Tag Archives: creativity

Paul Jarvis’ Digital Sabbaticals and Rats: A Commentary

A Social Sabbatical, Article by Paul Jarvis, posted January 4, 2015.

Paul Jarvis is a writer and creative who lives in Victoria, B.C. and he’s also an in-demand website designer. I’ve followed his newsletter for a few months now. I can’t remember how I found his work, but I’m glad I did. I enjoy reading his weekly dose of wit and ideas focused mainly on creativity. I also like that he is a local guy.

In December, Mr. Jarvis had put his readers on notice that he would be taking a break from the newsletter until January. At the time I thought, “Good for you, Paul. Everyone should take a break once in a while.” As the month of December quickly flew by, I had forgotten that he was on a digital sabbatical. Just before this January 4 letter arrived I wondered what happened to him. I missed his weekly letter with its encouragement for those of us that make art for a living.

In his article, Mr. Jarvis describes what happened during his experiment to leave social for two months including his newsletter for the month of December. While he is still contemplating his experience, it seemed he has found some important benefits to his break.

Three comments in the newsletter stood out for me:

Free Time to Think

What I liked about my experiment to take a long break from social was that it opened up space.”

Paul is correct in that in this day and age, there is so much chatter and intrusion into our lives. My pet peeve is pop-up ads on websites which to me is the epitome of intrusion into reading space. Then we go onto social media sites and invite instrusion into our head space. It is clichéd to say but it is a case of “garbage in, garbage out.” Although if Mr. Jarvis finds that rats invade his head space when it becomes quiet, who am I to argue that perhaps he needs the distraction.

Outside of Our Control

It’s all outside of my control because I’m passively letting whatever stimulus floats into my tiny screen affect me.”

The late Stephen Covey points out that we always have a choice: we can pause between the stimulus (what we see on our screens) and our response (how it affects us) and in that pause, select our response. For me, it is a constant battle to remember to pause before reacting to what I read on social media particularly when we live in a world that makes it sooo easy for us to quickly react. I imagine that Mr. Jarvis found it a relief to not feel compelled to respond to every post that affected him.

There is also a choice to be made when we let ourselves get sidetracked by making comparisons to others. Again, I have to remind myself to avoid comparisons. Others may be doing similar work to me and I love seeing the success of others, but I am still doing my own thing and I’m just getting starting. Everything has its season and there is more than enough audience, and love, to go around.

The Water Cooler

“When you work for yourself, social media is almost like a water cooler.”

I’d be a lonely hermit if it wasn’t for email and FaceBook. While I limit myself to email once a day and FaceBook once a week, I would feel isolated without that contact with friends and family. The best contact though is face to face. You remember how that works, going for a coffee or a walk with a real human. I remind myself to make contact with others outside my home at least once a week. We are, after all, social creatures.

I’ve read many other authors who do regular digital sabbaticals either on weekends or actually take a whole month off like Mr. Jarvis did; Tammy Strobel for one and Leo Babauta for another. Tim Ferriss may have even popularized the concept in his book The 4-Hour Workweek
(Associate Link) when he wrote about low information diets and cultivating a selective ignorance. Mr. Ferriss’ suggestion may be one of the best ideas I’ve found for building creative space and energy.

I am starting to be more active on social media as I work on developing an audience for my work. Looking ahead at what might potentially become a large maintenance project, I worry about the work involved in keeping up a connection with the community or providing enough stimulating information to keep the community active. I have to balance that commitment to community to the commitment I have to my writing. I can certainly foresee where a regular digital sabbatical will become attractive.

On the other hand, I worry about losing momentum in the same way I started to miss Mr. Jarvis’ letter. As with all decisions, there is a risk to benefit ratio to consider. At this point, I am still building so it may take a while to get to where I’ll consider a digital sabbatical as a choice I want to make.

Mr. Jarvis concludes that “… the space to focus is a truly wonderful thing for a creative mind.” I could not agree more. Creativity comes from the opportunity for the mind to pull different pieces of ideas together to create something new if not necessarily unique. So how else can we let the mind work, if we don’t give it room to breathe.

If you are an artist, no matter the medium, I would highly recommend you sign up for Paul Jarvis’ weekly newsletter before he decides to go on another social sabbatical.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC
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Are you interested in the ideas that influence and inspire me? Check out Life Simplified by Catherine on FaceBook.

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon – A Book Review

A practical and Enjoyable How-To Book for Artists

One Friday night, at around 8:00 pm, I decided that I wanted to read a book. I scanned through a few of the unread books I own but did not find anything that particularly interested me. So I went to Amazon.ca and poked around the site for a while. I could not decide what I wanted to read; whether I was interested in reading fiction or a business book or a memoir. I clicked on self-help books because a surprising number of business books can be found there. I filtered the list of 3,000 or so by selecting books with a review rating of 4 or more stars, knowing full well I might miss something interesting but at least someone else had done the work to shorten this list.

Up near the top of the list popped Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work. The contents seemed interesting, the price was under $10 and the reviews were good so I did the 1-click purchase, which is part of the reason I like Amazon for books, downloaded the book to my Kindle app on my iPad, and started reading. I read the entire book in one sitting that night and I found myself madly highlighting numerous passages. The reviews were right; it is a 5 star book.

Mr. Kleon works and lives in Austin, Texas. He is a New York Times best selling author with three books. He has a special interest in creativity and how artists make things and the processes they use. His blog posts at http://austinkleon.com are prolific and I particularly like the way he uses lists and photos and, of course, his drawings to add interest to his work.

