Monday, December 21, 2009

Furniture I will probably never make

In my current (rented) apartment, in a foreign country, I am uncomfortable making big renovations.  when the opportunity arises, I would like to make my son's bedroom feel like a coral reef or the like.  You know, dark (ocean) and light (sky) blue walls with waves, fish and birds, maybe an island and possibly even a few mythological sea-creatures.
I have been working in my head how to make a 'whale bed'. There would be a standard sized mattress inside, but the bed would be enclosed, looking from the outside like a whale.  Perhaps the tail would be arched up, to reduce the length, but if it pointed out the back, it could have a rod for hanging clothes from.

Inside, I guess the pillow and blankets and such could be chosen for the ocean prints or colours, but I would also include a small bookshelf, radio (is that so old-fashioned?) and a light or two.

I don't have the tools or any good idea on how to buy the materials for such a bed.  In my head, it is made of wood, like a cabinet, but I have also considered a metal frame and nylon or fabric walls.

Basically, it would look something like this, but an aquatic rather than a pre-historic theme (my son would love either one):

Image fromLisa Katayama of Boingboing, who found it here.

The other bit of furniture I just thought of was a dresser for clothes that open forward (as a dresser normally does) on it's wide side, and to the side.  I feel you could take clean clothes to the dresser, open it on the wide side and push the current contents to the side opening, then place the fresh clothes furthest from the side opening.  I don't have that many clothes, I think, but i always put clean clothes on top of what is already in the drawer, then wear them again, leaving the contents deeper in the drawer to waste space, basically.  I liken my idea to the way grocery store clerks fill the milk from the back, keeping the older milk closest to the consumer.

I thought of this second idea when I found some summer clothes that haven't been worn since last year.  I didn't notice them or think about them five months ago, when they would have been useful.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Creating things online

On my iMac, I have photo editing software (that I am not entirely thrilled with), movie editing software (which does have a lot of great features) and software that makes MP3s.  Oh, and iWork, which includes presentation software.

There are lots of programs that create content online though, and they fill wonderful, specific niches.

Bitstrips allows non-artists, like me, to makes comics.  This is handy for ESL teachers, again, like me, but also for people who simply like comics.  I have used it a little and find it still takes time, but the results are so much better than what i would make holding a pen in my own hands and drawing.

Xtranormal creates movies based on the text or script you give it.  The computer generated voices are so much better than I recall from my Commodore 64 days.

A cool site I just found today is screenr.  You prepare by opening various windows on your computer.  Screenr is something like taking 'screenshots' and adding audio, although the effect is not stills,  but video. This looks great for making 'how-to' videos.

This site, remixgalaxy, looks like a place to make MP3s.  I am not musical, but I do make podcast-type audio fairly often for students.

Since I finished my introduction with presentation software, let me finish the post by mentioning Google Docs and their simple-but-useful presentation option.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sex, love and creativity

Boy, with that first word in the title, searchers will now find this blog!

Dr. Shock has a post comparing how brains and minds work when thinking about Sex and Love.

But if love and lust aren’t completely the same, what different psychological effects do they have in humans? Researchers from The Netherlands and Germany proposed a cognitive model for the effects of love and sex. They hypothesized that when in love, people start thinking globally, love entails wishes and goals of attachment, needing a long term perspective. Love triggers global processing in the brain. This is closely linked to creative thinking.
When reminded of sex people start processing cognitively details of objects, it exists in the here and now. Sex triggers local cognitive processing, this is closely linked to analytical thinking.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How does creativity work?

I recently wrote a blogpost at Gangwon Notes about the DMZ and if it is a symbol for anything.  At first, the post most mostly describing and summarizing several recent newspaper articles.  Summary more than analysis.  By the end of the post, though, I suddenly decided that the DMZ should only be a symbol for war and for the unhappy people living on the North side of it.  If you want more detail, read the post.  I am proud of it.

