On Creativity

How to Keep Going

image by Austin Kleon

image by Austin Kleon

I really appreciated this talk by Austin Kleon. Not only does it inspire and encourage any artist who struggles with endurance and purpose, it's also pretty poignant to life - as all good art should be. 

"What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same and nothing that you did mattered?" How we answer this question is not only how we live our lives, it's our art.

But what I like most about the mindset of creativity within a Groundhog Day world is the insulation of pretending like there is no tomorrow. That there's no chance of success nor is there chance of failure, "there's just the day and what you can do with it." 

Damn. That's good.

I was also challenged by number three, "forget the noun, do the verb." 

Lots of people want to be the noun without doing the verb. They want the job title without doing the work. Forget about being a writer . . . 'follow the impulse to write.' Because if you let go of the thing you are trying to be . . . and you focus on the actual work you need to be doing . . . it will take you some place further and far more interesting. 

But really, the whole thing is pretty fantastic.

Here's a list of his 10 Ways to Keep Going


"Everything you need to make extraordinary work can be found in your ordinary life. You just have to pay attention to it."

Here's a similarly inspiring chart, Successful VS Unsuccessful people, and the habits that define them.


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiration  :  Embracing hardships 

Abatani Beauty : A woman from yesterday

For us Abatani, the nose plugs, the ear plugs and the facial tattoo are very beautiful.

. . .

But nowadays, {they youth} look like any other tribe.

. . .

No more nose plugs, no moe ear plugs, no more tattoos, only modern dresses.

“On matters of style, swim with the current,” Thomas Jefferson allegedly advised, “on matters of principal, stand like a rock" (Grant, pg 13). But, for the sake of style, of fitting in, and finding acceptance, what have we lost? In a world that is advancing so rapidly, is traveling so easily, and is merging so constantly, are we losing the beauty and vitality of cultures, differences, and identity? Are we simply melding into one bland people group, swimming in the same direction, trying to find some rock of principal with which to grab hold of?

It appears so.

Style is birthed from principals and therefore cannot be divorced from them because style is the manifestation of one's convictions, one's principals. To get rid of style is to get rid of voice, of culture, and identity.

They should therefore be held to and defended with the strength and stability of a rock, not swimming with the current, looking like any other fish and culture and tribe.


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiration  :  On Creativity  

on Why we Create : by Salomon Ligthelm

In our home, the discussion of why we create, why we pursue the arts, and if the intentional, and often unintentional, consequences are worth it. 

This video didn’t answer all our questions, but it helped. And inspired. 

Thank you John Blanchard for sending it our way! 

“It’s not about you, it’s not about all your talents because all those things create this sort of pseudo reality where you find all your validation in what you do. And if you surrender yourself to it then those things don’t become as important and you find your creativity again.

Creativity  is for others. It’s not to serve yourself. It’s for others” 


You can watch more of Salomon Ligthelm's work here.


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiration  :  On Creativity  Short Films

Instatravel and the search for Identity with Community

It's easy to watch this video and mock or scoff at all the wanna-be's. "Be original!" we might say, because nobody likes a poser and everyone wants to be uniquely different. Just not too different because we also don't want to be alone, misunderstood, or an outcast. We want community and relationships and to be included.

And that is exactly what is happening in the Instraval video. People are finding connection and community by embracing and participating in a movement, an idea, or a trend because it makes them feel part of something bigger than themselves, in their own unique way. Just like everybody else.

Even when we branch out, when find something that seems to be completely our own, we're not. Others are cheering, encouraging, and even dancing with us, which makes the experience all the more perfect. Because we're not alone.

"Being original," Adam Grant writes, "doesn't mean being first. It just means being different and better" (via). It means learning and absorbing from those around us while using our individuality and identity to progress an idea or truth beyond its current state. 

It also means whenever we find success, when the spotlight happens to shine down upon us, we acknowledge the community that so faithfully surrounded, protected, and provided for us.

Even if it was a simple paving of the roads. 

Be original. More importantly though, be thankful.


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiration  :  On Creativity  

Breath, by Olbinski, is a deep punch to the (creative) soul

"The moment I heard the opening thump of bass…I knew I would be using this song for my film. But then those haunting vocals hit my ears…and blew my mind. It was like a punch deep in my soul. It’s hard to explain that feeling when you first hear a song and you immediately fall in love with it" (via).

Mike Olbinksi is a storm chaser, photographer, and an overall pretty amazing artist who has inspired me more than once. And his latest work, Breath, a storm time-lapse film in black and white, is no exception. 

"About halfway through editing," Olbinski writes, "I knew the song title would be my film title as well. It was so perfect I couldn’t believe it. Sometimes for me…when I’m chasing or watching an amazing storm…I’ll realize I haven’t taken a breath in awhile. Never really thought of it until I heard this song."

As you may have noticed, for the past month or so, I've stopped writing (more thoughts on that to come). It started consciously in December because I wanted to truly enjoy and unplug over the break. I was supposed to break the fast on New Year's Eve, but couldn't because, like Olbinksi (only opposite), I've been unable to breath. So I took another two-week gulp of air and planned on perhaps another six. 