Mr. Kleon’s premise for the book is that artists do not need to actively self-promote, instead an artist can create conditions where their work is findable. He believes the best approach to being findable is to share your work and, in particular, your process of working, with others. In a world of social media and the Internet, the barrier to establishing a place to share one’s work is low and therefore, quite doable for any artist.

What I liked about his book is Mr. Kleon provides an approachable method for becoming findable. As I read through the pages, I felt his encouragement and his permission to share, to put the work out into the world. I would agree with his assessment that many artists have a hard time sharing their processes and maybe even their finished projects because there is so much time and effort personally invested in the work; days, months, and years in some cases.

I particularly liked his advice about dealing with criticism. Everyone has an opinion and their own tastes so it is not realistic to think everyone is going to like what you do. There are certainly people in the world that take pride in pointing out the flaws and problems in someone else’s work. It is pretty easy to critique but much harder to do the creating. The best critiques come from the people who have done the work themselves and understand the process. Mr. Kleon’s advice: focus on feedback from the people who have done this type of work or from those people whose opinion you value and ignore the rest.

The drawings and illustrations are unique and quirky. The pictures break up the narrative and highlight main points making the book a pleasure to read. I bookmarked several of them. He calls himself a writer who draws – which is an apt description.

It sounds like Mr. Kleon has a sensible wife. He quotes her a few times in the book and his affection and respect for her is obvious. He is fortunate to have such a supportive partner.

What did I dislike? Perhaps my criticism is more of a difference in opinion. As someone with a background in marketing, I disagree with Mr. Kleon when he says you should not ask for likes or for friends on social media. If the artist won’t ask or at least invite people to look at their work, how can anyone know about what the artist does? Social currency in the form of “Like” or “Retweet” in social media is a powerful influencer. It means more people will come see the work. Creatives send invitations to book launches and art show openings all the time and not always to people they know. As Mr. Kleon notes, it is not about becoming human spam but once in a while the artist should extend the invitation. Folks may not know there is a party going on if they are not invited.

Perhaps his objection is to the blatant “ask,” where the individual is not subtle about building their social media empires. I do find that kind of approach distasteful. It’s not about numbers, it’s about the quality of those people who become your fans. The trick, perhaps, is to send those invitations sparingly and when you have something of value to offer.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who does work that involves a creativity process. I recently attended a book self-publishing workshop and it struck me that while many people in the workshop did want to learn about the process of creating a self-published hard-copy or e-book, a great deal of the questions that were asked related to what I call marketing. What the workshop lacked, for these participants, was the next step: how do you let people know you have book available. Mr. Kleon actually provides concrete steps for showing the work, becoming findable, and letting people know the artist has something of value to sell. Perhaps those people will eventually buy.

If you like Amazon.ca – you can buy Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (Associate Link).

After reading Show Your Work!, I bought his first book – Steal Like an Artist. I will write a review of that book in a future post.

I wrote an abridged version of this review on Amazon.ca.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC

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Thanks for reading! If you found this information useful, informative or even entertaining, please share. I really appreciate it!

Website Reno

I’ve just spent the last few days revising this website. The process was a bit like emptying out a room in the house and giving it a new coat of paint, followed by moving in some old decor and added a few new additions.

The timing was right.

It has been almost a year since I moved to Saltspring Island, BC. The move was stressful and I left behind an interesting teaching job and good friends. Yet, it has also been an adventure; developing new routines, making new friends, and settling into our new place. Our new home is beautiful and the island has a certain charm. Yes, charm; there is really no other word to describe it.

My career path has changed, too. I’m moving away from doing consulting work to writing novels and other types of stories. Creative writing is something I’ve wanted to do for many years but always felt I needed to follow a more responsible path. Many others late career novelists have gone before me so I don’t pretend that what I’m doing is special or magically; I just need write.

In redecorate the website, I wanted to incorporate some of my new direction. I introduced a new header photo of Ganges Harbour which is the view from my office window and I rearranged pages. I pulled the blog forward to the home page to give it more presence on the website when people come to visit. Writing is what I do now so it should be highlighted.

Even though it has been a year and half since I last wrote an email letter, I decided to pull those letters into the website. As I created blog posts for each letter and read through the contents, I was reminded that I did some good work in those letters and I still want to maintain that legacy. To that end, I’ve decided to relaunch the email letter starting January 1, 2015.

I’ve still have some pages on the website for the consulting business even though I’m feeling more and more removed from that work. It still pay the bills occasionally, plus I also don’t want to alienate my former clients. Those clients were there for me when I decided to leave my 9-5 job and it was their work that allowed me to explore this burning desire to be a writer and a novelist.

There will be a period of transition since I have yet to publish a novel. When I do publish a book, I’m going to do some more updating on the website and likely a small remodelling job.

After all, a new published novel will require its own landing page.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC
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Thanks for reading! If you found this information useful, informative or even entertaining, please share. I really appreciate it!

The life [simplified] letter: Creativity

The latest edition of the life [simplified] letter: Creativity published on October 25, 2012 is now available. Enjoy!

The life [simplified] letter is written for my email subscribers. The email letter is my weekly musings on lifestyle design focusing on simplicity and ease where I share my successes and my tribulations. Email subscribers get each edition of the letter four days prior to it being posted here.

Every once in a while, I send little goodies that are only available through the email letter.

If you would like to get your own copy of the letter delivered right to your inbox, please subscribe. It’s free!

Cheers, Catherine   Location: Edmonton, AB, Canada

what reading “Bird by Bird” has meant to me

Over the weekend, I finished reading “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamott. I had bought the book a while ago on my iPad’s Kindle app but had not taken the time to finish reading it until this weekend. I’m not sure what took me so long because the book is a fun and easy read. Continue reading