Raspberry Leaf

I was surprised to wake up Saturday morning and find it had rained during the night. It was a light rain as evidenced by the not quite soaked chair cushions and outdoor rug. But it was enough to leave droplets on the raspberry leaves that are starting to grow up in one of my garden pots.

Each leaf is unique with its own patterns and colors. I spent some time working my way around the small cluster of canes, finding leaves that were well shaped and facing the right direction. I worked with the composition of the subjects to see if I liked them centered or offset, clustered or single. Then I had to think about where the light was and if the image had enough in it. It was only 7:00am so there were plenty of shadows amongst the leaves to contend with.

I made several images that I really liked. But in the end I chose the one below for this post because of its simplicity, color and angle. I love being able to find such beautiful subjects right in my own back yard.

Categorically Uncategorized

Ideally, a blog like this one should have every post neatly organized into a succinct set of categories. This kind of organization makes it easier for readers to find the posts that interest them according to topic. But there are always those pieces that just don’t fit neatly into any of the blog’s established categories.

By default, most blogs contain the catch all category called uncategorized. Uncategorized is where on-off blog posts go to die. It’s the anti-category that, when come upon by an unsuspecting reader, screams of an uncaring or ignorant author.

In the case of this site there really are posts that don’t belong in any of the already too many categories I have. But those posts still make up an important part of what this site is. While I do have a carousel of topics I enjoy writing on, sometimes I want to hop off the ride and see what else the carnival has to offer.

I wasn’t going to try sticking every oddball post into an ill-fitted category. Instead, I decided to change “Uncategorized” into a real category that gives some indication of the atopical nature of the posts it contains.

After thinking on it for some time, I came up with the play-on-words Composts. I like it because like a bit of this and bit of that goes into a garden compost to make a fertile soil amendment, so these posts, when taken together, create a fertile environment for this blog to grow. Time will tell if it stays the default category name. But for now, I’m going with it.

Can You Force Creative Work?

When I sit down in front of a blank piece of paper, it can become anything. I might sketch a scene, draw a cartoon, write a poem, write a joke or make notes for a book. But more often than not, that blank piece of paper stays a blank piece of paper.

Creative block is not something that happens to me once a month or even once a week. It happens almost every day. It’s almost as if when I wake up I have to make a choice, an analytical day or a creative day. Most days, by default, I have to make the left brain analytical choice. My day job is more important right now than poems or drawings.

In the evening, after work, it’s always a struggle to turn off the programmer and turn on the artist. But if I don’t do it, I’ll never get any of the things I enjoy done.  I’m trying to teach myself to switch between my left and right brain tendencies at will. This is more difficult than it might sound. It’s like your body going from burning carbohydrates to burning fat. There’s a period where you haven’t yet started producing ketones from the fat but you’ve used up all of the glucose stores in your body. You feel miserable and useless and just want to give up.

So to make the transition as quick and painless as possible, I usually try to jumpstart the process. This means reading someone else’s poems, looking through a comic book or watching a stand up show. Anything to spark an idea or give me a prompt.

Another thing that helps jump start the creative battery is photography. You don’t have to use a fancy camera. A phone will do. Just go through your kitchen or neighborhood and try to take a photograph that tells a story.

If the above methods fail, I’ll try freewriting. I’ll just write down whatever comes to my mind without filtering anything. This is often the most effective way to start getting creative ideas quickly because you’re entering into a diffuse mode of thinking where you are letting your subconscious do the thinking.

Whatever you choose, if it isn’t working, try something else from a different angle. Eventually you’ll hit upon something that will open up your mind.

Creativity in Motion

Boredom can eat away at your enjoyment of a day. That’s why when I walked into my son’s room the other day and saw him listening to music and staring blankly at the wall, I knew something had to be done.

Usually when I hear the words “I’m bored” from my kids I take it as an opportunity to remind them of all the chores they have put off doing. But this time I pitied the boy and decided to work with him on some ideas for interesting projects.

Here is the list of things I mentioned he might enjoy:

  1. Create wall art for his bedroom. He enjoys drawing and is actually quite good. I encouraged him to make a large version of a smaller drawing he had already done. Then we could frame it and hang it.

    My son’s hand drawn Hollow Knight fan art.
  2. Make origami. He has dabbled in origami in the past so I thought this could be a good opportunity to get back into it. I recently bought a pack of origami papers to practice with and have on hand for the kids.

  3. Painting miniature figures. He likes fantasy and miniatures games already. He could get a game that comes with figures or buy them separately.

  4. Build PVC weapons or other crafts. PVC is cheap and readily available. There are some really cool things you can do with it.

  5. Build model planes, boats or cars. I had fun building plastic models and painting them when I was a kid. You can find models that can be glued or snapped together. The real fun and creativity is when you custom paint your model. It takes time and a steady hand but can be rewarding.

Basically, I was looking for something that would be a challenge but something he could do mostly on his own. Anything that would be more than just a flash-in-the-pan activity. In the end he choose PVC weapons.

Over the next two days we had a great time building a PVC sword and dagger.  Although I helped buy materials and gave a little instruction on measuring and cutting and painting, this was a project done primarily by my son. I wanted it this way so that he would have something enjoyable that he could do any time and could get his creative juices flowing.

I could tell he was having fun creating something of value to him. As he built his projects he kept telling me about his other ideas for more PVC projects. That’s what I was hoping for; something to spark his creativity and thinking. Something to get the ball rolling and keep his mind busy.  Creativity in motion tends to stay in motion while creativity at rest tends to stay at rest.

Creativity in motion tends to stay in motion while creativity at rest tends to stay at rest. Click To Tweet

 

A study In Light

Sometimes I just look up and see an image that I want to make with my camera. The other morning the sun was coming through the window and shining on a mechanical desk. The desk has a hand crank that moves it up and down. I thought the shape of the crank handle was cool so I started taking some exploratory photographs at different angles.

At one angle I noticed the shadow the handle made and decided to follow that theme. I put a sketch pad down on the floor and tipped the desk over into the light. My final image is no masterpiece. But it is an interesting study in shape, light and the absence of light.

 

Speaking Better by Speaking More

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of speaking to a leadership class with three of my colleagues from the GIS world. We were tag team speaking since our two separate GIS systems share data and we work together from time to time on projects.

I’m not the world’s greatest speaker. It’s not that I don’t have great things to say. But when it comes to delivery, I often feel less than adequate. There’s a psychological boost that you get from speaking with a team of people though. When you’re up there by yourself you have to have all the answers but when you have someone with you, you have a fallback.

After my speaking segment I was able to sit and watch the others present. It’s beneficial to watch others speak on your same subject because it shows you that all the stumbling, bumbling and uncomfortable pauses are common among normal people who are called on to speak in public. The key to getting better and reducing those problems is to do it more.