The reason I am mentioning it here is that I hadn't intended to come to any conclusion.  The conclusion I did come to was not a surprise in itself; I am concerned with how blase' Koreans are about the DMZ.  The words and the plan to write my conclusion were founded on significant past experience but still appeared to come out of the blue.

What is it in the sub-conscious that worked out how I should end my post without any deliberate planning from my conscious mind?  It seems the same 'genius hand' that pushed an ending to the short story I posted here in November.

Again, I am not saying the story or the blogpost were objectively special or brilliant, only that the ending felt both satisfying and surprising to me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


A few years ago, I put an hour or two into learning how to juggle.  I did not succeed and felt I had put enough time in that I should have seen some improvement.

I found a site that discusses the benefits of juggling and has rekindled some interest.  It's time to put an hour or two more into seeing if I can learn to juggle.

Juggling is a really good exercise for life. It has a lot of the fun parts of a soul sport (working to better yourself, non-competitive activity, etc.) but isn’t dangerous — unless you’re juggling fire or pancakes or something. That’s why I want everyone to learn. I’m offering juggling classes in Hollywood (free for your first class) and an inexpensive (and most helpful) DVD because I want the world to juggle.
I’m sure juggling’s not a cure-all like alcohol, but it does a great job with the following 8 thingies:
brain growth
body comfort
stress relief
focus retention
coordination boosting
being interesting
unboring meditation
Via Boingboing.

Friday, November 27, 2009

boundaries for creativity - and IQ/EQ/CQ

So many toys at the local E-Mart (a Korean Wal-mart I guess, although a little upscale) are labelled as encouraging IQ, EQ and even CQ.  I hardly know what the latter two are.
Alright, Wikipedia tells me that EQ is Emotional Quotient and CQ is Cultural Quotient.  Wow, those toys have some hard work ahead of them!

The examples I have today are all books, but I am sure I have seen other toys with similar labels.  I can understand the claim with Lego, for example, but others seem a little hincky.

It's a little late.  When putting this through my head, it seemed logical and clear.  Now; not so much.  I will clean this up later.  I have been trying to clear up in my mind the difference between creating or making something and creativity or imagination.  At the same time, I have been considering the intimidation factor of the 'white canvas'.  If you follow rules exactly and those rules are rigorous, you are simply repeating someone else's creative effort.  If there are no rules at all, it is hard to create anything at all.  I am not Christian, but in trying to imagine Great God Almighty just before starting his six days of creation, I wonder what I would do.  I also wonder why, with no one to share the creation.

I intend to follow some recipes closely and others loosely.  In both cases, I will have created something and learned something.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

eye movement exercises improve creativity

For the past few weeks I have been thinking about learning about creativity and blogging about what I learn and how I apply it. I am sure that I will soon write a more complete post about my goals for this blog, but this is in interesting note to how creativity is applied.

I had thought about it for some time, but seeing this post, with creativity in the title, drove me to taking this first step. It is not enough to be creative, I must also act and 'do' creative.

From Boingboing:

A study in the scientific journal Brain and Cognition suggests that increasing the "crosstalk" between the brain's left and right hemispheres can increase creativity. Researchers from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey ran an experiment on 62 people to gauge creative thinking. After a first try at the task, some of the participants were told to shift their eyes horizontally back and forth for 30 seconds, an exercise that boosts the communication between the hemispheres.

The Boing boing post linked to BPS Digest, which explained more:

The key finding is that on their second creativity attempt, strong-handers who'd performed the horizontal eye movements subsequently showed a significant improvement in their creativity, in terms of being more original (i.e. suggesting ideas not proposed by others) and coming up with more categories of use. Staring straight ahead, by contrast, had no effect on creativity.

