I started my new year with a little crochet project. It’s a scarf for a friend’s daughter. The yarn was unraveled from one of her baby sweaters. I tried a few different stitches, but the yarn is so busy, I decided to go with straight double crochet. I’ll be adding a few flowers, too.
How did you start the new year?
I used to be a big doodler — all over the production schedule in staff meetings, on the message pad by my phone, around the edges of the crossword.
Lately it seems I rarely have pen and paper in hand. All of my schedules are virtual. Phone calls have become texts. I read the news online, so no more newspaper.
I miss it, actually, and when I came across this Ted talk, I realized I should be making time for these random little drawings. Unlike the traditional definition of the word, Sunni Brown defines doodling as making spontaneous marks to help yourself think. That’s because doodling:
- affects how we process information
- helps us retain information better
- affects how we solve problems
- helps us from losing focus
Some of my favorite doodlers are:
- Ed Emberley: my daughter is a fan of his thumbprint books
- Austin Kleon: I love his blackout poems
- Jenny Doh: her instagram feed is filled with doodling/drawing/painting inspiration
I first learned about Joss Whedon as the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, I was a devoted fan. That was back before the Twilight series made it socially acceptable for adults to enjoy vampire stories about teens. People would always ask me, “Why on earth would you watch a show for kids?” My answer was simple:
Whedon has a passion for words that permeates his work. In the video above, he regards them the same as a sommelier would a fine wine, a knitter would Koigu KPPPM or a quilter would Liberty of London prints. It’s actually a little intoxicating.
If you’re not familiar with his work, take 15 minutes to watch him speak about why he doesn’t like the word “feminist.” He deconstructs the sounds, he analyzes the meaning, he compares it to burnt bread — all the while being thoughtful and funny. He even goes so far as to propose a new word that he feels we’re missing in the discussion about equality.
If you love learning about people’s creative processes, you’ll definitely enjoy watching Whedon “work his words.”
My daughter is the kind of girl who loves math and science. She loves building things with Legos, Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, and anything she can find in the recycling bin. When I heard about GoldieBlox, the engineering toy for girls, I ordered one immediately. She asked to watch the Kickstarter video over and over, and when it finally arrived, she loved it.
My daughter is the kind of girl who gets things pretty quick. The downside is that when she has to work hard for something, she sometimes gives up too easily. When I found this TedX talk, I knew I wanted to show it to her. I thought maybe she’d be more receptive to the “don’t give up” message if she heard it from the woman who invented one of her favorite toys.
My daughter isn’t the kind of girl who will sit still for a 17 minute video. I was surprised that — except for one quick break to grab her GoldieBlox toy — she watched the whole thing. Watching her was amazing.
My daughter’s eyes lit up as soon as Sterling talked about engineers being creative and artistic. I could see the wheels turning in her head when Sterling talked about inventing and designing things. “Mama, what’s a catapult?”
When I tried to talk to her afterward about the “work hard” message, she was already tuning me out. I’m pretty sure she was wondering how to get her hands on a soda bottle, string, paperclips and foam core.
I hope Bright Lights has a summer camp for ME101.
‘I’m probably not going to write anymore.”
A few months ago I read an article about Alice Munro’s retirement and decided I should read more of her short stories. One of my favorite books of all time is Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, and was given to me by a dear friend. As is usual with me, I got distracted by other books sitting on the shelf at the library.
Then another article popped into my news feed, this time about Munro winning the Nobel prize in literature. Did you know
-she is only the 13th woman to win the award?
-her first short story was published when she was 37?
-her writing was squeezed in during the time her children were napping?
“In twenty years I’ve never had a day when I didn’t have to think about someone else’s needs. And this means the writing has to be fitted around it.”
Munro the person is as interesting as her characters. This time I’ve pulled her book from my shelf to reread. I’ve also put a few books on hold at the library. I wonder if winning this prize will tempt her out of retirement?
