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Failure Is Just Another Word for Creativity

28 Apr

We creative types feel a relentless urge to create.  It’s not enough, however, for me just to enjoy the process of creation, I feel a concurrent drive to make money off my wares. Therein lies the rub.   I love creating sculptures out of colorful polymer (Sculpy/Premo) clay, and assigning tongue-in-cheek titles or descriptions, kind of an art with a message focus.   Here is an example-

Flower Power

Flower Power

This sculpture is entitled Flower Power and features an SUV propelled by flower power (a little enviro message poking fun at gas guzzling Hummers.).   Sculpting these pieces takes hours and hours as they are quite detailed. I would like to mass produce them but my 60 year old hands aren’t capable. Therefore, I tried other means of mass production- creating posters- one called “Homeland Sweet Homeland” which pokes fun at the color coding terrorist alert system at airports.  I created magnets for a political issue.  I created “Om for the Holidays” cards targeting the yoga community.  Om for the holidays copy I found neither the yoga community or politicians have much of a sense of humor. My mass quantities of unsold products now languish in my attic, out of sight so as not to remind me I was unable to even recoup my costs in these failed endeavors.

My daughter in-law let something slip a while ago.  She mentioned that a former employee (in our family business) had snickered about my Jack magnets, saying, “Seriously?  Did she really think those things would sell?”  I was crushed.  To think people were laughing at my failed entrepreneurial attempts was more than a little humiliating.  You see, when someone creates something out of nothing whether it be a poem, sculpture or idea, it is almost like creating a child- you feel protective of the concept, even vulnerable.  Putting one’s creative efforts on display elicits more than a little anxiety.  To have someone I like and admire laugh at me was a little tough.  I’ve tucked her mockery away in my heart for the past couple of years.  Every once in a while when I conceive of a new idea, it pops out to ridicule the new idea.  However, today, I’m sharing this experience with all of you- this has happened to everyone who is creative. Failure is glorified in places like Silicon Valley where entrepreneurs say things like, “failure means you just haven’t gotten your success yet. or “failure is mandatory; it’s as pervasive here as the weather”. Such statements are a great comfort. My concurrent urges to create and succeed take heart in the Thomas Edison story about creating the incandescent light bulb. He said after his thousandth failure, “I now know 1000 things that won’t work.” Now that is optimism!

So, let’s bring our failure monsters- the little barbs and big criticisms we’ve endured over the years, out into the light of day. This blog represents my coming out party. I think I will even plaster those Jack magnets all over my refrigerator to remind me failure is just another word for creativity.

Jack magnets

Jack magnets




Exercising Your Creativity at Brainfest 2014

29 Mar

Last week I participated in the smartest event- Brainfest 2014.  Through a grant from Winter Park Health Foundation’s own Diana Silvey, the Alzheimer’s Association of Central Florida hosted a day-long event focusing on the brain.  Young and older than younger people gathered to hear about ways of protecting and preserving their brain power.  There were drumming circles (drumming helps synchronize the two hemispheres of the brain), Improvisational  exercises (thinking on your feet), and even brain Olympics.  Participants were presented with Brain Commandments:

Eat Smart- Health food keeps your brain running strong

Work Out- flexing those muscles strengthens the brain

Chill Out-Great brains love good company

Hang Out- Lower your stress level

Challenge Yourself- A happy brain is a hard working brain

Find Purpose- Living a meaningful life keeps your brain engaged

Needless to say, much was emphasized about the importance of physical exercise and good nutrition on brain health.  I weighed in with a session entitled, “Exercise Your Creativity”.  Research documents the role creativity can play in challenging our brains to better health. By their very nature, creativity and the arts encourage people to break away from habit and routines and explore new areas of experience.

Exercise Your Creativity

Exercise Your Creativity

As adults we have come to recognize the validity of exercising our bodies and minds, but somehow, once we get past the age of ten we generally start paying less attention to our creative muscles.  And, just like physical muscles that fail to be engaged, so can our creative muscles begin to atrophy.  So my job, as a self-appointed creativity evangelist, was to help people exercise those creative muscles.

The very word “creativity” can elicit fear and intimidation among adults, and my group was no exception.  There were the initial grumblings of “But I’m not creative at all!” (a statement that never fails to hurt me to hear).  But a kind of transformation occurs from the beginning of a creative exercise to the end of it.  My flock of fledgling artists suspended their internal critics for an hour or two as they sculpted their clay creations illustrating ways in which they could introduce more creativity into their daily lives.  A clay garden complete with watering can, musical instruments, an artist’s palette jewelry, and a little food art to boot, emerged from these creativity converts.

I felt so proud, even a little humbled, by their bravery.  The name of my blog and business is called Be Brave. Lose the Beige.  It does take a little bravery to create something out of nothing and hold it up for the scrutiny of others.  Fortunately for my flock, there was nothing but praise and encouragement all around.

