Tag Archives: creativity

How Calligraphy Clears My Mind – Focus From a Pen Nib

Fingers stained with ink I set the fountain pen down.

An hour has passed.  My mind is clear and aware.

Alphabets are arranged over and over again down the sheet of paper.

I have been practicing my calligraphy.

No pen, no ink, no table, no room, no time, no quiet, no inclination.

-James Joyce

fountainpen How Calligraphy Clears My Mind   Focus From a Pen NibIn an age of fonts and typography (including the wonders of kinetic typography), there is something very simple about calligraphy that takes me out of time and place.  It is practicing my penmanship as if I were six years old. It is mastering the easy flow of my hand across the page. It is sculpting each letter to form as if carving letters of stone. It is sitting in class and doodling my name every different way I can see it.

When I sit down with my notepad and fountain pen my focus is scattered and often I am feeling stuck.  Unable to move forward with action whether it is writing, choreographing, or editing a design.

Setting nib to paper the letters take shape.  I become active.  Each stroke draws me in farther and soon pages are full and an hour has disappeared.  My mind is clear of distraction and my attention is sharper.  No surprise, I am happier.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes this as a state of flow.

Mihaly, a prominent psychologist on creativity and happiness, explains the power that challenging creative activity can have on our sense of being.  With a high level of challenge in an activity which you have a corresponding level of skill you can enter a psychological state of flow.

Flow is described by athletes, composers, programmers and artists alike as a state of being where action flows without needed direction.  The focus is so intense time and the feeling of self fall away so that there is no barrier between the actor and the activity or the artist and the art.

“Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Interview for Wired

Practicing calligraphy pulls me into a state of flow.

When I am struggling in ennui, a moment of adversity, or just scatter-brained, taking up an activity which is single-minded and purposeful, one that can always challenge me, and pouring myself into it clears away all the obstructions.  I forget about the bad day, the pressure to write, the calls I should make or the lack of ambition I have to get out of the house.

I come out focused.  Ready to move.

What is your focus activity?  What do you do to find clarity and calm?  Let me know and comment.

Jazz Minded – Creativity from Wynton Marsalis

Garr Reynolds has a great series of posts (1, 2) on Wynton Marsalis‘s new book “Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life” which has me itching to pick up the book.

The points Reynold’s brings out of Jazz’s mode of creativity as a method for creativity for design and for living I can personally testify to.  As a jazz dancer and amateur washboard player, the affect living in a jazz-immersed culture has drastically changed my perceptions of the world and of myself.

From the perspective of a new designer I had never explicitly brought together my understanding of jazz and the creativity of jazz with my far more limited understanding of design and presentation.  The notions of simplicity and accessibility coupled with the deep and intelligent naturalness of jazz make for a solid principle of design.

One of my favorite quotes that he pulls out:

“Our desire to testify through some type of art is unstoppable. A palpable energy is released when inspiration and dedication come together in a creative art. The energy is transformative in an individual who is innovative, but it is transcendent when manifested by a group. There are no words for the dynamic thrill of participating in a mutual mosaic of creativity.”

Wynton Marsalis

The notion of communal artistry is even more provoking for me as I meet and get to know more creative artists, teachers and people from a variety of fields.  The energy that I gather from being around like-minded artists who have had the influence of jazz in their life amounts to something unassailable by words alone.  It is an immersive experience where I feel enriched and have at my disposable a previously unknown font of creative energy.

Play Auditorium – An Exercise in Play and Creativity

Play Auditorium is a spectacular puzzle game created in Flash by CipherPrime.

It combines excellent graphic design with an intuitive and simple interface and a fascinating puzzle concept.

The concept centers around redirecting a stream of sound particles to VU meters using directional objects.  When all of the VU meters on the level are maxxed out you progress to the next level.

Initially you have only white sound particles and your directional objects are limited to relative directions (up, down, left, right) but as you progress through the levels additional colors are added to match alternate VU meters and gravity objects become available.  It seems in the full game many more options and challenges will be included.

I could describe it more but seeing is believing – this clip is of one of the last levels in the demo.

What’s most fascinating is the simplicity of the interface and the interplay of visual objects with sound objects.  These three elements along with the immediate affect your control has over those objects draws you in.

I’ve found myself going back and playing it again and again as I attempt to work out different solutions to the puzzles.  While not necessarily a productivity tool it evokes playful behavior which can be all too lacking in our everyday.

The TED Talk by Tim Brown points out the effectiveness play can have in the creative workplace and PlayAuditorium brings excellent design and playfulness together.

It’s currently in beta awaiting a full release a full 70 plus level game so give it a play.

Tim Brown on Creativity and Play

This is a great presentation by Tim Brown, the CEO of Ideo, on the role creativity and play should have in the design process and the work environment.  It is fascinating to explore how we often leave the openness of play behind as we become adults.  That it is that willingness to make believe which enables the birth of great ideas.

All too often apologies are issued for mistakes which are really no more than experimentation, that pushes the boundaries, those same mistakes which enable us to grow.  Is it really the mistake that we are apologizing for or our embarrassment?