Tags: advice, creativity, inspiration, quotes
Feeling remarkably un-creative these days? You’re not alone!
Creativity, for me, seems to ebb and flow like the tide. At “low tide,” I end up staring at my works, adding a little bit here and there sometimes, but usually just reading it/playing through it and not making changes at all. But at “high tide,” I stay awake all night working on a project because I know I’ve got to “strike while the iron is hot,” and boy, is my brain ever on fire! LOL!
The wonderful thing? Both of these levels of creativity, and all levels in between, are perfectly NORMAL. Even if you feel stuck at “low tide,” or even if you’re wondering where most of your creativity “water” went, you don’t have to stay there. Relax–the more you worry about being non-creative, the less creative your brain can be!
Here, I’ve gathered a few visual quotes that have helped me when I’m feeling particularly “ebbed out” with no inspiration. Enjoy, and get re-inspired!no comments November 16th, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: advice, creativity, inspiration, poetry, writing
As a poet since at least the age of 7, I’ve experimented quite a bit with writing and reading poetry, working with word choices, line breaks, rhythms, punctuation, and several other tools to help get just the right effect for my poems. For me, poetry is very natural and has always been so.
But for some, poetry can seem at first like the most approachable and the most difficult literary form out there. Sometimes it seems like poetry is so “simple” that it’s easy to over-complicate it or mess it up.
If you’re new to poetry (or even if you’re not), try out the following 4 tips to create and shape your own lines. You might be surprised at the grace your words can have!
#1: Read Your Poetry Aloud
This is the first and probably best overall tip for writing poetry–reading your words aloud can help you solve most poetry issues, such as off-beat word rhythms, weird punctuation, awkward word choice, and the “flow” of lines together. Plus, it can help consolidate the idea behind the poem, so that you can cut out unnecessary material if need be.
#2: Play with Line Breaks and Spaces
Poetry can have a visual effect as well as a verbal and mental effect. Check out the differences in these three examples, all identical except with regards to line breaks and spaces:
and my watch stopped ticking
and my heart and breath waited
to make sound
so they wouldn’t drown out
and my watch
and my heart
to make sound
so they wouldn’t
you smiled and my watch stopped ticking
you spoke and my heart and breath waited
to make sound
so they wouldn’t drown out your voice
The line breaks and spaces in a poem give the reader’s eye a little rest, as well as implying small pauses and intakes of breath. As for the “correct” line breaks and spaces, it’s all subjective; it’s all up to your interpretation as to what “feels right” in your poem. (Side note: of the three examples above, I like #2 the best–the short lines lend a slightly breathless quality to the words of this love poem, and the amount of spaces make me think of halting, stuttering, “first-date” kind of feelings. Which example do you like best?)
#3: Use Your Natural Language
You will get the most natural and flowing poetry if you use words and phrases that are natural to you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have a few “vocabulary words” in your poetry every now and again if it makes sense, but your poetry doesn’t have to look like a dictionary or thesaurus threw up in it, either.
Trying to use unfamiliar words can make poetry feel stilted and un-expressive–the last things you want your poetry to be. Make your poems sound as much like you as possible, warts and all; after all, you’re the only one who can write like you!
#4: Commas or No Commas? That’s Your Discretion (Mostly)
Punctuation in poetry is a relatively thorny issue–some folks say you need it, others (like me) think that line breaks/spaces can achieve the same goal without cluttering up your verses. But there’s really not a wrong way to use punctuation in your verses, since poetry is not just communication, but art.
Do whatever looks and feels natural for your poetry, whether it’s putting punctuation in or not. Just please try to avoid the following style, which I call “comma-itis” (LOL):
when a poem,
has commas at the end,
of every line without,
really making sense,
it really annoys,
Poetry doesn’t have to be daunting–trying any one of these tips (or all of them together) can help you write a set of beautiful verses. Put pen to paper (or open a new text document) and see what you can come up with!no comments November 9th, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: arts, creativity, inspiration, philosophy
I’ve written a lot of articles on this little blog about creativity and creative pursuits. But I got to thinking one day, as I was writing, working on websites, humming my own music, and otherwise engaged in the process of creativity; I wondered, “I know I create all the time–I’ve done it since I was a kid. But WHY? What IS creativity, anyway?”
