Posts concerning creativity

Impressions of the Grand Canyon near Supai

23:57 15 Apr 2012. Updated: 02:16 16 Apr 2012

The very first time I saw the Grand Canyon, it had a helicopter in it, rising above the sides. I was looking from the car as we approached, and the blue and white helicopter was there, hanging in space, space with walls of rock behind it, white and ochre stone.

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Some Clues to How Creativity Works

20:43 08 Apr 2012

Last Wednesday I went to a talk by Jonah Lehrer on the topic of creativity, and left it feeling quite inspired. This post is a brief summary of why.

(Any inaccuracies in this outline are my own, as there is no guarantee that I understood what Jonah Lehrer intended to convey; I intend to read his book Imagine: How Creativity Works for more insight, but have not yet done so.)

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Q’Rith: Maps and World-Building

23:31 11 Sep 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

I started the process of building the world of Q’Rith, and the nature and politics of the area of it my campaign would be focused on, conceptually rather than visually, which is to say: I didn’t have a map.

I had a strong sense of how it was supposed to work in terms of the dynamics between regions, what the scale should be like, and of pieces of the history of the region. I also knew it would start on the east coast of a large continent, and that the continent’s dominant state would stretch from one coast to the other. But that was more or less all.

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Self-Expression & Voice

22:37 16 Jan 2011. Updated: 20:10 18 Jan 2011

What does it mean to truly express yourself? At first glance, it may seem that this is a pointless question, since the truth value of self-expression can only really be measured by the subject. But that’s not how it really works, and generally we’re well able to spot falsity, artificiality, and posturing. I don’t mean that we’re able to detect lies, as I’m not really talking about objective truth here, but more about what we believe about ourselves and the use of our genuine voice, where “genuine” is something that can’t necessarily be pinned down by a solid definition.

This lack of a solid definition, and of empirical testability, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It’s probably easiest to observe “non-genuine self-expression” when children do it, or when we ourselves remember doing it as children. Children will generally do this imitatively, trying to act in some way that they’ve seen others act, most likely in an attempt to be treated similarly to how those others are treated. It’s clear to an observer that it’s an act, and the child knows it’s an act but is committed to denying that knowledge. That is an example of the inverse of self-expression, but probably only one of the easiest forms to spot—after all, which is more likely to occur as we grow older, that we give up posturing and posing to attract the kinds of attention we desire, or that we become far more adept at so doing?

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22:34 09 Sep 2010

Near the start of July I mentioned the idea of keeping a “gratitude journal”. I’ve been doing that, more or less, since then.

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11:56 01 Apr 2010

At the beginning of March I kicked off a roleplaying campaign, the first I’ve run since early 1995. The setting is essentially the one I laid out last year in my fantasy world sketch, which now as the name “Q’Rith”.

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The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good: Duke Nukem Forever

04:08 22 Dec 2009

Duke Nukem Forever is the vaporware king of games, a game that was promised for so long that its release was a punchline even in the late 1990s. At one point it and Daikatana were frequently compared to each other; Daikatana was also extremely late and ultimately a failure—but it came out in 2000.

Wired has a long look at what happened, and it seems fair to conclude that one of the problems was a lack of limits.

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The Ideas In My Head Are Precious, So Precious

23:55 30 Jan 2009. Updated: 03:21 31 Jan 2009

I haven’t encountered ze frank for a while, but came across this via Lifehacker, and it made me think I should really have his site among my feeds.

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BoingBoing ‘Unpublication’ Brouhaha

11:06 04 Jul 2008. Updated: 18:16 28 Jan 2009

BoingBoing recently revealed that they ‘unpublished’ posts concerning Violet Blue. This caused quite a lot of commentary and some outrage among those who pay attention to such things, and I think it raises a few interesting points.

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Jonathan Hickman’s 10 Steps to Being a Professional

17:28 15 May 2008

I recently read the graphic novel The Nightly News (thanks Dave!), and while there’s plenty of interest in it, what I feel like posting about comes from the author’s comments at the end, about how he succeeded as a comics creator.

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Plagiarism Seems Silly

23:56 29 Feb 2008. Updated: 02:29 01 Mar 2008

When I read this morning that a Bush aide, Timothy Goeglin, plagiarized part of a column for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, I was perplexed. Is it that hard to write your own opinion on something?

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The Power of Focus

23:23 17 Aug 2007. Updated: 00:24 18 Aug 2007

Focus can achieve some rather amazing things. I was reminded of this recently when a friend of mine mentioned a linguist in Berkeley who knows (apparently to a relatively high standard) over ninety languages. Part of the key to this rather amazing feat was the fact that he spent several years in Korea doing nothing but eating, sleeping, exercising, teaching occasional classes, and being what he termed a “language monk”—that is, spending the rest of the time on language learning. Since his teaching was in linguistics, it didn’t distract him from his main focus, and he hence learned at a prodigious rate.

