Tag: Creativity

The “Selfie” Thinker

I can just about remember a time when phones weren’t such a big thing like they are today, and without sounding like some kind of luddite inspired liberal or technophobe harboring an all out irrational hostility to the modern world – love them or hate them, I would be lost without my smartphone.

We spend most of our time glued to our phones, checking our social media accounts, watching movies, checking for notifications, browse and read the internet, text, use an app or listen to music, keeping abreast of the latest Z-listed celeb news and even engage in an old fashioned “telephone call” now and again.

A few of us are familiar with some of the following scenarios:

  • Couples and families in a restaurant with their smartphones at hand – checking messages, emails and social networks, checking their phones repeatedly throughout the meal.
  • Shoppers and commuters standing in line, people criss crossing busy streets, cyclists and drivers whose eyes are on their phones instead of their surroundings.
  • People walking down the street with their eyes on their phones, bumping into others – instead of observing the world around them.
  • Children (and parents and even their parents) playing with a smartphone or some other device – rather than observing and learning from the world around them.

Though you could say that it’s all about choice and not the fault of the technology which allows it or which causes this kind of compulsive behavior – but over the past decade alone, technology has made tremendous strides in it’s complexity and integration into modern society. Our smartphones can offer us the convenience and assistance of no end of apps which make your phone seem like a pocket sized information bank. If only my thoughts weren’t distracted by frequently checking my smartphone caused by carrying around this powerful device with me all day long – my phone has just about managed to have this ability to distract myself constantly. I don’t think I have become a slave to my smartphone yet – I still want to experience life and spend time with the people and friends that matter to me. I am not completely unaware of the wonderful experiences that real world has to offer. If it wasn’t for the constant bombardment of bells, buzzes and chimes that alert me to messages which I feel obligated and compelled to view and respond to immediately.  Sometimes it gets so bad that I grow uncomfortable with any 30-second span of hands-free idleness.

Like my computer, I need to put my phone into some sort of sleep mode and just leave it alone – which might be a good hallmark of a healthy relationship with my phone, rather than my phone being something that I can’t live without. Unfortunately the smartphones and other technological devices that we use in a world where constant communication is a handy accessory – has made them become a second skin. Even with people I consider my best friends, it’s hard to think of a circumstance where not one of us touched their smartphone for one reason or another. Finding a balance between using our smartphones and being connected to the digital world with being able to comfortably turn off and disconnect is a main struggle underlying the current smartphone mania. I need to go back to talking face-to-face with all of my friends, to look them in the eye. To eat real food instead of photographing it. Not to drive into oncoming traffic while looking at my smartphone screen. Perhaps one day, I will be glad to be back in a world where I never had or depended on a smartphone. In a world that beats – waiting for the notification alert telling me that I exist.


The Importance of Being Famous

I am not sure if I believe in life after death, and it’s not something I really choose to think about. All that’s certain is that people will continue to live long after I am dead. I have accepted that I won’t last forever, just as humanity won’t. Although, you can probably make an assumption in your own case. I would love to be remembered by my family and friends, and my loved ones. I would also love to be famous, or to at least achieve something in my own lifetime to be remembered for. For those that are famous, perhaps their purpose for their art or other creative endeavors are undertaken with an imagined future audience or legacy in mind. Maybe what motivates them is that their works will reverberate long after they are gone. There are many examples of people who have achieved this, during their lifetime and after.

Prince (Rogers Nelson) who passed away recently at 57, is one example. He was an artist who defied genre and was a prolific songwriter and performer spanning decades. He will certainly be remembered and so will his legacy of having freedom in the music industry. Though, he may well be remembered more vividly in your own minds, to me, he will always be the flamboyant Dorian-esque figure of pop music who managed to make almost every song he did entertaining in his own unique style. What I liked about Prince, is that many of his albums were accredited as been “Produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince” – truly a one man band if there ever was one. He also injected passion, sexuality, seduction into a lot of his songs, daring to flirt you with his music – but not in an overly provocative way, and long before other musicians had tried. In this respect, art anticipated art. I think Prince is a good example of how seeking fame is not just entirely something an artist does for their own self-interest or self-gratification. He put his own kaleidoscopic touch on his music for his listeners and other musicians, not just to entertain them or influence them – but to give them something to connect with and to remember him by, and that you shouldn’t be confined by what music you play or listen to. He had already achieved fame before his untimely death, and will continue to achieve it, and his music will unquestionably last forever. For Prince it will always Snow in April and Rain Purple.

Of course, fame isn’t everything right? I am not sure I could really deal with fame if I had it. Do I desire it? Yes I do, I think we all do, or a small part of us does. If fame were to be a possibility for me, I would like to achieve it before I die and to hopefully still be around to enjoy it, and for my fame to have made some sort of contribution to society or influence peoples lives.  And not forgetting my legacy in mind. On the other hand, there are celebrities from music, movies and so on. We see them on our TV’s, in magazines, newspapers, the Internet, pretty much everywhere.  There are celebrity TV shows in one form or another. People craving to be the latest celebrity, the next big thing. Some have talent, some don’t. I watch some celebrity TV shows, and don’t even know the ‘so-called’ celebrities that are on the show. That might be down to being out of touch with what’s going on in the world though.

