Friday Thoughts: Incorporating Creativity

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that you have a wonderful weekend planned and, if you are in the academic world, that your semester/quarter/term is over (or nearly over). It’s been a bit quiet around this blog lately, but I’m hoping and planning to write more over the summer. This last term has been a bit of a time (I still can’t believe it’s the beginning of June already) and while I’ve done some graphic design work and thought often about what I want to share in this space, reports, meetings (upon meetings upon meetings), and other fires came up that pushed this small space to the edge. So today, I wanted to reflect a bit about something that’s been on my mind for awhile as we wrap up this school year–incorporating creativity into my work.

It’s probably not a surprise (far from it, in fact) that I believe creativity is so important to work and life and librarianship. What got me down this particular musing about how I’ve incorporated and define more and more of my work as creative was a meeting a few weeks ago. Also, probably not a surprise for readers, I’m not a fan of meetings especially those without agendas or action items. In this meeting, one person tried to divide the group into the creatives and non-creatives. And this, dear readers, rankled me greatly and (again, no surprise), I said so.

I believe truly, completely, and without reservation that everyone is creative and a creative. To label some people as not creative is not just untrue but detrimental not only to the person but to the community as a whole. How many of us can remember a time when someone said we weren’t creative enough? A good enough artist? Musician? Thinker? Writer? Probably most of us and those comments, often said in such an offhand manner that the speaker doesn’t even remember, can stifle our creativity for years if not lifetimes.

And that’s just wrong.

And it’s not just me who says it’s wrong. And if you need some words from those more eloquent than I (and with research to back it up), I suggest you read the work of Brene Brown and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Their works are inspiring and help when you’re feeling down or when someone implies (or outright says) you’re not creative.

We need creativity in our work and in our libraries, desperately and always. So what does this have to do with my work? For that, I have to tell you a story.

My first written piece as a professional librarian (in a now-defunct online space) was about the importance of play in academic librarianship, about not taking ourselves too seriously and seeing where we could be creative in what we do. And I got a comment on it that said such frivolity was not welcome in academia in the library and basically that I should get serious.

I’m serious about a lot of things, dear readers, and my work is one of them. But there is no need to sacrifice creativity or playfulness or (heaven help us) fun, in order to be serious about our work. On the contrary, being creative and having fun allows us to do better work and be as creative as we need to be.

Which brings us back to why I’m thinking about how much more I’ve incorporated creativity intentionally into my work in the last decade (yes, in July I’ll have been doing this librarian thing for a decade) and why I won’t let others label people as not creative.

I surround myself with visual inspiration in my office–postcards from trips, quotes from books and people I admire, photographs and buttons, origami from friends, and a dozen other little mementos that make me smile. And lots of these things show up in my work, in color schemes, and typography, and emotions for my designs, but also in what I want to bring to my teaching, to my writing, to my outreach, and to the dozens of other projects we do in the library that we may not think of as creative works, but truly are.

Incorporating creativity and being willing to try new things, ideas, ways of conceptualizing, are what have kept me engaged and serious about my work as a librarian. What have kept me from the cynicism and keep me coming back, even when some days it feels like I’m not making a difference, not having my expertise heard, not doing anything.

Creativity is what you make of it. It’s what you define it to be. Whether it’s creating a new flyer, engaging someone with a report they’ll actually read, or finding a way to reach a student where and when they need it. And it’s important, it’s vital, no matter what anyone else says.

You are creative. I am creative. We are creative.

And the library, the world, our community needs what we have to make and to offer.

Here’s to many more days and ways of incorporating that which inspires us, guides us, and moves us into our work and our lives.

I wish you, always, a wonderful, joyful, and relaxing weekend, dear readers. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back soon (with luck and determination) with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

Getting More Done

It is a new year and that means time, of course, for new year’s resolutions. Everyone always has great, glorious, and huge plans starting on Jan. 1. (At least, I usually do.) This year, however, I suggest taking a different approach and trying to do small things that will lead to goals you can actually achieve and are slightly less arduous than running a marathon, or writing a best-selling novel. (Full disclosure: running a marathon and writing a best-selling novel have ever been on my resolutions list).

So, of course, faithful reader, I have a couple of articles that should help you on your way towards accomplishing more, stressing less, and managing to make 24 hours in a day really seem like enough time to get everything that is important done.

First we have this great article on the art of radical exclusion. Now this is going to be very, very difficult for those of us who are people pleasers and volunteers of the world. You know who you are. But just read the article and think to yourself, what is more important: saying yes to everything that everyone ever asks of you or having your sanity at the end of the day. For those who feel stretched too thin, take heart and try the art of radical exclusion.

On the other hand, those of you who never volunteer, make it your resolution to help out those who do volunteer. Volunteering can be great and lifting your own weight in work, and in life, is always appreciated.

This next article I find really, really interesting. It discusses Gladwell’s book, Outliers, which postulates that social forces are incredibly important in shaping individuals that accomplish great things. But what I find really interesting is Brooks’ argument that individuals who actually accomplish the most are those who are fantastic at controlling their attention. I think this makes complete sense, especially relevant in our hyperlinked, 24/7 world. People who are okay with tuning out email, IM, twitter and other interruptions do get more done. Maybe we won’t all become the next Bill Gates by controlling our attention, but we will get more done.

I know that when I turn off the email, I get tons more accomplished in a day. A few months ago I tried an experiment where I only opened my email account at 4 specified times during the day. At first I was afraid that I would miss important messages, but after a couple of days I found that not only did I get more work done, I didn’t miss any messages that were totally crucial to my work or life. I fell off this bandwagon during the last couple of weeks of the year and am trying to reinstate this in my life as being tied to the computer and Internet all day is a recipe for complete distraction.

So all I’m really saying in this post is: stop multi-tasking and trying to do it all! You can’t do it all. There are only 24 hours in a day and you don’t have a time-turner (if you don’t get what I just said, I suggest reading Harry Potter). Focus your energy and you’ll be able to achieve a state of flow more readily and get more accomplished while being less stressed. All in all a great recipe for not only becoming healthier in the new year (stress really is a killer) but also being a better person to others as you will be less stressed–everyone likes people who are calm, not stressed.

Happy Friday, good luck on controlling your attention and let me know your tips for getting more done and being less stressed.

Resources for an Online World

Wow, it is November already. Crazy how quickly 2008 is flying by. Okay, so here are three resources for the online world as we all seem to be tied to our computers more and more frequently at work and at home, so let’s make the most of it.

So, do you dislike traffic and commuting? I sure do. Nothing is more stressful first thing in the morning than rush hour gridlock. I think that is why telecommuting is so popular–or at least one of the reasons. I occasionally (like twice a quarter) work from home and I always get so much more done in less time with less stress than at the office. And this isn’t because I don’t like my colleagues, I like my colleagues a lot, but at home I can work without interruptions, take breaks when I need to, run errands, and still have accomplished more in 8 hours of work than I would have in the office. Plus, no driving. So you want to convince your office that telecommuting should be an option? Not to mention a green option for work? Well, you are in luck. Lifehacker has put together a great article on Telecommuting Talking Points. Check it out and then talk to the powers that be. Good luck.

Another great article to check out from Lifehacker is Online Storage Comparison. As you think about storing data online, it pays to compare and use the best one for your particular situation.

Last but not least, for all you graphic designers out there on a shoestring budget that does not include Photoshop. Check out Aviary an online alternative with free and for-fee plans. I watched the video and was amazed by the professional effects created on Aviary. So definitely check it out.

Have a great Monday!