Bored? Good! Quarantined? Yes! How’s Your Creativity? Read This.

Anxiety, panic, fear, pandemic stress: The cornerstones of the negative universe. Yet, while all hell is breaking around us, can we still muster up the courage to innovate and create. Is creativity still alive or is it merely napping? Do we create out of despair or want? Out of necessity or desire? I guess that depends on each one of us.

In a recent article in Psychology Today, boredom is cited as an almost certain stimuli for creativity. Now, some of you may not agree with this, and that’s okay. If you don’t and even if you do, let me hear from you with your reasoning.

According to the article, which contains some very interesting points I want to share with you, you’ll see explosive creativity everywhere you look: in how people stuck at home are constructing elaborate recreations of their favorite artworks for the #GettyChallenge; or how we make ways to connect—whether it’s singing from our balconies or happy hour delivery via drones—while social distancing; even in the acerbic memes and uplifting stories flooding social media to offer inane distractions and inspire hope during this crisis.

Interestingly, quarantine and the resulting ennui (a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of excitement) of our home-bound brains have proven to be a catalyst for innovation. Thus, boredom breeds inventive creativity, as long as it’s the right kind of boredom.

Fruitful Boredom

Psychological studies describe five levels of boredom: indifferent, calibrating, searching, reactant, and apathetic. In its seeking state, boredom drives us to find something to engage and delight us. Think of the imaginary friend you had as a child; you did have an imaginary friend, didn’t you? Or the games you’d play with that certain stuffed animal, whose goal in life seemed to be avoiding Mom’s washing machine. Both scenarios seemed to trigger one’s own imagination, and, thus, your creativity. (Note: At least it did mine.)

In today’s society, real boredom escapes us; it seems everywhere you look, all eyes are staring into multiple-shaped devices hosting 24/7 news and entertainment. It’s as if we have to go out of our way to truly be bored.

bonding time of mother and child

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

While technology provides us creative outlets and a means of connecting when we are physically isolated from one another, these distractions are like the digital equivalent of junk food for our brains while good old fashioned boredom is a hunger that nurtures creative thinking.

What’s unique about this quarantine is that it constrains us in so many ways.  Our typical means of working, socializing, and even provisioning ourselves have been dramatically restricted. And while people tend to think that constraints limit creativity and innovation, research proves quite the opposite to be true.

Continue reading

When Sending A Hallmark Card Just Won’t Do.

AdWeek Special Report: 6 Tips to Help Creativity and Quarantine Co-Exist

 

In times like these I find it particularly important to share news and helpful information wherever and whenever I come across it. Such is the case with this blog post. Thanks to Adweek and its contributor, Sara Spary for the article on which this blog is based.

In the creative world, we’re used to people getting together, face-to-face, to collaborate and exchange ideas, to, well, create that next great ad or TV commercial. So what does one do when quarantine is the order of the day for just about all the known universe?

Demands for making the abnormal as close to normal abound from clients and prospective ones. Business as usual it’s not. So, how is this all working out thus far?

The trade publication Adweek asked veteran creatives around the world to “share their experiences and advice on how to keep the creative juices flowing from home”—even when COVID-19 is knocking on the front door.

Think Face-to-Face

Since you’re already used to doing this, why stop now?

“We’ve made it a point to keep interactions face-to-face whenever possible. Every meeting, regroup, catch-up, brainstorm session—no matter how big or small—is done through Google Hangouts,” said Ryan Engelbert, creative director at We Are Social New York. “It’s forced us to be even more focused on each other and more accountable for the information and ideas that are being exchanged.”

This feels weird, not to mention a bit awkward

Engelbert’s creative partner and fellow creative director Casey De Pont recommends creatives embrace the occasional awkwardness that comes with video calls, since you never know where such moments may lead.

“Video chat still feels awkward to us as humans,” Du Pont said. “There’s a lot of pressure for maximum productivity and zero wasted time when you’re digitally staring each other down, but creative development doesn’t work that way.”

Not everybody may be used to video chat but not everybody is used to uninterrupted speech in a live conference room meeting either. Goof ups and unintended pauses work the same as if you were humanly in the same room with one another.

“You need the awkward pauses and the space between ideas to let things breathe and develop. The more we can be real people in the virtual space, the more comfortable we’ll become working there,” she said.

