I <3 My iPhone, But…

When it dawned on Manoush Zomorodi from “New Tech City” (WNYC’s technology show) that she had never been bored since getting a smart phone, she got curious.

To investigate what’s lost by banishing boredom, Zomorodi spoke to the U.K. psychologist Sandi Mann, who deliberately bores people in her experiments. Mann finds that after 20 minutes of true boredom, participants think up more imaginative solutions to a set task (what to do with two paper cups). Mann concludes that “idle minds lead to reflective, often creative thoughts.” She says, “minds need to wander to reach their full potential,” and encourages “embracing boredom” to allow the resultant dip into the subconscious we know as daydreaming.

The neuroscientist Jonathan Smallwood studies daydreaming, and told Zomorodi he defines it as the “ability to think independently of our surroundings,” a time “when the brain self-generates thoughts that do not arise from perception.” Other scientists call it “the default mental state of the human mind.”

Zomorodi also found this photo essay produced by The Atlantic with pictures of people from all over the world with their phones. I was teary and grateful for cell phones by the end, and somewhat unsettled. They’re everywhere and important.

And I’m a little leery of daydreaming because voices echo about “wasting time.” The scientists above would disagree, they encourage real daydreaming.

So I am curious about the challenge Zomrodi designed for us on Tech Nation: “Brilliant and Bored: The Lost Art of Spacing Out,” to run from the first of February to the sixth. She invites anyone to sign up to participate and receive daily inspiration for changing a relationship to technology (specifically the smart phone). Of course, a free app will measure phone usage.

I am curious about this. I always look for ways to encourage creativity, and although my numbers of views per day aren’t what Zomorodi talks about – hundreds for some people – I could rearrange my phone checking in the name of research. (Candy Crush doesn’t tempt me, but Instagram is a huge lure.)

For a week in February it will be fun to have company in this experiment – I’m signing up!

iPhone on perch

Je Suis Charlie

I’m not really Charlie, nor am I Ahmed, the murdered Muslim gendarme. I paint flowers and teapots, write about granddaughters and good books. I don’t offend, but I could. I’m among the privileged few in this world who take freedom of expression completely for granted.

The brave journalists at Charlie Hebdo died for exercising their right to picture rudely a pope or a president or Muhammad, for presenting outrageous depictions of power, for pointing out the emperor has no clothes.

After the Charlie Hebdo offices were firebombed three years ago, the editor known as Charb said that he couldn’t imagine a world where it wasn’t OK to laugh at dogma and authority, that he respected the laws of France, not religious laws. French law, like our law, protects free speech, a right defended many times over.

Now he is dead. This photo posted on Instagram by the cartoonist Wolinski’s daughter undid me. I know that drawing board and those bookshelves and the jar of pens – the forlorn chair waiting for Wolinski to come back to work.

I think about intolerance closer to home. I know how infuriated I felt when confronted by the hirelings who stood in front of the post office presenting pictures of President Obama with a Hitler moustache. I told one of them he should be ashamed of himself. He laughed and told me to have a good day. He could make the poster, and I could say my piece. Both safe.

In England we saw “Charles III” – a satire about what might happen when Prince Charles becomes the King of England. It was very funny and irreverent, and performed not far from Buckingham Palace without threat or danger from royal guards or royalists. “The Book of Mormon” is even more outrageous and insulting – and funny – and plays on Broadway and the West End.

A YouTube exists of people yelling at John McCain and calling him a traitor. John McCain and I would probably agree on little – but calling him a traitor? The heckler can speak.

Freedom of speech isn’t pretty. A much more conservative friend than I once made an amazing statement referring to the problem she perceived of “civil rights rearing their ugly heads.”

Ah yes, the inconveniently ugly heads of freedoms. Freedoms that allow things we don’t like – protestors outside abortion clinics with scary tactics, offensive New Yorker covers, or lord knows, political cartoons from the other side. But believing in freedom of expression, we just sigh and groan and allow.

In these days after the murders, I watch people express their belief in the freedom to create – they attend vigils, leave pens and flowers, and post to #jesuischarlie on Instagram and Twitter. I plant hearts on posts of strangers who are illustrators and artists. I’m with you, I try to say with my “likes.”

I’m full of sorrow and admiration for those who died, those who tried to protect them, and for those who will continue to make funny, rude pictures and write confrontational words. Because they can, and because it’s right.