Another finding was that, overall, the mixed-handed participants performed better on the creativity task than the strong-handers, thus providing further evidence for a link between inter-hemispheric interaction, which mixed-handers have more of, and creativity. But it also turned out that mixed-handers didn't benefit from the horizontal eye movement task. It's as if they already have an optimum amount of hemispheric cross-talk so that the eye movements make no difference. This meant that after the strong-handers had performed the horizontal eye movements, their performance matched that of the mixed-handed participants.

I consider myself strongly left-handed, but I also feel that lefties, in trying to understand what righties want us to do, are typically not as strongly-handed as righties are.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Does Education harm creativity?

Sir Ken Robinson: schools kill creativity
Can one live blog a recorded video? Here are my notes:
I like the annotations on the video progress line - hover the mouse over it and you get chapters.

The future is very uncertain - yet education is meant to prepare students for the future.

Kids have talent - we squander those talents

Told the nativity story play joke:
three pre-school children enter the manger and say:
"I bring you gold."
"I bring you Myrrh."
"Frank sent this."

Children are willing to take risks.
"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original."
We're now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst things you can make.
Picasso once said "All children are born artists.  The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up."

Imagine Shakespeare when he was seven.  Imagine his English class.

hierarchy of school classes around the world.
Math and Languages

hierarchy of art:
-art and music
-drama and dance. 

 There isn't an education system on the planet that teaches dance everyday to children the way we teach them mathematics.

As education progresses, we start to teach them [children] from the waist up and then we focus on their heads - and slightly to one side.

The purpose of education in the world is to produce university professors.

Robinson's definition of creativity:  The process of having original ideas that have value. It more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.


The story of Gillian Lynne:  Lynne was a woman who distracted classmates and never sat still.  She was taken to a psychologist with her mother.  The psychologist turned on the radio and took her mother from the room.  They watched her leap to her feet and dance.  The psychologist said, "Your daughter isn't sick. She's a dancer.  Take her to dance school." She eventually created 'Cats', the hit musical.

Robinson points out that many modern doctors would have simply given the girl some drugs and made her sit.
I want to take this moment to thank Mr Veitch, my grade six teacher, who spent extra time with me, finding out how I learned and tailoring some lesson content and test formats to the way I learned and thought.

Our education system has mined our minds in the way we strip mine the Earth, for a particular commodity.

Robinson discusses Al Gore's fears for the environment then returns to his first point.  We cannot know what the future holds and "Our task is to educate their whole being so they can face this future."

This talk made clear the problems of modern education and that it should be changed.  It did not offer plans or suggestions other than to 'educate the whole being'.  I understand that TED Talks are for 'big think' and not the nitty gritty, but I hope I can find concrete suggestions somewhere.

Fellow K-Blogger Chris Backe describes studying toward the goal of succeeding at the University Entrance Exam as destroying creativity as well:
It's almost heart-breaking as a teacher to work in this system. It's not because I don't want to see them lose years of their life to a test, but because the system both discourages creativity and encourages the rote memorization / regurgitation that such a test requires. There's no creativity needed to circle 'B', and too much creativity may even be seen as a bad thing on such writing tests as the nonsul. Seriously - what's the point in taking a 'creative writing' class, music lessons, figure skating lessons, dance lessons, or any other artistic venture when the 'only' things you have to know for university are your native language, English, math, and perhaps a few other minor things?
Expect more TED Talks although I need to catch up on watching them before I post.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nov 12

I'm starting this post with a picture of the family drawn by my son.  A big part of this blog is about me learning how to encourage my son's creativity.  My son is on the left, I am in the middle (with the yellow face) and Mom is on the right (apparently she is carrying bread or cakes on her head).

On the first year ESL textbook I use, students are expected to listen to a conversation and fill in the blanks.  It takes too much time for me so I made it homework for my students to fill in the blanks.  The answers are on the next page but upside-down.  Most students turn the book back a forth to read and remember a few words, fill them in, then flip the book again.  This student sped things up by carefully ripping the answers out and holding them right side up next to the conversation.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I am inspired

I plan to comment further on this article from the Chosun Ilbo, but don't have time right now.  Below is the full text - remember to cut it into smaller pieces.
UPDATED Nov 28:  I finally got back to this post and cut the text down somewhat - don't want any copyright violations here!  I also added a little commentary.

