Making Visual Art (Funny Chart)

June 28th, 2014 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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makingvisualart

(Yep, this is usually how it goes for me… LOL)

Graph made with the help of GraphJam FlashBuilder.

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Redo: The Impromptu Writers’ Club

June 21st, 2014 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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Lots of tweaking, rewording, and reshaping for this week’s redone creativity post, about working together with other writers to improve your writing and get inspired to start again. Check out the new and improved article!

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Rescue Your Creativity from the Internet!

June 14th, 2014 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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rescuecreativity

I realized last night that I haven’t played my piano keyboard in about 5 weeks. 5 WEEKS? That, for me, is almost unheard of–at least, when you take into account that I used to spend up to two hours a DAY playing piano down in the basement. Even when I had video games and schoolwork to take care of, even when I was at my busiest in college, I always found time to play my music, or to write poetry, or do other creative things. What’s changed?

I can point to one thing: the Internet. Now that there’s a constant source of passive entertainment in my room (even while I’m lying or sitting in bed!), I don’t have to go far for mental stimulation. I don’t even have to lift a finger to create anything if I don’t absolutely need to. And, increasingly, I find that the urgent need to create is somehow slipping away.

Why This is a HUGE Problem–And More Widespread Than It Seems

For me, a prolific creator for most of my life up until this point, this is a radical mindset shift, and I know I’m not the only creative person suffering it. The Internet provides us with endless resources to fuel our creativity, but it also provides a handy time sink–it gives us carte blanche to while away just as many countless hours clicking things on a screen for no purpose other than a high score and/or a sense of accomplishment.

Unfortunately, that random Internet time doesn’t often lead to creativity boosts, unless your brain just really needs a gaming or browsing break. These days, for me, Internet time becomes simply “lost time,” time in which my brain still has to work at reading or analyzing, but rarely has anything concrete to show for it. And by the time I’m finally done puttering around on the Internet, I’m far too mentally tired to be creative. That is the most dangerous symptom of all.

I see this happening not only to me, but to some of my creative friends, too–we’re all suffering from what looks like “Internet fatigue,” not having the mental energy to do much beyond surf just one more website, take just one more online quiz, etc. Have you felt it, too?

A Simple Solution

I’m not recommending that we all just stop using Internet for the rest of our lives, however. Not only does our work often depend on Internet, but our creative lives are now taking place on the Internet more frequently than not. The Internet is great, but, as I’ve discovered, one can easily “overdose” on it and end up less creative than ever.

We creative folk have to reclaim at least some time for our brains to be JUST OURS–for our thoughts and ideas alone to be uppermost in our minds, rather than the blended remnants of today’s headlines/scandals, DIY ideas, status updates, etc. That’s the way we get back our creative juices…that, and specifically carving out time to do so.

So, how to reclaim productive creative time from the Internet? Here are some tips I’m putting into practice:

What other ways can you think of to rescue your own creativity from Internet fatigue? Tell me in the comments!

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Redo: The Enemy of Creativity: Self-Censorship

June 7th, 2014 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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More advice! Less rambling! MORE AWESOME!! Check out the new and improved, more in-depth post about writer’s block!

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5 Lovely (and Simple!) Beaded Ring Tutorials

May 31st, 2014 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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beadedringtuts

Handcrafting beaded bracelets and necklaces is more well-known now, thanks to Pinterest (and the Internet in general)–but the craft of beaded rings is just now beginning to appear more often on craft blogs and pinners’ boards.

What I love about these rings is that even though they’re made with beads and wire, they still look delicate and pretty, just like I like my jewelry to be. (The last one, the wire rosette, doesn’t have beads but is actually my favorite!) Read through, grab your ring sizer and ring mandrel, plus some beads and wire, and pick your favorite to try!

pearlring
Tutorial from RubysBeadwork.com

This tutorial involves bead sewing and a little bit of knowledge of various stitch types, but it’s still pretty simple, and it makes a great, vintage-looking piece!

wirewrapped_singlebead
Tutorial from HomeBabyCrafts

I love how classy the single bead looks when wrapped around with silvery threadlike wire. Who would ever believe this could be so simple?

flowerpetalring
Tutorial from The Cheese Thief

The delicate clusters of white pearlescent beads in this “8-petal flower” ring have gotten away with me. Be still my beading heart. :)

fullybeadedring
Tutorial from Strawberry Box

This tutorial makes a fully-beaded ring (band and all)–easily customizable with different colors of stones, though this blue/white/silver combination is already lovely.

wirerosettering
Tutorial from McFarland Designs

Ooooo SHINY! Even though this one doesn’t technically have beads on it, it does still require beading techniques to make. Swirls of shining wire wrapped around each other form a tiny rosette (which I’m tempted to make and use as a handmade engagement ring!).

