Advice In Unexpected Places

Thank You For Being Late

Thomas Friedman’s recent book, Thank You For Being Late, is in the Globalization/Political Economy genre according the the ISBN code sticker on the back of the book.  One usually doesn’t look in such books for suggestions about creativity, but that is what I found in the first chapter, also titled Thank You For Being Late.

Creativity involves having ideas and then doing something with them whether you turn those ideas into – in Friedman’s case, a column in the New York Times,  or in my case a photograph.  Friedman says

. . . a column idea [or an idea for a photograph] can spring from anywhere:  a newspaper headline that strikes you as odd, a simple gesture by a stranger, the moving speech of a leader, the naive question of a child, the cruelty of a school shooter, the wrenching tale of a refugee.  Everything and anything is raw fodder for creating heat or light.

How can one nurture the ability to recognize ideas when they appear?

. . . you have to be constantly reporting and learning – more so today that ever.  Anyone who falls back on tried-and-true formulae or dogmatisms in a world changing this fast is asking for trouble.  Indeed, as the world becomes more interdependent and complex, it becomes more vital than ever to widen your aperture and to synthesize more perspectives.

Friedman paraphrases and then quotes Lin Wells of the National Defense University.

. . . it is fanciful to suppose that you can opine about or explain this world by clinging to the inside or outside of any one rigid explanatory box or any single disciplinary silo.  Wells describes three ways of thinking about a problem:  “inside the box”, “outside the box,”, and “where there is no box.”  The only sustainable approach to thinking today about problems, he argues, “is thinking without a box”.

Friedman continues:

. . . it means having no limits on your curiosity or the different disciplines you might draw on to appreciate how [the world] works.  [A person needs to be] radically inclusive.

As a photographer, thinking without a box means not being constrained by accepted norms of beauty or of what makes a compelling photograph.  It means not being constrained by the rules that are trotted out by the experts who then tell us to freely ignore them.  It means not being overly influenced by the latest hot stuff on Instagram or what is winning contests on ViewBug.  It means shooting from the heart.  As Friedman says, “What doesn’t come from the heart will never enter someone  else’s heart.

For me it means walking down an alley behind the stores that present their trendy, polished facades to the main street.  In the alley is where you find the unexpected and serendipitous examples of unexpected beauty.  Below are recent examples of beauty I found in alleys.

Side View Of Galloway Grill
Galloway Grill – Side View

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Lose That Idea

Brain Pickings

I copied the following from Brain Pickings, Maria Popova’s fine website:

The current of the river of life moves us. Awareness of life, beauty and happiness is the current of the river.

Agnes Martin in Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances as quoted by Maria Popova in the Brain Pickings weekly newsletter, 03/26/17

I had been fiddling with the idea of putting together a talk on creativity.  My thoughts weren’t very serious, more like daydreaming or fantasizing – who would want to listen to me talk about creativity?.  I’ve been thinking differently since reading the above.  I am 68, soon to be 69, years old.  I have a lot of experience in and knowledge about creativity that I am beginning to realize might be more than for most people.  I’ve studied creativity and am deeply engaged in creative activities.  Why not try to share?  I and I suspect a lot of others, tend to denigrate my own skills and creativity.  I have no credentials in photography other than a ribbon or two from one year at the county fair.  No art or photography degrees, no professional experience, no fame, fortune or celebrity.  I also come from Scandinavian stock and a Lake Wobegon upbringing, so I’m supposed to practice modesty and be self-effacing.

Enough of that!  I think a key to creativity is being able to recognize, accept, and do something with one’s ideas.  Don’t forget them or neglect them.  Some will be not worth pursuing, but some will be and may turn into something wonderful.  Carry a notebook or use a note-taking app on your smart phone.  I use a Samsung Galaxy Note that is great for note taking.

Consider a voice recorder.  Last week while in the midst of a two-hour drive, I was awash in ideas for blog posts.  Perhaps some were good ideas.  I had a blog post mapped out in my head, a post that would have had a lot of personal meaning for me.  The heart of the post was to have been a song lyric.  By the time I got home, I only vaguely remembered the lyrics.  I think the song was by Emmylou Harris.  I read the lyrics of dozens of her songs and could not find what I remember.  I eventually drafted the blog post, but it remains unposted because I CANT FIND THE SONG.  Drat!  If I had had a voice recorder I could have recorded the relevant information in 30 seconds.  I could have pulled over to the side of the road, but I was tired after a long day and didn’t.

Don’t lose Your Idea. It May Be a Good One.

The moral of this short story?  I lost an idea that could have been polished into something good because I did not record the idea.

Essays and Poems

Yesterday while at Brueggers, I read 4 Ways To Make Space In Your Brain To Create by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West.  The first of the four is daily Morning Pages.  The Morning Pages technique was described by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way:  “[Morning Pages] are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness.”  I have found that for me, using an online journaling website (Penzu) is better for stream-of-consciousness writing.  My longhand writing is so bad and tedious that it gets in the way of my stream-of-consciousness.

Another of the four is from Ray Bradbury’s Zen In the Art Of Writing.  It is to

Buy a book of poetry and a selection of essays (perhaps some from a previous decade). Read a few every day to help your mind foster a state of creativity.

I will never turn down an excuse to visit my local, indie bookstore and buy a book or two.  So I bought Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems and a small book of essays by Michael Kinsley, Old Age:  A Beginner’s Guide.  This morning I added reading an essay and some poetry to my morning routine.

Old Age:  A Beginner’s Guide is targeted at Baby Boomers of which I am one.  I read the foreword by Michael Lewis and the introduction by Kinsley; no essay yet.  The introduction ends with

If you want to be remembered as a good person, then be a good person.  Who knows?  It just might work.  But start now, because if you’re a boomer, time is running out.

If you want to know about the other two 4 Ways To Make Space In Your Brain To Create, follow the link to the article.