Conversation with a Creative: Meet Creativity Expert & Facebook Product Designer Tanner Christensen

I'm a writer, yes, but I'm coming up short on words to communicate how utterly stoked I am to speak with today's Conversation with a Creative guest. Tanner Christensen is a product designer at Facebook, author of the Creative Challenge, founder of Creative Something, developer of some of the top creativity apps, blogger on Medium, contributing author for Inc., and a former writer for Adobe's 99u. 
Back when I was in grad school and began really diving into the study of creativity I found Tanner on Twitter and eventually discovered his incredible blog Creative Something. Tanner was creating inspiring, thought-provoking stuff centered on creativity. And he was doing it with a fresh perspective and approach that didn't feel stuffy or overly academic. He's done a lot in a short amount of time and he’s also a major dabbler--but we’ll get to that.   
I think you’ll find Tanner’s perspective on creativity, Facebook, and the digital landscape fascinating. Without further ado: meet Tanner Christensen. 

HS: What does creativity mean to you? 

TC: Creativity is the mental capacity to generate novel and useful ideas.

HS: What piqued your interest in creativity? How did you come to study it and research it?

Creativity is this really alluring thing just on its own, isn’t it? Even if you don’t understand what it means to be creative or how it works, the notion that anyone, anywhere, can generate unique ideas from seemingly nowhere is a real type of magic that you can see and touch and be a part of.

It first captured my attention when I was very young. My friend’s father at the time ran a successful graphic design business and whenever I visited that office, full of colorful prints and futuristic gizmos, I always felt some type of magic in the work they were doing there. That’s what inspired me to pursue a career in design.

For some years I worked as a freelance visual designer, eventually landing a job at a real design agency, and everyone there kept talking about creativity but could never explain what it was they were talking about. I found that strangely captivating.

I decided to start pursuing the answer for myself; what is creativity and exactly how does it work? What makes novel thinking so powerful? If we could learn more about it what possibilities might we unlock?

HS: So you’re a product designer/creative strategist. Can you tell me about what you do and how the two intersect? 

TC: My first job at that design agency wasn’t actually in design. I was hired to do online marketing — which I didn’t know how to do. I spent a lot of time having to teach myself about search engine optimization, computer science, and all that.

So while I was learning about these strategic, mostly analytical practices, I was also spending a lot of time on the side researching and writing about creativity.

After about three or four years I started to develop a really comprehensive understanding of creativity. What I learned was that what I — like many others — had been led to believe about creativity simply wasn’t true. It isn’t about art or design, writing or music, creativity is fundamentally about ideas and how we develop, understand, and communicate them. Not just in terms of the arts, but in every realm of thinking and work.

I was able to take this perspective and apply it to my work, to the point where I’ve done everything from leading creative teams of designers and engineers, to creating hit apps, and writing on this fairly renown blog called Creative Something.

Most recently I landed at Facebook where I work as a product designer and am able to do a lot of other fun things with my knowledge of creativity.

HS: We’re all on Facebook. But you work there. How is creativity woven into the Facebook culture?

TC: Some of the most remarkably talented and highly intelligent people I have ever met work at Facebook. When I first joined the company I was amazed to discover that one of the cognitive neuroscientists I had looked up to over the past decade, Paul King, worked there too.

It’s the kind of environment that makes you really appreciate the bridge between logical thinking and creativity.

The problems we solve at Facebook are really difficult, even at the smallest scale. What seems like a straight-forward challenge to outsiders — creating an experience that connects people all across the world — is actually highly complex. You have to figure things out like how a design pattern will scale for a hundred different screen sizes in a hundred different languages, some of which change direction or break the layout of a product.

What’s culturally acceptable and understood in one part of the world is abnormal or shunned in another. How do you create something as simple as a button when it’s not going to be looked at or understood the same way for any two people? Getting that right is really important when it comes to connecting the world.

At Facebook we rely not only on data and formal logic to solve problems or to empower people, we have to think creatively too. Because nobody else is designing at the scale we are. Nobody has ever really had to think about the things we’re creating at the scale we’re creating them.