What Do You Think?

Which is your favorite? How would you customize one of these designs for your own? Tell me in the comments!

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Redo: Little Doodles of Life

May 24th, 2014 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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This rare art post is now MUCH better (and slightly refocused), less blathery and more inspiring. Click and enjoy!

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#creativepeopleproblems

May 17th, 2014 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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creativepeopleproblems
Fellow creative folks, I believe the following images accurately describe most of our struggles. What do you think?

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Did I Miss Any?

Any other #creativepeopleproblems I could add? Let me know in the comments!

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Create Your OWN Writing Routine

May 3rd, 2014 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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writingroutine
One of the things that has always bugged me about writing advice is the inevitable “writing routine advice.” You know, the kind that starts with something like “you must wake up at 5:00 AM” and usually has advice similar to “you must write 4,000 words every day,” “you have to write with pencil and paper,” or whatever other “requirements” they want to stick in there.

My main problem with this? No matter what advice you get, it’s advice that worked for SOMEONE ELSE. This advice may not apply to you at all.

And yet, we budding writers are often expected to adopt routines that successful writers have created for themselves, simply because the writer was successful. We are not only encouraged to do this–in fact, if we dare to make up our own routine, we’re often brushed off with a discouraging remark: “well, you’ll never be successful doing it THAT way.” (Think it doesn’t happen? I’ve personally heard that one so many times I could quote it in my sleep.)

Why Others’ Writing Routines May or May Not Work for You

Writing routines are meant to encourage dedication and increase mental comfort. The motivation behind any routine, actually, is that over time it will become habit–thus, why many writers seek out a routine so that their writing becomes habitual and not done in unpredictable fits and spurts.

I understand that. But my routine, for instance, includes no early mornings, no coffee, and no set word goal for the day. In fact, I can’t actually hold myself to stringent “rules” about my writing, especially time-related rules, because I get wrapped up with anxiety about “not doing it right/not doing it on time” and consequently can’t even write one sentence. (See: my current issues with writing my blog entries ahead of schedule–I freak out about how much time I don’t have to write them, and end up depending on procrastination-driven adrenaline to write ‘em all.)

My point? Sometimes, routines can actually hold you BACK when it comes to writing. If the routine is unnatural for you, too harsh, or even just too many steps to follow, you’ll end up defeating yourself over and over instead of actually getting any writing done, good or bad.

My Routine: Ridiculously Easy (Which Means I’ll Actually FOLLOW It)

In pursuit of my own writing routine, I’ve developed the following, relatively free-form one:

For every hour I’m on the computer, I take 15 minutes away from whatever task I’m doing and write.

Stupidly simple, right? It doesn’t have anything in there about getting up at a certain time to write, how much I have to write, or anything. It’s just asking me to take 15 minutes out of every hour that I’m already on the computer anyway to write a little more on my novel (which is also stored on my computer). All I have to do is go to the novel file, open it, and type. My routine doesn’t even tell me what parts of the story I’m supposed to write, or anything. It’s as free-form and low-pressure as you can get.

AND IT WORKS. Case in point: I just took 15 minutes off from writing this very blog post and instead wrote on my novel, simply because I felt like switching tasks. My ADD brain is happier with frequent switching of tasks, which is one reason I made my routine work this way. Also, since I’m not pressured to write a certain number of words or work within a certain time limit, all my brain resources are free for creativity instead of bound up in anxiety loops.

How to Make Your Own Writing Routine

  1. First, know yourself. If you know you’re a night owl and won’t get anything productive done in the morning, don’t schedule your writing time for 6:00 AM. If you know you work better with a deadline and a specific word count goal, set those goals for yourself. Acknowledging and respecting how you naturally work best is the first key to a successful writing routine.
  2. Make it easy to follow. However you define “easy,” make your writing routine so easy for you to follow that you enjoy it and actually WANT to do it. I don’t hold with writing advice that basically tells you to treat your writing routine like it’s an obligation–if I don’t like to do something, I just ain’t gonna do it. (Maybe that makes me a quitter, but if so, then how did I end up with 165,000 words of my novel written thus far? LOL)
  3. Remember that “writing” time includes editing or even rereading your work. Even if you feel awful and have no desire to actually write, you can still edit or reread your own work as a lower-impact “writing” activity. In fact, sometimes I’ve started off not feeling like writing much of anything, and once I dig into my novel a little bit, either editing or rereading, I end up wanting to write more!
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    Redo: Melodies from Dreams

    April 26th, 2014 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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    My lovely poetic post about dreamed melodies has been fleshed out a little, but it’s still short, sweet, and true to life. Click and enjoy some uplifting creative musing!