Creativity is one of the slipperiest words I’ve ever tried to define. I have such an intrinsic knowledge of it–creativity is, quite simply, in everything I do. But describing exactly what that impulse is and why I choose to pursue it is VERY difficult. Nevertheless, here are the definitions and descriptions I have come up with:
Creativity: The Desire to Make Something that’s Needed
One part of my creativity stems from seeing a need for something out in the world, and wanting to apply my talents to that need. I started making super-informative fansites back in the early 2000s because I had seen a string of cookie-cutter “fan” sites whose content was all copied and pasted from each other; I felt that our fan communities needed something better, something more in-depth, and so I took it upon myself to create the kind of site I was looking for.
My writing also falls into that category–when I write something, it’s partially because I have not seen a piece of writing like it before. I write stories and poems in part because the tales and emotions contained within me filter through my experiences and my mindset, creating something unique and yet still relatable (well, most of the time, LOL).
Creativity: The Urge to Nurture Something into Being
Another part of creativity is the almost-primal urge to just MAKE something, something that’s just yours, born of your mind. In that way, it seems like procreation; you’re affirming that your brain cells, your mind, your SOUL is alive with every word you write, every brushstroke you paint, every note you strike. I experience this with every art form I work with, from singing in choirs to writing my novel and my music, from creating websites to even making my own crafts. Everything I make has my own stamp on it; every idea in my head needs effort from me to come out, and that effort is joyful because it has MEANING and I can actually focus on it. Creativity literally gives meaning to things that might not have much meaning otherwise.
Creativity: The Need to Show Others Your Original Self
Lastly, I believe creativity is about self-expression–not just expression of the self’s effort or expression of the self’s needs, but about explaining what kind of person I am. Much of my music flows from this idea; each melody and each lyric is strained and purified through my perceptions, and when I play my original songs I am literally baring a piece of my internal world, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Especially these days when so much is negative in our world, a good-sized dollop of creativity seems like a needed taste of hope–it’s a way of saying “Hey, I’m over here–I’m a person too, with loves and needs and dreams.” (Sometimes, especially early on, I used my creativity to ask whether I was a good enough person or not; now, I use my creativity to show how I’m good enough. It works both ways.)
Are There Other Explanations of Creativity? You Tell Me!
These are my own personal definitions of creativity, but I’m just one creative person speaking from one mindset–what are your definitions? Tell me in the comments!no comments November 2nd, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: creativity, experimental, humor, inspiration, music, weird
Music is not just about melodies, rhythms, and harmonies, nor it is only about songs that sound “pretty.” Sometimes, you just have to push the boundaries of what most folks think of as “good music” to develop something wildly original.
That’s what experimental music is all about–using standard musical techniques in the pursuit of comedy, combining music and visuals together for a new experience, remixing songs or melodies together to create new melodies, and even arranging random “non-music” sounds into music. Take heart: if the music you make fits into this category, you’re in great company! Here are a few examples, gathered from around the Internet:
This whimsical remix of songs from the Disney film Mary Poppins is oddly catchy!
Experimental choral madness, indeed! How can random sounds be music? When they are arranged like this!
John Cage, arguably the 20th century master of experimental music, offers this musical experience, recombining, rearranging, and composing this piece out of many different types of harmonies from other songs.
HILARIOUSLY weird video (and really addictive little dance tune), featuring comedian Ken Shimura’s character “Baka Tono-Sama.” “Ai~n” translates loosely to “Did I Do That?!” (1990s Steve Urkel, anyone?)
2:15 of strange electronic music and even stranger bovine visuals.
SILLY He-Man music video…must be seen to be believed. (If this isn’t experimental music applied in a comedic audiovisual way, I don’t know what is!)
Haunting and ethereal–”weird” in the best way!
Non-Video Sound Clips
Pop Danthology (SoundCloud)
Cool mashup of all sorts of pop songs from 2012–revisioning music in a really cool way!