The culture of the company is really about how to bring highly intelligent and overly creative people together — both groups highly ambitious — in order to achieve the same goals. I’ve written a little more about how Facebook achieves this here.

HS: Did anything surprise you about Facebook once you began working there that you didn’t anticipate prior to joining their team?

TC: Everything about working at Facebook has been a surprise. Even now, a few years into the job, I stumble on things that surprise me.

For one, the utter intellect and talents of those I work alongside is awe-inspiring. It’s really hard to put into words just how smart some people can be. I thought I had some idea of intellect but when you work alongside people who are programming machines to do things humans can barely do that’s really humbling.

Another thing is just how complex the work is being done at Facebook. It can sometimes be easy to look at the website or app and think that the goal of Facebook is something it’s not or that our priorities are misaligned, but the reality is so far from that. There are a lot of people doing a lot of really difficult work to help connect and empower people around the world, and it takes a lot to make it happen in such an effective way.

HS: You recently had a book published. Congrats! Can you tell us what “The Creativity Challenge” is about and what inspired you to write it?

One day in 2015 I got a call from Adams Media, my publisher, they had been reading my blog and were interested in seeing if I wanted to write a book.

Together we came up with the idea of The Creativity Challenge in an effort to create a small book that could empower anyone who flipped through the pages to think creatively.

The book is filled with 150 activities that I was able to piece together through my years of researching and writing on creativity. Some are fun and quirky while others are fairly straight-forward. The point of the book wasn’t to radically alter how people think about creativity, it was more of a way to provide an easy-to-reference guide for shaking up your routine and dusting off mental cobwebs.

HS: What are your creative habits? What do you do to sharpen your creativity?

TC: I dabble. If I wasn’t a designer I’d be a dabbler. The absolute best way to remain creative is to have many diverse hobbies, and so that’s what I’ve tried to do.

If you want to quickly energize your creativity, find something interesting in the world and learn how to do it yourself. Twitter, YouTube, and Quora are great ways to do this by the way.

For example, right now I am in the middle of: writing a second book, learning Arduino in order to make an tangible product, picking up tools for fine metal jewelry making, coding my seventh app, writing for, getting into videography, leading public design critiques for Facebook, painting, ceramics, cooking, world travel, and probably a dozen other things I’m failing to recall.

All of these things do wonders for helping me think about solving problems and working in different ways.

I actually recently wrote about this  and state:

"Taking a break to work on something else helps us avoid fixating on existing solutions or patterns of thinking."

It isn’t easy and it’s definitely time consuming, but any time I can do something new or different I try my best to do it. Though it’s worth mentioning I often encounter fear at the beginning of these things. I don’t think the fear of failing at a new endeavor, or getting hurt or lost while traveling, or embarrassing yourself, ever goes away. You just learn to push past it after some time.

HS: What is your advice to a multidisciplinary creative who might aspire to one day do the kind of work you do or achieve what you have achieved?

Two things I’d tell my past self:

1. Keep going. Whenever you feel like it’s all a waste of time, or like nobody’s listening, or like you haven’t gotten the things you’d hoped to get by now, just keep going. Grit is a tremendously powerful thing, and many people don’t have it, so learn what it takes for you, personally, to keep trading through. If you’re doing things you love or find stimulating, then at least you’re getting fulfillment from that.

2. Be loud. Write, make videos, do a podcast, lecture, do gallery shows, publish your work, do whatever it takes to make people hear you. Even if what you say is wrong, or even if your work isn’t the best, people will start seeing you for the things you put out into the world. People who keep their work and their thoughts to themselves aren’t perfectionists, they’re indifferent. Show people you care — about the work or process or whatever — by being loud with it. Even if people come out and chastise you for it, the world is a big place and there will always be someone out there cheering you along because they need what you can share with them.

3. And, of course, I'd say pick up a copy of The Creativity Challenge.

A huge "thank you" to Tanner for taking the time to talk all things creativity. Do you know someone who should be interviewed for Conversation with a Creative? Drop me a line
If you're ready to make more space in your life for creativity, download my free eBook, More in Less: 21 Productivity Hacks for Creatives.

