Friday, April 20, 2012

Hitting the Yellow Brick Road

Today has all the makings of a magical day! This morning I’ll be heading out to Northwest Washington’s annual SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Conference.
While I noted yesterday that psychologists often have the most fun in the research department, children’s book publishers win the conference contest hands down. Nowhere else will you see adults discussing zombies, fairies, talking animals, and vampires without fear of being hauled off in straitjackets.
Children’s book conferences totally rock! Sure, the weekend is full of classes and workshops to attend, but come on – they cover a fascinating “bunny eat bunny” world, so they’re always full of fun.
Trust me, I would know.
I attended PLENTY of psychology conferences back in the day. While the folks were always wonderful, some of the sad (but important) topics we discussed made a few of us want to be hauled off in straitjackets.
So, as a little tribute to all of my old psych pals, I’ve come up with a conference lineup that can help get the sigh out of psychology by adding some SCBWI sizzle:

9:00 – 10:00    Big Bad Wolf: Malevolent or Misunderstood?
10:00 – 11:00  Red Riding Hood’s Remorse: Cross-Dressers Need
                           Compassion, Not the Ax
11:00 – 12:00  Case Study: Alice in Wonderland’s Rehab Success
12:00 – 1:00     Lunch at the Witch’s Brew
1:00 – 2:00       Mirror, Mirror: Tackling Client Narcissism
2:00 – 3:00       Enabling No More: Tips From the Little Red Hen
3:00 – 4:00       Gingerbread Man: The Ugly Downside of Compulsive
4:00 – 5:00       Guest Speaker: Hermione Granger Discusses Magical
                            Thinking – No Need to Medicate!

PROMPT: Sign up for a class or workshop. It’s a great way to fill the creative well – especially if you try something new and completely outside of your usual box. What about a conference for stunt doubles, a class for chocolatiers, or a workshop for toymakers? If a class or conference is not within your budget, then get yourself to the library and grab something on an atypical topic. Stretch yourself, learn something “novel”, then put it into your art – trust me, it will be magical!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Think Green!

We are fast approaching Earth Day, and that means it’s a great time to think green! Without a doubt, green thinking is good for your Mama Earth – but did you know that it’s good for your mind’s elbow, as well?
Four fabulous psychology researchers found that the color green actually boosts creative thinking!
Here’s how the study went down –
A group of subjects were given two minutes to generate possible uses for a tin can. But just before the researchers said “Go!” half were shown a white rectangle. The rest were shown a mysterious and magnificent green rectangle. After the tin can two minutes, the results were tabulated – and wow! Those subjects who saw the mysterious and magnificent green rectangle came up with more interesting and imaginative answers!
The scientists went on to find that green also trumped red, blue, and (big surprise) grey. Funny, they never mentioned whether the green rectangle was actually a $100 bill…
I, for one, could generate A LOT of tin can uses for a Franklin.
Anyway, if you’ve been wondering how to increase your personal score on a tin can use test, now you know.
But before you run out to Sherwin-Williams and shell out green to buy some green for your office makeover, you may actually want to get out of your office altogether.
Another study at another university had subjects come up with a word (tape, for example) that related to a set of clue words (measure, video, and worm). Some subjects had to perform this task while sitting inside a 125-cubic-foot box. The rest of the subjects did the task while sitting next to the box.
As you can probably guess, those sitting and thinking “outside the box” came up with more creative solutions – 20% more, in fact.
Clearly, these study summaries can mean only one thing –
Nobody, but nobody, has more fun doing research than my old peeps in the field of psychology…
Making the world a better place, one tin can and tapeworm at a time.

PROMPT: Get out of the box and get under a green tree today! See what happens to that fabulous idea-generating brain of yours. And while you’re at it, write, paint, or compose something for your Mama’s Earth Day. She’ll love it. After all, a big chunk of EARTH is A-R-T!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Do You Haiku?

Black and white and read
These seventeen syllables
Feed my hungry soul

It is still April, and you know what that means – it is still National Poetry Month!
If you’ve been dragging your lyrical feet and have yet to put your poetic pen to page, then today is the day to clear your conscience! You, too, can Haiku!
Remember long, long ago when you were first learning to print words with those chubby pencils and fat-lined paper? Well, that was probably around the time you wrote your first Haiku. Haiku has always been one of the stones teachers use to kill two language arts birds at the same time – poetry and syllables. Score!
While you may not have kept the little gem you wrote way back then, it most likely went something like this –

Rude green hoppy thing
Peeing when children catch me
Talking loud in burps

Okay, maybe your first Haiku wasn’t like this, but Richie Richendifer insisted that it followed our teacher’s recipe.
“Describe something in nature,” Miss Henry said. “And remember the 5-7-5 rule. Use 5 syllables for the first line, 7 syllables for the second line, and 5 syllables for the last line, and you will make a great Haiku.”
Gesundheit!” said Richie Richendifer… for the 87th time that day.
Even if you haven’t wielded a chubby pencil in years, you can follow Miss Henry’s fabulous recipe for your own Haiku stew. And you don’t really have to stick with the nature part. You’re welcome to use your mind’s elbow to bend and stretch that rule like my son did with his poetic offering –

Bad Haiku
Bad poem this is
It is extremely boring
Wait… was that too long?

