Review: Ignore Everybody, and 39 Other Keys to Creativity

I don’t normally pile on when a book has more than 20 reviews already, but the distribution of reaction here is a bit unusual so I thought I’d add one more five-star vote. I love this book. I’ve looked at it a dozen times in the bookstore and never carried it out; kept thinking I could get it all for free. I follow Hugh’s blog. I am a professional artist. I know this stuff.

And I can’t be reminded enough. I read the book straight through, then reread Orbiting the Giant Hairball, which covers some of the same material in a corporate setting, and then back to Ignore Everybody, pretty much in one evening. I wanted to see how the two books covered the territory. They’re similar, and if you hated Hairball, stay away from MacLeod. I’m juiced. I’m supported, encouraged, permissioned, understood.

There are, I suppose, creative people who are surrounded by encouraging, supportive communities, people who have adequate sales from their creative output (and sometimes that’s a regular paycheck) to never worry if they’re doing the right work (or partners with good benefit programs), who live free of the fear of having their ideas knocked off on another continent. There must be such people. I’ve never met them, but they must exist.

For the rest of us, there are books. Ignore Everybody is the latest. Art and Fear is my favorite, the one I carry when I fly because it’s small and can be finished in the amount of time it takes to fly anywhere. Ignore Everybody will sit right next to it on the shelf. Hairball is there, although I’m not in corporate anymore. Jessica Hagy sits on the same shelf, and If you only knew how much I smell you, and George Leonard’s Mastery, and Brian Andreas.

It’s not clear to me why this book was shelved, and perhaps sold, as a business creativity book. I would have expected to find it closer to The Artist’s Way. On one hand, creativity is creativity, but on the other, there’s a difference between making art and making business. Ignore Everybody is more about the personal elements of creativity–getting your head and your behavior out of the way.

Michael Pollan sums his own work up in seven words–eat food, mostly plants, not too much–and doesn’t let that stop him selling yet another book. What does it matter that MacLeod can do the same thing?

Now go to your studio and make stuff.

Ignore Everybody

Review: Planner Books

I love these books. I use them as planners, by gluing a paper copy of my Outlook calendar into a two-page spread, and leaving blank pages for notes in between each week (and another pair of pages in between each month). I get about 9 months to a book which helps to break the “only starting new stuff in January” problem. I like the color, I like the size, I like the binding, I like the numbered pages. The books would, perhaps, be more perfect if the pages were unlined but they are a product for the accounting market and that may be too much to ask.

My life improved when I finally accepted that no commercial calendar or planner did everything I needed to do. For today (and for the past several years), this book and system works for me.

I use these books, and have for the past 8 years, to make my own custom planner. I couldn’t find any commercial planner that allowed me the right combination of schedule, notes, view-ahead, and flexibility that worked for my life. Every week, I print an Outlook 7-day calendar and glue it into a 2-page spread. My planner runs for 9 months / volume, which helps to break the sense that life starts anew in January. When a future week’s calendar gets cluttered with hand-written changes, I just print a fresh copy (post-a-note gluesticks!).

Numbered pages let me add a TOC (table of contents).

The size is convenient to carry and large enough to take good notes.

I simply can’t “see” enough of my life on any of the electronic calendars to plan readily. A paper-based system works all the time, charged-or-not, lets me think and plan the non-committed time, and lets me see the shape of time bigger than any one week. YMMV.

I love these books.

Review: The View From The Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way In An Uncertain World

I’m just another artist with a day job, and while I may know, at some level, many of the ideas in this book, it is completely worth the time it took to read and the money it cost to buy. I read it twice right away, actually, and it will join Art & Fear in my flight carry-on because they’re good books for times when you can’t make your own art.

I particularly relish the way Ted speaks to artists in all media; there’s far too much “truth for every artist” that turns out to be for painters only.

I come away strengthened, encouraged, set back on my path. I am doing the right thing and I don’t have to know where this path leads. It did used to be different for artists but it’s not that way now and make your art anyway.

Heck, a therapist or a creativity coach will charge a lot more and take a lot longer to get you to the same place!

If I were writing the book, I would devote much less space to art students, but perhaps my distaste for that chapter has its roots in major-envy, in that I want to believe life would be different if only I’d recognized a path earlier. And yet probably my life would have been much the same if I had, only with no insurance.

Own the book. It’s doesn’t cost much, and it’s worth it. Someone over in the Art & Fear reviews noted that all the used copies are completely covered in highlighting and margin notes. My copy of View is well on its way to the same end.

The View from the Studio Door

Review: 7 Mistakes Greeting Card Writers Make

Quick little book worth every penny. One sentence made me look up and say, “Well, I just got my money’s worth from this!” I’ll let you read the book yourself in case your sentence is different from my sentence.

Four not five because it’s not, for me, a life-changing book; four not three because it is an excellent solution to exactly what it says it is. Some of these mistakes may not apply to you, particularly if you are planning to sell your own cards, rather than writing for a greeting card company.