Conversation with a Creative: Meet John Carl

 I always get pretty excited to talk about creativity with anyone who wants to broach the subject. There's so much us creative-types can learn from one another: from strategies to battle the fear of rejection to the ways we get inspired. Today I'm starting a new regular feature in which I take these offline conversations online and share them with you.
First at bat: John Carl. 
John is a New York based videographer and filmmaker. We’ve been close friends since our college days and it’s been fascinating to witness John’s rise from computer lab assistant to director of photography for shoots with household names like Microsoft, Sharpie and Motorola. (Oh the places you'll go between 20 and 30!) John and I have had plenty of conversations about creativity, entrepreneurship, art and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. So today I wanted to kick off a new interview-style feature on the blog with this chat with John. 

HS: Can you share with us a little about your career trajectory? How did you arrive where you are now?

JC: Let’s see. Video by way of photography by way of graphic design by way of music by way of computers—a circuitous path. I never knew exactly where I was going but I wanted to keep my engine on. My cousin Davy says, “You cant steer a parked car.I just knew that if I kept doing what I loved that I would eventually find a way to turn it into a career. That’s the short answer.

The slightly longer answer is that I got a camera that could shoot video, a DSLR in 2009 and just started shooting video for fun. After posting a couple videos online, I got a call from Levis about a job and it was a bigger job so it seemed to be the right time to go freelance and start a company. I reached out to some friends and we started a company (DuckDuck Collective). The first year or two were very scrappy. We had to hustle a lot and accepted any work that came our way: weddings, senior portraits, events—not the most glamorous work in the grand scheme of the industry but we were paying our dues. Lynchburg was the perfect place to do that because it was so cheap to live here. Eventually clients wanted more video work and our numbers began to grow. Then on one of our bigger jobs in California we learned that the client had asked the agency why they were hiring “some kids from Virginia” as opposed to professionals from LA or New York. That was insightful and when I realized that even your zip code communicates something about your perceived level of skill. So we decided to move. I wanted to put off LA for as long as possible. It feels a little inevitable in this industry. So off to NYC we went and that’s where we are today. We have new office space, a new camera, lots of other new gear and some new services that aren’t announced yet but I’m very excited about. The business continues to grow.

HS: So why filmmaking? How did you find yourself there?

JC: Filmmaking is the only thing that incorporates all of my interests: cinematography, music, audio, people, technology and most importantly, story. And I get bored really, really quickly so I need something that keeps me moving between all those different disciplines. So I kind of feel like my whole life was leading up to filmmaking.

HS: What does creativity mean to you?

JC: Creativity is a way of turning ourselves inside out. [It’s] trying to share truth or create beauty to make something worthwhile that didn’t exist before. To rip off Dr. Prior, its our desire to imitate God. He creates so we want to create to be like Him. When were creating were most god-likein a sense. But I also view it as a struggle: there’s a real terror that comes from staring at the blank page. You have to push through the fear, make something, let it be substandard, then repeat and hope you improve in the process. And sometimes you do; sometimes you don’t. So there’s an anguish and joy that come from it.

HS: Tell me more about the joy.

JC: Well, my love language is words of affirmation so when someone praises something I’ve done I find a lot of joy in that. But the process is enjoyable too. There’s a joy in having done something well after working really hard on it. Sitting down to make a song, film, design, is super enjoyable. I mean, except the parts where you want to throw your keyboard out the window. But it’s mostly enjoyable. Plus I’m not good at anything else. (laughs) I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t create.

HS: How do you combat your tendency toward perfectionism?

JC: Poorly. (laughs) I have a dear friend who recommended this book to me called Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (And Rewards) of Artmaking. There’s a chapter on perfectionism and the author basically redefines perfectionism as fear. It’s essentially just overvaluing other peoples opinions and fearing their critique. So you wind up doing nothing. It’s not a good thing. So when I say I’m being a perfectionist about something what I’m actually saying is I’m fearful. Oof. Apparently I’m very fearful.

