The Big Picture and the Immediate Workload

man looking forwardI’m a big-picture kind of guy. I love looking for ways to make a more a coherent whole out of unrelated ideas and plans, but sometimes…

Sometimes the work starts piling up too high for strategy to come back in.
Sometimes the stuff that pays the bills just needs to get out the door for more strategy at another time.
Sometimes the workload starts to clutter up too much to allow room for holistic thinking.

It’s a really delicate balance, and I definitely err on the side of wanting to spend more time dreaming and planning. But if the essentials aren’t complete, those plans begin to fall apart pretty quickly.

Cover the bases. Get the essential done.

THEN

Shoot for the stars.

Making a Difference: More Rules or More Inspiration?

Rules or Inspiration

In the wake of terrible tragedies, the United States is faced with difficult decisions in the rules that it makes. The government must balance the personal freedoms of its people with the desperate need for safety.

To say it’s a heated conversation is vastly understating the issue.

And why wouldn’t it be heated? We’re all very interested in the rules we have to abide by. There are consequences to breaking those rules, after all.

I’m not against government or against the need for rules, but our rules are in place so that we can overcome the worst parts of ourselves. Inherently, there’s a very negative focus to statements like “don’t kill” and “don’t steal.” The rules are forced to admit that humanity has a terrible tendency to take things, whether goods or life itself, from our neighbors.

Rules are necessary.

Inspiration

On the other end of the spectrum is inspiration. Inspiration is what helps us to achieve the best of what humanity can be. We can reach the moon. We can end wars. We can create beautiful art. We can find peace within ourselves and with one another.

Inspiration also provides us another opportunity. You can have a say in the world, a chance to influence how people behave, by creating inspiration. Not all of us want to become elected officials. We don’t want to be the rulemakers or the rule-enforcers. We’re glad the structures exist (even if we’d like to see them change to one degree or another), but our toolkit differs highly from that of a politician’s.

We use art. We use motivational writing. We use spirituality. There are lots of ways that we can press towards finding the best in what we can offer the world.

We, as a species, are better fed and wealthier than we’ve ever been. Our quality of life on the whole is statistically better than it’s been in any point in history, yet people are struggling for purpose. They are desperate for meaning in this life. They are desperate for hope.

Rules are necessary, but they are only a part of the human experience.

It’s Possible to Be a Rule-Maker and an Inspirer

But it’s tough. I think we can look back at history and find people that were courageous enough to change the rules in order to do what’s right. These people fought the wars and the personal battles to effect change, sometimes at the cost of their own lives.

The good news is that we don’t have to be martyrs in order to make the world a better place.

We Can Choose to be Sources of Inspiration Daily

Being a source of light in the world is a much simpler (though it’s not always easy) decision. We can be the optimists in rooms full of pessimists. We can be the artists when others would default to blander options. We can be the ones who stop to talk in a society full of people who are too busy.

We have the choice. We have the chance.

APE by Guy Kawasaki: An Exahustive Self-Publishing Guide

APE by Guy KawasakiIf you’re interested in self-publishing, or if you have a book on Amazon or any of the other ebook retailers that you’re not quite happy with, then you need to check out APE: How to Publish a Book (affiliate link) by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch. It’s easily the most info-packed book on self-publishing I’ve ever read. (Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book.)

What’s with the “APE” bit of the title? APE stands for Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur, and self-publishers really need to be able to be all three parts of the equation. If they can’t? Well, Kawasaki and Welch took that into account, as well, and provided a ton of resources that hopeful APEs can use.

Kawasaki’s Journey

First off, let me say that I have immense respect for Guy Kawasaki. I started reading his posts on Google+, found his book What the Plus!, and recently read Enchantment (a modern-day version of How to Win Friends and Influence People). I’ve found Kawasaki’s work to be incredibly useful when it comes to understanding marketing in the era of social media. The author understands the delicate balance between creating community and drawing a return on the investment.

