4 June, 2013  |   Comment

There’ll be sad songs, to make you cry

This is post 5 of 6 from a talk I gave at the Big Traveling Potluck about taking care of your internet creativity through the artistic stylings of Billy Ocean.

There'll be sad songs, to make you cry

One of the feelings that squash collaboration is Jealousy. And there’s no better place to see jealousy run rampant than in personal publishing.

I talk about the crippling effects of online jealousy a lot because I think it’s something we all wrestle with.

I think the problem is far more insidious than any of us let on.

Like I said, we work in isolation on our egos — impossible to follow the trite advice to ‘keep your eyes on your own work.” It’s in our faces, under the guise of community and “just keeping up.”

It comes in sneaky ways that don’t immediately read as jealousy, and instead bubble up as irritation, hate reading, asking questions in your head like
– Why wasn’t I invited?
– Why do they hate me?
– Who does she think she is?

It’s jumping to conclusions like
– She/He thinks he’s too good for this.
– They didn’t have it as hard as I did, that’s why they’re successful.
– Hey! That was MY idea! He stole it!

It’s even worse when money and fame get into it. What else is the current monetized internet other than traffic numbers and competition for limited opportunities?
(Not much).

I’ve talked about this before, but I have been helped immensely by not assuming my jealousy as the end game. I use it as a tool – when I’m jealous of someone (and quite honestly, I’ve been jealous of most of the people in this room) I’ll make a jealousy map, where I write out Who, Why and Now What.

It sounds too easy to work, but it quickly stops that downward spiral. I learned this from the great book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – a creativity course I do once a year to help me identify blocks and ruts in my creative processes.

Billy Ocean

3 June, 2013  |   1 Comment

The Tough Get Ready, Absorption and Envision

This is post 4 of 6 from a talk I gave at the Big Traveling Potluck about taking care of your internet creativity through the artistic stylings of Billy Ocean.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Ready

I assume you’re all highly creative. This is because creativity is the juice that runs this business of digital publishing. The creative stuff is what has that amplification – what you just have to share.

Thankfully, brain science is steadily helping us develop our creativity.

In studying the brains of highly creative people, some scientists theorize that there are 7 different brain activation processes based on the different phase of creativity you’re in. By identifying these processes, and maximizing your environment for each of them, you can blow up your creativity at each level (for more on this, find the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck)

We can do this. We can amp up our own creativity.
And here’s 2 of the 7.

The first, is acknowledging and getting into the Absorb brainset.
(Getting into the Absorb brainset is much more successful than what passes for inspiration these days – the cursory Pinterest romp.)

When we open our minds to new experiences and uncritically take in ideas, we can take in more knowledge that we can combine in different ways thereby increasing our creativity.

Let’s get in the Absorb mindset right now.
Seriously, you and me.
Let’s get more creative.

First, take in a deep breath.
Close your eyes (it’s cool, I promise).
Let go some of that unconscious tension and start to recognize what’s going on through all your senses.

Feel your feet touching the floor – your shoes. Feel how your body is touching the furniture, how your clothing feels in a nonjudgmental way. What are you smelling? What’s the temperature like? Move through each of your senses. Quiet your censors, wake up your sensors.

Open your eyes and continue this feeling of absorption. See how colors have become brighter, you can notice angles and shadows and all of a sudden you’re aware of more stimuli coming in from your senses.

Basically, you’ve just primed your brain to accept better and more information. As soon as you’re not filtering out this information, you have more available to you to recombine in creative and original ways.

This is superior to “taking a spin through Pinterest” because it’s relying on your own creativity — your own lens, which is what the internet was made for.

Another brainset to maximize your creativity is the Envision brainset.

To get into the Envision brainset, think visually rather than verbally. See and manipulate objects with your minds’ eye. Prime your brain to see comparisons between 2 things that seem far removed from them originally (Shutterbean is great at this).


Look around you in your environment and think about the consequences if something were changed.
What if – avocados grew hair? What if you had six arms instead of 2? What if you took a bath in mayonnaise?

