All posts by “amanda

#averbaday in May

Confession time: I missed six days in May. Still, I’m calling the effort a moderate success. This little video includes all 24 #averbaday sketches I drew in May.

Just last night I decided that for the month of June I’m going to draw all the people I meet everyday. I’ll probably interpret the term “meet” loosely. You should join me! Or follow along on Instagram.

Creativity + Habit

averbaday-smileOne of the books I recently finished was The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp. In it, Tharp taps into her own experience as a choreographer to share her creative process, as well as a bunch of exercises to help you get the most out of your own creativity and creative habit. One of those exercises is called “Do a Verb” where you choose a verb and apply movement to it in order to get your creative juices flowing (physically). Of course, given my current creative habit of choice, as soon as I read that, I immediately thought, “draw a verb!” So everyday, I’ve been picking a random verb and drawing some representation of it. Some verbs have been inspired by some other activity I’ve done that day, like last week, when we went to an event with great music and “listen” seemed to be the right verb for that day; or a couple of days ago, when I found a bunch of gorgeous blue jay feathers on a walk, and “find” became the only possible verb for the day. And other days, I won’t lie, I’ve picked what I wanted to draw first and then chose the appropriate verb to go with it. That’s cheating, right? Whatever, I’m drawing daily and that’s the point!

averbaday-pointSo, speaking of drawing daily being the point, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned about creativity over the past few months is that it is fueled by habit. By routines. By choosing a time or theme or goal (or, best of all, all three) and cranking out work accordingly. Having a theme and a goal (a verb + one drawing a day) has really helped me put pen to paper everyday, which was the whole point of signing on to the 100 day project in the first place. But what I still struggle with is carving out the time to do it. Drawing over lunch has worked for the past couple of days, but I know I can’t always rely on lunch hour. So my next challenge is to pick a time of day and get to work, even for a few minutes, everyday at that time. Updates on that as progress warrants.

averbaday-findI’ve been posting these to Instagram almost daily (with the hashtag #averbaday) and will continue to do so until the end of May, so hop on over and follow me there for regular updates. (Note to self: pick a theme for June!)


Do a lot of work

Ira Glass didn’t make the point recently. It was actually five years ago that we first heard the words but they’re still words I think about frequently, maybe even more so now, what with my current obsession with the creative process. I’ve been compiling a list of things I’ve learned from all that reading and at the very top of that list is some incarnation of Glass’ advice to just do a lot of work.

Here’s the complete thought, beautifully presented, twice.

I pretty much loved everything I read in April

april readsIt’s true, I did. I was at the beach for the first week of the month so I got to lose myself in a few really good novels and I emerged from those novels (and that week) feeling both restored and a bit hungover from all those words. And most of the rest of my reading month was spent with books about art, design, and the creative process. Winners, all of them!

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
There isn’t much I can say about this novel that hasn’t already been said. It’s brilliant and clever and I loved every word of it.

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My first Adichie and I’m thrilled there’s another one of her novels on my to-read shelf. I positively devoured this.

All New People, Anne Lamott
I just couldn’t shake these characters. I felt like I was surrounded by them the whole time I was reading this novel, which made me wish even more that this book was longer, so those thoroughly beloved, absorbing characters could stick around just a bit longer.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson (audio)
Funny and clever and heartwarming.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple
There I was, in an airport, facing a 5-hour flight with nothing to read and a fairly scant airport news stand that had maybe 12 novels on it. Turns out this is the perfect book for in-flight reading: light, funny, and completely absorbing.

Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology, Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton (illustrations)
Cat owners/lovers, take note: you will love this book. You won’t be able to help yourself. It’s a really sweet story and the illustrations are delightful.

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, David Bayles and Ted Orland (audio)
Another book about the creative process and probably one of my favourites of the lot. Lately I’ve been loving listening to non-fiction when I drive (it’s sort of like really good radio/a podcast) but with this one I found myself wishing I could mark an excerpt or scribble something in the margin. There was so much here that I wanted to make note of and revisit.

How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer, Debbie Millman (audio)
Interviews with all the great names in graphic design — Sagmeister! Beirut! Glaser! Scher! Vignelli! A total treat.