Guy KawasakiAPE came about because of Kawasaki’s journey through self-publishing with What the Plus!. Kawasaki had already authored several books by the time that his book on Google+ came out, but he had never self-published before. The process was much more difficult than he expected.

Fiction Vs. Non-fiction

In terms of building audience support and taking the time to create quality material, fiction and non-fiction are similar in degrees of difficulty. In translating those manuscripts into finished ebooks, the difference is far more pronounced. With fiction, you can pretty well use a Microsoft Word document and just export it into a Kindle format without much loss of formatting.

Shawn WelchBut with non-fiction, you have numbered lists, charts, and images. You have elements that need to be left- or right-aligned on a page in order for the content to work. You can set up that information inside Word, but you cannot easily export it into ebook format.

This is where APE comes in handy. Co-author Shawn Welch has a ton of experience in working with formatting ebooks, and the author team has a very thorough guide on how to set up an Adobe InDesign file to properly format an imported Word document. While Adobe products are quite costly, the authors also provide info about Adobe’s new monthly program where you can download just the product you need for a monthly fee and discontinue the option when you no longer need it.

Author / Publisher / Entrepreneur

I suspect that different parts of the audience for this book will find certain sections the most useful. For me, someone who has played around in the self-publishing field, the “Publisher” portion of the book was extremely helpful. In fact, this was one of the few books that I’ve read recently where I actually had a pen and paper with me so that I could take notes.

I’ve read quite a few books on writing, so the “Author” portion of the book was fairly in terms of tips. Kawasaki’s method of soliciting feedback is especially interesting (a sort of open-source system combined with employing traditional editors), and the author team listed online resources I had not heard of before or made much use of. (I think I’ll be posting content to Wattpad this week to see what the community is like there.)

The “Entrepreneur” section was also fairly familiar, but only because I’ve read so much of Kawasaki’s work recently.

In the intro to the book, Kawasaki states that he wants this book to be as useful to self-publishers as The Chicago Manual of Style is for writers everywhere. I, for one, will certainly keep this book handy as I work on new self-publishing efforts.

Pacific Rim: Don’t You Just Love Viral Marketing Campaigns?

I love that marketing has changed in the past decade. Specifically, I love the way that a few movies choose to promote themselves in ways that entice viewers to uncover more instead of just blasting audiences with the same TV ad again and again.

The latest example? Pacific Rim, the next movie from director Guillermo del Toro.

Take a look.

As of right now, I don’t know a whole lot about the movie, but I’m definitely interested in knowing more. (The synopsis on IMDB reads, “When an alien attack threatens the Earth’s existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace.”)

Viral Marketing Campaigns form the Past

While The Blair Witch Project is probably the most famous example of viral marketing for movies, Cloverfield, The Dark Knight Rises, and District 9 all had some pretty impressive campaigns, as well. What makes it so fun is that viewers get the opportunity to start enjoying the world of the story right away.

The other aspect that rocks is that this form of marketing doesn’t require gargantuan Hollywood budgets to make it work. While Pacific Rim and The Dark Knight Rises both have / had some pretty impressive dollars behind the project, the other examples I mentioned had very small budgets in movie-making terms. It will probably be nearly impossible to re-capture the full effectiveness that The Blair Witch campaign had (kind of a War of the Worlds moment there), but viewers really enjoy the opportunity to hunt down clues and learn more about the story.

Can you think of any other viral campaigns that were really outstanding?

10 Top Quotes on The Value of Innovation

Innovation Quotes

Merriam-Webster defines the word “innovation” in two ways.

  1. the introduction of something new
  2. a new idea, method, or device

The word can either refer to the process of coming up with something new, or it can refer specifically to the final product. It is creation, or it is completion.

I like the idea of innovation referring to a completed process. It implies the intersection of creativity and the hard work necessary to see an idea through to the end. Sometimes, only a small portion of the creative process is in the idea-generation phase. It’s the building of the idea, the “figuring out” how to actually create what came at a moment of inspiration that truly defines the value of the completed item.

