Tag Archives: productivity

Happy New Year 2015

Happy New Year tag

Well another wonderful year has zipped by, and you will have noticed that I have not posted with the same regularity as in prior years – and then there was that couple months when I was hacked. The good part of all that is that I still have a very nice backlog of planned theme titles and creativity inspiration to carry over to this year.

The bad news is that with my current writing commitments, this blog will have to continue to take a back seat. That is not to say that I will not be putting out blasts and project ideas at all – I intend to post about once a month, and include more outside resources like websites. In fact if you join me on my Iggy Jingles Crafts Facebook page, you might find more recommended reading in the world of arts and creativity.

With so much of my focus on writing, I have been missing doing any actual making. I’ve decided, as a New Year’s gift to myself to craft a card a day, for a week. And if that works out, I’ll extend it to a card a day for a month. And maybe for another month, or a card a week, or some little easy-to-keep commitment, so that I have a nice stash of ready to use cards throughout the year. (Bear in mind that I am doing this on the dining table because my workshop is still not unpacked.)

That’s the theme for now, I guess – the idea that you can give yourself permission make a commitment to doing some little regular creative activity, keep it temporary and doable, and stay flexible. Start small with just a week, and let it be “scalable”, as the marketers say, and get larger IF it fits your life. You don’t have to make a huge, grand, scary Resolution, and then feel bad if (when) it is unsustainable.

Let me know on FB if you’d like to play along!

What you see here, is the first card of the week. Now, to whom to send it?

New Year handmade card

“Chalkboard” is still on trend, and I love layering. Tools: ScraPerfect Best Glue Ever and Embellie Gellie; Tim Holtz Tiny Attacher; Recollections Circle Punch; blank cards as the base from My Mind’s Eye, in packs of 50 found at Ross, of all places!

 

 

Finding the right time to create

Owl cover stamp

Are you a night owl or a morning person? When do you become most energized? When are you the most productive? When are you the most reflective? Your creativity will be enhanced if you can find the best time for you to do each kind of work.

Sometimes life gets in the way. Some time ago by following my daughter in her unusual sleep schedule, I discovered that very early mornings were wonderful for me to do deep creative thinking and processing. I found myself especially productive when I was writing in the predawn hours. What is interesting to me, is that just after I wake up is not the same as super early morning for that kind of productive work. I guess it is something to do with the diurnal rhythm and the sun coming up.

Predawn, I find myself in the flow – that wonderful, timeless state where the words pour out and decided me it’s morning and other people start to need me.

Unfortunately ordinary life can get in the way of choosing when I can work. It would be wonderful to get up at 4 AM every day and get in four hours of productive work even before anyone else is about. Sometimes my body lets me down, and I just need more sleep.

But sometimes it is the allure of the night that prevents me from sleeping. I have always been a night owl from my theater days, and I find the dark seems to energize my thinking.

What is not helpful for me at night, is trying to complete project work – handwork or tasks that require a lot of visual acuity. There have been many times in my life when a deadline has forced me to pull an all-nighter. But the work from these sessions was never as good, and now I substitute planning instead of urgency.

When you are trying to determine when your most creative time of day is, consider that there are many different types of activity. There is the learning and planning stage. There is the producing of artworks or expressive pieces. Then there is the critiquing and evaluating of the work that you have done, the editing. There is also the need for mental exercises and creativity work not connected to specific projects (like reading this blog). The seeking of inspiration, time just noodling, and time practicing skills might need different times of day from the knuckle-down-and-work time.

Think about which activities energize you. Those will be one that are good to do early in the day – that will keep you awake and alert. Finishing a task early gives a sense of accomplishment and inspiration.

Then consider which activities relax you, or give you a sense of release. Those are the ones that are great to do towards the end of your day, when you can look back and feel satisfied.

Either way, the important thing is to know your self and to schedule your most productive work at the time that works for you.

 

Working Environments

Here's my Racedeck by Snaplock flooring in my studio - soon to be painted.

Here’s my Racedeck by Snaplock flooring in my studio – soon to be painted.

Still moving house

The busy time continues, as we are moving in to our new house. So far I have laid a fantastic new floor in my workshop, and started painting the walls. It will be wonderful to have all my tools, stash and books around me.

It got me thinking about geography and space planning. The environment where I set out to do creative  work matters to me. It either helps or hinders. Trying to write or sketch, trying to design or research, even just playing with scraps are made tougher for me when I’m surrounded by visual noise, clutter or present reminders of housework not done.

Then there’s ergonomics – spaces, tools and furniture made to enhance usability. For me that means being able to get at stuff without having to move other stuff aside first. It means not having to thread my way around furniture, boxes or stacks of anything. It means being able to roll my chair from one station to another, and having enough flat space to lay out a project without losing elements under other materials.

I’ll post more of my organization methods as I finish our big move.

Ways of Working

Being in the midst of hustle and bustle and construction got me thinking about different  working environments.

When I was young the powers that be would recommend turning off all “distractions” from homework. I get that, and I like silence and a sense of cocooning for heavy thinking work, like mind storming or serious research.

But I notice that some people prefer something that is effectively white noise. Some want music. When I am sewing or other crafty work I feel energized by the perception of presence near me, so I put on a talk radio station. When I’m screenwriting I often play music that I imagine could be in the soundtrack.