Je Suis Charlie

New Beginnings in the New Year!

If you are thinking about how to shape 2015 to pursue a project, space remains in The Workroom beginning the 12th of January. You could join the friendly, interesting group coming together for this session! (More info here on the blog under “The Workroom” category or at www.katygilmore.com. Please just email me to sign up: herspiritsrose@gmail.com).

I include words from some past participants (and thank them for great comments!), because their feedback explains The Workroom best:

“I LOVED The Workroom. I don’t know that I would change anything…I liked your daily posts very much – they were brief, relevant, and good motivators. I think your comments to our posts were the most helpful part of the course, and the other participants’ comments added much too. The group aspect of The Workroom is definitely important. My expectations were more than met – thank you!” Michelle T.

“I got so much out of the experience. I loved your steady and encouraging posts, the weekly page postings by participants, and all the commenting. I was able to knuckle down and find an area of focus and a new approach to my schedule.” Carol H.

“I allowed myself to take the creative process seriously, as a study or a discipline or a practice, giving myself time, space and energy to pursue the process. It was a permission slip.” Caroline S.

“I liked your ‘themed week’ approach. You were very organized and the way you had constructed The Workroom made a lot of sense. I felt confident – that you had spent time thinking about how this would work best, and that made me feel maybe I could be successful in it.

I very much appreciated the daily themed posts during the weeks. It helped me to have you touching in each day. Helped me to begin building the ‘daily’ muscle, too. Knowing you are doing your daily work helped me to try to do mine.

My expectations were met and exceeded and it was just such a deep pleasure. So many of us (I now believe) have this deep desire to do this/our work and it is worth a LOT to have someone create the space and structure for the support and encouragement to just do it and to understand that there are basic needs to satisfy in order to give yourself a good shot at success: routine, habit, encouragement, someone to point you towards the resolution (inner and outer) that you might need, etc.” Margy C.

“This was a new experience for all of us, and to my mind an incredibly successful one. The most surprising thing for me is the closeness I feel to everyone in the group. And I think that is partly due to your guidance and the way you talked about everyone’s posts. You set a good standard and I think we all tried to follow it.”  Carol B.

“I enjoyed all the posts and definitely all the comments. At first I was leery, resistant to all the computer time. As the time passed, I enjoyed that time and my new skills. I feel like I have a new circle of caring friends.”  Pat H.

“When we started and friends asked me about “The Workroom.” I had difficulty explaining exactly how it would work. Now that we’re done, I ‘d recommend the Workroom to anyone stuck or starting a project.

Your postings have been excellent. So well thought out and very timely. I marvel at how you figured out what we would need and when we’d need it. You integrated inspirational quotes, references, your own ideas very well — sometimes within one Post even. The sideline topics of books, quotes, etc. are helpful since they are easy to access in a glance.

Setting up Weekly Pages for us worked well, too. Your feedback to each of our Pages was very thoughtful in helping us sort out the next step or think of approaching something in a different way.

The success of the Workroom can also be measured by the way everyone participated so creatively with their own projects and also the depth and sincerity of their comments to one another.

Everything worked! I can’t think of anything to change. Congratulations and THANK YOU!”
“I learned a lot about myself and also feel the spirit of kinship with the others. And honestly, I would recommend The Workroom for a lot of people. I told a friend about it yesterday and she said, ‘why with a group?’. And I explained to her the support and creative spirit that comes with reading about other people being creative and then feeling it from yourself.”  Judy R.

“The daily posts kept me going and inspired. The comments from fellow participants were great. Having a deadline once a week and at a certain time meant that there was closure on that week’s work. Thank you, too, for responding to questions so rapidly.”  N.D.

Workroom post

The Workroom – A New Session

The Workroom – a sure sign of autumn – the dates are: begin 8 September and end 17 October. Below is a little “booklet” describing The Workroom, and more information, including testimonials from past participants, is available on my website http://www.katygilmore.com. The cost is $60 for the six weeks.

Questions or to sign up, please email me at herspiritsrose@gmail.com.

Having made the blog a sort of Workroom with the Frances project, I’m even more convinced that it works to be accountable. I’d love to see you there!

The Workroom Project ID fourth iteration

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Glaser’s Secrets of Art

The Workroom Fall 2013 is well underway – and it is a huge pleasure for me to watch people conquer blog mechanics, begin to express themselves in this new format, and make headway on things they have long wanted to accomplish.

