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Crash Course on Creativity

News from Afar

Here are four articles and six TED Talk videos to boost your creativity right now.

5 Habits of the Most Creative People | Drake Baer

“What do a startup king, a social network innovator, a hip hop prince, perhaps the best actor on television, and two absolutely hilarious dudes have in common? They’re all among the Most Creative People–and we can learn quite a bit from the way they work.”

Nabokov on Inspiration and the Six Short Stories Everyone Should Read | Maria Popova

“Nabokov addresses the dismissive attitude many “serious” writers take toward the notion of inspiration — an attitude that E. B. White had expressed three years prior in his famous Paris Review interview, stating that “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

How Creative Parents Influence Their Potentially Creative Children | Freakonomics

“A short paper published by NBER from authors Albert N. Link and Christopher J. Ruhm takes a simple but oft-neglected look into patents and creativity; namely, how creative parents influence their potentially creative children.”

How to Break Out of a Creative Rut | Blue Glass

“We’re all inherently creative, but to varying degrees we allow that natural gift to be blocked. So, here’s a handy resource with some of our favorite way to get your creative juices flowing.”

Here are the TED Talks …

How to build your creative confidence | David Kelley

“Is your school or workplace divided into “creatives” versus practical people? Yet surely, David Kelley suggests, creativity is not the domain of only a chosen few. Telling stories from his legendary design career and his own life, he offers ways to build the confidence to create.”

Taking imagination seriously | Janet Echelman

“Janet Echelman found her true voice as an artist when her paints went missing — which forced her to look to an unorthodox new art material. Now she makes billowing, flowing, building-sized sculpture with a surprisingly geeky edge. A transporting 10 minutes of pure creativity.”

Your brain on improv | Charles Limb

“Musician and researcher Charles Limb wondered how the brain works during musical improvisation — so he put jazz musicians and rappers in an fMRI to find out. What he and his team found has deep implications for our understanding of creativity of all kinds. (Filmed at TEDxMidAtlantic.)”

Your elusive creative genius | Elizabeth Gilbert

“Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.”

Schools kill creativity | Ken Robinson

“Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.”

Embrace the remix | Kirby Ferguson

“Nothing is original, says Kirby Ferguson, creator of Everything is a Remix. From Bob Dylan to Steve Jobs, he says our most celebrated creators borrow, steal and transform.”

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Originally published on Google+: Crash Course on Creativity.

Image source: News from Afar

A Crash Course on Storytelling

Air Mail

Here are three articles and six TED Talk videos to help you bone up on the art of successful story telling.

How to Tell a Story — Right Now — From a Master of Improv

“Upright Citizen Brigade founding member Matt Besser is one of the world’s leading improvers. Here, the off-the-cuff expert offers wisdom on how to free associate your way to solid spontaneous storytelling.”

How to Captivate Your Audience with Story (From America’s Greatest Living Playwright)

“David Mamet, America’s greatest living playwright, has forgotten more about all this than ten internet marketing gurus sipping mojitos in San Jose will ever know. A few years ago, a memo surfaced, written by Mamet to the clan of writers working on his television show. This little memo is actually more a master class in writing and storytelling.”

How to tell a story like a stand up comic

“Telling a story like a stand-up takes practice and there are key points to remember. Believe it or not, most stand-up comics are not wildly adventurous individuals who have hilarious things happen to them every day. What they’ve learned, however, is that it’s not the story, but rather how it’s told.”

Here are six TED talks on storytelling 

“Why do we love our favorite stories? Do they need a beginning, middle and end, and a character who changes by the conclusion? Masters of storytelling explore new answers to age-old questions of the craft.”

And for those who are counting … I’m just about two weeks behind on my Education of a Writer series. But I promise you a new chapter on this Monday, July 1.

It’s called “Still Life.”

This will be totally different from the preceding fourteen chapters. I promise. In fact, I’ll have to explain what is going on so you aren’t totally scratching your heads.

Until then, feel free to catch up on the series. I appreciate every single one of you. Thank you!