With the definition in mind, let’s take a look at ten top quotes on innovation.


“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

– William Pollard

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

– Steve Jobs

“I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.”

– Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder)

Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”

– Theodore Levitt

“Innovation almost always is not successful the first time out. You try something and it doesn’t work, and it takes confidence to say we haven’t failed yet.”

– Clayton Christensen

“From 30,000 feet, creating looks like art. From ground level, it’s a to-do list.”

-– Ben Arment

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”

– Ray Bradbury

“Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time.”

– Bill Gates

“The way to succeed is to double your failure rate.”

– Thomas Watson, (IBM founder)

“Innovation— any new idea—by definition will not be accepted at first. It takes repeated attempts, endless demonstrations, monotonous rehearsals before innovation can be accepted and internalized by an organization. This requires courageous patience.”

– Warren Bennis


If you liked these quotes, be sure to check out 10 quotes on Freedom and Creativity.

Feature Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk

Inspiration Is Perishable

expired parking meter

I finally read Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier, the team behind the software company 37signals. It’s a book that’s been on my list for a long time now, and now I feel I need to reread it again once every few months so I don’t let the lessons get away from me.

One of those core ideas is the title of this post, “Inspiration is perishable.” In the book, the authors use the phrase in regards to pursuing a project before the idea and the passion get away from you, but the core idea of the statement extends beyond just a single project.

Vision Leaks

Let’s look at the idea of perishable inspiration in another way. If you read this site or others like it on a regular basis, you’re probably looking for creative inspiration to some degree or another. Why is it that we keep looking for that creative spark? Why isn’t one piece of inspiration enough?

Pieces that inspired us two weeks ago may not hold the same appeal any longer. It’s easier for a painting or a piece of music to continue to inspire us for a longer amount of time, but articles are generally only inspiring once – twice if the post is just amazingly good.

These bits of inspiration we find along the way have a shelf date, and then we have to look for new sources of inspiration.

How are you finding inspiration each day?

It’s tough to find it every single day, but we must keep looking. It’s far too easy to settle in a rut of not looking for that spark of creativity, but then we’re surprised when we’re unable to dredge our creativity back to the surface in time for a project.

I used to work with a pastor who loved this simple slogan: “vision leaks.”

Inspiration does the same. It perishes. It leaks. It goes sour. Without an active position on refreshing, replenishing, reviving – if you will – that inspiration, we stand the risk of creating stale art. We can go through the motions without actually feeling anything. Without actually conveying anything.

Finding Inspiration

How do you find inspiration? Since this blog is aimed at a wide variety of artists, I would imagine our points of inspiration could be quite different.

I find story inspiring. I’m reading a book right now called Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, and I came across a couple of sentences that surprised me and got me excited about the craft of writing. The author is talking about a character who’s a cop on a distant space station, and the environment is rather trying for law enforcement. The book says, “The circle of life on Ceres was so small you could see the curve. He liked it that way.”

I love that phrase. “See the curve” of the circle of life. That makes me ready to pull out the draft of the novel I’m working on and go for it again.

driving at night

Photo by Thomas Hawk

I find photography inspiring. Thomas Hawk is a rather popular photographer here online, and his work really stands out to me. He uses a lot of landscape photography, but he also uses several different types of photos of people: portraits, candid portraits, etc. Each image tells a story all its own.

Think about how you find inspiration on a regular basis. Or, can you find something that will help you find creativity on a more regular basis. I’m certainly aiming for this site to be a consistent source of inspiration for you by finding interesting projects from artists around the world. (Just yesterday, I posted about a fun online musical experience called Incredibox.)

How about You?

How do you find inspiration? Do you have a plan, or do you hope creativity will fall into your lap?


Feature Photo Credit: Bammer Photos
Book links are affiliate links to Amazon.