Be a Space Cadet

Spending time alone in quarantine gives you the time to quietly explore ideas and concepts without any critics jumping down your throat. You’ve got plenty of space to think out loud if you want.

Droga5 copywriter Gabe Santana like it this way. “I think the best part about working from home is that I can lie down on the floor and say bad ideas out loud without bothering anyone,” Santana said. “Except Germany, of course.”

That would be Germany Lancaster, Droga5 art director, Santana’s creative partner and self-proclaimed homebody. Lancaster prefers to brainstorm alone and mull it all down to a few good concepts “before meshing ideas” with Santana.

“Once I’ve got a couple ideas down, I like to either present them to my partner in a deck or chat through them in hopes that they springboard into something grand. Chatting through ideas always leads to lots of laughs, so that’s definitely a bonus,” Lancaster said.

Establish a Stronger Relationship

Working remotely can really strengthen that and those relationship(s).

For Ludovic Miege, copywriter at Havas Paris, working remotely hasn’t been too much of a problem so far because he and his creative partner, art director Jordan Molina, have worked together for six years.

“For us, working like this is not very complicated because we know how to work together and do not need to see each other to work,” he said. “We can call each other all day long using Facebook, Whatsapp, Gmail, Zoom. We have many ways to communicate and exchange our ideas.

“Because of our long relationship, we know how the other one understands things. You are more efficient when your partnership is strong.”

Have a Flexible Routine

Working remotely can feel odd and awkward to those not used to doing it. Don’t overdo the video conferences and calls just to prove something. Remember, too many conference calls can lead to less time for thinking.

But Madrid-based Javier Campopiano, who recently joined Grey as chief creative officer of Grey Europe and Global, warns this will only lead to burnout. He says keeping structure in your day is important.

“Right now, I try to keep a routine. My kids are not going to school so we don’t need to wake up as usual, but we’re trying to keep the same schedule. I try to exercise on the balcony, because I can’t go for a run—we can get a fine—so I exercise and then shower,” he told Adweek. “I dress up to work, maybe less formally than I usually do, and I sit in front of my computer in my little office here at home.”

So you work in your pajamas. So what?

Depending on what kind of routine one is used to doing, spending the day in your PJ’s may feel very normal. If not, that’s okay, too.

Mariana Albuquerque, a creative copywriter working in Ireland suggests “the main challenge is not being distracted by other people—or animals—in your home, and understanding the time to start working and finishing it,” she said. “Since I’ve been working from home for a week, I’ve created a routine for myself. I do wear comfy PJs, though. It doesn’t make me feel lazy at all. But I do comb my hair in case of a video call.”

Her creative partner and art director, Carina Caye Branco, urges the most important thing of all is open communication.

“Communication is key, and trying to organize our day and tasks. Be online all the time, or at least tell your partner if you need to go offline and how long,” she said. “And keep a record of everything you’re thinking/doing. [That has] been proving really helpful for us.”

Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She’s been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.

Boosting Your Creativity – Just Like Einstein – Even in Crisis Times! Part 2.

4 Ways Combinatory Play Gets You Out of a Brain Rut, Plus Helps One Deal with a Crisis.

Now that you see how the human brain can get stuck in a rut thanks to neural pathways and a fondness for the familiar, how can you free your brain and lead it on a path to innovation? Based on research and real-life examples from great minds, here are four ways Combinatory Play can to get you out of a brain rut:

1. Cross Train Your Brain

Each cross-training activity works a different, but complementary, part of the body that will help get you stronger in the overall event, task or project. In other words, if you’re a novelist, try your hand at poetry. If you’re a painter, dabble in sculpting. If you’re a computer scientist, play around with web design.

For instance, how did playing violin help Einstein theorize about matter and energy? A study from UC Irvine and the University of Wisconsin found that giving piano lessons to preschoolers significantly improved their spatial-temporal reasoning— a key skill needed for math and science—much more than giving computer lessons, singing lessons, or no lessons at all.

So try a new activity within your field or related to it; you’ll expand your neural connections and strengthen your brain overall.