Nuts never fall far from the tree.

PROMPT: Haiku! Haiku! It’s what we’ve got to do! Yeah, I’m pretty sure the 7 dwarfs sang these work song words every April – now you can, too.
And speaking of April – it will be over in a flash, so express your poetic self while you still can! Believe me, you’ll regret it if you don’t – May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month… God knows how inspiring that’s going to be.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Catch That Buzz

This is your brain –

(Okay, this is actually a plastic model of your brain)

And THIS is your brain on…


Yes, the hummers have returned to the Great Northwest. As I write this, they’re simultaneously patrolling the garden, terrorizing the cat, and sucking down sugar water like… well… like hummingbirds.
As writers and artists, I think we should all strive to be a little more like these little guys in three important ways:
1. We ought to be tough enough to kick some serious tail – even if that tail is one hundred times bigger than we are.
2. We should be able to eat 8 times our body weight daily and still look mighty fine.
And 3. We should dart from idea to idea, project to project, and book to book just for the buzzy fun of it.
To accomplish that last one, my friend, is to embrace the unsung secret POWER of hummingbird mind!
What?! Darting from idea to idea, project to project, book to book? For crying out loud, Barb, that sounds like a diagnosis, not a lifestyle. Why, hummingbirds are the poster animals for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)!
And isn’t that a beautiful thing?
Well, if you want to be creative it is.
In fact, a couple of studies by White and Shaw in 2006 and 2011 found that people with ADHD scored higher in “original creativity” and “creative achievement” than those without ADHD. 
Sorry, “Normals”, you lose this round.
But don’t take my word for it. Take it from a painter, sculptor, and architect who also advanced our knowledge in engineering, astronomy, anatomy, zoology, geography, geology, and paleontology –

"Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind."

~ Leonardo da Vinci

Hmmmm…Renaissance man or ADHD “sufferer”?

You decide.

PROMPT: Embrace the awesome power of your hummingbird mind! Start a new project and work on it a tiny bit. Take just a little sip and enjoy, then move on to something else. Don’t worry, we’ll come up with a plan for completion on another day. For now, simply take pleasure in each of your mind’s new blooms and realize the potential of that garden within. Trust me, this won’t be difficult. In a world of pop-up ads, tweets, and texts – ADHD is as easy as breathing.

Monday, April 16, 2012

What’s for Dinner?

“You know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well-seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?”
~ Anton Ego in Ratatouille

Fresh perspective is such a delicious treat! There’s nothing like it in the world to get those creative juices flowing. In fact, whenever I am stuck on a project, I order a plate piled high with newly-picked perspective.
Here’s how it works –
Take a story, any story, and tell it from a different character’s point of view. Most folks, for example, are pretty familiar with the Disney version of Snow White – jealous queen, magic mirror, 7 guys of short stature, poisoned apple, coma, kissy prince, happily ever… blah blah blah blah. But what would Grumpy have to say about it all?
Hmmm…maybe something like this…
Dames! They are nothing but trouble! Your life is going along just fine, thank you very much, and then some dame walks in and ruins it.
Me and my buddies come home from work one day, and there she is sleeping on our beds like she’s suffering from delusions of Goldilocks or something. As if that weren’t bad enough (and trust me, it was) – I’m telling you, the very presence of a dame lowers the IQ points of 6 out of 7 dwarfs. I’ve been stuck with Snow White and the 6 Dopeys ever since. They’ve all gone absolutely gaga over her, and I’m like – “Hello!? She’s, like, a trespasser!”
They don’t listen. They enjoy the fact that she cooks and cleans and reaches high shelves with ease. But I, for one, do not. Case in point – I had a fantastic dust bunny collection before her arrival, and somehow they’ve all disappeared… every last one. Do you have any idea how long it takes to save 982 dust bunnies? Decades, man, decades.
One day with a dame and they’re gone. So are the rugby games…
and the keggers.

PROMPT: Many great books have been written from the perspective of a different character in a familiar tale. For kids, check out John Scieszka and Lane Smith’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. For adults, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Wicked by Gregory Maguire are terrific. Visual artists can also benefit from this method – what does the world look like from the “eyes” of a flea, a starfish, or even the apple in a still life? Change your point of view -- see the world deliciously new!