But then I came across Olbinski: "I hadn’t even planned to start working on this film yet," he continues, "but I was so inspired that I furiously began to lay down time-lapse clips. I couldn’t stop pouring over it. It was last September and I was supposed to be working on Monsoon IV, but I forgot all about it once I heard Ex Makina’s “Breathe.” It almost felt like it was made for a black and white storm film." 

Inspiration inspires inspiration, furious creativity, and moments of intense clarity where we forget meetings, deadlines, lunch, even to breath. And I love that. Because that means it comes from somewhere outside ourselves, and because when it hits, we have to saturate ourselves in it, envelope it, and then, get it out.

Like filmmaking.

Like writing. 

And that's inspiring. Beautiful. "Like a punch deep in my soul." Which I desperately needed. 

Thank you, Mike Olbinski!


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiration  :  On Creativity  :  Mike Olbinski

Open Thoughts : This is where I am


For the past few days, even weeks, I've been in a sort of rut with my writing and general creativity. Specifically, I've been wrestling with two larger thoughts - one on family and the other on guns, and after several hours spent on both, I got nothing. Every time I look at whatever I wrote the night before, I hate it, delete it, and start all over.

And this is more than just a bit discouraging. 

How is this so hard? Why am I unable to think or articulate simple thoughts? Why does it all seem so flimsy and shallow?

I don't know, but over the past several days, I've begun to wonder if I should just give up on writing and blogging and pursuing this crazy idea that I might some day be considered a legitimate author. Because what's the point?

Good writers should be able to write, daily, and produce material worth reading. Good writers shouldn't misspell or misuse words and they shouldn't struggle so damn much to call simple ideas  to a page, it should just happen, with the ease of routine, because they're good writers and that's what good writers do. 

I'm not sure when this slippery beast of doubt crept in, but like a silverback gorilla who's bathed in butter and just slipped through an open attic window, this sucker is rather difficult to get a hold of and shove out the door. 

So instead of writing, I watched this:

Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future day in and day out. Not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality.

I'm not sure about you, but I found this short talk somewhat encouraging but also fantastically terrifying because what she doesn't acknowledge is the absolute true possibility that although I'm working hard, I'm doing it all wrong. 

Because even though I believe that "the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with {my} effort" that doesn't mean all and every piece of work and drop of sweat is growing and leading me in the right direction. And my deepest fear, I guess, is this: what if it's not?

I don't know.

I'm sure there are little anecdotes of "just try your best and it will all work out," or "it's okay to fail because that's where you learn and grow" and all that other bullshit we say to ourselves to make us feel better and to keep our spirits high, but I'm kinda tired of such empty talk and hollow promises. Because they're exactly that, hollow promises. 

So what now?

I don't know.

Therefore, like Angela Duckworth, that's where I'm going to end my thoughts because that's where I'm at. And I'm not okay with that. 

Here's to tomorrow.


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Open Thoughts  :  On Creativity



How to be Creative

If you look past the narrators voice, this video is actually really inspiring.

There is a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don't. It is not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write.

Resistance is what stands between the life we live and our unlived life - between what we are and what we want to become. Resistance is to be considered evil. Yet, it can be helpful. It points us to our true calling, it can be felt when we fear starting a creative project. This fear means it is something that we need to do, something that we have a deep love for. . . the more resistance you feel towards a project, the more satisfaction you will have when you finish it.

We can beat resistance by how we conduct our creative projects. In short, the amateur waits for inspiration. The professional knows that it will come after he starts." The professional acts in the face of fear. 

Then, at some point unexpected, the muse will come, and we'll be able to catch it. 



For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiration  :  On Living



The Creative Mind

I'm not a big fan of the word "success" because its connotations tend to deal with money and fame, which seem to be incomplete determiners of success. So, instead of "successful," creative - or perhaps even content - is a better fit. The descriptors still falling neatly into place. 

: Edit - 6/22/17 :

A good friend of mine, Eric Trauger, mentioned two additional words: progressive (as in progress - the moving advance or development toward a better, more complete, or more modern condition) and earnest.

I like these additions because they broaden the range a bit, especially earnest. Earnest, serious in intention, purpose, or effort - sincerely zealous - or, showing depth and sincerity of feeling, to me, carries more intentionality than the others. It switches the order.

If someone reads books, forgives, collaborates, etc, than they are creative, content, or progressive; they are are the effects of, not the cause. Living an earnest life, however, seems a more conscious decision - it is the cause, not the effect. 

All this, though, and perhaps most importantly, points to the idea that a "successful" life - a life marked by creativity, progress, and earnest living - is fully intentional, not accidental. It is a daily decision, a daily battle, to live with purpose and conviction, and to live outside of redundancy and monotony.  

To watch TV, or read. To encourage rather than criticize. To be thankful, not entitled. Strangely, it seems, life can be defined by these simple things. Which is encouraging, I think, and a bit terrifying. 


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiration  :  Creativity