2. Take a Shower, Go for a Walk or Do Some Other Mundane Activity

First, creativity and relaxation could be linked. I’ve found that whenever I’m really tired, my creativity just hits a wall. Trying to go on is fruitless. Wrap it up and go to bed or walk away from whatever it is you’re working on and come back to it in several hours or the next day.

Depending on when you’re doing this, try something boring, like showering or taking a walk (though some folks would argue that this exercise is not boring) or go for a swim. These tasks don’t require substantial cognitive effort, so our brains are free to wander. And contrary to popular belief, a brain “at rest” isn’t really resting at all.

ZZZ's

Some researchers believe there is a positive correlation between our daydreaming state (occurring in a brain region that becomes more active at rest) and creativity. Mind-wandering may allow the conscious to give way to the subconscious, so the brain can connect disparate ideas.

Second, distractions may boost creativity. Research by Harvard professor Shelley Carson found that high creative achievement was associated with low latent inhibition, or the capacity to screen out irrelevant information, especially if the participants had a high IQ.

For the creative mind, inspiration can be found everywhere. Sometimes, you just need to distract yourself long enough to notice it.

3. Sleep On It

Regarding the process of discovery, scientists have proposed that there is an incubation period during which “unconscious processes contribute to creative thinking.” In his memoir, A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway reveals how he safeguarded his creativity through such a process:

Ernest_Hemingway_in_London_at_Dorchester_Hotel_

“I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day. That way my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything…”

And in a later chapter:

“I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing; but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”

In 2009, a study out of the University of California San Diego was published suggesting that sleep may assist combinatorial creativity. In particular, researchers found that study participants who were allowed to slip into Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM)—the stage during which we dream—showed an almost 40% improvement over their earlier creative problem-solving test performances, while those who had only non-REM sleep or quiet rest showed no improvement.

The authors of that study hypothesized that when we’re in REM, our brains are better able to integrate unassociated information, which is essential to creative thinking (it explains why dreams are so bizarre).

As mentioned earlier, when you’re stuck on a problem or the creative juices stop flowing, try going to bed. You’ll have a refreshed and different perspective the next morning.

4. Feed Your (copy) Cat

Is anything truly original? Uh, doubtful. In fact, according to artist Austin Kleon, the answer is no. Kleon presented a TED Talk “Steal Like an Artist” and a book of the same name, in which he asserts that nothing is original and all artists build upon previous work.

With this in mind, don’t plagiarize someone, but get inspired by and improve upon someone else’s creations. In this Age of the Internet, one can’t help “borrow” from someone else’s idea. That’s in part why I’m both sharing this article from Amy Rigby and the Trello blog but also adding some of my own perspective.

Suggestions:

  • If you’re suffering from writer’s block, buy a pack of those word magnets and rearrange them until you come up with creative phrases on your fridge;
  • As previously mentioned, break your concentration, especially when it’s hard for you to focus, and go for a walk or go to bed (depending on the time, of course);
  • If you’re not sure how to move forward on a project, bounce ideas off of your teammates and see if you find any hidden gems in their suggestions;
  • If you’re building a product and stuck in the design phase, search for competitors who have made similar products, find where their customers are unhappy, and design something new that solves the problems your competitors failed to address;
  • Step back from your computer or tablet or canvas or whatever tool you’re using and try and get a bigger or completely different picture of what you’re doing. Go wherever your mind wants to go. Although you may want to continue working on a particular piece of creative, your mind may not. Try doing what it wants. You’ll end up with a different perspective, and, maybe even a new project or topic.
  • During crisis times, our emotions seem to be at their peak. Don’t let them get the best of you, but learn from them. You’re already jacked so let your new-found motivation help guide you to your (new) goals; what was important yesterday may not be as important today.

We all get stuck in a rut at times, even the greatest minds in history like Einstein did. If you need a new way of thinking, use Combinatory Play to give your brain a boost:

  • Participate in creative cross-training to expand your brain’s neural connections;
  • Let your mind wander by doing something mundane or even boring;
  • Go to bed and let your subconscious mind connect the dots during REM sleep;
  • Use another person’s work as a springboard for inspiration and improvement;
  • Go where your mind wants to go and gain a different perspective.
  • Emotions tend to peak during crisis times; learn from them.
Abstract design made of human head and symbolic elements on the subject of human mind, consciousness, imagination, science and creativity

“Diversity of the Mind” Thanks to iStock Photo


Thanks to Amy Rigby in

Boosting Your Creativity – Just Like Einstein – Even in Crisis Times! Part 1.