As Picasso said, “Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”   So, go out and flex those creative muscles!  Art Palette

Failure Is Another Word for Creativity

28 Feb

I am far from a “techie” (someone who is technologically proficient) but I was fascinated by an NPR story I heard recently entitled, “Failure:  The F word Silicon Valley Loves and Hates”.  The story focused upon entrepreneurs in the Tech field in Silicon Valley.  According to this report, failure is glorified in this Valley of technological start up companies.   Interviewees in this story said things like, “the fear of being a failure drives you.”.  One person noted, “Failure means you just haven’t gotten your success yet.”  Another reported that “failure is mandatory; it’s as pervasive as the weather”.

I was stunned by the optimism of these statements.  My husband and I consider ourselves entrepreneurs.  I think we must conceive of new business ideas every other day.  The process of conception (much like in the other kind of conception process) is the fun part– the brain storming process; the excitement of a new idea; the hope of making the idea an income producing one…

I’ve dreamed of making my Be Brave. Lose the Beige concept an income producing business.  I create art, write books/journals/blogs, and conduct Lady Boomer workshops and retreats on the subject.  Endeavors producing a sustainable source of income are such a point of validation.  Everyone around you affirms your idea is a success once you begin making money from it.  If not, it’s a dream, a silly notion, or worse yet, a failure.  Aside from the obvious drawbacks of failing to earn money from an endeavor consuming significant time and focus, there is the added burden of disappointing family members and friends.  That fear of humiliation is what drives entrepreneurs says Joe Kraus of Google Ventures.  “Threading that idea from the “vision” stage to the “execution” stage is a necessary step in the march to success.

I know what that feels like.  I turned 60 last year.  I can’t believe it.  I feel like I might run out of time at any moment without fully realizing by dreams (although it’s not from a lack of trying.)  I spend an inordinate amount of time writing, researching and sculpting.  I have often hidden these endeavors from my linear lawyer friends out of fear they may say something like, “Why are you wasting your time doing that?!”.  After all, there has not been any kind of a guarantee I’ll make money from all these efforts.  But creativity is funny.  It’s kind of like breathing.  I can’t fathom living without it.  So I loved hearing this story.  I found it encouraging; a virtual support group for creative people.  Remember- Thomas Edison was asked if he was frustrated at his lack of success after his 1800 attempts at inventing the light bulb.  “No”, he replied, “ I now know a 1000 things that won’t work.”

So, if you feel alone in your quest toward entrepreneurship, share you experience here.   We can commiserate.

Failure = Creativity
Failure = Creativity


Creativity According to Ira Glass

2 Dec

For those of you who are NPR junkies like me, you have more than likely heard of Ira Glass and his This American Life program.  The following is a clip of Ira glass talking about creativity and story-telling.  His words are balm to the souls of all of us “creatives”.  Check it out-

Ageism Calls for an Attitude Adjustment

18 Sep

Anyone reading our blog of late has probably concluded I’m obsessed with turning 60.  Now while that might be an exaggeration, I am more likely to read articles and pay attention to news shows featuring the topic of aging.  That is why I read with interest an article in the New York Times last Sunday by Peggy Klaus called, Embrace Your Age and Conquer the World I don’t know about conquering the world so much, but maybe conquering my own world would be a worthy pursuit.  Klaus argues that in spite of, or perhaps because of, ageism (discrimination based on age) we Baby Boomers should “start to own, even embrace, how old we are”.  She says it’s the perfect time for a major cultural attitude adjustment.  Hmmm, maybe this aging thing just got a lot better, I thought to myself.

Klaus cited a Northwestern University study in which the author opined that people who are 55 and even 65 have more innovation potential than 25 year olds.  Benjamin Jones noted in a paper titled, “Age and Great Invention” there has been a large upward trend in the age at which innovators begin their active careers.

A CBS Morning Show last week featured Jeffrey Kluger of Time  Magazine in a segment called “Awesome Aging”.  Kluger contends creativity increases with age.  He referenced studies that have found the brain continues to grow in those areas involving creativity. The very deterioration we dread actually enhances creativity.  Kluger says, “The walls break down.  It’s no longer language in the left hemisphere and art in the right.  There is a free flow of information back and forth.”  He added, “Wisdom is a bi-product of creativity.  What is wisdom but creative thinking?”  This must be why Frank Lloyd Wright, Pablo Picasso, and even Galileo did some of their best work in their 80s.

I can’t tell you how affirming these two articles are.  Creativity is a central thesis of Be Brave. Lose the Beige (our blogsite and book title).  We go so far as to urge people to “exercise” their creative muscles.  As adults, we have come to recognize the validity of exercising our bodies and minds, but somehow, once we get past the age of ten, we often pay less attention to our creative muscles.  And, just like physical muscles that fail to be engaged, so can our creative muscles begin to atrophy.  Creativity is not just about participating in the visual or performing arts.  It’s a way of thinking about and approaching one’s life, a way of viewing the world.  It’s doing mundane things in a novel way.  Even a little creative thinking can produce seismic changes in our lives.