Found here:

Choi Sook-hee, Children's Author Extraordinaire

Choi Sook-heeChoi Sook-hee
Choi Sook-hee's status in the Korean publishing industry is perhaps unique in that she is able to both draw and write. Her books are characterized by warm, subtle pictures and simple stories with a profound message, making them popular not only among children, the main target audience, but also among adults.

Animals appear frequently in Choi's books. Cats, ants, hedgehogs, ostriches and the 12 animals from Asian mythology appear on every page. To Choi, they represent different sizes, shapes, dietary habits and characteristics, and thus the individuality of each person. "You could say it's a human-centered view, but I do believe humans are creatures that have the different qualities of all the other animals in one body," she says. ...

It takes her over a year to finish one of her deceptively simple books. At each stage, from brainstorming to writing, sketching, proofreading and illustrating, Choi puts the emphasis on looking at the world from children's point of view. She often reads books on child psychology and development to get rid of her adult way of thinking.

I don't actually have many comments.  Her books seem interesting and I like that she is involved in all parts of the process.

Some definitions for Creativity

IN his TED talk, Ken Robinson defines creativity as:
Robinson's definition of creativity:  The process of having original ideas that have value. It more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.

Here are some others, from California State University, Northridge (chosen because it was near the top in my google search for definitions of creativity):

  • "creative" refers to novel products of value, as in "The airplane was a creative invention." "Creative" also refers to the person who produces the work, as in, ?Picasso was creative." "Creativity," then refers both to the capacity to produce such works, as in "How can we foster our employees' creativity?" and to the activity of generating such products, as in "Creativity requires hard work." (page 4)
  • All who study creativity agree that for something to be creative, it is not enough for it to be novel: it must have value, or be appropriate to the cognitive demands of the situation."

Friday, November 20, 2009

origami: D&D style

I played Dungeons and Dragons as a teenager.  I might want to get back into it if I had the time.  It seems to require a lot of creativity.  Case in point.

I can make a crane but it seems to be a girl's activity in Korea.  I shouldn't let that stop me.  Perhaps there will be a few paper critters here to ride the airplanes I make.
Oh, origami -the Japanese and English word- is 종이 접기 (Jong-i Jeob-gi) in Korean.

What makes a good writer?

At the Cognitive Daily blog, there have been two posts about a survey that claimed to be able to judge your writing ability.

These two posts, one introducing a survey and the next, a week later, analyzing the results are interesting to this blog more in what was actually tested and the creativity of cognitive tests.

Psychological (which I use interchangeably with cognitive, at least for this example) tests need to be a little sneaky.  One cannot ask, "Do you harbour irrational beliefs?" and accept an honest answer, even by people who try to be honest.  This is why, I feel, many tests measuring motivation and the like ask a lot of comparison questions and questions apparently unrelated to the issue at hand.  Similar trickery is needed to separate and measure the differences between thoughts and actions.  A person says they are not at all racist, but how does s/he react to a racist comment outside the presumed test area?  Rad through to see what they were actually testing -and note they did indeed give some measured response to the question "Who  is a good writer?"
From the November 11 post:

Some people just seem to be natural writers -- they can write perfect, elegant sentences with a minimum of effort. Some popular fiction novelists crank out 6 or more novels per year. Some bloggers write 10 or more posts per day. Others labor over every word, or simply choose careers that don't require a lot of writing. But are there universal characteristics that separate good writers from bad writers, and quick writers from slow writers?
I think I may have come up with a quick study that can answer those questions -- and like all Casual Fridays studies, it can be completed in just a few minutes.

And a link to the survey - sorry, the survey was closed on Nov 19.