Mythic Morning: Choral Works II
Collection of Danish composer Per Norgard’s avant-garde, post-modern choral music.
Malaysian Composers: Leong Yoon Pin
As of this writing (October 2013), this online radio showcases Leong Yoon Pin’s experimental instrumental music.
More Weird Music Resourcesno comments October 19th, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: beading, creativity, design, inspiration, jewelry
I don’t claim to be a perfect designer by any means, but I know what kinds of patterns I like to see in jewelry, and that’s how I design my own beaded necklaces thus far. Here are some examples:
This necklace (which is the slightly-messed-up one from last week) displays a couple of pretty design tactics:
- Symmetrical patterns–the necklace can be flipped left to right with no change
- Colorful beads interspersed with neutral beads (in this case, silver) to help set the colors off
- 3 sparkly beads used at the center of the necklace (bottom center of pic) to draw the light and the viewer’s eye
- Vary the sizes and shapes of beads used in a pattern for visual interest in a mono-colored necklace
- Use tiny beads to separate larger beads and make them look like they’re floating
- Let one unusual bead be the center of a symmetrical 5- or 7-bead pattern (you see this twice in the above pic)–surround the unusual bead with more normal beads to let it take the spotlight
- Juxtaposing different finishes of beads in the same color family (here, using lavender) can add a soft effect to your patterns.
- Creating a focal point in the center of your necklace can be just as easy as grouping 3 larger, lighter-finish beads and then surrounding them with smaller, darker-finish beads.
- Patterned or textured beads can add subtle flair when placed alongside smoother beads.
- Don’t be afraid to use oblong and round beads together–oblong beads, especially in clear or neutral colors, can be used as visual “spacers” to make your colorful beads pop more.
- Use smaller beads out at the ends of your beading project, and larger beads toward the middle–that creates a “graduated” effect which looks more graceful.
- Alternate opaque and translucent/sparkly beads for a playful pattern.
Working with symmetry, different bead textures and shapes, and colors which play well off each other can make any beaded jewelry project lovely. Try it out–just lay a few beads together on a table and rearrange them to your heart’s content. You just might come up with a randomly gorgeous pattern!no comments October 12th, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: advice, beading, crafts, creativity, inspiration, jewelry
When you’re just beginning to bead, as I wrote about last week, it’s hard to know what kinds of beads to choose–there are literally hundreds of different kinds available! And, as I unfortunately learned, not all beads are created equal in quality.
A Cautionary Tale: The Missing Bead
Learn From My Fail: Choose Better Beads
In order to keep from losing bits off your own beading projects, here’s some tips on which beads to choose (and which to avoid):
Final Word to the Wise: Shop Local Bead Stores
The best places I have found for quality beads are small, local bead and craft shops, whether you buy in-store or online. Such places often simply take care of their bead stock better, storing and displaying them on flocked jewelry trays which don’t allow the beads to get crushed or knocked off easily. Plus, bead specialty stores often carry the crystal-like beads and other finer-quality stock that will give your beading projects not only a more expensive look, but a longer life. (Lastly, the shop owners can help you select just the right bead for a project!)comment (1) October 5th, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: advice, creativity, inspiration, wisdom
Tags: advice, beading, creativity, design, inspiration, jewelry
There are a LOT of beading tutorials out there for us beginners…but many of those tutorials expect you to already know quite a bit about the terminology and tools of beading, as I discovered when I began doing some research for this post. If you’re truly a beginner, this can be VERY confusing!
So, for this article, I wanted to help introduce beginning beaders to the lingo and the important tools for making beaded jewelry, as well as giving some bead storage tips and showcasing a couple of basic video tutorials. Let’s begin!
