Creativity is Not Accidental

“What do you want to do this weekend?”

This question, unanswered, still hangs in the late August twilight.

Instead, the glare of oncoming headlights going way too fast, the crunch of metal. The sensation of spinning through space and time. I sit stunned in the passenger seat. Richard’s voice, “are you ok babe? Can you move?” My head rests against the airbag that kept my head from hitting the window, the pain of an impact so strong it spun us around like a child’s toy bringing me back to reality.

We all walked away, alive and whole.

Lucky. No broken bones, mild concussion, I’ve got this. Oh-so-naively, I gave myself the weekend, on Monday, it was business as usual. Start the day with a short run and my yoga mat. Take my son to school, teach my classes. Grade projects. Wine with friends. Dates with Richard.

Enemy Mine

Then the headaches. As the deep purple bruises faded to shades of pink and yellow, my injured brain began to  wrap my body and soul in a thick layer of bubble wrap. I could see out, but everything was distorted. Mental fog. Nausea. Dizziness. Deafening tinnitus in my right ear. Memory lapses. Did I mention crippling headaches? My mild concussion turned into a “syndrome.”

Undaunted, I keep pushing…I just need time and space to heal, right? I rest on my office floor between student meetings. At home in bed by 6 p.m. most evenings. I resign from volunteer commitments, turn down all extracurricular activity. In just a few weeks, the word “no” is an unwelcome staple of my vocabulary. I felt weak and cowardly, like I was letting the whole world down. I start a “concussion” series of paintings to channel the anxiety I felt as my rogue brain became my enemy.

But nothing worked. Nothing. And it begins to sink in, I have a head injury. A numbness settled over me. I felt uninspired and inadequate. A college professor who can barely string coherent sentences together? A wannabe artist who has a panic attack when she picks up a brush? What now?

Panic replaces self confidence. I barely recognize myself. Emptiness where expression once lived. Did the accident knock the creativity out of me? Did a piece of my intelligence get lost in the twisted metal like my favorite pair of glasses that we never found?

Creative Crisis

A diagnosis of “post-concussion syndrome” is nebulous (or, more aptly, the most BULLSHIT diagnosis ever). There is no treatment or real prognosis. No promise of recovery. Each day brought new symptoms and challenges. Basic problem solving skills eluded me. A single trip to the grocery store exhausted me. A hypertensive crisis and emergency EKG finally got my attention. Eight weeks into the semester I yielded to my doctor’s orders, handed off my classes to colleagues and went home to (hopefully) heal.

Alone with my worries, I obsessed. What if I couldn’t go back to my old life? What if I was permanently impaired? I had so many dreams…to write…to paint…to develop social media courses…lead study abroad programs. What if?

Since my creativity was MIA, I settled for reading about my favorite artists and listening to books on tape and podcasts about people who had experienced TBI. Although I could not retain everything, as I learned about others who had parallel experiences with either physical or mental challenges, I was comforted. Not exactly optimistic, but no longer terrified.

Beautifully Broken

Here are just a few of my “post-concussion” heroes. In one way or another, they overcame. They persevered. Instead of retreating, they created.

Frida Kahlo

If you know me AT ALL, you know Frida Kahlo is and will always be an inspiration. The arresting pictures of Frida Kahlo (1907-54) were in many ways expressions of trauma. Through a near-fatal bus accidents at the age of 18, failing, health, a turbulent marriage, miscarriage and forced abortion, she transformed her afflictions into revolutionary art (Andrea Kettenmann).

Kahlo was forced to spend months confined to a bed, but continued painting using a special easel. She literally turned emotional and physical pain into art.

frida-in-bed
Photo Credit: Museum of Latin American Art

Jane McGonigal

When game designer Jane McGonigal found herself bedridden and suicidal following a severe concussion, she dove into the scientific research and created the healing game, SuperBetter. Anyone faced with a tough situation can benefit from this game.

Glen Campbell

glen_campbell_ill_be_me_posterIn 2011, music legend Glen Campbell announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Instead of hanging up his guitar and preparing for the inevitable, Glen and his family set out on a “Goodbye Tour.” Campbell turned his struggles with the devastating disease into a powerful documentary and Grammy Award-winning song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” You don’t have to be a country music fan to be moved by his story. Watch the trailer here and stream the documentary on Netflix.