Alright, the commentary in the follow-up post:
 I wasn't actually very confident that a brief survey could actually identify the factors that make a good writer. But I did have a hunch that there were certain traits that were more likely to be associated with good writing.
But we did want to know about your writing as well, so let's start with that. The study asked a few questions about writing ability: how much writing you do for work/study, how easy writing comes to you, whether you've been published, and so on. Then there was a surprise writing test: 3 minutes to write as much as you can on any topic, to be judged for coherence but not content. Finally, a few more questions.
...I wanted to get a rough sense of the quality of the essays, so I assigned each a "grade." To get an A, you had to be coherent for the entire essay, and not switch topics. Just writing complete sentences and only switching topics once or twice earned a B. A semi-random string of sentences earned a C. Incoherent drivel got a D, or in rare cases, an F. [charts and graphs on original site]
Some results (and the first paragraph tries to answer the question about being a good writer - briefly writing a lot makes you a good writer):
If English wasn't your native language, or if you don't keep a blog, or if you weren't participating in NaNoWriMo, you were likely to write less and get a lower grade on your writing. People who had read a novel more recently tended to write more (although there was no correlation between reading recently and the grade received). If you type faster, you were likely to write longer and get a better grade.
there was one additional twist to this study--a genuine experiment. It was motivated by the fact that my family participated in the Arbitron Radio ratings this past week. It's quite a bit of work to do--every member of the family has to record every single radio station they listen to for an entire week. So how does Arbitron get people to do it? They use several tricks. They send a couple dollars with each family member's diary. They call several times to make sure you received their materials. But one thing I noticed is that at the end of every call, the interviewer was always sure to ask "can I count on you to return your surveys?" I wondered if that language could be used to motivate people to write. 

Respondents were broken into three groups.  One group was asked, "Can I count on you....", One, "Will you do it?" and one given no prompt. The "Can I count..." group averaged longer essays and more completions of the essay - I think this means some people left the essay blank.  There was no difference in writing quality.  Again, graphs and charts are at the original site (follow-up post).

Even a weak writer will write more if encouraged and strong writers will write less if not encouraged, although their quality seems unaffected.

In some previous post I quoted Ken Robinson, who said something like "creative people aren't afraid of mistakes".  In getting people to write more, and thus be more likely to make mistakes, encouragement increases creativity.  Hardly Earth-shattering, but interesting none-the-less.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

writing resources

I belong to Goodreads, which is a social network for readers.  It has a section to post your writing -in addition to some blog features, I think.

I see there are other websites offering support for writers.  I don't know if i will look at them all but here are some that have caught my attention.

This blog  (with the most annoying ad ever on the right side) lists writing sites which pay the authors.
I was looking for legitimate writing sites which compensate authors. Writing sites like these are mushrooming and there are worries of scams amongst them. Triond has been on the top list of writing websites which pay me dutifully every month. But I decided that I need to look at other sites to earn more from my freelance writing activity – thus, the search for legitimate writing sites.
Here is a short list of get-paid-to-write sites which I know for sure has actually paid its authors. :

Writing.Com is the online community for writers and readers of all interests and skill levels. Whether you're an enthusiastic, creative writer looking for the perfect place to store and display your writing online or a casual reader searching for a good story, Writing.Com is the website for you!
With 668,359 members and 1,401,761 literary items created since inception,
this community is bursting with activities, inspiration and creativity.

Free memberships are available to everyone. Each membership includes an online writing portfolio, numerous writing tools, email services and the chance to meet and bond with fresh creative minds, just like you! No other website services theWriting world better than we do.

From their "About Us" FAQ:

About Us

Scribd began with a simple observation – that there's a writer in all of us. And that even more fundamental than our desire for self-expression is our need to learn and be inspired.
Today, Scribd is the place where you publish, discover and discuss original writings and documents. More than 50 million people each month are finding or sharing fun, functional or fantastical writings and documents on and tens of thousands of other websites that have embedded Scribd's document reader.
We built a technology that's broken all barriers to traditional publishing and in the process also built one of the largest readerships in the world.

