Dixie Darr

Archive for July, 2007|Monthly archive page

In creativity on July 31, 2007 at 8:13 am

Simpsonized!
“Doh.” Homer Simpson

It’s me as a Simpson. Try it yourself. Go to

Simpsonize Me

and upload a picture to see what you would look like in the movie or TV series. I look GOOD.

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In creativity on July 30, 2007 at 10:40 am

Peak Performance

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.”
–Erma Bombeck

In August of 1964 I saw the Beatles live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and that has been the crowning moment of my life. No show I’ve seen since, musical or theatrical, came close to matching the experience of that performance. Until Saturday night. That’s when, thanks to my friend Sheila, her daughter Michelle and son-in-law Dayn, I saw my first Cirque du Soleil show, Corteo.

Wow.

I’ve been a fan of Cirque du Soleil for many years. I’ve watched them on TV and in 2004, I even watched a series on A&E, Cirque du Soleil Fire Within, about how they develop a show, from recruiting performers and finding music to rehearsals and launch, a fascinating study of the creative process in action. I read a book, CIRQUE DU SOLEIL® THE SPARK: Igniting the Creative Fire That Lives Within Us All. But I never actually went to see them live and in person, although I wanted to. The tickets were expensive and I didn’t have anybody to go with, blah, blah, blah.

When they launched the new show, Love, featuring Beatles music last year, I thought the time had finally come. Although I wasn’t willing to go to Las Vegas to see it, I figured it was only a matter of time until they had a touring version that came to Denver.

Then Sheila called to tell me her husband couldn’t make it and ask if I would like to be her date. YES!

It was magical. From silliness in the audience before the show started to the final curtain call, they kept the entire audience enthralled. Most of us have seen traditional circuses and, if you’re old enough, you saw individual circus acts on Ed Sullivan. Many of the acts in Cirque du Soleil are traditional circus acts, but the music, costumes and storyline tie them all together and the brilliant staging and set design make them transcend anything else I’ve ever seen.

Now I’ve ordered the book and the DVD from my local library with the idea that I will enjoy them more than ever, now that I’ve seen a show. And I don’t think I’ll miss another show they bring to town. If I have to, I might even venture to Sin City.

Corteo is the unlikely story of a funeral, with all the deceased friends showcasing their best talents in tribute to their departed loved one. In case you’re still around when the time comes, that’s what I want at my funeral. That and a lot of Beatles music.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity on July 25, 2007 at 6:29 am

Boob Tube

“Everyone has a purpose in life. Perhaps yours is watching television.”
David Letterman

I watch too much TV, so much that I would be embarrassed to tell you how much. Let’s just say I’m above average, okay? Whenever I hear myself say, “I don’t have time,” I hear another nagging little voice tell me that I would have time, if only I didn’t watch so much TV.

Here are my current must see shows:

The Young and the Restless CBS

Monk USA

The Closer TNT

So You Think You Can Dance Fox

Flip That House TLC

Sell This House A&E

House Hunters HGTV

The Daily Show Comedy Central

I’ve also been getting into The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch on CNBC.

An article in Psychology Today reports that watching Comedy Central may boost creativity. “Studies show that people are better at solving exercises designed to measure creative thinking immediately after exposure to comedy.” Laughing makes us “more alert, active, interested and excited.”

On the other hand, the same article suggests that we limit TV watching because “when you watch television, your brain goes into neutral.” Okay, sometimes I want my brain to go into neutral, but probably not for as many hours as I watch TV. I really don’t think that watching television is my purpose in life.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity on July 23, 2007 at 7:01 am

Idea File

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it’s the only one you have.” Emile Chartier

Most of us have ideas that we never act on. In fact, I sometimes think ideas are a dime a dozen. What’s really rare and valuable is someone who will put those ideas into action. That’s why I think it’s funny that potential entrepreneurs are afraid to tell people their business idea because that person might steal it. Writers do the same thing, keeping story ideas close to the vest.

Keeping a file of those ideas as they arise can help in a couple of ways. First, it gets you in the habit of paying attention to your ideas, and therefore, in the habit of having ideas. Second, the file becomes fertile ground to mine for ideas when you need them. You might find that something you thought of long ago will work today in a completely different context.

It doesn’t matter if you keep the ideas on index cards, in a notebook, in a computer file or a voice recorder. Use whatever works for you, but try to keep things in a central location so you know where they are when you need to access them.

