Creativity: it’s all around us

“Why is it important to be creative?” This is the question posed by my local writing group as a blog post topic.

I’ve thought about creativity for most of my life. I am the third of six children and early on I realised that my siblings could do thing I couldn’t, like draw,  dance, make up songs and play musical instruments well.

Our much-loved great-uncle Tom Doerer, was a successful cartoonist and newspaper man, who started his career as a copy-boy for the legendary satirist HL Mencken. Allan Holtz, a comic strip historian and author, wrote an very informative post regarding my great uncle here.

Our grandmother, Anna Mezzacappa, cooked with the radio on and sang along to the Italian opera programs in perfect pitch. Our grandfather, Giovanni Pergolini, was a tailor ‘un sarto’ who created beautiful coats and hats for us children out of seemingly little fabric, no more leftover scraps from his tailoring business.

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To me, these people in my life were ‘creative types’. My notion of creativity was tied to expression in writing, painting, drawing, sewing and musical ability.

My parents, Owen and Louise, however, were not what I thought of as creative. Our father studied accounting  and worked in project management finance for a contractor to the burgeoning US Space Program. Our mother was a nurse. They were both well-read, kind, funny and incredibly supportive of us six kids. They loved music and introduced us to the likes of Mario Lanza, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Neither could play an instrument and dad used to say he had two left feet on the dance floor.

My own path to creativity has been a slow road. I won a spelling bee in 5th grade. I remember my teacher telling me that to win, I would not only have to spell the words, but I would also have to use each word correctly in a sentence.

More than 50 years later I can’t recall my winning word but I do remember sitting in bed with my pencil and exercise book visualising verbs and nouns and subjects and objects. Fascinated with the combinations that could be created I’d fall asleep, pencil in hand, and awake with sounds and visions of ‘Ships sail on azure seas’  or ‘Rhythmic music is played on bongo drums’, ‘azure’, ‘rhythmic’ and ‘bongo’ being words I had studied.  To this day I have a recurring dream of waking up with my pencil poking me in the side.

I knew one day I would write. I didn’t know what I would write though. At University I studied one class in Creative Writing. I wrote short stories and sketches for the class. Although my writing was good enough for a beginner, I knew I couldn’t expect to repay my student loan as a Theatre Technician or a Writer.  Eventually, with a love of new, emerging technology and an ability to write I landed a contract as a Technical Writer. It turned into a 30+ year career working in different industries.

For some years I thought I had settled for a cop-out career and was suppressing a creative writer urge. But slowly, I began to see the creativity in the work I was doing, finding ways to turn technical information into language the lay-person could understand, or designing a graphic to appeal to visual learners.  I’ve worked for publishers, financial institutions, government IT departments, software companies, utilities, consulting firms and more. In each of these places I have worked with creative people.

I have come to recognize creativity outside of the traditional creative (Arts) industries. A large part of creativity is ability to solve problems, to connect the dots, to recognise patterns, to see what others don’t see, and to use that knowledge to better our lives.

The application interface that you love on your smartphone was designed by a creative person (who also knows how to write elegant code). Your favourite restaurant meal was conceived by a clever chef (and cooked by a team of passionate and creative people with great knife skills).  The botanic garden that you stroll through was laid out by a master horticulturist (and planted by a group of strong souls with an eye for beauty).

I see now that my parents were genuinely creative. My accountant dad dreamed of the future of space and used his considerable analytical skills to support that passion for the future of exploration. My mother managed a job and a household on a shoestring, cooked delicious and healthy meals and encouraged each of us kids to pursue our own diverse paths – all with no preconceived notion of how we should conduct our lives.

Why is creativity important? Our survival depends on it. Imagining new ways to not just live, but thrive, in an ever-changing world requires some divergent thinking. Fortunately, most of us are capable of that.