Democratizing Publishing

With Scribd's document reader, anyone can easily upload and immediately share their original works on or any other website. Scribd transforms PDF, Word, PowerPoint and many other file formats into an elegant web display. Your work can be shared with Scribd's community of passionate readers, and because every word of your document is indexed for search engine optimization, your screenplay, novel or even sheet music and recipes also can be discovered by the world.
You can create (or liberate from your hard drive) anything you want to share – that comparative essay on Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, the first three chapters of the book you've been meaning to finish, journal entries from your trip to Thailand... Scribd provides a creative and useful new platform for readers, authors, publishers and anyone else seeking to express themselves, share ideas and exchange information.

I think I am a Scribd member but I registered some time ago.  I know that I have seen it used on other blogs so it seems to integrate well.  There is plenty of stuff to read there.

I looked for ten minutes but didn't remember enough specific content to find the article from Cory Doctorow at Boingboing on how he writes.  Really, this whole paragraph needs to be looked at sceptically and with the understanding this information is from memory.  Anyway, he chooses to use the simplest possible word processor he can so that he doesn't get caught up in how the first draft looks.  His goal is to get lots down while he is in writer mode.  Later, he can copy-and-paste it into other word processors to give shape to the story.  Although I have iWork '09, I typically try to do the same, using the basic Text Editor on my Mac.  On my Windows notebook, I use Wordpad, although to follow Doctorow's advice most closely, perhaps I should use Notepad.  On that same notebook, I have 2003 Office and Hangeul Word Processor (Korea's apparently famous and award winning product) from a similar year.

tips for improving creativity

Brain has a list of 101 ways to improve creativity.  I will try to critique a few of them, but here is the list and here are the first eleven suggestions:

Understand what your individual strengths and skills are to utilize for creation
djeich | over 2 years ago

Create your own creativity system
djeich | over 2 years ago

Undertake a new hobby every few months to see what it feels like to learn something from scratch and create
djeich | over 2 years ago

Surround yourself with creative people
djeich | over 2 years ago

Actually intentionally study creativity
djeich | over 2 years ago

Visit different countries
djeich | over 2 years ago

Live in new places often
djeich | over 2 years ago

Make a group of people with similar interests, share thoughts and improvize
brainakshay | over 2 years ago

brainakshay | over 2 years ago

Be comfortable with a high "failure rate".
UKJohn | over 2 years ago

Get into the habit of creating thought experiments - ask "what if?"

eHow has a shorter list.  It seems a little clearer as it has only six items.
Here are the first two:

  1. Step1
    Take good care of yourself. Good nutrition, a regular exercise plan and taking time to relax are all important to the creative process. When we feel good, our senses heighten, and we can be at our best creatively.
  2. Step2
    Mix things up a little. Read a book on a topic that you know nothing about. Take a new route to work, even if it takes a little longer. Most of us get into a rut because we tend to do the same types of things all the time; mixing things up a little helps our minds to work in new and creative ways.

    Paul tells us that to be imaginative, understand reality.  He mentions how Picasso first made very realistic paintings, then later warped what he saw with his mind and brush.  Jules Verne wrote about the future as he imagined it but he based it on contemporary science.  One of my wood carvings that I am most proud of is a Great Blue Heron and I studied many images of herons before I started and during the process.

    eSsortment connects creativity to problem solving and describes brainstorming and more.  One suggestion is to relax and think about other things:
    Alter your focus when faced with a problem you cannot solve. Sometimes when we face a problem we struggle with our thoughts so much, our energy is tapped. The stress that comes with this kind of problem solving also affects how we think. If the anxiety level becomes too high, parts of the brain will shut down and it is impossible to generate the ideas needed to deal with the problem. When faced with too much stress the mind goes into the fight or flight mode. This allows the mind to deal with only two alternatives, fighting the opponent or fleeing the danger. You can avoid these mind numbing emotions by altering your activity. When you feel yourself getting stressed out, or you begin losing your focus. Put the project on the back burner for a while. Allow yourself to focus on another task. Some people, golf, juggle, or exercise to get away from their mind blocks. When you return to this important task, you will have shifted from your stressed out mind set to a new relaxed and ready to conquer attitude.