Even during times of crisis and major uncertainty, creativity is very useful. The outbreak gripping the world at present, the Corona Virus (covid-19), is causing all sorts of interruption globally. The pandemic is causing us to think like we’ve never thought before or at least in a very long time.

Creativity brings itself to the forefront once again. How we use it to solve some almost unthinkable problems is up to us. Fortunately, we have viable resources upon which to fall back.

In the continuing process of exploring the myriad aspects of creativity, I was intrigued by this article from the Trillo blog regarding how Albert Einstein used a certain kind of “play” to enhance his creative streaks. What’s appealing to me is that all of us can learn from this, whether or not we’re engaged in a global pandemic.

I dare say everyone wants to boost their creativity. Now especially. How about boosting it on a par with the likes of Einstein? Well, it has to do with what’s referred to as Combinatory Play.

What the heck is Combinatory Play?

“Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.”
– Albert Einstein

The term “combinatory play,” also known as combinatorial creativity, was perhaps first coined by Albert Einstein in a letter to French mathematician Jacques Hadamard. In an attempt to understand mathematicians’ mental processes, Hadamard asked Einstein about how he thought.

Einstein-final

Einstein’s letter reply, later published in Ideas and Opinions, explained that his thinking process transcended what could be communicated in the written or spoken word, but that there was “a certain connection between those elements and relevant logical concepts.”

Huh?

Well, Einstein was known to play violin whenever he was stuck on a tough problem and often spoke of how music influenced the way he thought about math and science. His sister, Maja, said that sometimes after playing piano, he’d get up and say, “There, now I’ve got it.”

Albert Einstein quote

Call it combinatory play, combinatorial creativity, or intuition—we’ve all experienced that flash of insight, that fleeting moment when a solution we’ve been grinding away at reveals itself in an unexpected place. Playing violin helped Einstein theorize about time and space. What might be your Combinatory Play?

“Creativity is just connecting things.” – Steve Jobs

Steve+Jobs

Stuck in Traffic on the Neural Pathway to Nowhere

Understanding why Combinatory Play boosts creativity, means we should look at how the brain works.

The brain’s building blocks are neurons: nerve cells that receive and transmit signals along neural pathways. In Harvard professor of psychiatry John Ratey’s A User’s Guide to the Brain, certain pathways are forged at birth, like the ones that control your breathing and heartbeat. Others can be manipulated by learning. So when you’re stuck in a rut, your brain’s neurons could literally be stuck on a neural pathway you’ve carved out through your behavior.

The good news is you can get your brain unstuck by choosing to make new connections—forge a new neural pathway. Ratey explains, “A person who forcibly changes his behavior can break the deadlock by requiring neurons to change connections to enact the new behavior.”

If you’re frustrated by mental processes that lead nowhere, it’s kind of like your brain is taking the same old route to work every day because that’s what you’ve trained it to do. But if the highway is congested and you’re sitting in traffic, it’s up to you to tell your brain that there’s a new route it should take to get to where you want to go.

Comfort In Familiarity

Your brain is continually striving for order and predictability, and as a result, can get pretty set in its ways. While reverting to familiar paths can keep you safe and comfortable, it can also hinder your creativity. Therefore, it’s important to quiet this part of the brain if you want to invent new solutions. Combinatory Play can help you do this by relaxing your mind.

The Brain’s Inclination for Seeking Patterns Encourages Innovation

As clinical psychologist Victoria Stevens explains: “Our pattern-seeking behavior is an essential part of creative thinking, although it can also produce false assumptions and biases when previous experiences lead us to beliefs we do not question. In addition, finding links, connections, and patterns between apparently dissimilar things is essential to creative thinking.”

Your pattern-seeking behavior can benefit you in creative thinking. Just remember to:

  • Question your assumptions
  • Try to find patterns where it seems like none exist

Combinatory Play allows you to zoom out, see the bigger picture, and spot the patterns. This is especially true at times like this. Think and act creatively and responsibly, not out of fear or panic but out of rational, logical thought. The calmer we are, the better.

