“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” - Ferris Bueller
So true, Ferris. So true. Life moves so quickly that though we intend to make more time to do fun, creative projects (see: everyone’s Pinterest boards), we don’t always fit them into our busy schedules.
This will just not do. We want to add more creativity and happiness to our daily lives, and we think it’s possible just by stopping and looking around a little more often. On that note…
Hope to see you there!
Check out some pics from another photo challenge the Creative Distillery team participated in last year
At long last, a portable coffee shop! Sadly, technology still hasn’t figured out a way to deliver a double espresso to me through my computer screen, but I imagine that this development is just around the corner.
Coffitivity is a brilliant new web app I’ve just started using that is perfect for work-from-home or flexible workplace folks like me:
Research shows it’s pretty hard to be creative in a quiet space. And a loud workplace can be frustrating and distracting. But, the mix of calm and commotion in an environment like a coffee house is proven to be just what you need to get those creative juices flowing. Our team has delivered the vibe of a coffee shop right to your desktop, which means when your workspace just isn’t quite cutting it, we’ve got you covered.
You simply go to the Coffitivity website, press play and listen to the mellow buzz of a coffee shop - cups clinking, soft conversations humming - from wherever you are. The app designers recommend that you listen to your music one notch louder than Coffitivity, creating just the right amount of ambient noise to boost your productivity and creativity.
Last month, I heard about Coffitivity from two different friends who also work from home, and I have been hooked on it since (FYI, Coffitivity + good music is a recipe for success!). I have worked remotely for years because my partners work from Creative Distillery headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi and I live in Naples, Italy. When I was still in the US, I loved taking my laptop to the coffee shop around the corner for at least a few hours a day. I felt I could focus better there than in my house, and I could always get a ton done over a mug of medium roast at Morning Brew in Kailua or PJ’s Coffee in New Orleans.
Unfortunately, since I moved to Italy two and a half years ago, I haven’t had the opportunity to get my daily coffee shop fix (yes, I know, one of the small sacrifices I have to make to live in the birthplace of pizza). The coffee in Naples is the best in the world, but the culture here is to stand at the cafe counter, down an espresso macchiato in 30 seconds and hit the road. No free Wi-Fi, no big tables, no loitering for hours.
I still miss the hustle and bustle of a real coffee shop (not to mention the people-watching opportunities), but using Coffitivity has already made a big difference in my workday. It plays just enough background noise to get me in the work zone without becoming a distraction.
Check it out for yourself: Coffitivity
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I recently read this article while waiting in the dentist’s office: Meet Facebook’s Secret Propaganda Arm: The Analog Research Lab.
Read it. I’m an excruciatingly slow reader and it only took me about 30 seconds.
Then ogle the pictures. This should take you 4-5 times longer than it took to read the article.
Facebook’s got it all — 845 million users, a $104 billion valuation, blackmail-worthy pics of everyone born in the ’90s, and a screen-printing studio. Yup, that’s right: The social-media behemoth houses a basement art studio, the Analog Research Lab, where designers Ben Barry and Everett Katigbak churn out hand-screened posters that go up all over Facebook’s 36 global offices.
Posters, silk screens, drying racks, a lithography press, and hand made linocut type!? I’m pretty sure this is what heaven looks like to designers and typophiles.
I want their job. I’d be ecstatic to make posters all day. I considered telling you about my elaborate plan to take an elevator to the 7 ½th floor, slide behind a filing cabinet and take over one of the designer’s heads (a la Being John Malkovich), but I’ve already said too much about that.
What’s really worth talking about here is that these guys are creating something that is completely internal to Facebook. Not for sale, not for marketing, generally unknown to non-employees. Just a couple of guys making posters with fun slogans.
The idea is an intriguing one. People see a cool poster saying “MOVE FAST AND BREAK THINGS” laugh a little, and they start to get some buzz around the office. Then they start to suggest their own phrases, and maybe they see one in print hanging around down the hall. Oh, they’ll also appear in the 35 other offices around the world as well.
These small interactions build on one another and help create a community that people have ownership in. It’s a community in which creativity is an inherent quality, part of the fiber of the culture. When engrained in the organization like that, creativity can then manifest itself in other areas.
Anyone familiar with Google’s policy of 20% time (in which employees can devote up to 20% of their work time on non-work related creative endeavors and explorations) knows that some of their greatest innovations came from giving their employees time for creative projects. Gmail, Google Maps, Google Earth, Street View (to name only a few) all came of out of employees taking a break from the grind of their normal workday to do something creative.
Time for creative endeavors is not something that can be tacked on at the end of the workday or be expected to happen on off time. It happens concurrently, or rather, it needs to be allowed to happen concurrently, and be given the opportunity to grow. Maybe it’s something that will grow into something marketable, or it maybe it won’t, but the companies and businesses that are willing to commit time and/or resources are investing in their future and the esprit de corps of their organization.
Of course it’s easy for a company worth $104 billion to pay the salaries of two guys so they can make posters all day, but if creativity is your trade, then developing it and maintaining it is important. Maybe it’s arranging seminars or attending conferences or cross-pollinating with another organization. Maybe it’s carving time on a weekly basis for people to share creative/inspiring items they’ve found. While Google’s 20% might be tricky for small offices, even one hour (out of 8 or 9-hour workday) can give people time for exploration. Maybe sharing those projects on a quarterly basis through social media can develop the brand of your organization.
So how do you foster and maintain culture creativity in your organization?
