Monday, March 26, 2012

Work or Play? What's the Difference?

According to Tom Sawyer, there's not much difference between work and play.  Work is what you get paid to do, and play is what you pay to do.  This definition makes sense to me.

Back in the nineties, my husband and I frequented a mall with a lot of escalators.  As we rode one of the escalators, we could see people working out at the gym on step machines.  People paid to "take the stairs" in a gym, but most were unwilling to take the stairs for free in the mall.  Taking the stairs was work.  Paying to use the step machine was play--or at least exercise. 

For me, work also includes things I "have to do," such as making dinner.  When I was a teenager, cooking was fun.  Now that I do it every day, it's work.  Actually, a lot of things I used to consider play have--without my realizing it--passed over to the work category.  I don't want it to be that way.  And I especially don't want my current playtime activities--like my writing--to turn into work.

Wouldn't it be great if we could turn our work back into play?  How do we do that?  I know part of it is our attitude, but I think we can also do things to help turn our work back into play.  Trying something new, adding fun music, listening to audiobooks while working, and working with other people all make my work more enjoyable.  What helps you turn your work into play?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pump up Your Creativity

I've heard a lot of people say, "I'm not creative."  That's why I was really interested to read an article by Jonah Lehrer in the Wall Street Journal that said creativity is a skill you learn, not something you're born with. According to Mr. Lehrer, creativity involves a variety of skills that you use for different kinds of problems.  You use one kind of creativity to solve "moment-of-insight problems," another to solve "nose-to-the grindstone problems," and still another to solve problems with "mental restructurings."  I wanted to share the creativity boosters I took away from the article.

Moment of Insight Problems

Sometimes all you need is one great idea to solve a problem.  If you need a moment of insight, it helps to do things that relax or distract your brain, such as:

Watch a Comedy

Daydream

Take a Shower

Play a Game

Get Drowsy

Get Drunk (I really can't recommend this one, but I think that must be how they wrote the 5th episode of season 2 of Downton Abbey. Just kidding!)

Surround Yourself with the Color Blue

Think like a Seven-year-old

Imagine Yourself Someplace Far Away

Get Out of Your Cubicle (literally)

Use More General Verbs to Describe the Problem (e.g. "move" instead of "drive")


Nose to the Grindstone Problems

A lot of times creativity means working really hard at a problem until you gradually come up with a solution.  To do this, you simply keep thinking about your problem.  Studies show that if you feel like you're on the verge of a solution, you probably are.  Trust your intuition.

Mental Restructurings

Other times, to solve a problem, you need information that's not already in your head.  You can expose yourself to new knowledge by:

Having Diverse Friendships

Learning Outside your Normal Field of Study

Spending time in Bigger Cities

Spending Time in Other Countries

Talking about the Problem with People who aren't Experts

Your Tips

I've had a lot of great ideas while I was distracted in the shower or car,  and while reading and washing dishes.  What are some things you do that help you come up with new ideas?

Monday, March 12, 2012

WalMart Carts



My husband is losing it.  He's fantasizing about stealing a hundred WalMart carts and taking them to the WalMart across town.  He's also making plans for Cart Stonehenge.

We live within walking distance of a WalMart and a junior high school.  It's a bad combination.  Kids walking home from school often grab a WalMart cart to push their friends home in.  Sometimes they have cart races down a long hill.  Do the kids return the cart to the store?  Nope.  They park the cart in front of someone's house.  When the elementary school kids come home, they push the cart around some more, and said cart ends up on its side in someone's lawn.  Don't try to tell me that doesn't look trashy.  I have never seen a WalMart cart used as a lawn ornament in Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

When this first started happening, I put the WalMart customer service number on speed dial. When I saw a cart, I'd call the number.  But I noticed that the carts stayed there.  No one came to pick them up.  Other neighbors called the police when they saw kids pushing WalMart carts into the neighborhood.  The police were willing to help with the problem.  After all, the carts are worth at least $250 each.  But WalMart is too friendly to press charges for stealing carts.  They're also too friendly to put up a sign that says, "Please don't take shopping carts out of the parking lot and leave them in your neighbor's lawn."  Alas, they aren't friendly enough to come get their carts.

So what do you think we should do with all the carts?  Cart Henge?  Cart Triathalon?  Any other ideas?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Party Pictures

 Even though I'm a total party animal (ha ha), this is the first time I've had three parties for myself in one month.  Luckily, I only had to throw one myself.  My friend, Annette, threw a fun and creative signing party for me this weekend--check out the great decorations.  And, last weekend, my mother-in-law had a "Meet the Author" party for me.  I had a great time meeting all the people she talks about.  Here are the pictures.

This is Annette and me at the Signing Table Annette decorated.  She even made bookmarks.

My book title in Scrabble letters.  I love Scrabble.


Jane Austen-inspired decorations

We had cinnamon rolls (of course) on a book page tablecloth.



Here I am sitting with my helpers at the Seagull Bookstore launch party.  We had cookies and a lot of people came--though you can't tell from this picture.  Don't I look like a party animal?



This is me at the Meet the Author Party my mother-in-law had for me.  Not many people can say their mother-in-law is wonderful, but I can--and not just because she threw me a party.