Continued in Part 2 . . .


Thanks to Amy Rigby in

Creativity in the Corporate Ivory Tower? Sheesh, surely you jest?!

This is not a whodunit, nor is it a Perry Mason murder mystery about the Case of the Kangaroo Court. What it is, however, is the Business Case for Creativity.

An excerpt from a review of the book itself reveals, “Debate in the advertising and marketing industries has raged for decades: does creativity make advertising more effective? Or is it just the folly of creative people looking to win their next award?

“The arguments of both advocates and cynics have until recently been based on conjecture and anecdotal evidence. James Hurman’s seminal creative effectiveness book The Case for Creativity brings the debate to a conclusion with three decades of international research into the link between creativity and business results.”

Tom Roach, BBH’s (Bartle-Bogle-Hegarty) effectiveness head, was asked by Thinkbox to present the business case for creativity at their spring event. Inspired by Thinkbox’s own  innovative slide desk, the presentation he gave brought together the best evidence for the value of creativity in marketing communications. Here are excerpts from that presentation along with my own take on the case for creativity.

Case for creaivity

Simply stated, without creativity one has nothing. The beautifully executed creative plan of an advertising campaign can not be overshadowed by something comprised of “just the facts.” The campaign must have charisma, its own personality, to be believable. However, being believable doesn’t necessarily mean playing it safe or conservative.

Take this attitude from Keith Wood of Unilever in his Forward of the book:

Forward-Case for Creativity

That may be the case but the industry still has a ways to go and many more folks need to know. While this may be true, can we say there is a crisis in creativity? If so, how so and what is it?

First, let’s take a step or two back and ask: “What do we mean by creative?”

Well, there’s this . . .

Novel . . .

And this . . .

Good ideas . . .

And this somewhat in-your-face guideline . . .

Make it different . . .

Okay, all good and fruitful definitions and clarifications of what creativity is or entails. As with several key issues in the business world, creativity is complicated, especially when the problem is multifaceted and everyone on the marketing committee has a different viewpoint.

But, is there a crisis in creativity? Well, let’s see.

Trends Wrkg Against

Campaign effectiveness has fallen (UL), Budgets have been falling (UR), Short-termination has been rising (LL), Long-term cases have lost efficiency (LR)

Ad Blocking

Hmmmmm, looking kinda murky, isn’t it? Let’s consider this :

Rising Sea

 

Smart Phones

Autos

Ah, yes, nothing like differentiation in car ads!

 

Case for creaivity

 

Creative Companies

S&P 500

Disruption

Creative Execution

Emotional

Ad Slogans

While the above slides are true, I vote for more thoughtfulness and less cutesyness. In some advertising, the ad could have the audio muted (saying what the ad is about) with just the video or image shown, and most folks wouldn’t be able to tell what product is being promoted. Let’s face it, cars and cologne can be interchangeable. And, I guess, trucks are destined to be driven only in the “out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere” scenarios.

Creativity Brings

I’d like to add at least one more: Intangibles. Sometimes you just don’t know what makes a good ad good. It just works.

 

Our Objective

I definitely agree with this last poster. Effectiveness is key to creative execution. Smart creativity is a must. Play to one’s audience still applies but do so without insulting their intelligence. I’ll go out on a limb and say that, generally speaking, a twenty-something copywriter has little to no understanding of how best to relate to the “senior plus” set, unless he can relate to his grandparents.

Case for Creativity Book

If you want to view a more in-depth portrayal of this presentation, see the Business Case for Creativity. It’s not your ordinary slide deck. Neither is the book on which the presentation is based.

Seth and Secrets (to good ideas)

I’m a follower of Seth’s Blog. You may be, too. If not, you ought to be.

That’s Seth, as in Seth Godin. He’s a very prolific writer and blogger and best-selling author.

Recently, I read a post he submitted about ideas. I’ve posted it below for reference.

Two simple secrets to good ideas

Secret #1 is the biggest one: More bad ideas. The more bad ideas the better. If you work really hard on coming up with bad ideas, sooner or later, some good ideas are going to slip through. This is much easier than the opposite approach.

Secret #2 is more important: Generosity. It’s much easier and more effective to come up with good ideas for someone else. Much easier to bring a posture of insight and care on behalf of someone else. It lets you off the hook, too.

