Me and creativity, inc quotes from Barbara Sher

31 December 2010 by Jennifer

A book recommendation and some related thoughts…

I ran out of light reading just before Christmas, due to forgetting what time the local library would close on Christmas Eve. Oops!

Vron kindly let me peruse her bookshelves, and one of the things I spotted was Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose: What do I do when I want to do everything? I had read that before, but it was a long time ago and I’d been meaning to re-read it. And oh yes, it is a lovely book.

Beads, cycles and other metaphors

My closest fit to the profiles in this book, I think, is as a “cyclical scanner”. Most “scanners”, as Barbara describes them, are continually getting interested in completely new things. But cyclical ones come back to the same things again as inspiration shifts.

OK, I do have what you might call “underlying themes” to what I do. But I don’t have one big project or genre occupying my whole creative life. I don’t write about the same things all the time, and I’ve got more than one music project and more than one source of income, and I like coding and d.i.y. as well as writing and music.

I was thinking about that a while ago and I came up with the metaphor of a series of beads of different colours. The necklace as a whole is my creative life; the beads don’t have to match.

“Cycles” too is “one of my metaphors”. For a long time now, I’ve used the expression “work cycles” to describe the way I’ll be immersed in something for a few days, then come to a natural end of that burst of inspiration and move to something else.

Or at least, that’s how it works when I’m on a roll – though a lot of the time I accidentally fall out of that mode, e.g. discombobulated by the looming presence of some conscience-driven task for which I feel no inspiration :-/

As it happens I don’t really identify with the term “scanner”, as a word. Metaphorically, I think that fits better to the people who are less cyclical and more on a continual quest for completely new stuff. But the label hasn’t got in the way of me finding lots in the book that’s useful and validating to me.

Here are a couple of book extracts which I most want to remember for the new year:

Random Acts of Passion Life Design Model

Every Scanner knows what it’s like to be suddenly taken with a desire to stop what he’s doing and pick up something else that calls to him. … If that’s something you do, I advise you to just give in. Pick up any project that calls you and give it an hour, a day, or a week, however long it keeps you fascinated, and then put it away and get back to what you were doing.

This arrangement is called the Random Acts of Passion Life Design Model – and it might be just right for how your creativity operates.

So true!

(One of these days I should really write up my “Timed seed and herb dispenser” model of inspiration. And my concept of “Pingalation”.)

Avocation Stations

I used to wish that I had a huge, empty room with rows of long tables against the walls and, on each table, everything I needed for one of my projects. Then I could leave everything out in the open on its own table and walk over to it and start working whenever the mood took me.

I don’t have a room that large and I bet you don’t, either, but the fantasy gave me the idea of Avocation Stations, and I started wondering what kind of arrangement could replace all those tables and take up less space. …

Then, last month in a home furnishings catalog, I saw a little rolling stand with drawers and a couple of fun gadgets like a desk space that opened, a slot for large pages, a shelf for books. It was called a bill paying center, as I recall, but to me it was a dead ringer for an Avocation Station. …

If you’re a Scanner with lots of projects going on at the same time, you should have some variation of those little pieces of furniture. You can make your own to suit yourself … and keep a whole bunch of them ready to go.

In an ideal world I’d have an ENORMOUS wooden multi-cupboard thing, taking up say one whole wall of my workroom, which incorporated lots of different sizes of drawer and cupboard, so that everything half done had a perfectly suited storage space and was easy to get out and put back.

I don’t think I’d actually want everything out at once. In fact, I imagine I’d probably dislike that. When something’s not hot, I’d probably rather it was out of my space, to leave the space clearer for the few things that are. For me, what appeals about the “Avocation Station” idea is the easy getting out and putting back, plus the “all relevant bits together ready to go” – not the idea of everything at once being literally visible.

And it’s not that I don’t do something like that already – I do. I have shelves and boxes and drawers, and some of them are designated for particular projects.

But I think the principle of “ready to go” could be optimised further, and I think that would be a good thing. So that’s why I wanted to remember that bit of the book.

Barbara’s blogs

And then, poking around on the net, I discovered that Barbara has several blogs, a Twitter account and a web site! I don’t know why it never occurred to me before to look for these.

Here are two of the blogs, which seem to be the most current:

And here is a funny and insightful video about different people loving different things:

Barbara Sher: “Design, Execute, Maintain”, on YouTube

Happy creative New Year, everyone.

Here, have an index…
Top of article
Beads, cycles and other metaphors
Random Acts of Passion Life Design Model
Avocation Stations
Barbara’s blogs

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