Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

Why making mistakes is good

We’re often told, correctly, that one of the ways to free our creativity is to stop being afraid of making mistakes. It’s easy enough to say, but even if you can get your head around the idea that perfectionism is a barrier to creativity, how do we go about accommodating them?

Creativity Quotes:
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Scott Adams

Why making mistakes is good
Mistakes, errors, blunders, faults, imperfections – call them what you will; all our training has been to remove any reference to them – to erase if we’re drawing, delete if we’re typing; restart if we’re singing or playing an instrument.

We see mistakes as interruptions to our plan, even if we didn’t think we had one – they’re not what we intended, and therefore not good. But what mistakes do is offer us the opportunity to explore beyond where we thought we were going – they introduce that rare element of ‘chance’ into our work.

When we find ourselves with a slip-up, a really creative alternative is to leave it just as it is, and try to work it in.

It’s not always going to produce a beautiful result, so I don’t recommend doing this on anything you’re under pressure to deliver – it will simply undermine your confidence. Rather, set aside some “mistake making” time, a time in which you give yourself absolute permission to err, to make a mess, to stuff things up. If you’re musical, bang away without rhyme or reason for a while. Visual artists can scribble, draw, dribble paint and randomly combine images. Allow words to flow unselfconsciously if you’re writing – and if you’re cooking, it helps to find an equally creative audience J

The human mind is wired to find patterns, to look for logic, to find a repeatable path. This is to our detriment when we’re stuck in a rut of “proven methods”, but when we’ve silenced our critical voice for a while and given ourselves creative freedom, our logical mind will soon start to find new meanings and patterns from the seemingly random combinations we come up with. New sound combinations will resonate with different emotions, and new visual and literal images will create fresh associations, containing the seeds of new directions ready for you to explore.

Practicing making mistakes also makes it easier to be gentle with ourselves when we do make that colossal oops – when that off note can be left as it was without kicking ourselves; where the line out of place just doesn’t matter that much, and the wrong mix of herbs can be smoothed over with ice-cream. See the post below for some more ideas to get started with…

As we learn to be less critical of ourselves, we become more open to new possibilities that unplanned events might hold.

Wishing you a gentle and accepting month of discovery.


Creative activities for exploring the unexpected

Following from the post above, here are some activities that are good for exploring the unexpected…

  • Drawing: try random marks on paper; take rubbings off different surfaces and see if you can find shapes and images in them
  • Collage: randomly stick cut and torn images alongside each other – surprise yourself with graphic possibilities
  • Writing: pick 20 – 30 random words from books, dictionaries, articles etc. then play around to create new meanings
  • Photography: point and shoot without framing the pictures. Lay out your pictures and see what you’ve got that you don’t normally see
  • Music: try different instruments, keys, beats and random sounds for new emotive possibilities

Online resources – Creativity Report

If you’re astrologically inclined, the astrology section of has a Creativity Report that offers insight into your personal approach to creativity. You’ll find the report under “Personal Insights” – and it’s fun to read the ‘Celebrity’ sample report for Pablo Picasso, too J

My Pick of the Design Indaba 2008

There are still two days left of the Cape Town 2008 Design Indaba, so if you can get there, I heartily recommend it. I’m just back from a 3-hour walkaround, and here is my pick of the exhibitions.

Of course, with over 250 stands, all showcasing design of the highest quality, it’s all worth a look. The criteria for this selection was “it makes me smile” and all of the listed exhibitors raised a grin from me for one reason or another – listed simply in the order I encountered them.

Willow Lamp (stand B17) – I loved these beautiful and elegant beaded chandeliers

Ibo Silver(A42) – intricate and delicate silver jewelry that struck me as having a sense of ceremony

Bousquet Creations (A35) – fun, bold and colourful – really unique looking jewelry that reminded me of the ceramic work on display elsewhere (no web presence)

DME (Department of Mineral and Energies) (B23 – had a collection of incubator projects of great quality and design; Harmony Jewelry School (read more here) and Umfundiso (no web presence) stood out for me

YDA Walt (G27) – I enjoyed the felt bags with striking township-style images

Hardware – Ernst Tolmie (A49) – Funky plastic jewelry – one of the Design Indaba ‘Emerging Creatives’ (no web presence)

Mingo Lamberti (A52a) – Great limited edition T-shirt designs (no web presence)

Kaross (A56) – beautifully embroidered textiles on bags, cushions; this is also an empowerment project –

Woo-men Plush Toys (L3) – irresistibly huggable felt character-toys for kids of all ages

Ba-Rok (A71) – Fabric art; I really liked the combination of symbols from different cultures (no web presence)

Gina Niderhumer (L17) – I liked the intimacy and collage look of these hand-stitched purses, cushions and other small items. (no web presence)

Will Designers Save the World? (J2 – J4) Woolworths schools design competition from recycled materials – I particularly liked the use of barrels to create bar-like integrated table-and chair (read more here)

ICON – CCDI (H1-H5) – The best of the Cape Craft and Design Institute crafters –

Ceramic Matters (C1) – witty use of ceramics for soft-looking doll-like sculptures (no web presence)

Duncan Larkin (N5) – Another ‘Emerging Creative’; beautifully drawn/painted canvases, definitely on the fine art side of design. (no web presence)

Mü&Me (G17) – comic-style notebooks, stickers, cards and wrapping sets

Interestingly, Creative Cape Town is running a “vote for your favourite stand” competition, which sharpened my focus, but I found that none of the stands stood noticeably head-and-shoulders above the rest – I recall two or three blinders from last year, so not sure why there weren’t any this year.