This is such a good idea that Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind writes a column called The Idea File for the Wall Street Journal’s center for entrepreneurship, the Startup Journal. Blogs (like this one) are another place where thousands of people record, share and track their ideas.

Of course, if you are more the implementation person than the idea person, that’s fine, too. You can use magazines, books and the Internet to mine for ideas you can act on.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity, Home, work on July 20, 2007 at 10:59 am

Building a Nest

“Ah! There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”

Jane Austen

Every summer, my friend Chris and her husband Peter spend the month of July at the same lakeside cottage in Maine. They read, play on the lake, take walks and naps and just relax. They take a cell phone, but no computer.

As soon as they arrive from their home in New Jersey, they set about changing the house (as tiny as a dollhouse, according to Chris) from a generic, tacky summer cottage into their home. They remove the furniture, pictures, knickknacks and dishes to a storage facility and replace everything with their own stuff. This takes about five hours.

At the end of their vacation, they reverse the process, replacing the original furnishings and putting their belongings into the storage unit. They do this because their surroundings are very important to their state of mind.

The way we decorate and live in our houses, studios and offices affects our mental states more than we may realize. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get much done in a beige room. I need color, plus lots of books and paper and (colorful) pens and music and natural light and my computer. My cats are also a nice addition, although I frequently have to shoo them off the desktop.

When I ask my students to design their ideal learning space, they always include music and elements of nature such as plants or aquariums or windows facing trees and gardens.

Think about the kind of environment that makes you feel most creative and productive. Start by imagining what you would like if money were no object. Then see which of the elements you can incorporate into your work space, now.

According to Pregnancy Weekly, the nesting instinct kicks in at about 5 months, with “an uncontrollable urge . . . to prepare a nest for the new baby, to tie up loose ends of old projects and to organize your world.” Since many people refer to creative projects of all sorts as their babies, it isn’t too far fetched to think about designing a nurturing nest where your creativity can thrive.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Learning, work on July 16, 2007 at 10:37 am

Animal Dreams

“If you don’t take a chance now and then, you stand still — and then you begin to slide backward.” Gregory Peck

This is a story for people who think learning is only for young people. Lee, a woman in her mid-fifties, has been cutting my hair for several years. A self-employed stylist, she also helps her husband train greyhounds for the race track. She loves working with the dogs and puts her heart and soul into finding good homes for those who can no longer race.

Last month she told me she was going back to school to become a veterinarian’s assistant. When I saw her Friday, she was so excited she could barely contain herself. She had started school and completed four classes.

After working on her feet all day, she attends class from 5-10:30 Monday through Thursday, then goes home to do her homework until 2 in the morning. She’s exhausted, and says she sometimes cries herself to sleep at night, but she is also more alive than I have ever seen her.

Why? Because she’s learning something new, and it is leading her toward a new career working with the animals she loves. She works hard and earns top grades, which is typical of people in her age range who go to school. Simply put, they know why they are there: because the want to be there. Not because anybody is forcing them. Frequently, in fact, people are telling them they are crazy to go back to school at that age. Who, they wonder, will hire someone her age who is just starting out? Anybody who wants an assistant who is interested and vital and excited about the job and who also, by the way, has an outstanding work ethic.

If I were a veterinarian, I’d be lining up to hire her.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity, self-employment, work on July 11, 2007 at 9:53 am

Time to Create, Part II

“All of man’s troubles stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Pascal

In our helter skelter, rush-around world, time is our most precious commodity. And time—time spent alone, time to think and tinker and play—is the one ingredient that is absolutely necessary for creativity and innovation.

An article in this month’s Inc. magazine, Creative Control: Even Bosses Need Time to Dream, analyzes the need for entrepreneurs and CEOs to make time for idea generation because:

  • “Companies need new ideas to thrive.”
  • “Staying cretive is among the healthiest tings a CEO can do personally and for the company.”
  • “Idea generation may be the CEO’s strongest suit, and consequently a company’s greatest asset.”

Paul Budnitz, founder of Kidrobot, is one CEO who hasn’t given up his creative juice for the more mundane tasks of business life. “He came up with 53 original items last year alone” because he forces himself to make time for idea generation. During a recent trip to China for a week of crisis management, he took time to “sit in a room and think about new toy ideas.”

Travel can be a great opportunity for creative thinking, not only because a change of scenery gives us a new perspective. Time spent waiting in airports and hotels and on airplanes can be used for creative incubation.