While I have always enjoyed participating in creative activities, I’m feeling as though I’m on creativity steroids at this point in my life (at age 60).  My brain is a virtual popcorn machine with new ideas/creative thoughts continuously popping up (probably more because of my ADD brain).  My husband and I consider ourselves entrepreneurs.  I think we must conceive of new business ideas every other day.  The process of conception (much like in the other kind of conception process) is the fun part– the brain storming process; the excitement of a new idea; the hope of making the idea an income producing one…

So, I agree with Peggy Klaus.  This is a perfect time for a major cultural attitude adjustment, and let’s start with us-  the Boomer Generation.  After all, there are a lot of us- 80 million to be precise.  Rumor has it over half of us will celebrate our 100th birthday and beyond.   How do you plan to creatively spend these next 20, 30, or 40 years.


Laboring Creatively

13 Jun

I’d like to share a laboring technique that doesn’t feel quite so much like labor.  I’m sitting under a tent on the beach, laptop in hand with my feet buried beneath soft, crumbly ivory colored sand. I really am working, I’m just doing it to the accompaniment of the rhythmic sounds of a summer ocean. I’m using technology in a way that is advantageous to me; I’m not allowing it to use me (at least not at the moment). My cell phone is near by, as are the sandpipers and ruddy turnstones with their punk rocker hairdos. (Seagull relatives)

Let’s face it, most of us have to work. Work can take the form of office labor or the labor intensive responsibilities of being a parent or other responsible adult. Whether we are filling out those endless beginning of school year forms for our children/grandchildren, paying bills or typing on our laptops, do one thing that makes it all more pleasurable.  Our parents taught us work first, play second. I think we are capable of doing both.  This is a photo of my business partner, Jackie

Jackie Sorensen and Liz Kitchens

Jackie Sorensen and Liz Kitchens

Sorensen and me working at Nichols Surf Shop Cafe in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.  This funky, bohemian café situated yards from the Atlantic Ocean provided a creative atmosphere for designing our series of Be Brave. Lose the Beige workshops. A Lady Boomer one table over snapped this photo saying how envious she was of our work environment.

If you can and when you can, perform your tasks/ work in an environment that is aesthetically pleasing.  It will qualitatively improve your production.  And besides, you might not mind doing it so much.



Creative Quests and Spiritual Journeys

30 Apr

I had an interesting albeit painful experience this week.  I’ve been working on a book proposal for the past 6 months with my colleague, Jackie.  It has been simultaneously an agonizing and rewarding process. For example, the title has gone through several incarnations morphing into the present – Be Brave. Lose the Beige, A “Coloring” Book for Living Outside the Lines title. We are hoping that this will be a must have manual for Lady Boomers (women of the Baby Boomer generation) for creative living.

My husband dubbed me a “Clay Writer” because I like to think I write with clay and sculpt with words.  And that is how this book, and its companion book proposal, has evolved. It has been a process of sculpting each word as if it were made from the colorful polymer clay I use to create the illustrations for the book.  Needless to say, there is more than a bit of ego involvement in this endeavor.

Prior to submitting the proposal to a potential publisher we asked a few people to review the proposal.  I failed to anticipate how vulnerable I was making myself by subjecting this work to public scrutiny.  Our first reviewer (whose opinion mattered a great deal to me) was surgeon-like with their editing scalpel.  I’m not sure what I expected from these reviewers.  I naively assumed the response would be praise and applause, not necessarily a critique of academic proportions.  Despite the fact the criticisms were spot on and will help to make the proposal a more effective document, I was crushed.  I even felt a measure of shame.  You see I spend an inordinate amount of time researching, writing, and sculpting.  I have often hidden these endeavors from my linear lawyer friends out of fear they may think it’s silly or a waste of time.  (You see, even at 60 I still care what others think) But creativity is funny.  It’s kind of like breathing.  I can’t fathom living without it.

After a day of self-doubt I shared the critique with my very creative 34 year old writer daughter.  Having experienced this on a few occasions, she rushed to reassure me.  “Mom, would you trust a child you created to just anyone? Your art work and words are your creations and should be entrusted to people who will nurture and encourage these ideas .”  Unless I’m being paid for future creative efforts I’m going to choose my audience carefully.  My daughter said to send future comments her way and she will act as my filter as to what to keep and what to delete.  I like that idea.  Creative expression, though fun and fulfilling, is really nerve wracking.

I’m a journal writer and I noted this experience in a journal entry.  As I listened to this interior monologue it occurred to me this creative quest of mine is no less than a spiritual one.  Perhaps God is an essential truth within ourselves.  To deny this part of myself to pursue something more linear, is to deny the God within, what we are called to become in this life.  Pretty lofty, huh?  Or maybe just a rationalization to permit myself to do what I really want to do.