On Creativity

These are the world’s “most creative” countries

Quartz reports on data compiled by the Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI) at the University of Toronto into the Global Creativity Index (GCI):

To create their ranking, researchers defined creativity as the product of three measurable variables, “the Three Ts”: technology, talent and tolerance.

“Technology” rankings were determined by looking at investment levels in research and development, plus patents per capita. National “talent” was evaluated as a composite of the percentage of adults with higher-education degrees and the percentage of workforce involved in creative industries. Interestingly, the third factor in MPI’s creativity index was “tolerance”: a ranking based on how each country treats its immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBT residents.

When looking at the results, it’s important to keep this in mind:

Based on MPI’s definition of creativity, it comes as no surprise that there’s a strong link between each nation’s creativity ranking and its overall economic development.

It’s also important to note that the terms this report evaluates comprise a concept of creativity different from our usual notion.

Head to head: Does every creative genius need a bitter rival?

Jacob Burak examines well known rivalries between creative geniuses:

  • painters John Constable and J.M.W. Turner
  • mathematicians Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz
  • researchers into electricity Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla
  • computer pioneers Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

Burak references psychological research that found:

rivals tend to be the same age, gender and social status. True rivals know each other and, indeed, often have long, enmeshed histories. Rivals are, by definition, evenly matched – but the higher the level of their attainment, the more they propel each other on.

And rivalry can exist between entire societies and social groups, not just between individuals.

Here’s how two of the world’s most famous psychologists described rivalries:

An especially profound exploration of rivalry comes from the psychologist Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, who said that we have more in common with our rivals than we would like to admit. The qualities in our rival that arouse our hostility are exactly the ones we prefer to repress in ourselves: weakness, anxiety, greed, aggression, lust and rudeness are a few common examples. Jung called this panoply of traits ‘the shadow’.

In Freudian theory, we defend ourselves from urges we don’t want to acknowledge by denying their existence and ‘projecting’ them onto others. This makes us attribute qualities, intentions and desires to others that are actually our own. According to Jung, such urges are buried deep within the ‘shadow’ part of our mind. The less cognisant we are of the shadow inside us, the darker and denser it becomes.

Say no more often. You’ll be happier and healthier.

A long time ago I knew a woman who was moderately successful at writing books for middle-grade readers. She wasn’t a household name by any means. She once told me that she had been asked to speak at her nephew’s school, not too far from her house.

“I can’t spend my time giving talks at schools,” she told me. I thought that giving that talk would probably increase her exposure among children and their parents, who buy the books, after all. “I need to spend my time writing my next book.”

This is one of the burning questions for aspiring writers: when to talk for free and sometimes even write for free to increase their name recognition and connect with a wider audience.

In this short article author Cory Doctorow explains that creative people need to say “no” more often, for exactly the reason that my writer acquaintance gave. The best part of the article is the sample letters, reproduced from Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist, used by writers such as E.B. White, Robert A. Heinlein, and Carl Sandburg to say “no” as gently and unobnoxiously as possible.

9 Tricks Brilliant Innovators Use To Come Up With Big Ideas

When I think about creativity, I think foremost of artists such as painters, writers, and musicians. But creativity plays a large part in innovation in many life areas, including business (see the article above on the world’s most creative countries).

This article from Inc., aimed at business people, catalogs the best practices for finding ideas from the book The Idea Hunter: How To Find The Best Ideas And Make Them Happen by Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer.

Read the full explanations of why these suggestions work:

  • Get to know your competition.
  • Listen to your customers.
  • Take long walks.
  • Invite in diverse opinions.
  • Keep careful track of your ideas, and refer back to them when you’re stuck.
  • Set aside time to pursue big ideas.
  • Pay attention to news and culture.
  • Schedule downtime.
  • Turn your attention elsewhere.

With just a small change of emphasis, most of these suggestions can be adapted by people in fields other than business.

Why Creative Play Matters

Katie Simpson doesn’t break any new ground here, but it’s good to be reminded occasionally about why it’s good to take time to look up at the clouds, to color a picture with crayons, to mold a figure out of kids’ clay, or just make up stories about people who walk past you.

World Osteoporosis Day

Today is World Osteoporosis Day, sponsored by the International Osteoporosis Foundation. This global event has been observed on October 20th since 1997.