How would the world change?

Once you see these consequences, you’re actually forging pathways in the brain that allow you to activate this Envision brainset in the future. Let’s give these synapses a workout! Your internet web site depends on it.

And kids do this all day long.

Kids aren’t filtering out what we adults need to filter out — our prefrontal cortex helps us plan for the future and it does this by judging the rest of what’s coming in.

This helps us increase the signal to noise ration. We grown ups have goals, and our goals keep our brains on track.

Therefore we only notice what’s in line with our goals or what we need to survive.

Kids don’t have this level of prefrontal cortex development — they’re still getting this information and they wonder about it – they have the freedom to play WHAT IF all day long, because their brains are built for it.

But to be creative — we need to turn down that prefrontal activator so we can have better ideas, combinations, new creative thoughts. Right now, things are changing so rapidly, we need to be able to adapt and take the next step rather than following an already delimited pathway.

Absorption, envision.
You got this one.

Billy Ocean

14 May, 2013  |   3 Comments

Gifting issues.

This post sponsored by Frigidaire.

Re-entry from our trip to the Big Traveling Potluck, Mickey’s house and Mom 2.0 has required a more intensive re-entry process than I was prepared for. Work! Kids! Bocce! Work! Work!

Speaking of, did you see my Biscuit Brunch and Mimosa Bar video that I did with the Wine Sisterhood? (It was exactly like being on a cooking show and I loved every minute of it.)

But a week out of making wine videos and being out of the office meant I needed to take care of the secondary items that were ignored. Cards, gifts, acknowledgements, bills, appointments, plans, all of it waiting patiently in a ditch.

None more than gifts.
They’re always last on my list

Except this one time when I bought James a cello

I’ve talked about love languages before, and the one I least understand is gifting. I am profoundly uncomfortable accepting gifts, purchasing gifts and watching people open gifts. There’s something about gifting that I’m not good at.

Gifting gives me a bunch of anxiety.
But I’m working on it.
And I’m starting with Auntie T.

Auntie T. got married in October. We’re super happy for her!
It’s a brave decision
when you decide
who you are and
who you love and make the leap.

And we owe her a gift to commemorate.
And I put it off.
Until I remembered what makes Auntie T unique. She loves New Orleans, she’s not fancy, she takes after her dad. So I put together a gift package right for her. Not for anyone else, but her. We love you T.

1-abita 2-superhero
3-toaster 4-cruise
5-beneigh 6-besh

1. Abita Strawberry Beer. This Louisiana brew only comes out once a year. Now how to smuggle to Arizona?
2. A Superhero Mask. The groomsfolk all wore them, and the brides are superheros.
3. Frigidaire Convection Oven. Make a late night French Bread pizza. Just like in the French Quarter. Or some Bread Pudding. Whatever.
4. Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles. Because it’s so much.
5. My New Orleans: The Cookbook. Let me tell you about the time Chef Besh served us cocktails and made me his assistant.
6. Beignet mix from Cafe du Monde. Perfect for Sunday morning experiments.

We packed it up with feather boas and love, and a whole lot of happy vibes for the new couple. Hooray for love and french bread pizzas or bread pudding.

13 May, 2013  |   1 Comment

Those that can’t do, strategize?

Meat Raffle

I have so many feelings about sponsored posts.
And that’s a good thing, because it’s my day job.
(I wouldn’t want someone who isn’t skeptical in the job.)

My day job is setting up bloggers and brands with sponsored posts. My favorite kinds of posts are the underwritten posts, the ones where a theme is selected, the publisher gets a chance to write about something they would otherwise write about and the brand gets to politely join an online conversation. But most of the time there’s a product involved. And it requires description.

At Mom 2.0, I was on a panel with Whoorl, Heather Spohr and Kristen Howerton, talking about better sponsored posts. Since I don’t do sponsored posts much, it was all about my day job.

