Tag Archives: read books

How I Cultivate Creativity Every Day

July 27, 2020

Creativity / Culture and Society

Creativity is a tricky concept. In my experience, it can be both omnipresent and elusive at different times. It is omnipresent in the form of play and free-form art like doodling and improvisational dance. It is elusive when it needs an inspiration and compulsion to drive it.

A composer hears a melody in her head.

A writer envisions a meaningful story.

A manager needs to solve a big problem in his team’s workflow.

Today, I am addressing that elusive form of creativity that results in a desired work of art or a clever solution to a difficult challenge.

How does one get into the necessary headspace to come up with new solutions and techniques?

As a songwriter, I think of an idea for a song and eventually end up with the actual song in a finished form with music and lyrics. This same process has happened with blog posts and the short films I have made. I have done this often enough that I have developed my own ways of cultivating my creativity. My methods may not work for everyone, but they have yielded satisfying gains in my life.

In no particular order, here are some of my keystone practices:

    Unless there is an actual deadline to meet, I am the kind of artist who lets ideas percolate and gain momentum along their own time. I have written songs that took a year to coalesce. For a documentary film I completed last year, I spent several months just letting the whole concept of it bounce around in my head. I have found that forcing art to happen in a way that applies too much pressure on getting a specific result is a recipe for a finished work that is noticeably contrived. When I allow an idea to germinate slowly across time, I get the chance to delve deep into the roots and nitty gritty of it. In this sense, the process, beyond even the actual piece of art itself, becomes more surefooted, and the learning grows much deeper.

    There can be important progress in times of stillness. In the mornings, I sometimes lie in bed awake before getting up. I may look like I am staring up at the ceiling like a zombie, but internally, I am working out a problem in my head or mapping out the workflow for a film project. At my desk in my studio, I quietly sip my warm morning coffee as I mull over a concept in my head. The best thing about mornings is the freshness with which I feel my brain approaches anything I throw at it. Sure, there may be an initial groggy fogginess, but beyond that, a rested mind forges a path toward clarity and focus. My mornings also tend to be quiet. The lack of noise pollution opens up expansive fields of contemplative space.

    Every day, I go on a solitary walk for one hour or for 3 miles, whichever suits my schedule best. This is not one of those frenzied power walks that looks far too ridiculous. My walks are often slow, meandering forays along the remote country road that leads to and from my house in the woods. While my legs move, my mind wanders even further to see shapes and forms that cannot be seen inside a room of four walls. I take in the glorious trees that surround me and the blue skies above. I listen to the sound of birds communicating. I pay attention to my breathing. I have made tremendous breakthroughs in my creative work on walks like this.

    I make a concerted effort to read more books than news articles and blogs. They are a vital source of inspiration for me. The long-form nature of any book allows a reader to delve deep into a topic or narrative. This forces my brain to make connections and to conceptualize ideas along a substantially lengthy thread of complex abstractions. Reading a book is exercise for the brain. This activity summons internal visualizations, questions, and emotions. Each book is also a window into its author’s brain. Each page conveys a separate set of sensibilities and inclinations. A book offers a dazzling panoramic view of someone else’s perspective of the world. This is sustenance for a creative mind.

    TV and many forms of digital visual entertainment do not offer as much depth as reading a book. It’s called entertainment for a reason. Certainly, the escape from reality and the visual feast that it gives can be enjoyable and fun, but it leaves little room for contemplation across time. In a half-hour sitcom, a conflict in a plot gets resolved. In a two-hour major motion picture, everything gets neatly wrapped up before the end credits role. The engagement is too passive because everything has been given to the audience quickly. There is far less to grapple with. Of course, there are incredibly powerful and wonderful films and tv shows out in the world, but they are not as common as one would hope. (I tend to favor foreign films that follow structures and pacing that diverge from the immediacy and flashiness of American-style filmmaking.) More often than not, digital entertainment is addictive and adds up to precious time lost over something sparkly and inconsequential.

    Because we make mistakes and bad decisions, it becomes difficult to trust our intuition. However, I have learned that it is through our mistakes that we can fine tune our sensibilities and inner compass. We have to be willing to make a lot of mistakes and to give ourselves the space and time to question them, struggle with their consequences, and decide how to deal with similar situations in the future. Like anything in life, the more we try, the better we get, even if the gains are microscopically incremental. A gain is still a gain regardless of its size. I have learned through NUMEROUS mistakes to trust myself even more. Learning breeds instinctual acuity. The more I learn, the more I know—this makes most decisions much easier to make. I make every effort to trust myself and my abilities. Any mistakes along the way will only benefit me in the long term.

You are welcome to try any of these techniques. None of them are based on exact science but have been culled out of my own creative pursuits. I live a life in which I write for this blog, make short films that I release every week, and play music every day. I actively replenish my creative energy in any way that I can. I do all of the above with consistency and a whole lot of patience.

PS. If you have not seen this week’s film release, here it is. I unbox and review my brand new aNueNue tenor ukulele. Check it out:

How I Read Books Every Day

July 6, 2020

Reading Books

As of this moment, I have read over 7,300 pages across 23 books since January 1, 2020. This is clearly an anomaly because I typically read only 12 to 15 books every year. (It’s been less than that while I was in college leading up to my graduation last December.)

Two primary factors have lead to this.

  1. I set a goal to read at least 40 books at the beginning of the year.
  2. The global Coronavirus pandemic effectively canceled all of my plans for 2020.

The lofty goal of 40 books was questionable, at best, and I’ve pursued it only because of the large backlog of terrific books I’ve yet to get my hands on. Covid-19 and sheltering at home have enabled me to develop very clear and simple reading habits that have made all of the difference. I only have 17 books left to reach my goal, and at my current rate, I may exceed that quantity by the end of this crazy year.

Before I outline how I have been able to read so much, I have a couple of disclaimers to get out of the way. First of all, I am not a speed reader by any means. I read at a moderate and steady pace, and I’ve learned how to read with my eyes—as opposed to reading with an “inner voice” that enunciates every word. I keep a moderate pace only because I find that comprehension and attention to detail gets compromised if I try to rush through a book. Secondly, I make sure that I actually want to finish the book. If it has a well-written and enchanting story with characters that I actually care about, then this definitely makes finishing it fun and easy.

So, here are the steps I take to enhance my daily reading excursions:

  • I read a minimum of 35 pages or read for at least one full hour EVERY DAY.
  • I have my next book ready to tackle as soon as I am finished with my current book.
  • I make time either in the morning when I wake up or before bed at night to read.
  • If a book feels tedious or boring by at least a quarter or a third of the way into the story, I dump it and move on to the next one.
  • I make sure I have sufficient light whenever and wherever I read to minimize fatigue in my eyes. My Kobo e-reader has a front glow light that I can adjust for comfort.
  • I borrow MANY e-books through my local library’s online Overdrive portal. I can borrow and download a book or I can place holds on several books in mere seconds without ever leaving my house. This saves me a lot of time.

That’s basically it in a nutshell. Because I enjoy reading so much, it’s not difficult to incorporate it into my daily life. Lastly, I cannot stress this enough. It is vital and paramount that you read a book with excellent content. This makes all the difference in the world. You’ll fly through an outstanding book and story in no time at all.

Find a terrific book and start reading now!! Whether you only read a handful or hundreds of books within a year, you’re bound to find a story that will enthrall and inspire you.

Happy Summer Reading to you!!