What began as a sandbox to learn about social media for my job became a jumble of blogs, sites in every app known to the world, and total confusion over what title went with which password. Trying to be clever got me into all kinds of numbingly long series of words, letters, numbers, and symbols.
I loved my job. I loved most of the folks I worked with, especially my cohorts in information and Web design. And I got to use a skill that I’m particularly comfortable with and suited for: writing and editing. What I didn’t love, nay hated and suffered from, were the administration and politics of the place I worked for, a first tier research educational institution. That’s it’s own kettle of wormy fish, that I’m not interested in any more.
What I AM interested in is aging, how to make it vibrant, politics, family, good writing and communications, and seeing and learning new things. Truth, justice, climate change, world peace–always at the top of the list. I love to travel, I think everyone benefits from examining life a little more deeply, widely, and fully.
I’ve written all my life. My mom was a writer, journalist, editor, reviewer, educator, and mentor to other such folks, of all colors and backgrounds, and a civil rights activist. She was fearless in speaking to truth to authority, racial and gender injustice, and life in general. Wealth and position had no more value than the poorest undergraduate moving mountains to get an education.
Now that I’m retired from higher ed, and in my 70’s, I question if I have anything left to say that’s worth saying, at least on a regular basis. Several new aspects have changed how I look at my life. Physically, arthritis and cataracts are becoming problematic. Psychologically, I found I have ADHD, which explains a LOT. I also learned that my ex, whom I lived with for 20 years, suffered from undiagnosed (as far as I knew) bi-polar disorder, which explains TONS. Thinking back, I can only say “no fucking wonder.” Cognitively, I THINK I’m OK; my forgetfulness is confined to non-critical facts, like phone numbers, author’s names, where I left my iPod–stuff that’s not going to cause me or anyone else physical or mental harm.
I’m better off than most retirees who don’t have rich parents. The minimum Social Security and teacher retirement checks just do cover the bills, as long as there are no surprises. I pay for continued health benefits from my former employer, which along with Medicare covers most of my health/dental/vision needs. Until major illnesses, broken bones, periodontal issues, and cataracts come along–then I’m in potential doo doo. Ditto for non-maintenance auto issues, rising utility rates, hotter summers.
So–what am I good for? Understanding. Listening. Sweetening anything you write. Standing up for the downtrodden. Compassion. Empathy. Smarts. Helping hand. Back-up. Anything to do with music. Kind observations. Wondering. Seeking the best in people. Sharing life experiences. Telling stories.
Done with regimented thinking, crack-pot politicians, dishonest capitalists, the fucking NRA, rape culture, child/partner abuse, gender shaming, testosterone poisoning, racism, demagoguery, anything that posits one human being as less-than another.
So here’s what needs to happen. I need to figure out how to lessen the impact of arthritis on my ability to keyboard, and I need to slow down my racing mind long enough to stick with one idea long enough to get it on paper before zooming on to the next million thoughts. I do have access to Dragon Dictation if I can get myself to another location to use it. I can’t even read my own handwriting now, so I have to remember to have a stylus in hand to use mobile devices. Devices, apps, programs are only as helpful as you can access them.
I need to reconnect to old writing/reading buddies and be held accountable to do SOMETHING, anything. Even if it’s only rummaging around old blogs and commenting elsewhere. Facebook does this to a certain extent, but I absolutely hate FB algorithms. You know what I mean.
Laser eye surgery is just around the corner. I need to research exactly how much it’s going to cost me out-of-pocket, and get saving. In the meantime, I’m limited to driving in the daylight pretty exclusively, and staying away from traffic where I need to be able to read street signs to get where I’m going. Yeah, Google maps, but you have to be able to SEE your device to enter your destination!
And of course, the usual. Eat better, exercise more regularly, keep a sunny disposition…oops, too late for that last one!
In the meantime, I wonder–why write? For myself, of course. If I’m telling stories, though, what would people be interested in hearing about? Growing up a PK (preacher’s kid)? Coming of age in the 60’s? Scrapes with authority? Sexual escapades? Travels? A life in music? Aging? Writing? Editing? Recovery from co-dependency? Life in general?
One thing I know for sure: there’s a dance in the old dame yet.
Join Brendan Dawes, Gary Hustwit and Jim Coudal for three short presentations followed by a discussion on the subject of creating more involving, entertaining, successful projects by structuring them in a way that encourages the audience to be a key part of the process of discovery.Generally speaking you should be pointing your audience in the right direction and then getting the hell out of the way. In film, programming and design, the most satisfying works are those that on their most basic level are created along with an audience, not simply for one.
Hustwit debuted “Helvetica” two years ago at SXSWi. Tonight screening “Objectify.” Finding the usefulness of everyday things.Brendan Dawes, digital life, and practical applications. Coudal: Jewelboxing, Memo Notes. Field Books.com. The Deck–serve 40 mil. ads/mo. for 30 clients/servers. Don’t tell them, show them, lead them along.
General theory of creative relativity. Botched physics part of it–got quantum mechanics and math theory wrong. Our greatest fear is confronting the fact that we are complicit in our own corruption. Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness. Bring the viewer into the process to reach their own conclusions. Design, product, etc.
Stanley Kubrick. Not about 2001, or Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. Enduring appeal of detective or mystery novels. We’re all on board. We know there’s something we’re going to discover, and we go along together. Roman a clef. The key to figuring out what’s going on. Montessori method–individual responsibility. Not teaching things, teaching kids how to learn.
Layer tennis. Live on Friday afternoons.Two artists swap a file back and forth in real time. Coudal creates an image. He sends it to Hustwit. He has 15 minutes to add to it, send back, keep adding. Third person writter or blogger writes about it, ultimate end is that it shows a collective creative process. No rules, except for size of files, 15 minute limits. You can do anything you want. Allow the audience to be part of the path. No destination they want to go to. Creativity most often comes out of a balance between restraint and a terrifying freedom. Can’t be complete totalitarian rule, and not a free-for-all. It’s conversation as opposed to a lecture. If you allow your viewers/readers/customers to make the leap to add their own intellect to the product, more satisfying for everyone.
Gary: Seventy-five minutes and thirty-six seconds. Documentary films are linearly-fixed. Will be the same length. No way for viewer to change plotline, characters, duration, or destination (unless they walk out!). How can you make a fixed doc film open to interpretation and interactive with the viewer. Things he’s learned: 1. use ellipsis… means intentionally leave out information so viewer needs to figure out for selves, use their own experiences and curiosities. Moment of discovery is a like a payoff. Much more compelling than someone telling you what the film is. Turning point in early 60s, DA Pennebaker, Ricky Leacock, et al whose goal was to put the viewer in the picture. Fly on the wall. Throw you in and you figure it out or not. “Don’t Look Back.” Bob Dylan documentary. No captions, not indications, no subtitles, no frame cards. Go out and experience, discover. Leave to interpretation. Delayed gratification. When’t your sitting and watching in the dark, you don’t know what image is going to come next. What’s going on? Begin scanning the frame for cues. The filmmaker knows you’re confused. Want you to think about it a while. Maybe just want you to soak it up. Controlled confusion, then a few cues. Editor of Objectify wants to keep film about 15 minutes ahead of the audience. In the mode of discovery throughout the film. Way to bring viewer’s curiosity into play, make it individual for them.
2. make it a game. Bring in puzzles. Brains are hardwired to find patterns, figure out puzzles. Engaging on a visual level. In Helvetica, go into a lot of cities, “Where’s Waldo?” Where’s Helvetica. Have to find it in the frame, what it actually says, what’s going on around it in the scene. Almost a dialoguebetween film and viewer, finding the clues, the timing, a game between you and the filmmaker. When all else fails, include a dog in the film…
Dawes. Flow and segues are really important to him. Made something in ’98 giving power to the users: Psycho Studio. First video in Flash, just experimenting. Hitchcock’s vision is one thing, give power back to people to make their own versions of the shower scene in “Psycho.” Sort of fake video. Choose clips, and it compiles it for you. The danger is that when you give playthings to people with a lot of freedom, you get some really weird things. Quite R rated. Humans versus machines. Shot of a park, looked at walking patterns. Why not straight lines? Because they’re not as interesting. When you take things away and do things differently, creates new concepts. Get rid of curbs, etc. might have been dangerous, but if you make the whole thing a shared space, drive into area with NO markings. What happens is you slow down. Accidents have decreased, cars slow down, because people suddenly have the responsibility, so they figure things out.
How does it impact techies? Projects start as sketches. Use Field Notes (Coudal’s product). Sketched ideas out, before computer. Batteries, don’t break, Ways to produce without having to consume the Web. Doodle-Buzz. Typographic news explorer. Gets most popular news things at the moment. Search, then “Doodle to see results.” Then it fades. Where’s the interface? Start to cry. A friend said it actually scared him. Why can’t we do different things with interface? If you can’t use it within 2 seconds it’s rubbish–not true. You have to figure it out. Gets really scary. Let’s put alittle bit of work in. Make a gesture, and you get results along a line, squiggles, Then you can draw out from line, get a preview, link off, and can go to Web page. Then get related words, then draw out somewhere else, Can keep going and going, zoom out, draw things. The interesting thing is that you can start one place and end up somewhere totally different. Different and scary. Don’t want to live in a world where you’re told “you can’t make that.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estes: “If you don’t go out in the woods, nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin…”
Layer Tennis is sponsored by Adobe. Coudal says there are serious problems in the world of marketing today. Dawes inspired by Coudal. In many cases, project takes the path of least resistance. Gets talked to death. Let it go up in flames, that’s when you really learn things.
On a train home commuting on a Friday nite. Fell asleep, woke to an empty train. Paper on opposite seat. Picked it up, it said “PTO” please turn over. Please take these swans. In some David Lynch film? What swans? When he looked theire were 2 origame swans on the seat. That was an amazing experience. If it had said “please take these swans,” he wouldn’t have done the work. Since it said “PTO” first, it engaged him and made it a more significant experience.
The UT servers are down for maintenance until noon tooday, so I will have to post to a non-UT blog for the interim.
Creativity + organizaion = prores. Urgent versus important. Seek cross-pollination. Tend to hire people who are similar to us. Seek diversity to foster creativity. Share ideas liberally, even before you’re ready. Afraid of someone stealing your idea. If it’s so easily executed by anyone you share with, is it really a good idea? When you share, you hold yourself and others responsible for continuing the creativity.
Put stuff out there and see what sticks. Lets the community filter it. Share ownership of ideas. Everyone’s an artist. Others might handle it differently. Tendency is to micromanage and jump in to drive it. Teams–fight your way to breakthroughs. Fighting is an important component of process. When disagreement/conflict, sometimes creates apathy. See other points of view, hate it. When some get tired and give in, it defuses the creative process. How comfortable are you with fighting?
Don’t become burdened by consensus. 911 memorial–multiple constituencies. Everyone wants to make it a landmark project for themselves. How are you able to make ideas happen amidst oppositing consituencies? Risk: you come up with the lowest common denominator. Get the spectrum of ideas, find a few of the most important extremes. Then reach consensus on the rest. Find streams to protect.
What happens when: Joshua Bell, best violinist, violin, music, in a DC metro station. Plays for @45 min. Does anyone notice? Only a few people. If your strengths aren’t marketed, won’t get there. Get respect: overcome stigma of self-marketing. Just get respect for your strengths. Your career is 100% your responsibility. Too many people have talent, don’t take time/effort to market themselves.
Leaders talk last-silence the visionary! Jack Welch. GE. When had a decision to make, here’s what I think we should do, what do you think? Most will agree, won’t explore ideas, lose opportunity for engagement. Not engaging emerging leaders to make them think their ideas are being heard.
Reduce your amount of “insecurity work.” Stuff used to do throughout the day, Twitter, analytics, stats, “information porn.” Don’t do it b/c worried that server is down, do it because we’re insecure that things aren’t growing, won’t work out.
Value the team’s immune system. When did things go horribly wrong? Go wrong direction. An idea that wasn’t killed but should have been. Have to suppress immune system, shoot down ideas, especially when you have a deadline. “Hold on! Maybe we should do this!” Distract, suck out energy, waste time, disrupt. Brainstorm sometimes, quell immunizers.
Seek restraints. “no budget, no timeline, dream up something, no restraints.” w/o design restraints, nobody can produce.
Stop focusing on visionaries. Ad that win the awards aren’t always valuable for client. Most new products fail. Why? Everyone gets drunk on their own koolaid. Best practice (call your mom? perspective of someone who looks at things differently. Don’t look interesting, but can have even better ideas.
Judge based on initiative, not experience. Xhistory. Couldn’t pay for experience, so hire folks who are super interested in something and taking the initiative. More likely to do that in the future. When co..s grew, had $ to hire, some of those were less successful. What were you interested in and did you take initiative?
Value chemistry over people. Hmmmm. Not sure I like that. Our greatest assets walk in and out of the door every day. Having the greatest all-star group doesn’t always get things done. Build a team that is productive, do group interviews.
Unique is opportune. Society is hypocritical. Conformity is oil in society’s gear. Tend to shun people who go against the grain, and then celebrate them when they build Apple. Nothing extraordinary is ever achieved through ordinary means. Encourage mentors to gain confidence when they’re shunned. Go ahead and take the risk. http://www.behance.com email@example.com.
When clients don’t give restrictions, you should check to make sure they aren’t mistaken. They may have limits such as budget, number of colors, etc., but don’t think that’s relevant. Designers need to know the design space they’ll be working within. Request restraints when client doesn’t give them. Make them think more about what they really want.
Be sure survey questions are relevant. Can use survey results to navigate the bureaucracy and being a creative team. “You said that you wanted x in the survey, let’s stick to that.”
Effective ways to kill ideas. A week of cynicism. Meet for x time, talk about that idea in one week. Lots of informal, uncharged communication. Ends up changing idea, or coming up with ways to make it good. Don’t meet if you don’t need to. “Standing meetings.” Literally stand. Outlook is totally arbitrary. If you schedule an hour, usually fill the hour. Make action steps 1/3 of the page. Reference items are more for facilitation of thought than actual retrieval of record. Write down, helps people remember what they were thinking. Ref. usually used for legal reasons, or for someone who wasn’t at the meeting.
Myth: ideas gain more traction if they’re better. Someone was out there with a better idea but poor execution. How people see competition: some people thrive, but most people don’t love it. Noah Kalina Every Day. Photo of himself every morning for 3 years before he had a plan. Online one nite, found a photog’s blog who said she was taking her pic every day. He had to do something. Made a YouTube of a series, and he was off and running.