There’s a story in the book that was pretty transformational for me. It tells the story of a pottery professor who, on the first day, told everyone on the left side of the room that they would be graded based on the quantity of their work, and on the right, by the quality of their work. On the last day of class, he did find several perfect pots, but interestingly, they were all from the quantity side of the room. Those students didn’t concern themselves with being perfect, just with learning the process. So I’ve been trying to learn from that story by focusing on the process of creating to set myself free from the tyranny of perfection/fear.

All that said, there’s definitely a limit to discovering quality through quantity too. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. If you’re truly just focused on quantity that would be bad. You need time, occasionally, to focus on quality too, on making things without spiraling into perfectionism. Moderation and balance is the key. Give yourself permission to do both types of projects.

HS: Can you share a little about your creative process?

JC: Well. There’s what it has been and what it should be. What it has been is that it usually starts with feelings, when I’m feeling strongly about anything (happy/sad/angry/pensive, whatever). I havent been approaching it as a process; Ive approached it with a product view. What do I want to end up with? Doing it that way its easy to go off the rails. For example I’ve recorded tons of songs that are half to two-thirds done but I havent shared them out of a fear of not being good enough. So Im actually trying to learn to love the process or even develop one in the first place. Art & Fear talks about this. The author says your responsibility is not to make people love your art or gain approval. Your job as an artist is to love the process. Judge your value as an artist by how youve grown in the process. Give yourself permission to fail and youll get better. That’s hard. Im learning to sacrifice my ego, be humble. I dont know why I ever started believing I was the type of person that would only put out good work. That’s dumb. Focus on the process. Oh yeah, so back to the process. It generally starts with having an emotion or an idea, then theres a “dark night of the soul” full of self-loathing, then giving up or nearly giving up, then pushing through, then eventually I like what Ive wound up with (quasi). Its about learning to love obstructions.

"I dont know why I ever started believing I was the type of person that would only put out good work. That’s dumb. Focus on the process."

I saw a documentary by Lars von Trier, called the Five Obstructions. He asks a filmmaker to remake the same film with five different obstructions. And over the course of the film he learns to love the obstructions. It’s fascinating. When he “cheats” on one, Lars punishes him by assigning him to remake his film with no obstructions at all and the filmmaker hates it. The point is, we actually love and need obstructions. Even though it’s really fun to complain about them. Whatever the limitation is: money, time, right team, etc. The point is to not let any of it be an excuse to stop. Stopping is the enemy. Whatever the twist or obstruction is you have to embrace it and keep pushing.

HS: Do you ever feel creatively blocked? How do you power through that? Any strategies or techniques?

JC: Of course. All the time. The way I power through is just trying to get inspired by other people’s work, Pinterest, Vimeo, real life experience. For whatever reason my life is really dramatic so I have a lot of real world inspiration for creating things.

HS: What is your advice to a young creative who wants a career like yours?

JC: Do whatever it is that you want to do often and don’t wait for somebody else to come along and give you permission to do that thing. No one is coming. No one is coming to give you your big break. Big breaks are an illusion. Getting lucky is hard work. There’s an agency I do freelance at sometimes and on the wall when you walk in it says, “The harder I work the luckier I get.” I love that. I spent a long time being bitter about my college education. I was dissatisfied about all I was not getting taught about graphic design. But at the end of the day when you enter the “real world” no one is responsible for your success other than you. The greatest skill as a creative [can have] is to know how to teach yourself and acquire knowledge. Especially now, with the internet, there is no excuse for anyone to not know anything they want to know. Any information you want to learn, any creative skill set you want to acquire, you can find it online or in a book and often learn it faster and better than in an academic setting. Even if you’re going to an amazing school, the students who do well are the ones who are self-motivated and self-teaching. The ones who do poorly are the ones who are lazy and expect spoon feeding. I think one of the biggest predictors of success is how well you can teach yourself new things and how well you can motivate yourself to do that.

HS: Parting thoughts?

JC: I tried to have a full time job once and it was by far the most unhappy I’ve ever been. I was a tiny cog in a massive machine. I worked in a cubicle. We discussed things like “printer policies” and had to passive-aggressively label our lunches in the fridge. I hated my life. I took a risk though and quit. It has been, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I ever made. So to anyone thinking about going freelance: do it. DO IT

Read advice from John and other thriving creatives in my eBook “5 Minute Mentor for Creatives.” Grab your copy here.