I was also reminded of this by the discovery of this Star Wars fan-produced lightsaber duel. With obsessive focus, people can create rather impressive creations.

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Loop!Station and Cheap Computing Power

23:36 06 May 2007. Updated: 01:37 07 May 2007

I went to 330 Ritch Street last night to see Loop!Station at the Digital Bliss release party. They were great, and I came away with a bunch of CDs. I also came away impressed once again by the impact that cheap computing power is having on culture.

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Creativity Steps Overview

17:40 28 Dec 2006. Updated: 19:56 31 Dec 2006

Last week I posted about some steps for getting into a creative frame of mind, and decided to try them out on my posts for the week. Overall I think that using the steps was rather effective.

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Change Your Mind

10:27 20 Dec 2006. Updated: 13:51 01 Apr 2015

I’ve had this item on my to-do list for a while: come up with list of instructions to self for getting into/out of certain emotional states. This mainly applies to creativity, motivation, and productivity (all of which are related).

The first one, creativity, I touched on in my post about inspiration. I think it should be possible to deliberately put myself into a mode where I’m going to either come up with ideas or do things with the ideas I already have. (This seems a more optimistic approach than simply waiting for inspiration to “strike”.)

And if that’s possible, it should be possible to push myself into other active mental states as well. By “active” I mean action-oriented—I have my doubts about moving into something like “happiness” with this kind of exercise. (An extended version of this kind of thing might qualify as “meditation”, however, and it appears likely that various forms of happiness can be aided significantly through meditation.) For the moment, I’m concerned with putting myself into a good state to do specific things.

The first one of these I actually came up with, and which gave me the idea for the others, was “consideration steps”. This could also be called “how to make a decision”. I found myself with a bunch of things to do like “Consider mootools (<http://mootools.net/download/release>)” and “consider [some] directory structure”, and found that I was shying away from those, so I came up with these steps:

  • Take 5 deep breaths (I think this should probably be added to more or less every checklist…).
  • Read over whatever it is.
  • Write 5 or more thoughts that come to mind after reading it.
  • Decide whether there are future actions that could be taken.
  • List those actions, and list how much time (approximately) that each might take.
  • If the action is “further consideration”, move onto separate list for this.
  • If actions are indeterminate, that is, I’m not sure whether I really want to do them, move to “possible future action” list.
  • Make notes on this process, and make sure that the action items (that is, the actions I’ve decided I want to take) are clear.

Nothing radical there, just a checklist for considering something and coming up with some kind of decision. The important thing appears to be deciding to make the decision, actually… and these steps help with that in the standard “delineated small things are easier to achieve than undifferentiated big things” way. At the least, I think these will get me in the right state of mind for decision-making. They’ve worked so far—except that I don’t always apply them. Decisions tend to go better when I do.

One I’ve only tried a couple of times, and which I’m superstitiously leery of using more often (something I want to get over by using it more often), and which I haven’t codified until now, is for getting inspiration, or getting into a creative mindset. What I note below is something I’ve never used (except in unconnected bits), and which I intend to try out.

  • Take 5 deep breaths.
  • Prepare working space for whatever creativity is going to take place. This could be notebooks, a computer, a whiteboard, paint and a canvas, whatever. But there has to be a record of some sort.
  • Write down the theme or setting or desired output or whatever it is that you know about what you want to get inspiration about.
  • Take 5 deep breaths again.
  • Recite:
    Cast a cold eye
    On life, on death.
    Horseman, pass by!

    (Obviously, substitute whatever works for you here. The Yeats is just something that seems to do it for me.)

  • Close eyes and focus on the theme/setting/desire output/whatever. Write (or paint, or output however you like) whatever comes to you at this point. Repeat this step, and keep repeating it, until you have something you think you can work on. If that doesn’t happen and you get stuck, repeat the last two steps and this one. If you get more stuck than that, go away and do something else for a while, then come back and repeat the whole thing.

Obviously, I can’t really *recommend* this, as I haven’t tried it as a whole! But I’ll use it for all my blog posts (and possibly my work on my novel) in the next week, and then report back on how it goes. (Update: I used it, it went very well, I now recommend it.)

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23:27 04 Dec 2006

A while ago, when I was in L.A. and up late and avoiding my AFBH post for the day, I came across this blog (possibly this post), which has the brilliant tagline: “Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.” Naturally, given what I was doing versus what I was supposed to be doing, this struck a chord. I was reminded of it tonight, as I was thinking about inspiration.

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