Halloween Fun: Games and Costumes

Happy Halloween! Today’s post is all about fun and games, so let’s get to it!

Games

There are tons of Halloween-themed games out there, but here are a couple of freebies that you should know about.

Angry Birds Seasons

Angry Birds - Halloween

The Halloween version is now available for free in the Google Play store and in Apple’s App Store. I like the game, but my son absolutely adores this game. (He’s probably a lot better at it than I am by now, even though he’s only 4!)

Stop Zombie Mouth

In what has to be one of the best campaigns I’ve seen for the American Dental Association, the ADA and the game Plants Vs. Zombies have teamed up to offer a “sugar-free alternative” to trick-or-treaters this year.

Be honest. When you hear words like “sugar-free-alternative,” aren’t you already thinking “lame”? Well, this time, you’d be completely wrong. The campaign is set up so that you can go to StopZombieMouth.com and print out coupons for kids to download the Plants Vs. Zombies game for free! Granted, the game has been out for a while, but kids will definitely enjoy this game if they haven’t played it already. (I know I spent quite a bit of time with it myself!)

Head over to the site and download your coupons to give out to kids. Their teeth could use a break.

Halloween Prank Video

Remember, if you’re going to pull a prank, be sure to be creative about it. Magician Rich Ferguson’s “Head Drop Illusion” drew quite the reaction from unsuspecting passersby, and his YouTube video of all the fun is nearing a nice, even 4 million views.

Thanks to the folks over at GeekOSystem for spotting this video!

Awesome Costume

I’ve written about Instagram before here on the site, and it is one of my favorite camera apps to use. My appreciation for the app pales in comparison to this guy, however.

Not only does this costume look cool, but it even works! Photographer Eric Micotto placed a Nikon D800 camera on the front of the costume and hooked it up to an iPad display in the back.

Costume Instagram - Halloween

Gizmodo is credited for finding this image, but the site may still be down due to post-Hurricane-Sandy issues. Wishing everyone in the Northeast a speedy recovery!

Funny Costumes

And now… some of the more ridiculous costumes. What a great time for people to be wacky.

Baby Prince
This kid will have a tough time living this one down in his later years.

Baby Prince
Source: Twisted Sifter

Baby Carl from Up
Loved the movie. Love the baby version even more.

Baby Carl from Up
Source: Twisted Sifter

Green Plastic Army Guy
Collect the whole set!

Army Guy - Halloween Costume
Source: Squidoo

School Photo Girl
Oh, the memories… so scary.

School Photo Girl - Halloween
Source: Pinterest

Napoleon!
That’s a pretty awesome representation.

Napoleon and Pedro - Halloween
Source: The Churning

Pity the Fool
And last but not least, baby Mr. T. I don’t know how this kid’s parents expect to keep him in that costume, but I’m so glad they tried!

Mr. T Baby - Halloween
Source: Swanky Chic Fete

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Monster Roll – Sushi Bites Back [Video]

Monster Roll

I simply couldn’t resist sharing this here. Monster Roll is a crazy fun proof-of-concept short that shows just how cool an entire movie of wacky giant seamonsters battling sushi chefs could be. Of course, we all know that sushi chefs are all great martial arts warriors biding their time until the next major battle with creatures from the sea, right?

Take a look at this amazing video: (click the link if you are unable to see the screen below to see it on Vimeo).

Monster Roll from Dan Blank on Vimeo.

One of my favorite aspects of Monster Roll is that Director Daniel Blank and his crew didn’t sit around hoping that the film could be made at the budget they wanted. They took a chance and got a piece of their vision out to the world (and got themselves featured on Wired, by the way).

As artists, we don’t always have to to have a fully finished, fully polished piece to be able to show others. We can share our excitement earlier in the game, as long as there is quality. You can tell at a glance that this crew didn’t just throw something together. They’re ready to make a movie, and they want to wow their audiences. (Find out more about Monster Roll on the official website.)