.

The world is brimming with ideas, but few act as vessels.

Creating is not simply laying out the concept, but adapting through implementation as many times as needed until it finally works.

creativity · You

Genius Happens When You’re Not Thinking

I love the idea that your brain makes its most interesting breakthroughs and connections when you’re not actively thinking. It is well stated in this article.

👉 Your Unconscious Mind Is a Supercomputer. Use It to Achieve Breakthroughs.

With really interesting problems, you usually don’t need to think harder. You need to relax and let you mind do its thing while you sleep or do errands. That is when genius strikes. ⚡️

Creativity is all about making interesting connections. Albert Einstein called it “combination play.”

In my experience, this unconscious combo play is important for figuring out what do to and not so much how to do it. Once the what is clear in your mind, it can be followed by all the conscious thinking and hard work to get it done. Unfortunately, that part does not happen in your sleep. 😉

As a side note, there is also a beautiful space when your mind is so immediate and present that is simply doesn’t have time to think. This is what I like about improv. And also baseball.

You can’t think and hit at the same time.

Yogi Berra (maybe)
creativity · You

Express Yourself (Ethan Hawke Edition)

Ethan Hawke gives an inspiring talk on creativity and how it forces you know yourself, lets you empathize with others, and gives you room to be a happy fool.

In singing our song, in telling our story, in inviting you to say, “Hey, listen to me, and I’ll listen to you,” we’re starting a dialogue. And when you do that, this healing happens, and we come out of our corners, and we start to witness each other’s common humanity. We start to assert it. And when we do that, really good things happen.

If you want to help your community, if you want to help your family, if you want to help your friends, you have to express yourself. And to express yourself, you have to know yourself.

creativity · Software Dev

The Prototype Mindset

We developers spend so much time focusing on the details of our work that we sometimes forget about the big picture. The presentation below from try! Swift Tokyo has some really helpful perspective. 🤯

Think about building the right thing before building it right.

Why are you making software? Know your motivations. It affects how you do your job.

Who do you write code for? Think about how you relate to your company and the end user.

What happens when your tech stack changes? Be resilient in your career. Try new things while also shipping apps.

Be less precious about code.

Realistically, how long will this code last? How robust is robust enough? Be pragmatic. Almost all the code I’ve written in the last few years is gone by now, either retired or completely rewritten.

Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t hold back out out fear.

Real artists ship.

Steve Jobs

How often do you test? Unit tests are a means to an end. Passing unit tests alone does not mean it’s a good app.

Via iOS Dev Weekly.

creativity · You

Maslow’s Pyramid

A while back, I posted a link to the Artist’s Hierarchy of Needs. The idea seemed useful, although it was not a hierarchy per se, but more of just a list. 🤷🏻‍♂️

I think the idea of the artist’s hierarchy was inspired Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is more of a real hierarchy. So it’s kind of cool to see this post.

👉 SELF CARE PART 2: CREATIVE HIERARCHY OF NEEDS

Basically it says that you need take good care of yourself before you can aspire to your “ultimate self-actualization”. I guess that’s super obvious, but still it makes for a cool idea and a good visual. 😆

Picture

And the Creatively, LLC blog looks great overall beyond this post. I like their motto, “Create Your Best Life”. Via Fresh Ink Austin

creativity · You

Improv Class and Uncharted Territory

A few months ago, I took an improv class. You might think I did it to learn to be funnier. I mean, it did help a little. But mostly it helped my attitude, just being open and ridiculous. I do still have a stockpile of ready-made dad jokes, though.

Improv is not only about laughs. It’s about facing uncharted territory with curiosity, enthusiasm, and fearlessness.

The post below perfectly captures the real reason that I took improv, which is mainly dealing with fears and ambiguity when you can’t sit and think about it for more than, say, two seconds. I’m naturally a sit-and-think-about-it kind of person, so I needed some help on that. 🤷🏻‍♂️

👉 Improv as a Crisis Management Tool: Tackling Uncharted Territory

Cheat sheet from the article… Improv helps with:

  • Helping people build out their ideas even if you don’t agree with or understand them
  • Learning how to make decisions on a shoestring
  • Fearlessness, bravery and getting comfortable with mistakes

By the way, Merlin Works, the same place where I took my improv class, is now offering online Zoom improv classes for the pandemic. If this thing drags on long enough, I might do improv 201 online. 🤷🏻‍♂️