One sentence. That’s all it takes. I found the sentence that mattered to me. You probably will, too.

7 Mistakes Greeting Card Writers Make

Review: Turn Your Art/Photography into Profitable Greeting Cards Online

I’m new to the POD art world, learning my way around the various e-commerce systems for selling digital versions of my art. I am only just beginning to see greeting cards as a possible product.

If you have art to sell and need a low-cost, entry-level product, consider learning about the POD options available to you today in greeting cards.

Reading Stephanie’s book was a very useful, cost-effective introduction to marketplace sites for greeting cards, as opposed to stand-alone e-commerce platforms (Cafe Press vs. Shopify, for example). I came away with a lot of ideas for what to do next and am completely satisfied with the cost-per-idea / encouragement ratio.

This book is a perfect match for Kindle–instant; brief, inspiration to be consumed during a road trip where I wouldn’t have internet access.

(Four not five because it is not a life-changing book; four not three because it is a perfect answer to the problem it proposes to solve.)

Turn Your Art into Profitable Greeting Cards

Review: Amazon Basics Packing Cubes

I was completely prepared to say that packing cubes were a waste of time for normal packers; they might be OK for neat freaks.


They ARE useful for project toting and storage, however: sewing projects in process, so you can keep all the bits together. Knitting and quilting that needs assembly.

And then I packed a rolling duffel bag for an out-of-town wedding. One of those whopping great shapeless rectangle spaces, where everything gets mushed and muddled and sinks to the bottom of the bag. I have a cube for underwear, one for exercise gear, one for street clothes and one for the dress & accessories I will wear to the ceremony. And everything stows, and won’t shift (much), and I will be able to find it when I get there.

I’m a convert.

These packing cubes turn out to also be great for packing motorcycle saddlebags. Makes it easy to load and unload, to keep his-and-her stuff separate, and to not have to rummage through everything in the saddlebag to look for those socks…

https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Packing-Cubes-Medium-4-Piece/dp/B00SXKUIX8/ref=cm_rdp_product

What it Took To Create That Post

I knocked out two blog posts in as many days that were helpful to me, and perhaps helpful to anyone reading this website, about planning from ground-level up to 30,000′.
I teach social media marketing, and WordPress website development, and I am aware that what we teach does not always translate into students having the ability to create content on the fly. I thought about what it took to get those two posts from conception to publication. There are a lot of skills involved, and a lot of tools. Here’s a flow chart:

The skills and tools used to create the posts about Levels of Planning

The skills and tools used to create the posts about Levels of Planning

Save

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Processing an Idea for Content

What do you do when you have an idea for social media or website content?

Just like entrepreneurial wannabes who think their ideas are worth millions, it can be hard to know exactly what to do when you have an idea that could be useful content marketing material, if only you knew what to do with it.

I’m learning Creately, the process mapping tool, and I find myself creating decision trees to help clarify my thinking. This is another one: processing ideas for content. I do this on automatic pilot now, but it wasn’t always that easy. I tried to document the steps I follow.

What to do when you get struck by an idea for a potential content marketing item.

What to do when you get struck by an idea for a potential content marketing item.

Let me know if you have questions about the map or the process. I’m still learning the tool. Building a real map that can be printed on paper helps me see where the sticking points are, as well as where my thinking is cloudy.

Live version of the map

WD40 for Content Creation

Sometime in December, I noticed I was getting a little more content onto my websites than I had for several years. It felt like I had sprayed WD-40 into a very very rusty mechanism. I was just barely able to get some motion out of the machine, but I knew it would rust solid again very quickly if I didn’t keep up the effort. It was hard.

Over the past six weeks, I have written about clearing and cleaning and getting rid of stuff, and over the past two weeks, I have been getting rid of stuff in my digital world. Cleaning up my blogs.

Yesterday, I finished the exercise of aligning blog categories. Then I went on to inventory the posts remaining in draft status, that are not reviews, and there weren’t all that many. My brain thought there should have been more. I realized that I had lots and lots of ideas for blog posts, some of which had been documented with images, but many of those images had not actually been processed and uploaded to the web. In other cases, images had been uploaded to the website but never added to a blog post.

Listing of existing blog post content, either in draft or image form.

Listing of existing blog post content, either in draft or image form.

I looked around the folders where I keep my images, and I came up with the basic list shown in the picture above. Apparently, I didn’t take a picture of it before I started writing all over it.

Last night, I reviewed the list, and noted which posts are practically ready to go and simply needed to be proofed once, and which posts needed major amounts of work before they would be ready, and then there were some that simply weren’t ready to be evaluated at all.

When I sat down at my desk this morning, my brain had been working on the list overnight. The handwritten notes running vertically indicate huge amounts of new content I want to write. I also realize that some of my idea notebooks are moving into the lineup. I don’t know what’s in some of these notebooks.