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    Adventures in First-Time Music Directing, part 2

    April 19th, 2014 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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    firsttimedirecting2

    When we last saw our musical heroine (LOL), I was battling against my own problems as well as trying to get the cast members interested and invested in their performance. With the show literally days away, we were still struggling.

    Running Out of Time…!

    Despite several rehearsals with me attempting to conduct the music and my friend directing, it seemed like Seussical was just not coming together. The cast as a whole had a hard time staying on-task; they were getting just as discouraged (and as tired) as we both were, having rehearsals that felt like they lasted days, without any significant improvement to show for it.

    Act 2 of Seussical especially was very difficult, with its more demanding musical numbers and stage wizardry. But the strangest thing? As Act 1 slowly got polished, Act 2 languished, and several times my friend even mentioned just performing Act 1 and leaving out the second part altogether. It was a drastic idea…but with so little time to go, either cutting the show down to the performable parts or scrapping it altogether were looking like our best options.

    The Surprise

    I fervently did not want this to happen; my friend and I had worked too hard, and a few of the cast members had worked too hard, to let it all go down the drain. So, on the Monday before the first show, I came in ready to “inspire the kids to work hard,” having practiced all my best pep talks.

    But when I came in, I learned the news: in the time since our last rehearsal, my friend had had several conversations with many of the cast members, who were actually thinking of quitting the performance because “it was going to be a disaster.” My friend’s amazing (and galvanizing) response was something along these lines: “Go ahead and quit; we will do the show without you.”

    Apparently, over the next several minutes, word got around to the rest of the cast that the show would still go on even without some of its leads. They had thought that the threat of them quitting would somehow tank the show completely; they had now found out to the contrary. Much begging and negotiating followed, and somehow by Monday all the cast came back absolutely ready to work and to do their best!

    The Last Week of Rehearsals: A Complete 180

    The afternoon rehearsals on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday felt like we were working with a completely different cast. Lines were learned, songs were practiced until mastered, and some cast members even put down their phones for the first time since I had begun to work with them. Best of all, the cast began to work as a team, listening to each other, even helping each other with lines, songs, and costumes.

    Riding this tidal wave of sudden success, I also learned how to conduct them better, especially when we rigged up a lighted music stand so that the actors could see me conducting from the back of the tiny auditorium. At last, it felt like I could communicate with them and help them stay on-task; at last, I felt like I was doing my job and helping them to do theirs. As a result, I gained their respect and trust, which had been lacking since the beginning because I hadn’t yet proven myself to them.

    Performance Weekend

    The dress rehearsal performance on Friday, followed by the two shows on Saturday, were whirlwinds of activity (and my shoulders and arms had never been so sore! LOL). I got to enjoy the show as well as help to keep it together; I could have burst with how proud I was of the cast’s hard work.

    Despite sound and lighting issues (one of the light panels self-destructed during the dress rehearsal, and a speaker blew during each of the Saturday performances), we managed to keep it rolling and keep it professional. Part of the dress rehearsal performance was done with the house lights up, for instance, and yet the cast kept going. And, when the speaker blew halfway through the second song of the 3:30 Saturday performance, I saw several of the cast members’ eyes widen; I kept conducting, they kept singing, and we finished the song a capella while my friend and the tech crew hooked up the new speaker. The cast carried it off beautifully each time, learning and displaying the true meaning of “the show must go on.”

    The show was a good success for the drama department, bringing in not only parents and friends, but much of the community as well. Many people were impressed with how professional and pulled-together the show was, and it created a new awareness of the drama department at our local high school (which has been more sports-focused in recent years). All in all, we were flushed with victory after a long and hard-fought battle, and I felt honored to have even been a part of it.

    What I Learned

    This experience was quite educational for me, in some negative ways and positive ways. I learned that I’m probably not going to be a concert pianist any time soon, but that I can do some musical things, like conducting, that I’d never tried my hand at before (literally or figuratively). I also learned that doing a perfect job is less important than being consistent and persistent; I became less concerned with how perfectly I was “performing” for the students, and instead concerned myself with being a role model for a good work ethic, continuing to try until I was successful. (Believe me, that was HARD for this OCD perfectionist to abide by!)

    I know that I didn’t do much to help the show be its best; my friend really accomplished that by motivating her students in the only way she could reach them. I saw how much they respected her for her no-nonsense honesty, even when the truth was temporarily harsh on them. But I do know that I helped encourage and give help where it was needed, and for that, I can be grateful and proud, too. For once, I wasn’t the star of the show, but it didn’t matter–I got to help.

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