Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Debuting Today: Marie's BHAG

“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.” — Charles Brower 

This quote sums up why I am hesitant to put my BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goal) out there in public. What if you laugh at me? What if I can never be that good? Am I silly for thinking I could ever accomplish anything of significance?

On the other hand, what if I don't put my BHAG out there? Then it is just a wish, a dream with no action behind it. Destined to stay within my mind, unfulfilled. Once it is in writing, it gains power, and I can start putting an action plan into place. So here it goes.

Debuting today, Marie's BHAG:
"To live a creative, joyful, spiritual life as an artist and a writer"
Steps on the BHAG path:
  1. Be featured in Artful Blogger magazine.
  2. Write articles for industry-publications.
  3. Publish a book.
  4. Have a piece in an art gallery.
  5. Use my work to raise money for charity.
  6. Teach a writing/communications course.

"How" is as important as "what"
My goal is to be recognized as an artist and writer, but the "how" I get there matters. If the path is lucrative, but stressful or harmful, it isn't the right path. The criteria of "creative, spiritual, and joyful" are there to guide decisions along the way.

So what's next?
Obviously many factors are keeping me from accomplishing this right now. That's what makes it audacious. I've started to inventory those blocks so I can work to remove them. For example, I have a long way to go before my work is "gallery" quality. That is something tangible that I can work on.

In other words, every reason for why I'm not a recognized artist and writer, now become an action step on the path, rather than a roadblock. 

I took one of those action steps toward my goal this week. Carol  McKenna, who writes the blog ArtMuseDog interviewed me for her "Interview with Creatives" series. Carol,the author of  Share the Creative Journey and A Creative Harbor, is a former psychology professor and psychotherapist who is currently encouraging others to find creativity in all parts of their Life Journey.

Okay, I showed you mine. Now it's your turn. What is your BHAG?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

7 Lessons from Designers

PSU Creative Team at Play/Work (Team Building)

7 Lessons from Designers
 For the past 10 years, I worked as part as a creative in-house marketing team. As a writer, my role was to advocate for those pesky words that get in the way of the designers' graphics. As a project manager, my role was to make sure we delivered what we promised, when we promised it. It was a fun and frustrating job.

It is fascinating to see what happens when you put people from different disciplines together on projects.  Everyone learns from each other. Some of my favorite lessons come from the designers that I worked with. I apply these lessons to design and copy writing.

Hopefully you can use these lessons in your own creative process and to strengthen your relationship with designers you may work with.

1. More is less.
"When you think you are done, look at your work again and take one thing away." One of my designers got this advice from her college art instructor. It is a good sanity check. If you aren't careful your fonts and colors can take center stage instead of what you are trying to communicate.

I find this advice invaluable for my blog design. Over time, I add things that look cool individually, but viewed as a whole they break the design cohesion. Every once in a while, I stop adding features and look at deleting. The tip also works with words. I tend to add stories or a cute phrase to my posts that have nothing to do with the main idea. Brutal as it may seem, I have to delete them.

2. One idea isn't good enough.
My former creative director, Herbert, challenges his design team to move beyond their first idea. Too often, designers come up with a good idea and start to flesh that idea out. The problem is that they missed a great idea by settling for a good one. Herbert advises designers to trade their computers for notebooks when generating ideas. Do LOTS of quick thumbnails before you settle on a winning idea.

3. Collages don't communicate.
I'm not talking about artistic collages where the sum of the parts creates something powerfully expressive. I'm talking about using a collage as a cop-out so you don't have to make a decision about which photo to use. This happens often with brochures or magazine covers. One big, great photo says far more than five small ones. Be brave and pick one.

4. I'm not a designer, but I play one on TV.
If you give a designer a very detailed sketch of EXACTLY what you want, you will get a finished product that is EXACTLY what you asked for, devoid of the designer's expertise. Didn't you hire them for that expertise? Set the expectation, communicate the deadlines, and get out of the way.

5. Be honest about your deadline.
If a project is due in in two weeks, but you want to see something in a week, SAY SO. Designers aren't mind readers. If they aren't given any more details than the final due date, they will work right up to the deadline and you won't have any time for input.

6. Images and words must have a happy marriage.
The best designers understand that images and words must marry. If an image looks cool, but doesn't "say" the same thing as the text, you can't use it. You also can't shrink the copy down to the size of legal print. On the flip side, a good copywriter understands that you need to give the designer visual space to work with. You can't get greedy and fill up every inch with words. No one will read cramped copy.