A Few Terminology Tips
|At left, this is a jump ring, used for connecting clasps to jewelry as well as other more complex beading tasks. These can be pried apart and squished back together pretty easily with the right beading tools.|
|Jump rings and necklace clasps (like the ones at left) are two types of jewelry findings. Findings are generally the metal or plastic bits that are the foundations of any beading project. (Other examples of findings are headpins for making drop earrings, crimp beads for stopping a bead string from moving around on the wire, spacers for keeping beads a certain distance apart, etc.)|
Every beader needs the following tools for even the most basic of beading crafts:
These kind of pliers, often called “needlenose” or “round-nose” pliers, help you hold delicate projects without squishing them, and also help you twist beading wire for various looks.
|Additionally, you’ll need these kind of pliers, called “flat-nose pliers,” for squishing jump rings back together, affixing clasps, and all sorts of things.|
|These are called “crimping pliers” (or are just referred to as a “crimping tool”); these can help you hold slippery projects (with the spot marked “F”), and they can also mash down things like crimp beads in the spot marked “E”.|
|And lastly, this little tool, called a wire cutter, is immensely helpful when you have excess beading wire at the end of a project!|
You can go and buy storage cases specifically designed for beads if you’ve got a craft supply store in your area. BUT, if you don’t, you can also use fishing tackle boxes (get the clear ones with small compartments) or weekly pill boxes. (Also, you can get creative and repurpose some little containers you have lying around the house, such as baby food jars or empty spice containers. Just make sure the lids of your containers close tightly!)
Video Tutorials: Attaching Clasps and Ending Necklaces
How to Attach a Lobster Claw
How to End a Necklace
Further Reading: Beginner Beading Tutorialscomment (1) September 21st, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: cartoons, creativity, inspiration, toondoo, website
If you’re like me, you’re a bit of a frustrated artist–you have great ideas for art and cartoons, but everything you try to draw looks like a kindergartner did it while hyped up on sugar.
For frustrated or accomplished artists and cartoonists alike, there’s ToonDoo, able to help even the most inept of us make cartoons like the following:
How to Use ToonDoo
You need to sign up for an account before you can use ToonDoo–sign up for a Personal Public account (they have large Private accounts for schools to use as well). Once you do that, you can click “CREATE” at the top right of the page, and it will take you to the ToonDoo Creator. Choose the comic strip layout you’d like, and you can begin! (I chose the traditional three-panel strip, but they have dozens to choose from!)
Lots of windows and toolbars await you! The ToonDoo button at top left allows you to open and save comics; the rest of the buttons on the top bar give you shapes, scenes, figures, props, text and more to work with.
You can even turn props to be at a different angle–check out how the desk is turned from the previous picture. Select the prop you want to turn, and then click the Prop button (looks like a six-sided die) several times to see all the different ways the object can be presented.
You can also add text and characters in the same way, using the top toolbar to select what types you want, and using the bottom toolbar to fine-tune the positioning and presentation. (Sorry I didn’t get a screenshot of the “adding characters” process–I got kinda carried away making my comic :D)
Once you’re done with your comic, make sure to click the ToonDoo button at the top left of the screen and select “Save;” this will let you put in your comic’s title and tags. Then click Publish! (Important: Wait until you get a confirmation message that “your comic has been published” before navigating away from the creator page.)
Give this a shot if you’ve got a spare 15 minutes–see what you can come up with!no comments September 14th, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: creativity, history, hurrian, inspiration, music, video
How old is the traditional Western music scale? Well, according to the discovery of “the oldest known song” on a few clay tablets in the Middle East, it’s a lot older than musicologists once thought! Check out the videos below to hear this haunting melody from 1400 B.C.-era Syria:
The Oldest Known Melody (lyre portrayal)
And here’s a MIDI version of the tune:
The Oldest Song in the World (MIDI version)
The first person to translate this song, Prof. Anne Kilmer, discovered it in 1972 after years of research and work on clay tablets unearthed in Syria during the 1950s. One of the tablets, written in the Hurrian language, contained complete words, music, and performance instructions; she found that it was a religious hymn to the moon god’s wife, Nikal, and was likely sung with accompaniment provided by a harp. Many people have since recreated it using modern musical notation and instruments, as the first embedded video above demonstrates.
This discovery changed much in the study of music history; it proves that “Western” music scales predated ancient Grecian culture, which was previously thought to be where modern music got its start. Amazing, huh? (And even more amazing, we can actually experience a tune from so long ago, hearing it just as its original listeners did!)
Further Readingno comments