That’s the heart of it – what energizes you for work? Classic rock, or familiar tunes? Silence or the sounds of nature? Books on tape?

What helps you think or explore ideas? Silence, headphones, classical music, wave sounds.

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Optimism! It’s wonderful. And soon it will be my favorite time of the year. I hope everyone enjoys preparing for the holidays.

 

 

Inspired By Research; Inspired To Research

I love doing research as a creativity tool. With the internet this is so much easier than it used to be.

When I was young research for any type of project meant a trek to the library. Our high school library was nice but it had nothing on the State Library of NSW downtown in Sydney with its subterranean stacks and endless card catalog. Plus the building was very impressive with its sandstone dignity, stained glass skylights and traditional wood decor.

What’s a “card catalog”? the whippersnappers ask. It was where research began – looking for an author or book mentioned in a bibliography, or going to a subject index and starting there. I was being my own Google.

Card Catalogue at State Library of NSW - just one of several cabinets

Card Catalogue at State Library of NSW – just one of several cabinets

While a tremendous number of books are available on the reading room shelves, many more are kept in stacks.Having found the reference book I wanted, the process was to fill out a request form and hand it (possibly after standing in line) to the assistant librarian on stacks duty, and then wait while they used the mysterious series of numbers that are the Dewey Decimal System to find the location of the copy, send some even more junior person to walk the stacks, and return with the book.

Reference books could not be borrowed, only read in the adjacent reading room. Long heavy wood desks, hard wood desk chairs, art deco style reading lamps.

I’m not really nostalgic for that process at all – it was time consuming and dependent on the assiduousness of the people creating the cross reference notations. A whole trip to the library could be taken up just with formulating the reading list.

But I do still like the visceral elements of this process. Hand typed cards, with faintly yellowed edges and even hand written added notations – sometimes with actual ink pens. The decor. Silence as a palpable thing, reinforced by the sound deadening architecture. The smell of old books.

Every time I designed costumes for a new show, I reinforced my own personal library with a trip to downtown. I liked to immerse myself in period information, making copious notes, sketches, and – get this – having a few select pages photocopied by the librarian! We weren’t permitted to make our own copies with those new fangled and supposedly temperamental Xerox machines.

How Research Stimulates Creativity

Sometimes it only takes a little bit of research – priming the pump – to get my thoughts, ideas, lists and sketches flowing. It’s always good to pause the research and make notes, mind storm some of the ideas, and go where your thought journeys take you. Personally I find if I don’t grab the moment and jot down ideas immediately, they sometimes get engulfed by the ongoing information input. You can pick up where you left off with your reading and notes, but not always with your idea flow.

At other times, I have been at a loss, and found I needed more comprehensive information before anything useful arose in my mind. I might have been looking for a hook, or a way in to my story. I might have been looking for the right visual motif.

Sometimes I found the theme of my vision adjacent to my mainstream research. For example once I was looking at wartime young people’s clothing, but what really helped me capture my design was looking at school uniforms from 10 years earlier.

Research might mean refreshing the memory – revisiting facts and ideas somewhat known – or it might mean finding information wholly new to you. It’s a stirring stick. It’s new ingredients thrown in. You don’t have to rely entirely on what is already in your head.

Research might be goal oriented and directed. The question is “How do I achieve this”. It generally has been so for me when I am designing something, or need to understand particular techniques to achieve a predetermined result – such as my webpage.

Or it might be experimental and exploratory – following threads until something sparks. The question is “Where will this take me?” If you are stuck, research might be the key. It could be a simple as going to the paint department and looking at the new paint colors, looking at a catalog, going to a different section at the Natural History Museum, or following a repin trail on Pinterest.

The Dark Side of Research

Research can be a time sucker and productivity killer. It’s all very well to follow the rabbit hole and surf the endless links for new connections, when you have plenty of time or no deadline. But sometimes it’s time to stop and actually do some creative work.

Mad Hatter Latin design

“We’re All Mad Here”

Some people, and I have certainly been guilty of this myself, will use research as the ultimate procrastination tool. I think we know when we are putting off getting started, and when we are genuinely stuck or need a bit more information. It can take self discipline to stop following the tantalizing tangents, especially now with so much information so easily available. In the old days at the library I was conscious of definite consequences if I decided I needed another tome, and sometimes a look at the clock decided the matter for me.

I know the feeling when I am using research to procrastinate. I start shifting around in my chair, and feeling twitchy inside. Better just to stop then – put in a bookmark – and instead move on the next step of collating my notes.

You can’t know everything about a topic – even if you are an expert. The old joke is that experts are people who know “more and more about less and less” – and that is great. But for creative work, you only need to hold in your head and notes, as much as you need to move forward. There will always be more and new information to find – some of it may be what you contribute.

Let research be a tool that you use, not a barrier to action.

 Research tools

  • Written published material – whether on line or in hard copy
  • Spoken word, oral histories – ditto – but the web makes access so much easier
  • Video material – documentaries, histories, how-to videos on You Tube
  • Memory – interviewing people, finding instructors
  • Trial and error, and exploring materials, as I mentioned in my prior theme.
  • Museums, galleries, and Aunty Mabel’s attic – places with visual artifacts.

Here’s my latest Infographic – about intentional research:

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Please share this wherever you wish.

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