John Carl is co-founder and president of Duck Duck Collective, a video production company based in Brooklyn, New York. Connect with him on Twitter @JohnCarl. Have something to add to this conversation? We'd love to hear from you. Just hit that "comment" button below. 



30 Creative Pursuits of My 30th Year

30 Creative Pursuits
30 Creative Pursuits

So let's cut right to where my head's at:

This is the last week of my twenties.

And as such it is time to finally share with you about my 30 Creative Pursuits of My 30th Year.

Back when I turned 29 last year I had a real moment where I was overwhelmed at the thought of that decade winding down (yes, I still had a whole year to go). What had I done? What did I want to do? Was I being as intentional as I needed to be? I'm not one of those people freaking out because 30 is "old." It's just crazy to me that I so vividly remember turning 20 (what was going on, what I was thinking and feeling) and that was a decade ago. Life moves swiftly--especially as we get older. This pace is speeding up and I need to pay attention to all of it.

In 2013 my friend Megan did this uber interesting #30to30 challenge--thirty things she wanted to cross off her bucket list to usher in her 30th birthday. It was this awesome eclectic mix of like riding 500 miles on her bike and reading Dostoevsky and giving blood and other artsy things too. As I tried to totally copy her and make a list of my own I realized my short-term bucket list just didn't get me jazzed and I definitely couldn't come up with 30 eclectic items. Really what I wanted was more intentional creativity in my life. Thus, 30 Creative Pursuits of My 30th Year was born.

I made a list of 30 things I wanted to do around creative enrichment, experiences and output in the last year of my twenties. I've crossed many off my list: put 2 (better) musical theatre clips on Youtube, implement bimonthly HSL Creative Retreat Days for creativity and thinking, performer in a musical or play, start some sort of writing, creativity, thinkers or reading club (meet at least once), take at least one voice lesson, come up with ten book ideas, go to an industry conference. All of these intentional pursuits have been crazy fulfilling and/or inspiring and I wish I had been this intentional before I came toe-to-toe with 30.

Others on the list I've simply not completed yet or I've avoided them: read On Writing by Stephen King, see Gone with the Wind, write three songs, complete a book proposal, write one work of fiction. I'm not sure why these items got put off to the end. Update: I started the audiobook of On Writing and I just can't seem to get into it. Somehow Stephen King has made even a book about writing a little gory. Perhaps if I was a fan of his novels I would appreciate his style more. I still haven't seen Gone with the Wind but have high hopes to do so in the next week. I worked on some song lyrics last week but an actual song, they are not. The book proposal is simply a matter of blocking off time to flesh it out. The book is in my head.  I just haven't written the proposal because other things seem to be more urgent.

That's the interesting thing about this whole list. Easily none of it could have gotten done if I didn't prioritize it. These aren't things that were urgent or that one of my clients or bosses needed me to do. These weren't going to impress anyone or really greatly benefit my family or friends. They were kind of just for my own enrichment and enjoyment. So they were easily avoidable and easy to put on the back burner.

On the other hand, some of the greatest highlights of the last year came as a result of these items. I absolutely adored reading the Artist's Way with Erica and Whitney (and sometimes others who joined in). If it weren't for that, Enchanting Entertainment wouldn't be here and I wouldn't have led a workshop at Toolry. HSL Creative Retreat Days were a refreshing opportunity to put daily work on pause and check in with myself. Was I heading in the direction that felt most right? Was I pleased with the content I was writing? I stopped once every other month and instead of working from my home office like normal, I explored new locations and incorporated the outdoors into my experience for the day. (Click these links for photo proof.) I hiked Candler's Mountain and fell in love with Percival's Island. I found my perfect study place in Liberty's Library. I tried the Bean Tree Cafe for the first time. All experiences were enriching, pleasant and helped me recalibrate. I've done some of my best thinking and writing on HSL Creative Retreat Days.