From our panel on sponsored posts -- this was from Sarah James

But for the next week, I’m doing a test. I’m going to try my hand at interesting, valuable sponsored posts. Because you come here for the dip recipes and internet thoughts. And I want to see if anyone can do it — and which traits of mine might or might not be suited for it. I’d like to squash the voice in my head that says, “Those who can’t do, get into content strategy…” and see if I could try.

From our panel on sponsored posts -- this was from Kristen Howerton

If sponsored stuff isn’t your gig, I encourage you to check back next Monday, when I’ll be back with more Billy Ocean posts.

Thanks for joining in my experiment.

From our panel on sponsored posts -- this was from Heather Spohr

28 November, 2012  |   6 Comments

Working from home, a tip or three

My Monday’s are superduperdays, I’ll give them that.

But for a good chunk of the rest of the week, I work from home. This allows a less intense schedule. Inspired by Pamie’s most recent Weekly Procrastination post, I thought I’d throw my tips on the pile.

Pinot says PLEASE WALK ME.

My morning starts the rest of the week at 5:00 am when I walk the dog.
Being a morning person stunk in college, but I’m okay with it now.

My coffee is 2/3 decaffeinated and 1/3 caffeinated.
(This way I can have more than one cup before inappropriate outbursts.)

I exercise, make the coffee, quickly scan work email for emergencies and make breakfasts for the toddlers. If there’s time, I do morning pages. We get dressed, I take the girls to school and we laugh and yell the whole way through.

When I’m back at the house alone, I eat breakfast (it helps!) and make my daily list.

a Helen Jane work from home tip
Make a list first
My lists are super granular. I break everything down into 30 minute or less chunks of activity. I do it before getting into my email (besides my emergency scan). I list all the tasks to do before nine pm. I don’t let my list cover more than 2/3 of the page so there’s room for the inevitable tasks that pop up.

Every day, I’m surprised when my husband comes home, even though it’s been this way for 3 years. Gah. After realizing I’ve been hunched over the phone or the laptop for five hours straight and my neck probably hurt and my leg was asleep, I installed a stretch timer.

Thus the next tip…

a Helen Jane work from home tip
Set up a Stretch Timer on your phone or your computer 
Bodies weren’t made for all this laptop hunching.
We’re at home! let’s take advantage of our privacy and get a little weird! Let’s swing these meat sack appendages around every 30 minutes or so, it feels good. I use the Stretch Timer widget and/or the timer on my phone.

By 4:30 pm, The pacing outside my office space has worn yet another hole in the carpet. All my people need something. So I take a break and start supper in earnest. When the food goes in the oven, or the food is simmering, I head back upstairs for a work check-in.

a Helen Jane work from home tip
Take advantage of supper
You can make amazing suppers, just by popping in at various parts of the preparation process. Take tiny breaks to chill doughs, whip up desserts and use your food processor in a calm, measured and uncrowded kitchen. Some steps can take only a few minutes — use that stretch timer to your advantage.

By 5:30 pm, supper is on the table. We say what we’re “thank you” for and we eat together.  I love this part of the day.

Lamb Kebabs

Before bed, the girls dance and run and sometimes play Candyland and sometimes play dress-up and sometimes play with blocks and sometimes play babies and sometimes make a Hot Wheels track and sometimes fight and cry.

Just like you and me.

Usually it looks like this:

Then we bathe and pajama and read and tuck.

At 8:00, I check once more into work, as well as my side projects and writing projects and all the little things that seemed fun at the time. This includes working on my presentations, illustrations and party preparations.

By 9:30, I finish up my prep for tomorrow. Depending on where I’ll be, you could find me getting notes, clothing, packing, tomorrow’s dinner and bus fare ready for another day.

a Helen Jane work from home tip

30 minutes tonight is worth an hour in the morning
That last half hour of the day can make or break your next day. Put out as much as you can for tomorrow. I put out my makeup and hair-doing supplies, my clothing, dog walking doodads (leash, bags, coat), the coffee, the girls’ lunches, everything I can.

Hope some of these scheduling tips help you pack a wee bit more into your day.

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