Nothing quite sells like celebrity. We are tempted by celebrity endorsed commercials, selling us products by using stick-in-your-head hooks, or a clever jingle that we can’t get out of our heads. Celebrities that are turned into brands, human billboards to our materialistic desires, using them to accelerate that part of our subconscious to a conscious decision to buy their product. Celebrities are used to sell us things, sports stars that make more money from endorsements than from playing their actual sport. Most of us tend to buy something if our favorite celebrity, singer or TV star is using it. I am guilty of this, I hold my hand up, guilty as charged. I just want a piece of something that I can’t be. I am so gullible I know. This is only achievable by clever branding strategists – but they know that celebrity sells. In order for celebrities to become big brand names, they have to have achieved a certain level of fame or be the latest ‘red-hot’ thing. If you want to get an idea about the marketing power of celebrities take a look at the Celebrity DBI an index that measures, quantifies and qualifies consumer perceptions of celebrities. Personally, I think branding is just an extension to their celebrity status. However, being remembered for endorsing or selling something like bread for example, is not what I want to be remembered for. Branding is just about corporations making money from using celebrities to sell their products and not really about helping celebrities achieve ever lasting fame.

I recently watched a documentary about Robert Mapplethorpe – a photographer who influenced the ’70s and ’80s New York art world. It focused on both his work and his legacy. His photography included a wide variety of subjects, mostly controversial due to the sexual nature of his work. One of his best-known images “Man in a Polyester Suit” is just a close up of a black-mans penis emerging from an unzipped fly. You don’t see any face, there’s no glimpse of who the person is, it seems to be more about race and sex, than identity. At the height of his popularity he was challenging the ideas of what art could and could not be. One of his last self-portraits from 1988, where he is grasping a cane with a skull handle with his hand, draped in a black  turtle neck, a black background behind him, is almost a parody of his inevitable death due to AIDS. His work also had a more subtle theme – such as floral still life, portraits and the form of the beautiful body. I did find some of his more controversial work to be shocking and this just happened to be one of the reasons his best known work in the ’70s and ’80s was deemed unfit to be shown or to be reproduced in certain newspapers. That of course is just a form of discretion on their part and censorship of what can be considered to be art or not. What I also got from the documentary, was how much he wanted to achieve fame and everything that went along with it, while he was still alive. Fame isn’t just about something that only happens after you die, but also when you are still here to experience it. Sometimes reaching fame when you are still living and how you go about it can be challenging, especially when you try to be your authentic self. Mapplethorpe throughout the documentary, always appeared to me, to be his authentic self, and also what the legacy of the documentary was about as well as his life and his photography. His more sexual and provocative photography spurred a number of congress men in the USA to stop it from been shown in art galleries, are today the photographs that he will always be remembered for and turned out to be a natural progression for his legacy. We shouldn’t let our fame or our desire to achieve it be dictated to by other people, just be true to ourselves and as authentic as we can be.

An earlier blog post Remembering David Bowie touched upon what an amazing and talented person he was (will be posting more on David Bowie soon). What perhaps links Bowie, Prince and Mapplethorpe and many other artists, musicians and so on, is that they all arguably create substantial and eclectic bodies of work, while at the same time presenting themselves to the world in ways that challenged a broad array of categories and which ultimately made them famous during their lifetime and after.

How can I be more creative?

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein

I have often thought about how I can be more creative, or how to develop upon an idea, not just in writing but in other areas as well. For some, maybe its going for a short stroll in the park or listening to music that helps you to get some of your best ideas or solutions to problems or to even do your procrastinating.

After some light research, it appears that exercise is linked anecdotally to creativity. Perhaps so. Apparently some people develop their best ideas during a walk, soaking in the bath (Eureka moment?), taking some form of exercise or just being outdoors. I don’t know what does it for me yet, and I haven’t quite found that one thing that has helped me to generate really creative ideas. I am open to debate about exercise actually aiding creativity at all, but that’s just my own opinion. I didn’t get any creative ideas about anything when I was running on the treadmill earlier! Maybe I was thinking too much about burning calories? Although, walking was one of Steve Jobs favorite things to do when he wanted to talk to someone and share ideas, and that appears to have worked quite well for him. I do enjoy long walks myself, and it helps to increase the blood  flow to my head, and that’s supposed to improve brain function – such as helping you to be creative or getting one of those light bulb moments or an amazing idea about something. However, it hasn’t helped me to be truly creative, or to be more creative than I would like to be.

I have tried some other ways to get myself in the mood or to help boost my creativity at home. There is a Web site called Coffitivity  that recreates the ambient sounds of a cafe and other sounds to help boost your creativity. You can pick between Morning Murmur or Lunchtime Lounge, and it has from time to time sort of helped me work a little bit better. So does the hum of a coffee shop do it for you or help to boost your creativity? Pulling up a seat in Starbucks or your local coffee shop might not be the most efficient way to get your creative brain cells going, when you are hunched over a table sipping a latte and using the free WiFi though. What I do like about this site is that it brings that coffee shop or lunchtime chatter directly to you, so when I am working away on something you really do get that feeling that you are in a coffee shop (eyes only half closed) or that you have that little bit of noise in the background instead of complete quietness. Funnily enough I have had a few meetings with some friends to discuss business ideas and we always meet up at a coffee shop and we usually end up getting some really good work done. I think maybe because it’s a combination of the actual environment and not only hearing the hum of the coffee shop but the other people around you, hearing and seeing them, and of course the coffee itself, so it’s the right mix of everything. Generally  I do like there be some sort of background music (not TV) when I am working, or I like to get up from my desk and just switch off completely from what I was doing, and sometimes an idea would pop up – but alas it’s not really made me be anymore creative.

Sometimes I find that extreme quiet helps me to work better and help sharpen my focus. Even though it can help me to concentrate a little bit more, I don’t find that it really helps me to be more creative. Mostly I preferred quietness when I was studying for exams. I can’t say that I ever enjoyed studying for exams all that much, especially when I was studying for something that I didn’t really like. I think that its difficult to be creative about something that you don’t like or love?

So, I am still on my quest to find ‘that’ something to help me be more creative, and hopefully I will discover it soon!


Photo from StockSnap