Osteoporosis is the loss of bone strength over time. The process is usually gradual. Eventually the condition may become so severe that the stress on bones of normal activities such as sitting, standing, or coughing can cause a fracture. Often, a person’s first sign of osteoporosis is a broken bone. Other signs of advancing osteoporosis can be a loss of height or a dowager’s hump (rounded spine between the shoulders). The risk of osteoporosis increases with age.

We usually associate osteoporosis with women, particularly post-menopausal women. In fact, women over age 50 are the group at highest risk of developing osteoporosis. However, men also develop the condition. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis affects one in five men over age 50; men are more likely to have a bone fracture related to osteoporosis than they are to develop prostate cancer. Although men do not experience the same rapid bone loss that women do after menopause, by age 70 both men and women lose bone mass at about the same rate.

Bones are made of living tissue and require the right nutrients to stay strong and healthy. One key to preventing osteoporosis is to eat a healthy diet. On the International Osteoporosis Foundation web site you can download a patient brochure that outlines the proper diet for building and maintaining bone strength throughout life. You can also learn which nutrients and macronutrients support bone health.

A second key to maintaining strong bones is regular exercise. Weight-bearing exercises, the kind that make your muscles work against gravity, are best for maintaining strong bones when done three to four times a week. In addition, strength and balance exercises strengthen muscles and may help prevent falls that can lead to bone fractures.

Every year World Osteoporosis Day reminds us to do all we can to build and maintain strong bones. Eating right and exercising regularly are important steps. Your doctor can order a bone density test to determine if you are developing osteoporosis and prescribe medication to help maintain bone health.

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #41

It’s Saturday again, my usual day for undertaking Cee’s Share Your World challenge. Find this week’s challenge here: SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #41.

What genre of music do you like?

portrait of J.S. Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach, portrait by Elias Gottlob Haussmann

Nowadays, I’m pretty much classical music all the way: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt, and those guys. The only other music I occasionally listen to is classic rock from the late 1950’s and the 1960s: Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, Dylan, Stones—and the Beatles, of course.

What is the worst thing you ate this last week?

I didn’t eat anything outstandingly bad. Maybe this is another aspect of getting older: You don’t have to do (or eat, or sit through, or associate with) anything or anyone you don’t like.

I think we may have just hit upon the reason why, every week, I answer the bonus question with “I’m grateful for everything from last week.”

Would you like to be famous? In what way?

I would like my NAME to be famous as the author of informative, definitive works of nonfiction (e.g., Devil in the White City, The Soul of an Octopus, Quiet).

But I don’t want to be famous myself, mostly because I’m terribly unphotogenic and would therefore not want to have my picture all over the tabloids and entertainment shows and web sites.

So if I do ever become a famous author, I’ll have to become a recluse like J.D. Salinger or Elena Ferrante.

Complete this sentence: This sandwich could really use some …

mayoThis sandwich could really use some mayonnaise. I have always loved mayonnaise on all sandwiches, no matter what else was between the slices of bread. And cheese. Just about any sandwich can be improved by a slice of cheddar, Havarti, or American cheese.

However, this whole discussion is merely hypothetical, since we are now following a low-carb diet and therefore almost never eat sandwiches any more. (That doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally desire a sandwich on good bread, featuring cheese and mayonnaise.)

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful for everything from last week. I look forward to more of the same in the upcoming week.

I hope everyone has a good week.

Psychology Round-Up

How The Impact Bias Affects Your Expectations Of Happiness

It seems to make sense that an extreme experience, such as a catastrophic injury, would affect our future level of happiness. But, writes James Clear, the truth is much more counter-intuitive. Research has shown that six months after a traumatic event, people’s happiness levels are about the same as they were before the event.

The inaccuracy of our expectations about how major experiences will affect us is called the impact bias:

Researchers refer to this as the “impact bias” because we tend to overestimate the length or intensity of happiness that major events will create. The impact bias is one example of affective forecasting, which is a social psychology phenomenon that refers to our generally terrible ability as humans to predict our future emotional states.

Moreover, the impact bias applies to positive experiences, such as winning the lottery, as well as to negative ones.