One set of notebooks, some of which have article notes.

One set of notebooks, some of which have article notes.

This must be what it was like to start one of those enormous wagon trains that crossed the country 200 years ago. The leaders started moving, and it might take days before the movement reached the back of the train. The settlers at the back were no less important to the effort than the ones at the front.

Perhaps some of the content has been aged out. I can let it go.

Listing of notes for future blog posts

Listing of notes for future blog posts

Some of the notes will be useful. By the time I get what is already in draft, published, I’m sure there will be 3 or 4 more pages of ideas lined up waiting for pictures and content and production.

Save

Save

Organizing my websites

I run four websites for my own business activities:

  • Red Tuxedo, where I talk about productivity and being useful in social media
  • Rugs from Rags, where I write about making textile art
  • Karen Tiede Studio, where I sell my Textile Art
  • Karen Tiede.com, where I write about all the other artsy things I do for love and fun including hula hooping

It’s a handful.

January turned out to be a month of clearing and decluttering and getting rid of stuff and putting stuff in places I could find it in a pinch. This mostly happened in my real life. I’m not done, but I have hauled a lot of stuff to the swap shed and the recycle bins.

February is turning out to be a time of cleaning out my electronic life. My digital records. I started my going through my pictures folder, where I have over 14 gig of images, many of which are duplicates or junk or not needed. I know digital storage is cheap, but my backup system only takes 125 gigs and I have exceeded it a couple of times already. It’s worth a little bit of TV time to cull pictures and reduce that total size if I can.

I found myself creating two and three blog post day the sites I routinely manage. I’ve learned how to dictate blog post from my phone, and upload pictures directly from my phone, and it’s all very fun and easy.

What it’s not, however, is “clear.” I don’t know where stuff goes. I don’t know what to call it. I don’t know where to put it. And I do believe that “if you can’t find it, you don’t own it,” and if I can’t find an article on a website, neither can you. All this content is not driving any business my way if nobody can find it.  Even worse, none of this content can drive traffic until it is published, and I had nearly 100 posts sitting in draft status at the beginning of last week, over 8 years of managing websites.

It became obvious it was time to align my websites, so that I could tell reliably where stuff went, so I knew how to categorize blog posts and where to put them, and so I knew what I had.

Three years ago, I moved my websites from one host to another, and it was a royal muck-up. Pretty much all the content got duplicated against three different sites. I  wrestled the bigger pieces apart, but the older blog posts wound up everywhere.

The first step in organizing was to cross-check each of the sites against the other, and make sure blog posts lived on the site where they belong, and not on any others. This was fairly simple. I displayed both two sites’ post listings side-by-side, checking titles and deleting duplicate posts from the site where they did not belong. This resulted in the loss of roughly 50 posts on each site. Progress.

Then it was time to make sure each of the posts was listed in the correct categories. This turned out to be much more challenging.

I have, from time to time, turn to the Dewey Decimal System as an organizing principle. It’s academic, I agree, I understand, and that’s me. Deal with it. It is also widely understood and followed, and reliable.

I have a paper (book) guide to the Dewey Decimal System, which goes to the two-digit decimals. It is about an inch and a half thick. A guide that goes to three decimal places is approximately 6 feet long. Google will not give me helpful results in asking about what category a particular idea belongs in. Google just sends me to Dewey Decimal references. I think there ought to be a better way, but I can’t find it. Therefore I have to trust my book and its index. This may be a bit of a force fit; yet I’m able to be consistent.

Revising blog category listings to be consistent.

Revising blog category listings to be consistent.

I had to start with the major categories. Mostly, I write about technology, and Fine Arts, although there is a little bit about ideas, so I cover the 000, the 600s, and the 700s. I use those as my major headings and then used second headings for the subcategories.

On KarenTiede.com I write about home ec. I used to write about sewing on that website before I moved Textile Art to Rugs From Rags, so I left those posts there. That they have huge numbers of links. (Today, I would put those posts on rugs from Rags, but I don’t want to move them.)

On Rugs From Rags, pretty much all the post fall under Fine Arts, specifically 746 textiles. There’s a little bit of marketing.

Red Tuxedo turns out to more challenging, because it’s mostly about business and social media. My edition of the Dewey Decimal guidelines doesn’t even have Facebook in the index. It was written long before the internet. I may have to go to the library and walk around the nonfiction section slowly, looking for Dewey Decimal numbers to know where to put stuff.

I am an amateur taxonomist. I enjoy walking around a large store, imagining the taxonomy behind product display.  Taxonomy is why you can walk into the grocery store and pretty much figure out where things are going to be. Websites ought to be the same way. I think it would be helpful if websites could send you clearly to articles you might be interested in.

For today, applying the Dewey Decimal System to my own content is going to have to do. It forces me to think about what do I write about, and where does it go, and how is any one of these posts related to any other.