My take.

Relative to Secret #1, seems that most brainstorming sessions tend to shut down people who come up with any idea that someone else finds stupid, offensive or one sounding similar to something presumably already tried. That. Is. Dumb. That’s the worst thing anyone could do: Stifle someone else’s thought and idea.

There is a process for generating ideas, all kinds of ideas. There’s also a process for weeding out the so-called good ones. And these processes are not one and the same.

A bad idea is just a good idea awaiting an appropriate execution. Or is it? Is there an appropriate execution for any “bad” idea? Oh, by the way, what makes the idea “bad” in the first place?

Before you can generate a list of ideas, good or bad, you should first agree on a specific question to be answered or addressed. Once that’s done, it’s much easier to devise a list of ideas generated in a short period of time, say five minutes, and then “edit” them later.

I’d suggest giving everyone in the session a stack of sticky notes and instruct the folks to write down a word or two on each sticky that attempts to answer the question. People are being forced to think quickly and not compose sentences, just thoughts. The sticky notes can later be easily organized to further benefit the brainstorm.

Oh, and don’t forget the trash can! You have to collect all the so-called “bad” ideas for disposal later. (Hint: Don’t actually dispose of them right away, but for this one exercise, they no longer exist, which will freak out some people.)

It’s interesting to do this same exercise but go back to review and edit the ideas that were discarded in the first exercise. You’re now attacking the same question with answers or ideas that are derived from an opposite perspective.

One could call this generosity that Seth refers to in Secret #2. Rather than assuming that all ideas previously discarded are no good, a generous mindset is to review them, discuss and edit down to only one that could be plausible.

Who’s to say which idea is good or bad. They’re different. True, one may be more applicable than the other but you won’t know that until further due diligence is done.

If Spring Was Season of Creativity, What, Then Is Summer?

It’s Summertime! Generally, we all think of summer as starting on June 1 and going through August 31. Summer 2018 actually started June 21, the Summer Solstice, our longest day of the year.

What the heck does summer have to do with our creativity, anyway? Are we inspired because of the summer rains, weary of the intense heat, but relaxed and excited about our vacations?

Or do we hit our creativity pause buttons because of all these? Summer Time is supposed to be Fun Time, isn’t it? Isn’t creativity synonymous with fun?

Well, let’s step back a bit, shall we. My friend, Felix Scardino, LCSW, sends out a regular message at least once a quarter about various insights on creativity and the mind, art and psychology. In a message a few months ago, Felix referred to Thomas Merton reminding us that in Winter, plants appear dead, yet within them are resources that lead to new life. Spring thus bursts forth with color and growth, a season of creativity.

Season of Creativity

According to Felix, Spring can remind you not to jump to dire conclusions when all seems lost, when you can’t see much in your future, or when you feel that your reserves have dried up.

He notes that our resources for new ideas and insights are often so hidden that our lives look like dead branches, and we’ll begin to see shoots of life and hope, which usher us into our Spring.

Are we suppressing any feelings, hiding insights, feeling weary about expression? What of our hidden voice? Isn’t it time to feel alive again, to, as Felix puts it, allow what lives inside of us to come out?

Assuming we have done this during these past few months, can we presume that a new, refreshed mode of thought and creativity is taking shape within us for the summer months?

If so, what creative shape becomes us?

Summer: ‘Tis the Season of the Mind at Play?

In an article in KOSMOS, journal for global transformation, authors Jorge N. Ferrer, Marina T. Romero and Ramon V. Albareda discuss how creativity in academia is similar to our seasons.

In Summer, some flowers have matured into fruits and some of those fruits become ripe. It is the season of harvest, celebration, sharing, and gratitude. It is also a time to rest, to peacefully contemplate the new seeds contained in the fruits, and to plan another cycle for the following Autumn. In the creative process, the ‘fruits’ represent the ideas or expressions selected for further elaboration and refinement.

Summer is the season of the mind—a time for the intellectual and aesthetic elaboration of ideas. It is also time to open oneself to the many wonders, possibilities, and joys of summer, which can now expand and stimulate the mind with insights that can refine those fruitful ideas. That kinda sounds like f-u-n.