Read why Clear draws the following two conclusions from a study of the impact bias:

  • First, we have a tendency to focus on the thing that changes and forget about the things that don’t change
  • Second, a challenge is an impediment to a particular thing, not to you as a person

The Benefits of Getting Comfortable With Uncertainty

Back in 1971, when my husband and I left our families in New England for St. Louis, where he would attend school and I would start my first teaching job, my mother-in-law hosted a “happy/sad party.” She was happy that we were going to start our new life together, but sad that we were going so far away.

Even though we naturally seek clarity, it’s important to understand that people, including ourselves, can feel contradictory emotions about a single situation or event. In his article for The Atlantic, Julie Beck interviews Jamie Holmes, author of Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing, about “the many ways that uncertainty shapes people’s behavior, and what gets lost when people seek clarity above all else.”

Says Holmes:

I think the reason why ambivalence is just downplayed in general, is because we don’t like ambiguity. We don’t like to think of intentions as fluid or ambivalent and I think they are, far more often than we acknowledge.

For True Freedom, Learn to Deal With Uncertainty

In the New York Times, financial planner Carl Richards discusses the uncertainty of a life in which our fortunes fluctuate in relation to the economic conditions of a particular time. He bought a house that appreciated quickly in value, then borrowed against the equity in the house to start a business. But when the economy tanked, his house became worth less than he had paid for it and his business, closely tied to the local economy, floundered as well. But a couple of years later, his life changed again: “He now has superpositive net worth. His relationships are better than ever.”

Richards writes that he has asked himself many times what he did wrong to deserve the bad experience and what he did right to deserve the the better experience. But deserve, he says, is loaded language. It’s a myth that we “deserve” any specific outcome:

For years, many of us have believed this myth. In reality, life is irreducibly uncertain. That doesn’t make us more or less successful or more or less happy. The true joy in life, the real peace, comes when we let go of the idea that we deserve a predetermined happy ending.

Whatever the goal, we can learn to trust ourselves and deal with the reality of uncertainty. And for me that’s become the definition of true freedom.

Today Is World Arthritis Day

First observed in 1996, World Arthritis Day aims to raise awareness of the condition and make both patients and caregivers aware of available help and support. On the web site you can find a World Arthritis Day event in your area or publicize your own event. The site also provides tips and support for managing rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease (RMD).

While rheumatoid arthritis is the most well known arthritic condition, the broad category of arthritis includes other conditions as well. Rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) are divided into inflammatory and non-inflammatory types:

  • Common non-inflammatory RMDs consist of degenerative spine diseases, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia
  • Common inflammatory RMDs consist of rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, reactive arthritis, connective tissue diseases, and polymyalgia rheumatica

In the industrialized world, RMDs affect more individuals than any other disease group. In the European Union they affect a quarter of all people—more than 120 million individuals. In the United States, more than 50 million adults—one in five people over age 18—have doctor-diagnosed arthritis; about 300,000 babies and children—one in every 250 children—have arthritis or a rheumatic condition. Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in the U.S. and accounts for $156 billion annually in lost wages and medical expenses.

The theme for this year’s observance of World Arthritis Day is “It’s in your hands, take action!” The campaign focuses on giving High 5s. Participate on social media with the hashtag #WADHigh5.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 35.6% of women and 28.5% of men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by in intimate partner in their lifetime. Moreover, nearly half of all women and men in the U.S. have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Such intimate partner violence (IPV) had led to the observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). This observance, begun in 1995, is sponsored by the Domestic Violence Awareness Project, a division of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence:

Do you think you’re being abused? Do you often feel ashamed or scared? Has being with this person lowered your self-esteem? Do they try to stop you seeing family or friends? All of these signs and more suggest that you’re being unfairly abused by your partner.

An abuser’s manipulation may be so subtle at first that you don’t even realize it’s happening until you’re deeply into a potentially dangerous situation. Learn the red flags of abuse from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Review these safety tips if you think you might be in danger. There is a lot of advice here, including how to use technology to try to get help. Remember that your home computer is probably not a good tool to use when searching for help, since your abuser may be able to see what you’ve been doing. There are also phone numbers here for contacting a local domestic violence help line.