*****

This piece is part of the August 2018 Writers of Adelaide blog chain. To read what others in the group have to say on the subject of creativity, check out their blog posts:

Fontella Koleff
https://crossbordertales.wordpress.com
Ryan Peck
https://adelaidedad.com
Dean Mayes
http://www.deanfromaustralia.com
Kirsty Davis
https://kirstydavisart.com.au
Heidi Arellano
https://marissakeller.blogspot.com
Jennifer Sando
http://www.jennifersando.com/blog

Follow the group on Facebook here.

A belated wish for 2014

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Greetings from my desk, complete with my new fit ball/desk chair.

The year 2014 and I have gotten off to a rocky start. Already we’ve had some ups and downs.

Roo and I arrived home from our marvellous time in Argentina and Chile, documented here, on 30 December after a long flight. Santiago-Auckland-Sydney-Adelaide. That’s 18 hours of actual flying, but about 24 door-to-door. Ouch!

So we didn’t make it till midnight on New Year’s Eve. It was all I could do to watch the fireworks on TV in Sydney, which is of course a half-hour ahead of us here in Adelaide. My head hit the pillow at 11.47 pm and I was out!

The first week back was filled with restocking the house with food after 6 weeks away, doing copious amounts of laundry and generally tidying our personal effects.  As well, I had registered for an intensive 5 day training course (Certificate IV in Training And Assessment) that required me to do some pre-work in the form of watching some training videos and completing some workbook exercises. My computer decided to give me grief as I was starting my pre-work for the course. Stress levels rose! But I sorted it and averted any major computer or personal melt-down. Suffice to say that first week was full.

Week 2 was my intensive course week. From Monday through Friday, 8.30am till 5.pm, I was in a room with other learners cramming six months of coursework into our five days. This included giving two presentations on which I was judges against a long list of criteria. Because of the compressed time to complete the course there was homework and preparation every night. Half way through the week I started itching. My back felt like I had a spider bite or a bad mosquito bite. However my course did not allow me time to scratch or see a doctor.

My presentations went off without a hitch and I received some feedback that I can use to improve my delivery and my engagement with learners.

Saturday morning I rode my bike to the doctor. One look at my back (and front) and he declared, “Oh, you’ve got shingles”. Great, thanks! My chicken-pox virus from circa 1958 had been percolating along just fine until a point of low immunity when it decided to rear its ugly, red, itchy head.

Meanwhile, on the Friday morning of my course, Speedy the wonder cat was found licking his wounds in the potting shed. He was nowhere to be found when it was time for he and brother Jose to come in the night before. It seems he had a run in with a car, motorcycle or bike. He was limping and had some visible abrasions and a minor cut on one leg. He is a curious and fearless cat, but this has slowed him down for a few days. Roo got him checked at the vet and it seems he’s on life number seven or six of his allocated nine about now…

So that’s where we are now. Fourteen days into the new year and I have gained the qualification I was working for and gotten a disease as a bonus! The cat has had a near-miss but survived another day. The good with the bad.

I do have some hopes for the year. Being healthy is high on the list. Eating well from what each season has to offer is always there. Writing and reading more are also up there. Appreciating the moment, just being, is also high up. And engaging with friends and family and followers, in the myriad of ways and means we have at our disposal, is a goal.

I need a nap. Peace everyone!

Learning to be a better blogger in Abruzzo

I have to admit that the idea of going to Abruzzo to learn more about the art and craft of blogging has struck some of my friends and colleagues as an odd thing.  To be honest, most of them have never heard of Abruzzo. Unless, of course it’s just the humorous mention of  it by a character in the recent Australian film ‘Red Dog‘.  The mine worker, Vanno, is always singing the praises of his homeland in Italy, “Ah, now in the Abruzzi…” followed by any of “…the women are the most beautiful” or “…the food is the best in the world” or “…the scenery is fantastic”.  As a migrant in a desolate, woman-less, remote mining outpost of Western Australia in the 1970s it’s easy to see how Vanno would have a sense of Abruzzo as a paradise on earth! But there’s a lot of truth in this idealised vision of our character’s homeland.