As a result of 30 Creative Pursuits I pushed myself to attend the Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC. I attended a conference solo while most everyone else who was in attendance came on their employer's dime. I heard from some of the greatest minds in social media and content marketing. I wrote a million notes and began to imagine myself as a keynote speaker. Could I encapsulate what is cool about social media and dual careers and being a female solopreneur and being a millennial and inspire someone through a talk about those things? I began to imagine.

In voice lessons with David Hahn not only did I gain a friend and an advocate but I also found new layers in my voice and began to really grasp the "less is more" of singing. I loved working steadily on the craft of vocal performance. It was a big part of my life in college and I hadn't studied with a voice teacher consistently in about four years. Music does something for the soul unlike anything else.

29 has been a creative, intentional year of growth. It's pushed me to a place of embracing "no" to things that are good and saying "yes" to opportunities I didn't predict. I really hope that I find the inspiration to live so intentionally every year whether it's a milestone birthday or not. I know my life has been better this year for intentionally carving out time to be creative, both outwardly creative and inwardly.

I encourage you to embrace your creativity this year. Whether you're drawn to visual arts, poetry, cooking or rearranging your furniture, taking time out to create something, to reflect more deeply or just to consciously inject change into your daily life can catapult you into a place where you see things quite differently and you connect dots that you didn't see before. I'm so glad I made this weird list last year. I think I will make another for my 31st year. It's too good to stop now.

I'd love to know, will you take me up on my challenge? What is one creative thing you will make time for this year? 

Hilary is a writer, a performer, a social media nerd, and digital strategist.

Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur: 10 things for that person who you fully expect to take over the world one day

Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur
Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur

If you have a hustling, creative, self-starter in your life, my guess is that they would go nuts for any of the following items on this list. Happy Holidays!

1. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Full disclosure: one of my latest podcast obsessions is #AskGaryVee. The main thesis of JJJRH is that though communication is still key, context matters more than ever. It’s not just about developing great content, it's about developing high-quality content that's perfectly created to blend in on specific social media platforms and mobile devices. Anybody who has something to promote online should read this book.

2. Subscription to We're all busy here. Why not get a subscription for that busy person in your life and let them read while they exercise or drive? The Audible subscription includes one audiobook per month. Perfect!

3. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. This New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller was written by one of my favorite bloggers and podcast hosts, Michael Hyatt. Recently, Forbes magazine named him one of the “Top 10 Online Marketing Experts To Follow In 2014.” In this book Michael unpacks how to let the world know about your incredible message by building a platform that gets you noticed.

4. Premium Skillshare subscriptionSkillshare is an online community where you can take classes from some of the country's leading experts. Topics range from building a logo to starting a business. It is one inspiring place. Plus, Seth Godin even  lectures here.

5. Fast Company. This magazine has gotten my wheels turning about trends in technology and business many a time. Fast Company inspires a new breed of innovative and creative thought leaders who are actively inventing the future of business. When I look through the pages of Fast Company I see role model after role model. This magazine will inspire and challenge your entrepreneur.

6. A photography session. Every aspiring entrepreneur, thought leader or creative needs professional images on his or her website and social profiles. In today's image-focused social landscape, pictures are everything. To say they will enhance your online presence is a gross understatement. (Photographers I've worked with and love: Foster & Asher, Adam Barnes Fine Art Photography, Billy B Photography, Deb Knoske, Ty Hester)

7. The 4-Hour WorkweekThis book has had maybe more of an influence on the way I work than any other book I've read in the last five years. In its pitch the 4-Hour Workweek says Tim Ferris will "teach you how to escape the 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich." Well, I can't say I've quite joined the new rich yet, but Ferris' book is chock full of helpful ideas to help you do more of what matters and less of what gleans you a less valuable pay off. This is a GREAT book.

8. BluehostSo web hosting is not a sexy gift, you say? It IS! I say. Your creative knows he/she needs a self-hosted site to really run with the big dogs and show the world he/she is serious about his/her endeavor. (This very blog is moving to a self-hosted site in January.) Sometimes its hard to make that initial investment. Give them the gift of Bluehost and do it for them.