But all in all a fabulously stimulating experience… I’ll be back again next year J

What to do when the lights go out

It’s been a month of frustration for most of us with power outages interrupting work and leisure plans alike, and causing a fair amount of damage. While I firmly believe this crisis should be resolved with the utmost urgency, once we find ourselves with the power out, there isn’t much we can do but sit it out. This month’s newsletter takes a look at some creative activities to help pass the time.

Creativity Quotes:
I really enjoyed these excerpts from last weekend’s Sunday Times:

“What we often call happiness is a ‘flow state’ of unselfconsciousness, the sort of thing that happens when you’re so engrossed in a hobby that you don’t notice time passing”
followed later by:
“Absorption in a single activity such as learning a hobby or skill, instead of wildly multi-tasking, creates a ‘flow’ state of unself-consciousness that helps to develop our higher-functioning cerebral cortexes, and to stem the nagging idea that ‘fun’ is always somewhere else, needing pursuing.”

John Naish, The Ignorance of Bliss, Sunday Times Lifestyle 27 Jan 08

What to do when the lights go out…
Okay, so it’s 12:00 and you’re in the middle of an important document / production cycle when *bam* – the lights, power and aircon go down. Very soon you’re hot, sweaty and bored…
Or you’re sitting with friends or family, watching TV and cooking a meal, when all comes to a sticky end, and you might actually have to make conversation…

What to do? Well, to avoid the trap of getting sucked into another round of heated discussions, here are a few things that should help pass the time in a really enjoyable way…

In last month’s newsletter I talked about being prepared for unscheduled time. If you’re carrying a notebook around, this is Planning and Doing time.

At work:
The funniest thing at work is that we’re now talking to each other! In a world of business-outcome driven communication, email and short phone-calls are our modus operandi. Spending half an hour or more chatting with our colleagues can be surprisingly enlightening, adding a nice social dimension to project teams. This won’t kill all your time though, and maybe your colleagues aren’t the kind you socialize with, or you’re on a pressured deadline. Informal planning and brainstorming sessions can be really beneficial instead – with no time deadline you can really talk things through, and pen and paper still work when our screens are blank J

If you can get out, it’s a great time to clear your head, and since I’ve taken to carrying my sketchbook with me, I’ve discovered it’s also a magic time to get stuck into a creative project. Wordsmiths, artists, crafters, musicians and anyone who doesn’t need powertools can pull out their projects and give them some quality attention… and become an object of fascination amongst your colleagues, who suddenly become inspired to take up their own hobbies…

At home:
If you’re in or responsible for a group of people, this can be trying time indeed. Again, the arts and crafts are all great activities if you can pull everyone together. Alone or in a group, collage is a great use of time – it’s amazing how quickly time passes when we’re collecting images and arranging them meaningfully on a page.

And when the lights are out, and it really is dark, huddled around candles we should steer away from eye-intensive activities (although I confess I often write by candle-light).
Music is a great night-time bonder – if you play, this is good practice time or the chance to show off your own ‘Unplugged’ sound. If you don’t, it’s a good time to bug your friends who do – or make it up as you go along…

Story-telling is also a good imagination stretcher if your group is good for it: I like the “And then…” game, where each person tells a quick ‘chapter’ following from previous ideas, and can have some hilarious results.

Personally I’m not that fond of being alone in the dark, so if you’re on your own, I recommend phoning a bunch of friends, or heading off to a restaurant to do some brainstorming, or have a new food experience, or going to see that movie you’ve been thinking about for a while.

If you have other creative ways of dealing with your power-free time, please let me know, and let’s share with the other readers out there…

And of course, all these can be done with the power up, so don’t feel you have to wait if inspiration strikes…

Wishing you all a peaceful and inwardly illuminating month.

Two Websites Worth Visiting

Great news for the Tapping Into Creativity newsletter is that we’ve been featured on a fantastic site – Creativity Portal. This is a Portal in the true sense, bringing together a huge variety of creative resources, and also features a great monthly newsletter that’s worth subscribing to.
You’ll find the link to our newsletter here, and we’ve already had some traffic – Hello to all our international readers!

And another great idea is Dream Big. It’s an O-Magazine initiative, giving South Africans a chance to put our most inspiring dreams into action – for ourselves, people we know, or our communities. A little assistance like this goes a long way, and I’ll certainly be submitting my big idea…

What Are You Doing Creatively?

This month I’ll be:

  • going to see Artscape’s The Merchant of Venice at Maynardville
  • spending a morning at the Design Indaba Expo (see below)
  • hosting the Jumpstart Your Creativity workshop
  • continuing to work on my creative project

Drop me a mail with your activities (or post them online)… I’m always keen to hear what my readers are up to J