You can find more information about DVAM here.

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #40

Here’s this week’s SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #40.

If you have been to a foreign country name those you have been too?

grand_european_map
Click to see a larger version

I’ve been to the following foreign countries:

  • England
  • Scotland
  • Hungary
  • Slovakia
  • Austria
  • Germany
  • Holland
  • Ireland

Is the glass half empty or half full? What type of glass is it and what is in the glass?

The glass is definitely half full, but I’ve never thought about what the glass is half full of. My non-alcoholic choice would be iced tea. My alcoholic choices right now would be a Moscow Mule or a Margarita.

If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would you get?

Ice cream. I’d hope for a variety of flavors—just about everything except vanilla, which is so, well, plain vanilla.

List: List at least five places worth shopping.

  • Trader Joe’s
  • Tacoma Boys
  • Costco
  • King’s Books
  • Barnes & Noble

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Yesterday we actually had RAIN! We sorely needed it. I hope for a bit more rain this coming week. As much as I love sunshine, we desperately need a lot of rain right now.

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #39

It’s time for this week’s installment of SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #39.

Which way does the toilet paper roll go? Over or under?

Over, of course. Every time I see this question asked, as it was recently on Facebook, everybody answers “over.” I’ve never seen one “under” answer yet.

If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

No question: This:

purple-crayon

You are comfortable doing nothing? For long stretches of time?

I’m afraid not. I tried fishing once and nearly went crazy sitting on a bluff holding a fishing pole and feeling as if I was doing absolutely nothing. All I could think was, “I could be reading.”

Rather: Would you accept $5,000 to shave your head or die it bright lime green and continue your normal activities while not explaining the reason for your haircut or color?

A Seattle Seahawks fan watches during the first half of the NFL football NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
A Seattle Seahawks fan watches during the first half of the NFL football NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Oh, baby, here in Seattle Seahawks country I could die my hair lime green and never have to explain it to anyone. I’d fit right in. So I’d go with the green hair if it would net me $5,000.

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last week was a good one. I even got some writing done. In the week coming up we are traveling a bit east of the Cascade Mountains for a Road Scholar program about the Methow Valley. I’m looking forward to learning about the region’s history. We should also get to see some beautiful fall foliage.

How I Use Scrivener & Excel to Manage My Blog Challenge

Scrivener

Like a lot of other writers, I have used the outstanding writing program Scrivener from Literature & Latte for a few years now. If you haven’t heard of it, I encourage you to check it out. You can find lots of information, including video tutorials, about it online. If you decide to take the plunge and purchase it—the price is very reasonable compared to other comparable programs—I recommend the book Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez.

Although I cannot give a full-tilt tutorial in Scrivener here, I can describe a couple of its features that particularly make it great for blogging:

  1. The basic unit of the program is the document, which can contain a virtually unlimited amount of text, from a short note to a whole book chapter. The program also allows you to create folders and subfolders in which to store selected documents. This ability to structure information allows me to collect separate bits of information that I will eventually combine into a single blog post.
  2. The program has a default research folder into which you can save material to consult later. The feature I use most often here is the ability to save a web page as a PDF file, although you can also save other types of files (such as Word files, text files, or even images) here too. And you can create subfolders underneath the main research section to group related materials together.

Other people have also recognized Scrivener’s power as a blogging tool:

I started using Scrivener to manage my three blogs in the summer of 2014. I began by adapting Jennifer Mattern’s Free Scrivener Template for Managing Multiple Blogs at All Indie Writers. Her directions made it easy to download and import the template into Scrivener. I was then able to look at her structure and see what I wanted to change to make the template fit the way I work.

Jennifer includes two blogs structured by date and a third structured by categories. I chose to arrange all three of my blogs by date because I’m a Virgo and like to track things in a logical, linear way. It was easy to delete the main folder for the category blog, then copy and paste one of the dated blog folders, with subfolders, to replace it for my third blog.

Jennifer also includes more than one year for each blog, but I decided to start a new multiblog project folder each year because the amount of material I was collecting, including research materials (I’m a big fan of Scrivener’s print function called “save PDF to Scrivener”), became unwieldy. Once again, changing the folder structure to accommodate this preference was easy.