Vincent van Gogh

van_gogh_-_starry_night_-_google_art_projectYes, his mental illness is legendary as is his body of work. But did you know van Gogh likely suffered advance-stage syphilis? Or that The Starry Night was inspired be the view (sans bars) from his room in a French asylum? That he wanted to be a minister and insisted on giving his meager possessions to those less fortunate? His artistic techniques were (and are) revolutionary. I find it oddly comforting that someone so extreme and unstable, someone so crippled in mind and body was still able to create something beyond himself.

Creative Response

My friend and colleague (and creator of A Creative Human) once asked me for my definition of creativity. Although I don’t recall my exact response, I’m sure it included phrases like “new approaches to old problems,” “no fear” or my old standby “question everything.” While those still ring true to me, I now put “perseverance” at the top. Creativity is no accident. It’s not lost or found. It is a human response to challenge. A choice to be made. My journey is still unfolding, but I refuse to let circumstances define me. I choose to be creative.

How do you define creativity?

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Blogging 101

Go ahead. Be Creative!

Blogs are one of the easiest ways to tell a story online. Whether it’s your story as an aspiring PR professional or a client’s story, blogs are simple to create and publish. The difficult part is writing them. But with tools like WordPress, you can go from draft to post in just a few quick steps.

Drafts can be kept unpublished and you can edit them on the fly with the mobile app version of WordPress, then finish up at your desk or laptop.

The only true requirement for a good blog is that it must contain in introduction, a body and a conclusion. You should set up the topic for the reader and then wrap it up for them at the end. A catchy title doesn’t hurt, either!

A note about blogs:

They are typically:

  • written in an informal, engaging tone (less formal than a web page) using active voice;
  • crowdsourced across company employees in a professional setting; and
  • short, scannable pieces that contain elements that break up text such as images, headings, sub heads, bullet points and call out quotes.

When blogging for a company and/or client, it is important to keep to a regular schedule (editorial calendar) AND make sure you have a trusted editor to fact check and catch style or GSP errors and typos.

Don’t Give Up

Before I publish my usual “Happy New Year” post, I want to remind myself (and anyone else who needs it) that giving up is easy. Persevering is hard. And sometimes doesn’t make sense.

I’m a short distance runner. And by short, I mean two miles max. I run every day with my dogs. Rain or shine. Dark or light. Make the bed, brush my teeth, throw my gear on, leash the pups and we’re out the door. It’s a habit. If I don’t get my running fix, I’m out of sorts and my back aches. I doubt that anyone on earth who knows body mechanics can explain it. I’ve been told by many experts not to do it. But it works for me. So I’ll keep running (like Forrest) until I stop.

But that’s not what I want to remember. 

What I want to remember is that after three days of taking a walk instead thanks to Goliath, I needed a run. Badly. Headed out with my girls and Chloe (our houseguest) and it wasn’t looking good. The melt, freeze, melt, freeze cycle we’ve had made it slicker today than ever. Every other step was treacherous. The girls were pulling and I couldn’t keep my footing. The voice in my head had a few choice phrases:

“This is madness.”

“You’re going to break your neck.”

“Don’t be an idiot.”

“Turn around. Now.”

“Are you stupid or something?”

And that’s just a few feet into my culdesac! But I thought, “just a bit further.” I turned the corner. And there it was. Bare pavement. All the way to the end of the subdivision. More than a mile and a half. Sweet relief!

To the voice in my head that tells me a I can’t or shouldn’t, I have a few phrases for you:

“I’m not stupid or crazy.”

“Easy is for wimps.”

“Mow your damn lawn and sit the hell down.”

Sometimes you just have to keep pushing to get what you want.

Don’t. Give. Up.

DAM Blogs – Sophie’s Choice

Blog Love
Blog Love

What do you do when 59 students have turned into amazing bloggers? I can’t even believe how far we’ve come. Goodbye typos and flat tone of voice, we’re writing like we speak and using humor to make complex topics approachable and understandable.

It was so hard to choose, but here are my faves for the week. Enjoy.

The assignment:

Dam, you’re good. Blog about any aspect of lecture this week (DAM, templates or workflow), but as future digital strategists, I want to see more than a broad brush. Get specific and think about how these tools impact the ability of brands large and small to publish relevant and engaging digital content that reinforces their brand image.

Remember: DAM stands for Digital Asset Management. Don’t reference it incorrectly.

Hot DAM | Maria Tobias

“Excuse your language.“

No, DAM. Digital asset management.

“I’m still confused.“

Digital asset management is a big, fancy word that encompasses a fairly abstract and complicated concept. DAM is a company’s act of distributing digital content and archiving it for further inspection. Read the full blog.