Brian is an officer in the US Navy and a graphic designer. [Editor’s note: Brian is also lucky enough to be married to Creative Distillery partner Gillian.]
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I have never been able to work in silence. I find silence oppressive and distracting, and I always have to have music on in the background while I’m working (since I spend most of my day alone, this also keeps me from talking to myself too much).
It’s a constant challenge to find the best work music for my mood and my current project because: A) I get bored easily and B) I get distracted easily. I default to listening to my favorite playlists, which is dangerous when I’m writing because I get to singing along and all of a sudden I’m typing out Mumford & Sons lyrics (or Miley Cyrus, let’s be honest).
Lately, I’ve been opting for soulful oldies, mellow indie or cheery pop for tasks that require less concentration and Euro electronica or dubstep for writing projects that need more focus.
Spotify recently broke up with me, which was devastating. I had somehow been listening in Italy for the last few months, though it’s not yet available internationally, but Spotify got wise and cut me off until I spring for the $9.99/month premium package with international travel access. I’m not ready to commit to that kind of expense yet, but I do miss the good times we spent together. The Spotify music library is extensive, and I used it mostly to explore new albums and create eclectic work playlists. If you are located in the US, the free version is good and the ads aren’t too invasive.
I’ve been a loyal Pandora One subscriber for three years (no ads, unlimited play for $36 a year), and I still use the service frequently. I like that I can put it on and Pandora handles the music curation for me (unlike Spotify). I do get tired of the repetition of certain songs or artists (why is Coldplay on EVERY station, even after all the “thumbs down” effort I’ve put in?), but I have 100 different stations, so I can jump around often.
Favorite work playlists:
The Civil Wars
The Ditty Bops
3. Streaming radio
The Internet is a magical place, and it allows me to listen to my favorite radio stations back home:
I’ve also been testing out iTunes Radio more often for their international stations, such as Chante France and Radio Valbelluna. Language practice by osmosis! The only drawback for streaming radio is that you have to listen to ads and songs you don’t like.
Songza is my newest favorite. We’re still in the honeymoon phase after just a week of spending time together, but so far, so good. I love that it’s free and ad-free, and it has a lot of cool ways to filter the music you want to listen to, by: genre, mood, activity, decade, etc. (its copywriting is also fun and a little cheeky). I’ve noticed some repetition on certain playlists, but I often hear music that is new to me.
Favorite work playlists:
What kind of work music do you prefer? What’s your favorite website for your workday soundtrack?
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Sweet, sweet summer vacation, how I miss you. Looking back, I’m pretty jealous of my 10-year-old self. I was too young to get a real job, so summer was three months of time off school to read books, swim and play hide-and-seek tag (exactly what I would do now if I had three months of leisure time). Not a bad gig, kid.
Every summer, I went to the library weekly and lugged home a stack of books that struck my fancy. This was before awful required summer assignments in high school (Sophie’s World and Great Expectations, I still hate you), so I was free to skip from Agatha Christie mysteries to Mark Twain adventures to Baby-Sitters Club novels. It was wonderful, and I am trying to make time for some of that magic in my grown-up summer. Here are a few of the books that I look forward to curling up with at the end of the day.
1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I took this book with me on a phone-free, Internet-free vacation last week, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a smart, dark, witty, well-written thriller that was impossible to savor because I needed to find out what happened next.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick Dunne’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick Dunne isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but hearing from Amy through flashbacks in her diary reveal the perky perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
2. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
Jenny Lawson (a.k.a. The Bloggess) consistently writes pieces I wish I had written. Case in point: Beyoncé, the metal chicken (NSFW… unless you work from home). I just started reading her first book, a collection of “mostly true” personal stories, and every page makes me cackle out loud like a crazy person. If you’ve ever read a David Sedaris book on an airplane, you know what I’m talking about.
When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father (a professional taxidermist who created dead-animal hand puppets) and a childhood of wearing winter shoes made out of used bread sacks. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it…
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir is a poignantly disturbing, yet darkly hysterical tome for every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud.
3. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Die and Others Survive by Dan and Chip Heath
Full disclosure: I bought this book last summer, read a quarter of it and got hooked, then abandoned it for something shiny. I picked it up again this week and am kicking myself for not finishing it sooner. It’s in the same vein as Malcolm Gladwell’s work—an attention-grabbing blend of storytelling, research and practical advice.
Mark Twain once observed, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” His observation rings true: Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus public-health scares circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important ideas-businessmen, educators, politicians, journalists, and others—struggle to make their ideas “stick.”
Why do some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? In Made to Stick, accomplished educators and idea collectors Chip and Dan Heath tackle head-on these vexing questions.
4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I’m only 100 pages into this novel, but I love it so far. It’s a story about magic that actually feels magical, unlike a few other recent books everyone else seems to love. I couldn’t make it through Water for Elephants; don’t even get me started on A Discovery of Witches. The Night Circus uses language beautifully to create an extraordinary, yet still believable, world.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.
5. I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
I have seen When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle approximately 1,000 times each, but I’ve never read any of Nora Ephron’s books. A few chapters into this one and I’m convinced I must buy them all immediately.
Ephron chronicles her life as an obsessed cook, passionate city dweller, and hapless parent. She recounts her anything-but-glamorous days as a White House intern during the JFK years (“I am probably the only young woman who ever worked in the Kennedy White House that the President did not make a pass at”) and shares how she fell in and out of love with Bill Clinton—from a distance, of course. But mostly she speaks frankly and uproariously about life as a woman of a certain age.
What’s on your summer reading list?
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