There is, however, nothing that says we can’t allow ourselves to be open to things year-round. Dialoging with others about one’s ideas in order to polish them, and putting those ideas into writing or other expressive means is a natural progression of the creative process whether or not this is done during summer. Yet, Summertime does present some unique characteristics and qualities.

 

Summer-Play

Borrowed from Felix’s Summer Email Message – thanks, Felix!

It is usually a more relaxed time during which the mind can indeed play with its surroundings and explore possibilities, if we let it.

Curiosity is a wonderful attribute of creativity, and summer’s playground lends a world of potential ideas to the curious. Take time to play and be curious (always). Let your mind reignite and stimulate your passion. We owe it to ourselves.

However, therein lies the problem. Playing. We’re forgetting how to do it and we, both children AND adults, are not doing it enough.

In his recent “Summer Email,” Felix refers to research scientist Dr. Stuart Brown, who states that a chance to beef up your intuitive skills, improve your relationships and refine your ability to solve problems are a few of the benefits of play he writes about in his book, Play: How it Sharpens the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.  
As Felix points out, play is a certain purposelessness, spontaneity, abandon, and openness to experience-as well as relaxed movement. The more you infuse your work with these playful traits, the more creative and innovative the result.

 

Some theorists even suggest that the opposite of play is not work but depression! I can understand this point. Like millions of us, I suffer from depression, and lack of play. Summers used to be full of play and excitement: Golf and boating and water skiing. Seems life a couple of lifetimes ago!

As the seasons bring about different senses to the body – cold in winter, hot in summer – so, too, does the mind reflect these various feelings. One’s creative passion may run very differently when confronting a robust fireplace with a hot toddy compared to how one feels while sinking one’s toes in the sand at the beach on July 4th.

Both are valuable and resourceful experiences in our creative process. This is Summer Time, so take time to enjoy and let your minds play and explore. New dimensions within your own creativity lie ahead, waiting to be realized. As they are, our creative shapes evolve.

Relax. Summer’s heat may have you sweating and thirsting for coolness, but you have plenty of time before the fire will need stoking and the toddy heated.

 

 

Wanna put some fun back into advertising? Sure ya do!

Remember when advertising used to be, dare I say it, fun? We actually enjoyed working in this industry. And, I’m not even talking about our three-martini lunches!

The work. The creativity. Client interactions. Clients actually willing to work with us. I know. Sounds like it’s all from a galaxy far, far away.

Well, not quite. You’re invited to come join AAF-Houston on Wednesday, May 16, for a special appearance by a renowned creative from The Richards Group in Big D, Chris Smith.

Come be our guests and learn how to put some fun back into your advertising. Feel free to register right now!

ChrisSmithLuncheon_update HR2

The Boundaries of the Imagination

Are there any?

That’s what a recent weekend conference at The Jung Center on Montrose in the Museum District here in Houston explored. What did we come up with? Jury’s still out.

The Boundaries of the Imagination

I’ve been to only a couple of seminars at The Jung Center over the years and, coincidentally, both had to do with imagination as it relates to imagery and creativity.

Both were also moderated by my friend, Felix Scardino, author of The Pebble and the Canyon.

Now, I’m not a therapist nor do I have that type of background, although I have spent years in the advertising and creative industry so, I suppose, there are some who would say I’ve been in therapy all these years!

This special summer conference, The Boundaries of the Imagination, intrigued me.

When I reviewed the list of speakers for this weekend conference, I’ll admit to not knowing any of them. Yet, I anticipated the experience, the topics. I also assumed I would be in the minority; I am not a therapist or a psychologist. I’m just a curious creative.

Friday night began with a lecture from Jeffrey Kripal, PhD, past chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University. His lecture, “When the Imagined Is Not Imaginary,” seemed to center on the evolutionary goal of imagination. Quite extraordinary.

Though it was a very thoughtful discussion, it really got down into the “imaginary weeds” for this listener. When Jeffrey mentioned the term “imaginal,” he went on to define it according to one Mr. Frederick Myers as “imagination on spiritual steroids.”

According to Frederick Myers, imaginal is defined as “imagination on spiritual steroids.”

HELLO!  Spiritual steroids? I’m not sure what the hell that means but it grabbed my attention.