March reads

March BooksReading that Lamott last month really unlocked some sort of latent yearning in me to understand the creative process. I read four more books on the subject this month and I feel like I’m only just scratching the surface of the topic. I’m off on a short holiday at the beginning of April and only packing fiction so that should address the fiction/non-fiction imbalance. Meanwhile, it was a jam packed month for books, here’s all of it.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain (audio)
Full disclosure: I am an introvert. More disclosure: I was skeptical about this book going in. Ever since I first ran through the Myers-Briggs assessment (MBTI), I’ve struggled with this notion that I could only ever be one or the other, an introvert or an extrovert (incidentally, my MBTI always skews to extroversion — I think that’s behaviour I’ve learned specifically for the workplace), and with the fact that there never seemed to be any room for introverts with extrovert characteristics and vice versa. Then there’s that maddening underlying sense of judgement when it comes to introversion and extroversion and how, depending on who you talk to, one is always better than the other. In my reading of this book, Cain only falls into one of those three traps (i.e. introverts are thinkers, extroverts are doers, and thinking is definitely more highly valued), which probably accounts for why I responded so generously to it. The three elements of this book I found most interesting were the physiological context, the cultural discussion around how many modern day environments (workplaces, schools, etc.) are structured for extroverts and to encourage extroversion, and the advice for how to raise introverted children in ways that allow them to truly flourish. I really enjoyed reading this.

Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share your Creativity and Get Discovered, Austin Kleon
I really enjoyed Steal Like an Artist and I loved this follow-up, too. Kleon’s got a lot of great ideas (which you see in action if you read his blog or follow him on Twitter/Instagram/wherever) and he shares them in this unique and thoroughly authentic voice. This is a quick little read that gets you excited about your work, whatever that work may be.

On Writing, Stephen King (audio)
What a thoroughly enjoyable book. If you’ve read any Stephen King at all you won’t be surprised to hear that this book is chockful of witty, no-nonsense advice. And the audio is narrated by King himself! So good.

A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
I wanted to love this book, truly I did. I do generally enjoy alternating perspectives as a literary device and I think Ozeki handled that capably. And there are many parts of this book that are beautifully lyrical. Ultimately though, I found Ruth’s melancholy about as dull as I found Naoko’s story compelling.

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, danah boyd
I’ve long been a fan of danah boyd’s work, having read her blog and followed her research for years. This book is a condensed version of that research, based on years of interviewing teens, and written for a general audience. It’s a really solid look at how teens interact with and on social media, debunking a lot of the negative and alarmist stuff that gets reported in the mass media (Online predators! Time-wasting! Anti-social behaviour!) in a very level-headed, evidence-based way. It’s a good, quick read.

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell (audio)
Sweet, funny, charming, and smart. I got sucked into this story pretty quickly and I struggled to put it down. Easily five stars if it wasn’t for the ending.

Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Advice & Projects from 50 Successful Artists, Danielle Krysa
I fully expected to love this book. I’ve been reading (and loving) The Jealous Curator for many years and Danielle has featured a bunch of these artists on her site. What I didn’t expect was to read this book, cover to cover, in sequential order, in a matter of days. I thought I’d leave it there on the coffee table and just sort of pick it up and paw through it occasionally, when I felt like looking at pretty pictures, being inspired, or, yes, when I needed a bit of unblocking. Instead I opened it to page one on the day it hit my doorstep and that was that. I took it to bed with me at night. I stuffed it in my bag when I went out. I couldn’t stop greedily reading about artist after brilliant artist (I am *this* close to challenging myself to try every single “Creative Unblock” project in the book). This is such a lovely, inspirational read, so tightly packed with useful advice and project ideas. I’ll be going back to this book for years.

Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage, Rob Delaney (audio)
Amusing, brave, nauseating. You can’t help but wonder how Rob Delaney is still alive.

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, B. J. Novak (audio)
Some books are just better in audio. This is one of those books. Not only does this version feature some awesome guest narrators (Lena Dunham! Rainn Wilson! Mindy Kaling!), but the stories themselves are hilarious, clever, and thoroughly entertaining.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield
A quick little read that recaps a lot of what I read in King’s On Writing. Bottom line advice? Just sit down and do the work. Hearing (reading) that advice over and over is never a bad thing.