In my preparation days, I began to go through a file of things collected since the last Workroom session, thinking to add more inspiring quotes and helpful ideas. As I edited and posted my offerings, I found a few things that also belong here.

Last year I wrote about Milton Glaser (here) . This year I found Glaser’s “The Secret of Art” (here).

Before I even knew who he was I loved Milton Glaser’s work. When I see an image of Glaser’s iconic poster of Bob Dylan, it brings back memories of our first year of marriage and wintry Anchorage nights, sitting in the car on the street below waiting for my husband. In the office above, lights still blazed, revealing the Dylan poster on his wall in all its color. In the ‘60s everything was still late arriving in Alaska, but the office was the first Alaska Public Defender’s office and Dylan had arrived.

I love Glaser’s “The Secret of Art” – he’s a master and he has a generous spirit. Originally written as a presentation to the professional association for design, the AIGA, a lot of it works for all of us.

Each time I return to his list, I see something new. With this reading, Glaser described sitting in a car waiting for his wife when he heard John Cage speaking of old age – about keeping going, doing what you do – a nice bookend to my thoughts.

Each of his ten points resonates – toxic people, nourishing people – yes! About style and less and more. And about drawing. That’s the part I wanted to add for the Workroom participants, about how we live changing our brains.

And my favorite: “Doubt is Better than Certainty.”

Enjoy!

The Workroom – Fall 2013 – An Invitation

If you are curious about pursuing a creative project of your own in the company of similarly directed people, please consider joining The Workroom’s fall session. The course starts in a month and will run for six weeks from September 9 to October 18. I’m excited to start thinking about a new group this fall!

Sometimes it’s lonely to do creative work on one’s own – and a collaborator in our particular endeavor isn’t always possible. The Workroom is a little like childhood’s “parallel play,” because each participant brings a project at whatever stage it exists – whether early or needing some infusion of energy to complete – and is supported by the other participants and me.

Colleagues waiting, even if only virtually, for us to show up and do what we set out to do is very inspiring. Last year’s participants often discovered new things by putting a plan into words and beginning on a path toward accomplishing creative work. Being part of a supportive group makes for accountability and provides inspiration and stamina.

This session offers a bonus! Each participant who completes the course will receive one of my foldbooks – this one inspired by lessons from The Workroom!

More details are available in past blog posts (here and here). On my website www.katygilmore.com you will find comments from past participants. I would love to include you! The group is small, so please sign up now if you are ready or let me know if you are thinking about joining us. If I can answer any questions, please email me (herspiritsrose@gmail.com).

September is a great time for back to class! In the meantime I hope you are having a wonderful summer, full of outdoor time, friends, and family!

Workroom foldbook cover

The Inspiration of Creation

On a Bangkok Sky Train platform, the wordsmith, who came with her husband to the wedding in Thailand, pointed out a kiosk full of pens and notebooks named “The Stationery.” Underneath the shop’s name, in a handwritten font, a sign read: “The inspiration of creation begin with simply writing.” The wordsmith smiled, because in spite of the slightly awkward English she knew it was right on point for “Her spirits rose….”

And when I realized that Tuesday’s would be the 500th post begun by simply writing – or drawing – that seemed a lot of “inspiration of creation.”

My motivations to keep this up are never quite clear to me, other than the sheer challenge and pleasure of making something where there is nothing, facing blankness and shaping raw materials – words and images into Downtown Abbey stories, or a travel narrative. The effort of doing my best to describe a recipe or book or to make series of images of interest to you rewards me with memorable moments of doing.

By the blog I understand Tracy Kidder’s words when he writes that every story “has to be discovered twice” – both in the world and in the author’s workroom. Kidder says: “One discovers a story the second time by constructing it. In non-fiction the materials are factual, but the construction itself is something different from fact.”

At this milestone I thank again the wordsmith and my good-natured husband. Encouraging me with their enthusiasm and expectations, they’ve given their time, expertise, and camaraderie to this endeavor. I’ve enjoyed it, and I’m grateful.

And thank you wonderful readers, many of whom have been aboard for all 500 posts – especially those whose voices in comments have become a familiar and enriching part of the blog. The inspiration of creation might begin with writing, but satisfying connection comes from readers reading and responding.

Thank you!

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