Take a hint from Erik Djukastein, president of Contech Electronics, who recently turned the management and finance functions of his company over to somebody else and gave himself the title of chief innovation officer. I’m hoping that title catches on. It will definitely appear on my next business card.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity on July 10, 2007 at 7:21 am

Time to Create

“Don’t say that you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.” H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Okay, that’s a scary thought. Do you know what these people managed to accomplish in their lifetimes? It’s all I can do to clean the bathroom. On the other hand, I can’t imagine any of these people having to spend time cleaning the bathroom. While not exactly single-minded in their pursuits, they were at any rate single-minded in pursuing what they considered important.

As Charlie Chaplin said, “Genius is the ability to edit.” That’s true in life as well as acting, writing or painting. Most of us have WAY too many things and WAY too many activities and we’re not especially good at getting rid of those we don’t really need. I speak from personal experience.

My students sometimes get very angry when I suggest to them that while they are in school, they may not be able to do everything they did before. Like most people, they think time management means learning to do things faster so they can fit more into the same amount of time. Not true. The first rule of time management is to eliminate everything that doesn’t contribute to your goals. As humorist H. L. Menken once observed, “It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf.”

Another rule of time management is to match your tasks to the times that are best suited for them. One study reported that our best ideas come at the following times:

6 a.m. – noon 30%

Noon – 6 p.m. 14%

6 p.m. – midnight 33%

Midnight – 6 a.m. 23%

The times will, of course, vary from person to person, but it looks like another argument for afternoon naps.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity on July 9, 2007 at 8:15 am

Creative environments

“You can’t wait for creativity. You have to go after it with a club.” Jack London

You can improve your creative output by working in a space that contributes to your creativity. For me, that means lots of visual stimulation: books, pictures and color. I also need music or TV for background noise, toys (juggling balls, a yoyo, and a teleidoscope are my favorites), plenty of colorful marking pens, paper pads in various sizes and Post-It notes in all sizes and colors.

Other ideas are a flipchart or white board and markers, a baby picture of yourself, a symbol or picture of your vision, cartoon books or other inspirational books such as Living Juicy by SARK. You also need a comfortable chair or bed. Natural light and a view of nature from a window is also nice. If you can’t manage that, pets, a fish tank or a plant will help.

Even with the perfect environment, you may still find that you get your best ideas while driving, exercising, sleeping or bathing. Be prepared to capture these flashes of inspiration by:

· Keeping a pad and pencil by the bed.

· Having a voice recorder in the car.

· Keeping a grease pencil in the shower.

· Carrying 3/5” index cards or a small notebook in your pocket or purse

· Leaving a voice mail message for yourself

If you still find yourself in a situation where you can’t write down or record your ideas, try composing a song or rhyme to help you remember. These bursts of insight can be fleeting, so we have to be ready to catch them whenever they appear.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity, Learning, self-employment, spirituality, work on July 7, 2007 at 7:19 am

The Nap Manifesto

Working at home allows me the luxury of indulging in to my natural tendency to nap. Mine are not the 20-minute “power naps” people boast about. My naps like to last about an hour and a half, which, it turns out is the time it takes to complete one cycle of sleep.

Of course, I don’t take a nap every day, although I’d like to. I’ve attended enough meetings and taught enough seminars at 1 p.m., right after lunch, that I know it’s a deadly hour. It seems to me that the cultures that have a general siesta in the early afternoon have the right idea.

Our society thinks nappers are lazy. Now science has the evidence to prove the case for napping. In her fascinating book, Take a Nap! Change your life, Sara C. Mednick, Ph.D. proclaims that napping “is free, it’s nontoxic and it has no dangerous side effects.” Instead, it will:

  1. Increase your alertness
  2. Speed up your motor performance.
  3. Improve your accuracy.
  4. Help you make better decisions.
  5. Improve your perception.
  6. Fatten your bottom line.
  7. Preserve your youthful looks.
  8. Improve your sex life.
  9. Lose weight.
  10. Reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  11. Reduce your risk of diabetes.
  12. Improve your stamina.
  13. Elevate your mood.
  14. Boost your creativity.
  15. Reduce stress.
  16. Help your memory.
  17. Reduce dependence on drugs/alcohol.
  18. Alleviate migraines, ulcers and other problems with psychological components.
  19. Improve the ease and quality of your nocturnal sleep.

Oh, yes. It also feels good. Right now, if you know what’s good for you, close your browser, find a comfortable spot and catch a few zzzzs.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved