don't cry - create

creating is necessary to all human beings. don't ask me why - it just is, we all need to get our ideas transformed into something concrete once in a while to keep our mental health. if human beings were sims characters, we'd have one staple for fun, one staple for bladder, one staple for energy and one staple for creativity.

most of us say we're not creative at all, but that's not true. human beings are creative by nature. we have a lot of strange notions about creating and creativity, though! like the idea that "creative" means "artistic" - what an idea! of course an artist should be creative and the good artists are. but so are the good doctors, the good nurses, the good lawyers, the good vacuum cleaner sellers, the good teachers - whatever.

because creativity is about applying your own knowledge and skills to any problem you want to solve or any goal you want to achieve and then setting your ideas to work on it.

we differ in what ways we prefer to use our creativity, in what areas we prefer to apply it, but we all have it and in situations in life where we don't have enough possibilities to use it, we suffer from creative starvation. that makes us moody and bored, makes us feel more stressed and less generally happy about life - these days i think many of us have that ailment, sometimes for outer reasons, like a work situation that's too restricted and fenced in, sometimes for not knowing what fails us or simply not realising how important this part of our lives is. my reason for making the "create!!!" page is to inspire and remind all of us to make sure our creativity staple doesn't run too low!

the muses are here to stay!

i made a series of sets on polyvore that featured the muses. the muses were goddesses of arts in greek mythology and they're symbols for inspiration and creativity in the western cultures today. here, the muses dance out of your tv with a message...

so you thought you were going to have a lazy evening in front of the old picture box, did you? guess what - you were wrooooong! cause here we are now, we've danced and sung our way along the golden bridge of imagination to land in your living room! and we tell you: get out there and create! get your behind out of the sofa and compose a song or write a story. lift your feet and dance - even if you can't. do your best imitation of the president and make people watch you. you see, we're not gonna ... leave your life. we're here to stay!!

now practice!

it can't be stressed too much: we're not born either with or without creativity, we all have it. and if we feel like we only have very little of it, we can always do creativity work-out, just like we work out to get our bodies in good shape. sounds very much like something a teacher would tell you, i know, but even teachers are right sometimes!

i'll try to give a few suggestions on how to practice creativity, my plan is to post some new ones every month - i may not live up to that, i sometimes have to take a day or two to not be creative myself.

anyway here's a simple first tip. it has to do with language, but that doesn't mean it's only good for someone who wants to be a writer - a sound flow of ideas in any area will always spill over to other areas in the end (i sound like a pop-psychologist saying that, don't i? but that doesn't make it less true). start by making up a word using a combination of sounds valid in your language but not already existing as a word - for example, if you're speaking english "smutterdrole" would be a valid combination of sounds but not "zwqschli". say it to yourself a couple of times and write it down. create two more words the same way, listen to them and then write them down. don't think of what they mean yet, just listen to how they sound. which one do you like best? one will always sound just a little bit better than the others. then take a look at them all in writing. which one looks best? after both listening to them and looking at them you're bound to have a favourite - that's your new word. now memorize that word and find a possible use for it. no need to actually use it if you don't like to seem a bit silly, but the point is to look for something your new word seems to fit for.

so what's the point of this childish exercise? well, one of the points is that it actually is childish - it's like a game you'd play as a child and creativity is almost impossible without playing with thoughts - some of which may seem very silly at first.

a lecture from a muse

(speaker: music, one of the most succesful of the nine muses)
"the finished creation didn't spring out of nothing. it first saw life as a false start, then as a second false start and maybe a third and fourth. you gave up and thought nothing good would ever come out of this. but you let yourself be caught up in the work at some point and kept playing with those false starts. not to make anything specific, you just played - for the fun of it, because that's what play means. the next step, and ... this is where the process most often goes wrong, the next step is more play. often, you look back at your playtime and think "lots of fun, but i'd better do something real now" and you end up with something that only bores you and that you never really like. instead, you should boldly take the next step up the stairs and play some more and then more again. and if you think the next step is where you start "doing something real" you're wrong. because the next step is just more play, only with structure in it. and first after you've played like that for a long time you are ready to take the next step - but then, folks, then sky is the limit!"

practice again

since we've just had a lecture from music herself we should do a musical exercise. but don't worry, it's music on the most basic level - a tonedeaf baby could do it!

first, find eight items that make a nice sound when you beat them. you can drum them hard or tap them lightly and use a stick or something if you like, but don't pick eight things that sound almost exactly the same.

then put your "drums" in a row in front of you and beat them in the order they stand. you will probably get a 4/4 or 8/8 rythm - but if you don't get an even rythm, never mind. now change the order of the items and drum them for a while again. did you like this sound better? or the first one? or will you like the sound better if you change the order in some other way? here is where the real lesson of that muse lecture comes in: it's play, more play and then play again. and the aim of this particular play is to find the loop with the sound you like best. what to use the loop for is up to you. record it and use as sound effects or a ringtone perhaps?  i don't use it for anything, i just play. very childish, yes, but a great exercise in how to create.  

practice yet again
my guess is that most of us have experience of a situation similar to this: X is expected to come up with some kind of product of creativity and Y comes and tells X: "just let your imagination run wild! no limits to your ideas here!" and after hearing that, X just ends up with complete creator's block. that's definitely how i work and i think most of us do - we seem to need some sort of framework for our creativity to work best. of course the framework mustn't be too rigid either, but that's not the problem in this situation - just the opposite. Now, let's suppose you are X and i am Y and i give give you an assignment: you're going to make me a work of art - anything you like, any style, any theme, any size. just let your imagination run wild here, pal. no limits to your ideas here, right?
now you're sitting there with your creator's block and have no idea what to do, and that's where that framework comes in. it's possible to deal with creator's block by adding some restrictions yourself, they don't have to come from anyone else. for example you could start by telling yourself "okay, this artwork can be anything i like, anything i feel like doing, only i have to make it small enough to fit in a shoe box and it has to be made out of recycled material." or you could say "anything i like - as long as it's one dimensional" or "anything i like, but i must make it in less than three days and without help from anyone else."

creativity is sometimes triggered by obstacles like these and if you feel you're completely empty of ideas you can always try to restrict your ideas a bit and see what happens. so in this exercise, pretend you got that assignment from me, make me a work of art in any style, technique, size, theme, etc that you like. then sit down to think of three different restrictions you could give yourself ( for example 1. must use recycled material 2. must not be smaller than me 3. must go in the same colours as my new sofa). now write down some ideas for the artwork i ordered from you, using your three restrictions one at a time.

putting up new obstacles for yourself is also a great way to get back to creating something new when you feel your ideas all go in the same direction. i sometimes write little tunes on my guitar or mandolin - nothing serious, just little tunes that would sound okay in a folk music setup. very often i get into the same old tracks - something in a minor, with scottish-sounding ornaments. nothing wrong with that, i like a minor and scottish-sounding ornaments, but i don't want to end up with five tunes that sound almost the same. so i put up conditions for myself - no a minor, to begin with :-). other conditions can be: must be a polka, must be happy, must have three parts instead of two, must have some eastern influences, etc. that forces me out of my old tracks a bit and that's just what i need. but these conditions mustn't limit me too much. i can start picking out a happy-sounding, up-tempo polka tune and find that what this tune needs to be complete is a third part in a minor - well, then i just give it a third part in a minor. and maybe then i realise that it's not a polka at all but a wedding march - well, then i just adjust it to wedding march tempo and style. the conditions i put up are just to trigger my new ideas, after i got the new ideas flowing i can put the conditions aside.

i'll give you one more exercise here. look at this map:
this is the map over the way you'll have to take to your new job on the board of city planning. the line that divides the map in two parts is a big, higly trafficked road. the two other lines are smaller roads. as you can see you have a big, irritating, fenced-in parking lot with a locked gate just in front of your job, so you can't make a simple shortcut. i have a situation similar to this one when i go to my local library and i amuse myself with playing city planner and rearranging things in my mind and that's what you are going to do with this map. you are head of the department responsible for the planning of this particular spot and you have unlimited budget to rearrange this place - and of course you will want to give yourself the shortest and most comfortable way possible between work and bus stop. there are some conditions built in to the task: the city planning board's head quarters can't be moved and neither can the high security parking lot. apart from that, just think of the best possible solution!

where do you get it all from?
chasing ideas

i'm one of those who often get that question. and i realised long ago that that's not because i'm sort of specially built for getting ideas, it's because i've learnt how to catch my ideas in their flight and tuned my ears to hear them. it's true that inspiration and a flow of ideas varies even between people who are tuned in to the idea channel, but they don't vary as much and a trained idea-chaser very rarely finds themselves completely void of ideas. i'll let another muse take over and express it her way!
speaker: dance, one of the nine muses

"inspiration is here, there and everywhere. inspiration and ideas are all around you, wherever you are. all you have to do is play sponge and soak it up! inspiration is in the sounds of your street or in the rythm from your keyboard typing, in the smells from your local bakery - or your local garbage dump for that matter. inspiration and ideas are in the colours and patterns and texture of every little everyday thing in your home. inspirations and ideas come from things you like and things you don't like; inspiration - and i stress this because it's an important lesson - inspiration is everywhere in the world and all around you all the time. so soak it up!"

the muse is so right here. inspiration and ideas are all around us and we need to learn how to catch them - if you haven't learnt already, don't think you're gonna learn without making an effort, it takes practice and a bit of time just like everything else you learn. but it sure pays!

i've taken a closer look at some people with lots of ideas and i'll give you a few examples of how they get started in their chase for ideas - you can learn a lot from them!

the first one is a close friend of mine, sandra. sandra is a multitalented girl with an almost overactive idea flow and she always surprises me with her new projects. when we talked over the constant "where do you get it all from?" matter, she could identify one thing  that starts off her imagination and set fire to her ideas: something doesn't exist and she starts to feel it really should exist. sometimes because she needs it, like the time she made a beautiful silver coloured velvet handbag with just the layout she couldn't find in any bag bought in a store.  or it could be because she thinks it would be fun to see what it would be like if it existed - like when she painted bird pictures with a cubistic approach after studying cubism at school. sandra paints birds a lot, the paintings are usually very naturalistic and she sat at school thinking: "there aren't many bird paintings in a cubistic style...".so, the lesson to learn from sandra is: when you start thinking something is missing, whether it's a good solution to the problem of never having a coin when you need to use a bathroom downtown or a really good description of a sibling relation in modern western literature - listen hard to all your thoughts and don't brush any ideas off as unimportant, because here's where your brain may well come up with just the thing you're looking for!

the second one is stephen king, the author. he once wrote a very good description of how his stories start: with a "what if..."  what-ifs are very good for turning your imagination on. the problem with most of us is that we're too stressed or too used to thinking it's not important anyway to listen to the ideas that come up when we start whatif-ing. stephen king, however, lets himself go on with it and so do most children, they start imagining situations of the most extreme kind as soon as they get sidetracked into the whatifs - and boy did i ever sigh over that when i worked as a teacher's assistant! one of stephen kings short stories is about a word processor that starts processing reality along with words. that story started when stephen king bought his first own word processor and was exploring the new toy. he was fascinated by how easy it was to just write a text, klick "edit" and delete the whole thing in one go and insert it again in one go, somewhere else if you wanted. he smiled to himself and thought: "what if things worked like this in real life too! hmm... what if you could buy reality processors? or what if you bought a word processor and found yourself deleting real things instead of just words?  wait, what if this guy bought this word processor and accidentally deleted his family?!" so what we can learn from stephgen king is this: be generous with your whatifs, and don't forget to stop and listen to the thoughts that come up when you're whatifing, because the whatifs may be the beginning of some really good ideas.

the third one is my mother. she too seems to get ideas all the time and her main approach seems to be stealing and adapting. stealing sounds bad, but really, it's a major part of all human creating if you look at it closely. and the second part of her strategy was adapting - that's important, because that's what makes stealing alright when you create. for example, my mother has some old interior decoartion magazines that she's saved because they have some fantastic articles and photos of homemade mosaic pieces. she's looked through those articles a hundred times and told us she wants to make something like this. and she has! the imprtant thing is she didn't just look at the beautiful mosaic tabletop that she's been sighing and ooh-ing and aah-ing about so many times and then went out and made something just like it. she started in her own way instead, by mixing the mosaic with something she has already tried, homemade light concrete items. the first result of this mix was a garden stepping stone in light concrete with a flower pattern in mosaic inlay. the second result was a unique outdoors washbasin that she uses when she's gardening. the basin is in light concrete and has a shelf on one side where you can put soap and towels and the bowl of the basin is decorated with mosaic inlay in white and blue shades. knowing my mother, i'm 100 % sure this is just the beginning and there will be more mosaic. so what do we learn from my mother then? first: to steal. pick up good ideas wherever you find them. look at what others have done before, if you want to write a song, listen to good music of all kinds, if you want the perfect, most functional entrance hall, look at other entrance halls everywhere. second: adapt. think through what your own specialties are, maybe you have a certain instrument that you want to use for your song or maybe you really shine at organizing shelves. start mixing your new, stolen ideas with your own personal style and talents and with eachother. and the whole time, stop and listen to your own ideas.

i wanted to finish this lecture up by interviewing myself on this subject. so here goes:

- malena, where do you get it all from?!
- well, from everywhere and all around, i guess, i use every strategy i've described above to some extent at least.
- but that sounds so tacky - just using other people's atrategies. don't you even have one tiny, little trick of your own, woman?
- yes, now that you put it that way, i do. my greatest source of ideas and inspiration is people. i look at people and think: "that girl looks so bored!" or "that guy looks just like a musketeer" or "that shop assistant is scary, she's staring us all out - like she really doesn't want us in here and doesn't want us to buy anything..."
then my ideas start spinning. i may get a really great idea for a piece of jewellery when i try to imagine  what the bored-looking girl is like when she's not bored. i may sketch the musketeer-guy in my sketch pad with a big, plumed hat and get a nice picture to scan in and print on something. the scary shop assistant may end up as a song or a story if she's lucky. and of course, all of them may end up in one of my polyvore sets, sort of for safekeeping until i know what to make of them.

some of my polyvore sets based on people - mostly people i know, but also famous people or people i just know by looks. the sets are my personal interpretations of these people and i have already used some of these sets for inspiration when i make jewellery.

so practice, people!

  • if you thought i was going to let you off now, you were very wrong. you've just had a lesson on where to find ideas and now you should go out and find some!

    start by using sandras method of supplying something that's lacking. to keep you safe from that creator's block i talked about in the last chapter, i'll give you a rather framed-in exercise: make up three new verbs that describe flying. 
  • one that describes the kind of flying done by planes with motors. it has to be one single word, not something like "flying with a jet plane".
  • one word that describes flying done by birds, who fly of their own accord with no help from engines (once again, one single word!).
  • and one word that describes the kind of flying done by objects like children's kites (one single word, as usual).
 write down the definitions and try to define them so well that they don't overlap. since languages rarely have verbs that describe these differences in flying, we have something missing here and that's a void we'll set out to fill.

now let's give stephen king a chance - go whatifing. here's your task: choose a picture that  you don't like, then set about whatifing it til you get a mental picture that you actually like. for example: "what if i moved that dot over there instead" "what if ithe girl's hair was slightly darker and her eyes had longer and darker lashes?" "what if that big blob of a flower on the left was much smaller and what if the right hand leaf had a little bug on it?"

time for my mother's method - steal, boys and girls! but don't forget to adapt. the task: steal  three good slogans from the commercials and adapt them to new situations. for example "axe - because first impressions last" becomes "axe - because the first impression is the last" if you really hate it when men wear axe. or "whiskas - the cat's own choice" becomes "playground - the cat's own choice" when you've seen the neighbourhood cats responding to tthe call of nature in the sandbox in the kid's playground for the ninetieth time this week...

some more good practice for you!

if you've read any of my blogs here on blast and confound you know that i use a site called to make illustrations for the site. while i was off blast and confound to study i was also off polyvore and when i got back i saw they had come up with a neat little gadget that i immediately realised would make a great tool for the creativity practising on this blog. polyvore is all about making collages ("sets" is what polyvorians call it) and collage making is great for getting into creating mode, so i will hereby introduce you to the mini editor. the mini editor is the little gadget i was talking about and it will let you make collages with items i have picked out (a healthy restriction on your imagination, do yo remember i said restrictions are important to keep you from creator's block?). to make it a real excercise i have decided to set a theme for the collages and change the theme once in a while.

so, your task in this excercise is to make a collage on the theme "where the witch lived" (we're approaching halloween as i write this, and i was inspired by all the halloween stuff in the shops downtown). what witch is of course up to you, i just want you to make a collage showing a house or landscape or something where that particular witch belongs.

Get your own Mini Editor from Polyvore

heres another mini-editor to play around with! this time, i want you to create a book cover. it's for a book aimed at a fairly young audience, say between ten and fifteen, and the title of the book is "an enchantment". make it as much or as little of a picture as you like, remember book covers come in many different shapes; from the plain black faux leather of my old bible to the very detailed scenes of eighties fantasy novels...

Get your own Mini Editor from Polyvore