Are you a Munro fan? Which of her stories are your favorite?
Three articles that may convince you to pick up one of her books, as well:
— Alice Munro Puts Down Her Pen to Let the World In
— Alice Munro, ‘Master’ Of The Short Story, Wins Literature Nobel
— Alice Munro, Cinderella Story
I have a love-hate relationship with photo retouching. I think those who do it well are amazing artists, especially those who work on people. Skin and body proportions are so easy to screw up — and so terribly obvious when wrong. At the same time, I’m not comfortable with the retouched reality in which we live. It’s redefined our definition of beautiful and is used to sell us products that “help us” get closer to an ideal that doesn’t really exist.
Pascal Dangin is one of those artists who amazes me with his talent and frustrates me with his work. The New Yorker did a piece on him in 2008 that I happened to stumble upon while researching Dove’s Real Beauty ad.
I mentioned the Dove ad campaign that proudly featured lumpier-than-usual “real women” in their undergarments. It turned out that it was a Dangin job. “Do you know how much retouching was on that?” he asked. “But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive.”
See, right there? Both sides of me are conflicted by just one sentence.
People in his industry describe him as “sort of photo whisperer, able to coax possibilities, palettes, and shadings out of pictures that even the [photographer] who shot them may not have imagined possible…he is a translator, an interpreter, a conductor, a ballet dancer articulating choreographed steps.”
I’ve done plenty of photo retouching in my career and know how hard it is to get right. I am definitely better with things than people, but no one has every compared my work to the grace of a dancer. Maybe that’s why I look at what Dangin does with such awe. He’s just that good. Maybe he’s too good.
The article is a fascinating read on Dangin’s life, work, and style. It describes his creative space and process, as well. Pixel Perfect: Pascal Dangin’s virtual reality.
Graphic designer and illustrator David LaFerriere kick starts his creative juices in the morning by drawing on his kids’ lunch bags. This makes me wish we didn’t use bento boxes and fabric snack bags.
I’ve been reading a lot about people standing while they work. Treadmill desks are becoming popular. Susan Orlean writes at one. Standing desks are also a thing. Arshad Chowdury has been using one for the past two years.
This isn’t new. Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe wrote standing up. (Wolfe was 6'6" and used the top of a refrigerator as his desk.) Winston Churchill, Leonardo Da Vinci, Virginia Woolf, and Thomas Jefferson all stood, as well.
This got me thinking that maybe I should move my laptop over to the kitchen counter for awhile and see what it’s like to create standing up. Of course, I never seem to be in the same spot for too long these days. Right now I’m sitting at my daughter’s Tae Kwon Do class writing this on an iPad in my lap. In reality, I’m more like Agatha Christie, who didn’t even own a desk and worked wherever she could sit down.
The original article that got me thinking about this was 25 Productivity Secrets from History’s Greatest Thinkers.
Some interesting articles I stumbled upon afterward (the first two are long reads):
— The Odd Habits and Curious Customs of Famous Writers
— To Sit, to Stand, to Write
— 5 famous writers who stood while they worked.
Growing up I was into all things rainbows and unicorns, but I don’t remember any of these characters. Maybe they were a little bit after my time? Lisa Frank is making a comeback, though. Urban Outfitters is now selling a line of vintage items that have “been hiding away in Lisa’s own secret stash.”
Frank recently agreed to an on-camera interview with the store, and her headquarters in Arizona is quite something. My favorite part of this short film is getting a peek at her original artwork. She has saved it all — along with a sample of each product ever made. The details and colors of her pre-computer pieces are simply amazing.
I want to be a clean desk person.
What a Messy Desk Says About You assures me my cluttered workspace is good thing. Messy desks generate more creative ideas. They inspire you to break free from tradition. They produce fresh insights.
All that is good, but secretly I’d like to look like the kind of person who would choose the apple and gym over the candy bar.
Original post about my desk is here.