    Getting away from the problem allows your subconscious mind to problem solve, while your conscious mind is occupied with other things. Sometimes you will find the solution to your problem in your sleep. This is when the subconscious mind is most active. Basically, all your experiences and learnings are stored in this part of the brain. This is where your creativity gets turbo-powered. If you can tap into this force you will have creative powers beyond your wildest expectations.

    I'm told 'The Force' also offers power beyond your wildest expectations.

    I will be spending a lot more time at m1creativity.  There are a lot of links for measuring and improving creativity.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

100 word fiction competition

The competition will likely be over before you read this post, but the idea is interesting and the entries are fun.
From Boingboing, 100 word fiction competition:

The prize is a $700 HP MediaSmart EX495 PC, set up as a Windows home server, with 1.5TB of storage and Mac/Time Machine support. The winner shall be chosen at arbitrary whim. Runners-up get something random from the gadget dungeon.
The theme is "Found in Space." 100 words long. Go.
Entries are in the comments.  The contest started on Nov 16 and I don't know when it ends.

My entry (#838):

The inhabitants of the ISS suited up grimly, but not-quite with panic.  The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell flapped through the air.  Something had impacted the side of the station, causing another leak for the station and disrupting communications.  Oh, the disruptions that would arise, and for more than the station, when the object was found.
Outside, they strapped themselves to the attachment points and leapt away; their scientific knowledge taking them to the correct location.  Once there, their terrible years of study suddenly turned to ashes.
A teapot, clearly having orbited between Earth and Mars, was visible in the wreckage.

How I worked up to the story:
Some very basic brainstorming:

am I in space or does the thing come to Earth?
Science Fiction?  Humour?

A first attempt that felt like a false start:
Prince smelled hot metal in the afternoon breeze.  He loped upwind, curious.  Soon, he heard the popping of cooling metal, and finally felt the heat on his muzzle.  In front of him was something outside his experience.  It was smooth and regular like a home or vehicle but smelled entirely different.  His lip curled and his shoulders hunched in concern.
I like this story much better: 
The inhabitants of the International Space Station suited up quickly and grimly, but not-quite with panic.  A book, McMaster University's The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell floated and flapped through the air like a square butterfly.  Something had impacted the sunward side of the station, causing yet another leak for the station and disrupting communications.  Oh, the disruptions that would arise, and for more than merely the space station, when the object was found.

Three of the eight current inhabitants crowded into the airlock, pausing to check their radios.  Inside, the others would be listening to offer advice and possibly interpret the... interesting English of the Japanese member.

Outside, they strapped themselves to the attachment points and leapt away, using their knowledge of physics to swing them to the correct location.  Once there, the terrible years of study and training suddenly revealed themselves to be useless.

A tiny teapot, clearly having orbited between Earth and Mars, was just visible in the wreckage.

Unfortunately, this story is sixty words too long.  I don't take 100 words to an exact requirement - I will be satisfied with 95-105, but this has to be too long. What can be cut? What can be shortened?
The premise is imagining a group of (presumably non-religious) scientists being struck by Russell's Teapot.  
This isn't needed:
Three of the eight current inhabitants crowded into the airlock, pausing to check their radios.  Inside, the others would be listening to offer advice and possibly interpret the... interesting English of the Japanese member. (34 words!  Down to 128)
Nitpicking: International Space Station to ISS. McMaster University, a book, floated and, like a square butterfly, merely, and training, tiny, just (14 words.  Down to 111!)
More nitpicking: quickly and, sunward, yet, space, 'revealed themselves to be useless' to 'turned to ashes, 'using their knowledge of physics to swing them to the correct location' to 'their scientific knowledge taking them to the correct location' (10 words. Down to 101!) 