I tweaked Jennifer’s template in other minor ways significantly. When I finally got things just the way I wanted them, I used Scrivener’s “save as template” feature in the file menu to save my set-up as a project template. (A project is Scrivener’s top level of organization. If you are working on two novels, each novel would be a project, a separate Scrivener file.) I can now use the revised template to start a new multiblog project each year.

If you start looking at what other people have to say about Scrivener, you’ll see that the most common knock against it is that it has a steep learning curve. I agree that’s true, but it’s true because the program has so many powerful features. I’ve always been a believer that we learn what we need to know when we need to know it, and you only need to know a few basic things to get started with Scrivener. You can learn everything necessary to manage the procedures I’ve discussed here in a short time. Like anything else, the most important thing is to start working with Scrivener instead of just reading about it. The folks at Literature & Latte let you download a trial version before requiring your credit card number.

So far I’ve used only basic functions within Scrivener, but now that I’m blogging much more, I need to learn how to use Scrivener’s status and labeling functions to keep track of which posts are completed and published and which ones I’m still working on.

Excel

Scrivener makes it easy to manage my blog posts, but for my Blog Post a Day in 2015 challenge I needed Excel to track data about the posts, such as how many words I wrote each month and how many posts appeared on which blog. I set up a worksheet with the following columns:

  • A: Date
  • B: Blog #1
  • C: Blog #2
  • D: Blog #3
  • E: Post title
  • F: Number of words

When I document my post published each day here, I put a 1 in the column of the blog where the post appears. (Occasionally I publish the same post on more than one blog, but I only include it once in my total word count.) Having a column for each blog allows me to see easily how I need to distribute future posts and to calculate how many posts appeared on each blog at the end of the month.

At the end of each month I calculate the number of posts published on each blog and the total number of words I wrote that month.

At the end of February, after I had calculated my February totals, I realized that I also wanted to be able to compare the statistics across months. I set up a second sheet with the following columns:

  • A: Month
  • B: Total words written
  • C: Number of posts
  • D: Average post length
  • E: Number of words in shortest post
  • F: Number of words in longest post

At the end of the year, I hope this second sheet will allow me to see the patterns in my writing.

End of 30-Day Digital Journaling Challenge

Related Posts:

In my Midway Check-In for the 30-Day Digital Journaling Challenge, I reported that I was going to try digital journaling at home, first thing in the morning, then continue to journal by hand later when I got to the office.

30-day-challenge-682x1024One question I wanted to look at was whether the early digital journaling would prevent me from having anything to write by hand about a while later. I’m pleased to report that it did not. Many days I didn’t write as much by hand as I often do when not journaling digitally, but I still had more to write about when I had started by typing earlier. Usually what I wrote about by hand was some kind of amplification of what I had typed.

Another question I’ve been thinking about during this whole month-long challenge is whether the input method (typing vs. writing) would make a difference in my journaling. When I focused on journaling digitally for the last 15 days, I initially found that working on the computer made a big difference. When typing, it’s too easy to constantly use the backspace or delete key and correct typing mistakes rather than continuing to write uncensored and unedited. Also, since most of my daily work involves writing, which I do on the computer, journaling looked and felt too much like a work project, which needed to be edited and polished, rather than a spontaneous outpouring of my unconscious mind.

But early on in this second-half experiment, I tried closing my eyes when I typed. I originally tried this approach as a way to avoid constantly editing and correcting, but I soon discovered that it freed up my writing in other ways as well. Closing eyes causes the brain to transition into producing alpha waves, a state of relaxation similar to meditation and that dreamy feeling between wakefulness and sleep. The alpha state forms a bridge between the conscious and the unconscious, thereby tapping into our creativity and intuition. Poised on that bridge is where we do our most penetrating and revealing journal work.

As I result of my experiences during this challenge, I have concluded that digital and hand-written journaling are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary. This is something I will continue to experiment with on my own.

I’d like to thank all the sponsors, organizers, and participants for making this challenge so meaningful to me. As I concluded in my midway check-in post:

I want to thank all the challenge participants for being willing to share their experiences with each other. That has certainly been the most important result of my experiment with the 30-Day Digital Journaling Challenge.

© 2014 by Mary Daniels Brown