From a cousin's house in Morro D'Oro, Teramo, looking back towards the mountains.
From a cousin’s house in Morro D’Oro, Teramo, looking back towards the mountains.

As someone who also has heritage in Abruzzo, I seem to have an attraction to web sites or blogs that discuss Italy (refer previous post here) and more so if the content mentions the word ‘Abruzzo’.  So when I learnt of the Let’s Blog Abruzzo event (yes I have been following the blog of one of the organisers) I thought, “what a wonderful alignment of the planets”.  A visit to Bell’Abruzzo. A room full of people all interested in Abruzzo food, wine and tourism. A room full of people who know so much more than me about blogging. A session to help me with my photography. A list of sponsors who produce food and wine that we will be able to taste. An opportunity to meet people whose blogs I have been following for ages. It was a ‘no brainer’…

I am so looking forward to seeing family, attending the conference in a part of Abruzzo that I’ve not been to before – the hill-top town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio – and immersing myself in all that Let’s Blog Abruzzo has to offer. Ci vediamo presto!

The pleasures of home

Today is my last day off before going back to work. I have been off since the 3rd of September, with most of my time off spent in Italy.

Travelling is great, there is no doubt about that in my mind. Here’s a favourite quote of mine:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
Mark Twain – Innocents Abroad

Just as I love travelling, I also love coming home and want to celebrate some of the pleasures.

Lunch in Chinatown
Chilling out in the garden
Seeing the Jacaranda trees in bloom
Our buddies Speedy and Jose Gonzalez

And there are more which I will write about in the future. So welcome home us!

New iPhone WordPress Application

Andrew downloaded the WordPress app for me yesterday. This is my first attempt at using it. First impression, it’s intuitive enough but I would like more dashboard functionality. Not sure how to add photos, links etc. So I will save this text and check it out.

Right-o, all I had to do was click Done, after save and the menu appeared when typing pad was hidden. Again with random photo.

I selected a photo but don’t see reference to it here now. Will publish and hope for best.

The tyranny of the day job

In itself, my job at the documentation factory is not that bad.  I am currently redesigning forms for a credit union using Adobe LiveCycle Designer.  “Designing forms, how boring” I hear you say.  But, believe me, if you like technology and getting to play with new software, and feel good about process improvements and that sort of thing, it’s actually a great job.  In the main, the people I work with are funny and interesting and have interesting skills and knowledge to bring to the team.

The problem is that I spend five days a week at work and there are so many other things I want to pursue.  I am not getting any younger and the days are not getting any longer than the standard 24 hours. Most days go by so quickly. I have not written in this blog since the new year’s long weekend ended and I went back to work. Perhaps I am just not disciplined enough.

On a more positive note, I began my stint for 2010 as a volunteer with the Adelaide Fringe working in the workshop where the opening night parade floats are built. Adelaide’s Fringe is second in the world only to Edinburgh, Scotland. And it’s the largest fringe festival in the southern hemisphere.

Some familiar faces at the workshop: Tsubi and Katherine who I met on the 2006 Fringe.  Both women are parade designers and both are talented, easy-going and fun.  I look forward to working with them again. Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons. The parade is on the evening of 19 February in the streets of Adelaide. Be there or be incredibly square.

The year that was – 2009

Well, 2009 went off without too many personal dramas.  I was fortunate  enough to go with Andrew to South America for 5 and a half weeks. From Late march till the end of May.  We were blessed with great weather everywhere we went which made trekking around very comfortable. I reunited with a travel companion from 30 years ago, Amalia Solari Faerman and met her funny husband Gustavo and their 3 grown children in Buenos Aires.  I really loved South America and long to return to see a bit more…That trip has been heavily chronicled in earlier posts.