The inhabitants of the ISS suited up grimly, but not-quite with panic (13 words) .  The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell flapped through the air (10 words).  Something had impacted the side of the station, causing another leak for the station and disrupting communications (17 words).  Oh, the disruptions that would arise, and for more than the station, when the object was found (17 words).

Outside, they strapped themselves to the attachment points and leapt away; their scientific knowledge taking them to the correct location (20 words).  Once there, their terrible years of study suddenly turned to ashes (11 words).

A teapot, clearly having orbited between Earth and Mars, was visible in the wreckage (14 words).


Now, the story might or might-not be any good, but I like it.  Further, how I thought of the story interests me.  Now, I had seen this comic about Russell (at Boingboing) sometime before learning about the contest so the two could have been linked in my mind.  However, I only consciously thought about Russell's teapot halfway through the story.  I certainly was not thinking about it when I started, nor even when I started the ISS story.  That part of the creativity process, well, just happened.

It has happened before.  A few years ago, I made a story for my wife, a story that went nowhere, when I suddenly had a strong ending in mind.

I am definitely not saying either story is excellent, but the sudden appearance of a strong ending, a twist, a good conclusion, greatly improved the story.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I want to...

It's hard to separate being creative from making things.  I think, though, that being creative is more than being imaginative.  I saw on a motivational poster something like, "Everyone has dreams, some people wake up and do them."  It is possible that a few people saw the world as Picasso did, only he went ahead and drew what he saw.

Maybe this blog is about motivating me to do stuff as well as learn about it.

I have tried wood carving and had some success but I am not particularly coordinated.  I currently don't have the patience or the ability to do fine detail.  This is true for most artistic fields.  I guess that keeps the discipline of writing open as typing doesn't require the hand-eye coordination of most other art forms.

That isn't good enough.  I can be a sufficiently skilled wood carver if I put the time in.  XKCD and Dinosaur Comics are great comics even if they don't contain drawn pictures of great complexity.  I should be able to work around my limitations and still display creativity.

Further, creativity is not the exclusive domain of art.  Science is built on creativity to at least the same extent and most famous scientists should be considered artists of the same caliber of the great of the painting and music worlds.  A scientist first has to create a hypothesis, then has to create an experiment to test that hypothesis.

As a teacher, I need to open student's heads (figuratively) and give them an almost Buddhist style awakening so they remember and absorb what I teach.  Difficult concepts need to be explained in new and interesting ways.

So, a big part of this blog will be describing the fruits of my creativity.  It won't be all wood carving, it probably won't be much about carving, in fact.  I want to learn about other art forms.  Following a recipe for food or instructions to make paper airplanes aren't exactly examples of creativity, but I will have created something and worked on my coordination.
I need to correct a possible misunderstanding now.  I am not a complete klutz, nor do I have any official or documented disabilities.  I have trouble writing legibly and my drawings - used in the classes I teach - are simplified as much as I can manage to keep them understandable.  I was a great swimmer although not quite world class.  I am comfortable in the outdoors and have not cut off any digits or limbs when using an axe or chainsaw.  Still, I was never picked early for sports teams and my attempts at juggling did not show improvement after thirty minutes (I may try again, as part of this blog).]
Although I will be describing how I am learning to do or make things, I will also be looking at theories and research into creativity.  This will be for me generally, to see what I can do for my son and what I can do as a teacher.  There are ways to encourage and increase your creativity.  I intend to try them.

Creativity is a subject that everyone agrees is important and everyone acknowledges having to some extent.  But it, consciousness and memory are ignored by laypeople as too difficult or intangible to study.  I hope to learn different.