Kate Spade and Templates and Sales, Oh My! | Jordyn Bauerlein

Quick announcement: Kate Spade is hosting a 75% off sale right now!

Why is that important? Well, for starters, their purses are adorable and even cuter when they are cheaper. Secondly, it gives us a chance to look at something “new” on their website. At this point you are probably scratching your head and wondering how a sale would be considered new. Stay with me, I’ll explain. Read the full blog.

Blog Pick of the Week: Listening & Engagement

Image Credit: Melvin Gaal, Flickr
Image Credit: Melvin Gaal, Flickr

I’m perpetually behind. This college prof gig is the most rewarding AND the most demanding thing I’ve ever done. But today is a new day.

My digital students were given the following mission:

Social media monitoring is one of the biggest missed opportunities for businesses today. Also known as social listening, it involves monitoring what people are saying on social media about your business and the issues that affect it. This allows organizations to identify opportunities as they happen and reach out proactively rather than reactively.

Identify a current issue where an organization’s listening and engagement on social media (or lack thereof) has or could potentially impact their reputation. Propose a positive response by the brand.

I enjoy reading all of my student blogs, but here’s my top pics. Enjoy!

Engaging or Imploding?

By Brittany Lee

Twitter is hard. Believe it or not, there is a right and a wrong way to tweet. And while some people get it, others definitely don’t. I think I’m a really funny tweeter – usually because I’m not afraid to tastefully laugh at myself. Granted, I try REALLY hard, but I think I’m hilarious.

There’s just something about making people chuckle that I think is really rewarding.  But I think in a quest to adequately target and entice a young and spry audience, American brands have taken to Twitter in a way that’s – well – bad. Engagement is great. Actually it’s more than great. It is so, so, so, SO important. But humor is so sensitive these days that it’s important to really dissect your jokes before you post them online.

Read more.

Nicole Arbour and Her PR Nightmare

By Kelly Kingston

Last week, Canadian comedian, musician and dancer Nicole Arbour posted a Youtube video titled “Dear Fat People.” The comedian posts many “rant” videos, where she takes a current issue and voices her (typically offensive) opinion. She started gaining popularity when her “Dear Instagram Models” video went viral on Facebook with people praising the harsh truth she spoke. But “Dear Fat People” went viral for another reason, a very negative one.

When a comedian pokes fun at someone who CHOOSES to do the belittling behavior, like posting racy photos on the Internet, people can laugh. But when a comedian chooses to poke fun at someone who has health issues out of their control, people will get mad.

And they did.  Read more.

You better watch that Tone!

Brand tone? Nailed it.

Bauerlein Crossing

SONY DSC SONY DSC

Years ago, when I rocked braces and actually tried to dress up for school, I sat in the back of my high school English class pouring a textbook entry about “Tone”. From that point on I’ll admit I never fully understood it. Last week I found myself in the same exact boat while learning about Social Media Audits.

Sure, I can tell you the definition of tone no problem but what does it really mean? Lucky for you, I’ve researched it a bit; I found that tone is one of the easiest concepts to understand. I’m going to blame my confusion on the fact that we were looking for the tone in old English poetry. As beautiful as it is, nobody really KNOWS what is going on.

Anyway, tone is how you say something; not necessarily what you say. For example, remember when you would say something to…

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Pinterest is Winning!

One of my first pins. Cupcakes from Fair Cake (www.faircake.co.uk)
One of my first pins. Cupcakes from Fair Cake (www.faircake.co.uk)

Remember when you needed an invitation to join Pinterest?

Pinterest soft launched in 2010, I don’t recall the date, but I pinned my first cupcake four years ago (shocking, I know.)

According to Business Insider, the “visual bookmarking” platform is forecast to generate $169 million in revenue this year. The Pinterest team has done an excellent job of monetizing the platform in a way that hasn’t changed the user experience (unlike Snapchat). #PINNING!

The most common question I’m asked … “what’s the next big thing?” I have no idea, but it will be visual and immediate. And solve a problem like Pinterest did (actually being able to find and use something you bookmarked for later reference). We are visual, highly distracted beings. To get our attention, you’ve got to show, not tell, and don’t beat around the bush. Like Violet in Willy Wonka, “I want it NOW!”

Panx -i-e-ty / noun

The FOMO and conflicted feelings I have when I launch Pinterest. Is it possible to knit, bake, craft, decorate while holding pigeon pose and learning to paint?