Saturday morning’s session, “The Street of Heaven Was as Glass,” was a conversation between Jay Wehnert (right, below) of Intuitive Eye, his arts organization founded in 2011, and Vanzant Driver (left, below), a Houston-based artist whose work  is included in The Menil Collection.

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This conversation was a highlight for me personally just to listen and observe. One of the observations from Vanzant really touched my spirit – “Inspiration is the medicine for the soul and creativity.”

DAMN!

“I can’t wait to inspire somebody,” Vanzant said. “This should be what gets you up everyday.”

Inspiration is the medicine for the soul and creativity – Vanzant Driver

Since different attendees would no doubt mention other things that got their attention, I won’t attempt to cover everything from that weekend. My thoughts and impressions are my own. So are my dreams and my imagination.

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There will also be other blog posts, I’m sure.

As a photog-hobbyist, I couldn’t help but capture one of my conference colleagues chatting with Vanzant about her artwork in abstract visualization (I think that’s what she called it). Her paintings are hanging in back of her and Vanzant.

According to Vanzant, the philosopher, “the most powerful things in the universe are things you can’t see.”

We sometimes forget this. Hmmm, let me rephrase that . . . we rarely remember this!

 

Before we wound up our weekend conference, I participated in one last exercise. I played in the sand. Well, I had my own sand trap, er, tray. I even got to select as many toys, er, symbols, as I could carry.

But before that, I closed my eyes and “became one with the sand.” I moved my hands around the sand and just had fun, like the little kid inside me did many years ago, both on Lake Charles (LA) and Galveston beaches.

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“Playing in the Imagination” was what we did under the watchful eyes of Michele Lees, a depth psychotherapist in private practice in Houston with emphasis and training in Jungian psychology. And, evidently, one helluva sand castle builder!

Each one of the objects in my sand tray above represented something to me; some of them really did “call out to me” to be chosen, just as Michelle advised they would.

In case you can’t quite make it out, that is indeed a sleigh sitting within the branches of the Christmas tree . . . on a beach next to a treasure chest near a beached boat. The symbolism I was feeling that Sunday morning was both of fond memories and sadness (note the half buried Eiffel Tower near the voodoo doll), and, well, use your imagination to figure out the rest.

The entire weekend was like nothing I had experienced before. Not being a therapist, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Being of the creative bent, I anticipated exploring my imagination in ways I had not, uh, imagined before.

Presenters to 2016 Summer Conference at Jung Center

Each one of the “speakers, therapists, authors, experts” were enlightening and, dare I say, imaginative. If you get the chance to hear one of these folks speak or present, go for it.

Have we been underestimating the power and reach of the imagination? Perhaps.

It is my firm belief that creativity is entrenched in our imagination. In fact, my favorite definition of imagination is “intelligence having fun.”

Yet, is imagination a location, an experience, a physical phenomenon? What is, as the brochure talking about this conference asks, its hidden power in a culture that tends to understand imagination as the opposite of reality?

Are there boundaries of imagination? If so, how many and are they truly discernible? What are the possibilities in exploring them and what do we risk?

What if we come to understand that imagination is reality?

What then?

Then, my friends, we come to grips with our emotions and, when we’re ready, if we truly are, we take another trek into the vast landscape of our own imagination to explore.

But be cautious. Rational thought may be cast aside; symbolism may take over. Creativity may be awakened. A new masterpiece may be unfolding right before your eyes.

Capture it, and enjoy . . . before it goes poof!

 

Editors Note: Those of you wanting to see Jay & Vanzant’s conversation can view it on YouTube.

To Think, Per Chance To Create.

Something to ponder or just day dream about. Seriously.

To sleep, per chance to dream;

Frozen Thinker

To think, per chance to create

To write, per chance to make sense;

To be read or heard, per chance to be understood.

Oh, tis a wicked web we weave,

Were it not for words or deed,

Would the mind go where the soul doth lead?

Perish thy thought and free thyself from doubt,

On the edge of reality, solutions await.

Colorful Crayons

But, lo, what of even the simple idea?

Impactful creative is its nourishment to foster growth.

Yet, regardless of which crayon you choose,

The results can still be compelling.

 

“Frozen Thinker” graphic by Vasava