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Image source: Air Mail

Top 10 Worst Creativity Tips of All Time

Electric Candles

What do you get when you cross a cranky writer with an opium-induced dream? Nothing to gawk at, normally.

But English poet Samuel Coleridge defied the odds and cranked out an unforgettably creepy poem called “Kubla Khan“. [Read more...]

The Dark Side of Creativity


Quick quiz …

Which department(s) inside an advertising would be most likely to engage in dishonest behavior? The least?

  • Accounting
  • Copywriting
  • Account Management
  • Legal
  • Human Resources
  • IT
  • Design

(Share your thoughts in the comments … then come back and read the rest of the post.)

This was the very thing that Dan Ariely studied at a large ad agency (and wrote about in his book “The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty“) …

It was an extension to an earlier study that demonstrated “that a creative mind-set could make people cheat a bit more.”

Of the people in the ad agency he asked questions like:

  • How likely would you be to inflate your business expense report?
  • How likely are you to take home office supplies from work?
  • How likely would you be to tell your supervisor that progress was made on a project when none has been made at all?

Ariely’s conclusion after the ad agency study: “creativity can help us tell better stories — stories that allow us to be even more dishonest but still think of ourselves as wonderfully honest people.”

Does that help you choose the departments that are most likely to engage in dishonest behavior?

(Here’s a further hint: the people inside these departments are also more prone to melancholy.)

Fortunately Ariely includes a wonderful chapter on guidelines to help you fight cheating and maintain your honesty … particularly the Broken Windows Theory … which states you should attack small acts of dishonesty early and often to keep them from snowballing into higher levels of infidelity.

Great advice. So …

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Image source: Why  We Lie

The Sobering Effect of So Many Good Bands–and Writers

Pink Turntable

Tell me if you recognize any of these names: The Antlers. Real Estate. Tune-Yards. M83. Beirut. Wye Oak. Feist. Tom Waits. The Head and the Heart. James Blake. Radiohead.

If you do, then I can probably predict this about you: you prefer music on the margin over music in the mainstream.

And you had your ear to the ground in 2011.

If you don’t, and prefer mainstream over the marginal, then you at least recognize two names: Tom Waits and Radiohead. I tell you why that’s important in a few minutes. [Read more...]

Is the Long-Dead “Obvious Adams” Behind This “Vodka-Flavored” Vodka Advertising Campaign?

maximus-vodka-ad (1)

Vodka is pretty much…vodka. It’s unaged. Colorless. Like water. In fact, the word vodka comes from the Slavic word voda–which means little water. But anyone who’s tasted vodka knows that there is nothing little about it.

Think burnt wine. Tasteless, clear burnt wine. [Read more...]

Has Social Media Changed How We Write Web Copy? Here’s Why I Think So

Laughing Teenagers

Since 2001 I’ve been writing copy for the web. I’ve been in the web writing world long enough to have mastered the fundamentals of persuasive web writing. I’ve been writing copy for landing pages, sales letters, email newsletter sub forms.

And the rules for writing persuasive copy remain:

1. Clear

2. Concise

3. Compelling

Now I want to offer a new one. [Read more...]

Occupy the Cover

person of the year

Time named “The Protestor” its person of the year. I think it fits.

The only other person that dominated the news this year was…

[Read more...]

Why I Love Evon Cassier’s Hand-crafted Handbags

Valor Handbag

Evon Cassier used to travel up and down the East Coast analysing chemicals for big pharma. Not the career path you’d think a young seamstress would follow. She was just trying to be practical.

Practical pays, yes, but it often doesn’t please. [Read more...]

Warning: These 4 Books Will Give You a Case of “Rage to Master”


I’m an achievement addict. And I love books. So no surprise that I read books that will help me achieve my goals [no matter how ridiculous they are].

The four that I’ve read recently are high on my list of must-read. Like read them and you’ll get lit. In a good way. Passionate.

In other words, you’ll get a case of “rage to master.” I explain below. [Read more...]