My work with the IPED National Editors Conference finished in October when we presented a fantastic conference here in Adelaide. Visit the site.  I wrote most of the ‘News’ section: http://www.editors-sa.org.au/?q=IPEd%20conference

On the work front we both had enough to keep us going and I made a weak attempt at reducing my hours to 9, rather than 10 days a fortnight.  It only lasted a few months and now I am back to full time.  Work is challenging due to the departure of a boss who had the technical skills to take me through this particular project I am working on. We are getting through the work, just more slowly than expected.

In the household we have enjoyed our two ginger tabby brother cats antics, especially the precocious Speedy! He and Jose are so fun to watch and at 2 years old still have heaps of kitten in them.

We are just about finished a minor renovation that opened a few rooms up, re-purposed a few and gave us a new kitchen.  There is still some painting and tiling to do and a tidy-up of the office, but these things take time.

On a literary note I read quite a few books this year including Cloud Atlas, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, The Time Traveler’s Wife,  The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Dear Fatty, the Power of One and probably more…currently just about to finish A Secret History, by Donna Tartt. Not a bad year, but I have other books on the go and stacks on the bedside table and bookshelves waiting to be read.

I attempted NaNoWriMo but was not really successful! See previous posts.

Musically, we saw a few live performances, notably Ry Cooder and Nick Lowe at the Festival Centre here in Adelaide, a Joni Mitchell Tribute at the Sydney Opera House, Leonard Cohen at a winery in McLaren Vale, near Adelaide, and of course Neil Young at the Big Day Out in Adelaide. (Next year we are already looking forward to seeing Ravi Shankar at WOMADELAIDE – http://womadelaide.com.au/.)

The goals for the new year will include those post-reno tasks, more reading and writing and a commitment to getting rid of stuff.  Here’s to more free time in the new year!

I dub thee NaNoWriYr

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. It was supposed to be a “month of literary abandon”.  Well, in 19 days I have managed 1245 words where I should have written 30-odd thousand by now. 

 Having decided on a topic and main character I set about writing my first 200 words on a flight from Sydney to Adelaide on 1 November. That night while asleep my subconscious must have been churning away. I awoke with a dream that my main character was holding a blade to my throat in a very threatening manner.  That did put me off a bit and I did not write for the next few days.

I have rethought my characters and plot. I have changed the tone and attitude towards the main character.  In fact I have structured the whole thing so that there are multiple character sketches around a central theme rather than the story being about the one main character.  So a series of vignettes is probably closer to what I will end up with.  Since I have never written a novel, or even attempted to, I think the character development will be a useful exercise.

Will I get to 50,000 words in a month?  Doubtful. In a year? Perhaps. That is why I dub thee NaNoWriYr – National Novel Writing Year.

Call yourself a blogger?

Well, I have not typed a word here for many months, so what is going on?  Well, I think work is getting in the way of life.  Common problem I know…

However, recently I have had the opportunity to go away and spend some time away from the ‘documentation factory’.  Because I spend 8+ hours a day, 5 days a week at the keyboard and monitor, I do not race home to do more keyboarding and monitoring.  The up side of this is that I have read a few more books in 2008.  In a typical year I manage 3 or 4. In 2008 I did closer to about 12.  “Still not a huge amount”, I hear you say.  True, but I do read all day at work.

This year I have read books loaded or recommended by friends.  Some highlights were:

  • The Book Thief
  • The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
  • The Rip
  • The Last Chinese Chef

All for different reasons.

Currently working on Cloud Atlas and 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel.

Having a break from Society of Editors duties until end of January.  So I will see how much ‘a bloggin’ I will achieve until it all kicks in again.

Catherine from our China trip is coming to town soon, so there is a very strong chance that we will be having Peking Duck at Ming’s Palace, the place for duck in Adelaide.

Entertainment horizon ~ Neil Young at the Big Day Out in Adelaide (woo hoo), Leonard Cohen at Leconfield Winery’s Day on the Green with Paul Kelly (mmm, a Canadian theme with Young and Cohen) , then the Fringe, whatever that brings…now I must hang out the laundry.