7. Design is a problem-solving discipline.
Some people think designers just "pretty things up." Design is a problem-solving discipline. If you help your team understand your business challenge, you will get something far more powerful than a pretty picture. I find the same is true for writers. The more data you can give me, the more on-target my text will be.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Don't Fear the BHAG

 Don't Fear the BHAG. Polymer Clay Mixed Media ©Marie Young (Young Creative)

Do you have a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal)?
Several years ago I was asked to read Jim Collins' book Good to Great as part of an organizational improvement effort at a previous job. It was to be our mantra, our call to move--well as the title says-- "from good to great." As with so many of these shiny things that catch management's eye in a huge organization, this effort flickered then faded.

That doesn't mean the book wasn't valuable. It's just that a big ship is hard to steer, even if the direction is solid. Personally, I gained a lot from reading this book. Much of what Collins talks about for organizations can be used for personal development. In fact, one of the concepts has been on my mind lately.

The Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal
Collins recommends that you set a BHAG; one that is inspiring, but pretty hard to attain. It isn't a New Year's resolution. It isn't something you can accomplish in a year. In fact, it should be something that takes a serious shift in how you do things (sometimes over decades) to accomplish.

BHAGs are scary creatures.
I have been afraid to seriously entertain a BHAG. I like setting "realistic" goals; goals that I can easily accomplish then cross off the list. BHAGS aren't that simple. BHAGS are scary creatures that require commitment to change.

They also open you up to failure. That's right. If I try, I might fail. Yet what I am beginning to understand is that failure is a stepping stone on the way to success. So really what is the risk?

Shhh, don't tell anyone.
I'll let you in on a secret. I do have a BHAG. I'm trying to find the courage to put it into writing here. Don't worry I will, soon, just not yet.
About the photo:
The word BHAG brings to my mind, well a hag; a scary hag. I created this wonderfully hideous beauty to represent the fear I initially feel in embracing a BHAG. Do you have a BHAG? Was it easy for you to say it out loud?
Don't Fear the BHAG. Mixed Media (polymer clay, fiber, and paper) © 2011 Marie Young (Young Creative)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Moo-verlous Sculpting Medium

Fuel Up to Play 60.  butter sculpture by Jim Victor of Conshohocken, Pa.
I like polymer clay as a sculpting medium, another artist in my state, Jim Victor, prefers butter.

Jim Victor of Conshohocken, Montgomery County, has been an artist and teacher for more than 30 years. His sculptures appears in public and private collections, including the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. He works in wood, bronze, terra cotta, butter, cheese, chocolate, and vegetables.

1,000 pounds of delicious art  
Jim has traveled all over the United States and even China to unveil his unique take on sculpting. What he is getting press for right now is the nearly 1,000 pounds of butter that he turned into Fuel Up to Play 60, the centerpiece of the 95th Pennsylvania Farm Show which opened Saturday.

The piece shows a dairy farmer bringing milk to children playing on a jungle gym and tossing a ball with a football player. It recognizes the dairy industry's partnership with the National Football League, which encourages children to eat a balanced diet including low-fat milk and dairy foods filled with essential vitamins and minerals, and be active for at least 60 minutes each day.

Jim began crafting the life-size piece in mid-December and finished just in time for the Farm Show. He created it from butter donated by Land O' Lakes in Carlisle, Pa.   

If you want to see the piece in person before it is converted into biofuel at Penn State, you can swing by the the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg through Jan. 15. Admission is free and parking is $10.

The 2011 Pennsylvania Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in the nation, featuring nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits, and  290 commercial exhibitors.

Rich History in Butter Sculpting
Butter sculptures have been a long-time tradition at the farm show, but Pennsylvanians aren't alone in their love of butter sculptures. During winter festivals, Tibetans mold butter into various forms that depict the life of Buddha. The butter for these sculptures, from yak or goat milk, is snowy white and can have pigments added to color the sculptures.

Does your area have a unique food/art tradition?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Single Word: Year of Inspiration

One word: a year's worth of inspiration
The Power of a Word
Leah at Creative Every Day chooses a word in December to serve as her theme for the upcoming year. It is a beautifully simple way to focus your goals. Her blog has a wonderful explanation of the process she uses to come up with her word.

This year she chose the word "Metamorphosis." Perfect considering the fact that she is expecting a child in 2011. She created a painting of a butterfly to represent her path: one of quiet time preparing for the transformation of motherhood.

Creative, Spiritual, Joyful
I used a couple of words to guide me in 2010: Creative, Spiritual, and Joyful. I will continue to focus on these words in 2011. I am working on a mosaic plaque for my office that will serve as a daily reminder of my path.

There are lots of great ways to visualize your word. Of course, you can do like Leah and create a work of art. Or you can do something as simple as writing it somewhere where you will see it every day.

Here are some example projects you may want to try.

Create a Rock Garden
Create a Desk Shrine


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