9. Success MagazineThis subscription was actually not one I sought out for myself; my dad got me a 2-year subscription last Christmas. Oh how I love it. I appreciate that the stories are not dumbed down for the multi-tasking millennial generation. They are long and in-depth. In addition--my favorite part of the magazine--it comes with an audio CD with in-depth interviews based on the focus of the magazine that month. Just last night I was listening to an interview about significance. It has challenged and inspired me on my drives more than once. Well worth it. 

10. Creativity, Inc.  By Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, Creativity, Inc. was named one of the best books of 2014 by Library Journal. This book takes you behind the curtain at one of the most innovative companies of the 20th & 21st centuries. Forbes said it "just might be the best business book ever written.”Listen to Forbes people.  

There you have it! If you read this and see items that you'd love you might ought to reshare it as a helpful hint.

For more posts like this subscribe, follow on Twitter, like on Facebook and double-tap on Instagram

Announcing the First HSL Creative Blogging Workshop

HSL Creative Blogging Workshop at Toolry in Lynchburg, VA
HSL Creative Blogging Workshop at Toolry in Lynchburg, VA

I'm so thrilled to announce that I will be leading a workshop at Toolry (the massively inspirational co-working space in downtown Lynchburg) on January 17. This workshop is all about taking the headache out of blogging for your business. If you're a small-business owner, employee, artisan or even an Etsy shop owner, this workshop is for you.

Did you know that websites with a blog receive 55% more traffic than those that don't?

At this workshop you'll learn blogging best practices, how to create an editorial calendar, and you'll leave with a ton of great post ideas. Guaranteed.

This workshop would also make an incredible gift for the creative entrepreneur in your life.


Join me {in person} in Lynchburg on January 17! 

10 Tips to Boost Creativity the Einstein Way

Ever since I was tagged a “creative” person as a kid, I’ve been drawn to the concept and study of creativity. Twyla Tharp’s the Creative Habit is one of my favorite books. I even put it in the name of my company. I recently read an article about Einstein’s perspective on creativity. He called it combinatory play.

Maria Popova phrases Einstein’s perspective like this:

“Creativity is combinatorial: Alive and awake to the world, we amass a collection of cross-disciplinary building blocks — knowledge, memories, bits of information, sparks of inspiration, and other existing ideas — that we then combine and recombine, mostly unconsciously, into something ‘new.’ From this vast and cross-disciplinary mental pool of resources beckons the infrastructure of what we call our ‘own’ ‘original’ ideas.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks that no great idea comes out of thin air. None of us can really take full credit for anything! Great ideas come from putting pieces together. Someone else’s comment here, someone else’s example there, and voila a new idea is formed that seems obvious based on putting the other two ideas together.

HSL Creative was founded after putting several ideas together. To me, it seemed like an obvious next step.

Yesterday I toured Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. The tour guide explained that while people think of Jefferson as an inventor he was really an innovator. He took other inventions and improved them. Combinatory play at it’s finest.

Here are 10 tips to incite more combinatory play in your life. I dare you to try at least 3 this week:

1. Explore an aisle of the bookstore that you don’t usually frequent.

2. Try out a new recipe with ingredients you've never used.

3. Make plans for lunch or coffee with someone who is not in your regular circles.

4. Subscribe to BrainPickings.

5. Sit in on your library’s book club meeting.

6. Listen to a public lecture at a local college.

7.  Ask this question at the dinner table: If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do with your life?

8. Watch a TedTalk.

9. Read a biography of someone that interests you who you've not previously studied.

10. Post a question on your Facebook status.

I encourage you to carry a notebook (or just your notes app in your iPhone) with you throughout the week and jot down ideas that come to you. When you’re open to connecting new dots, you are likely to do just that.

HSL Creative: a story about discovering your purpose

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

And thus begins the launch of HSL Creative. After 13 years of school, 4 years of college, 4 years of living all over, 2 years of grad school, and finally supporting myself as a freelance writer, social media specialist and actor, this day has come. I'm not starting a new job this week but I am finally embracing what I do and sharing it with the world.

I’ve always been a person who was curious. I’ve liked lots of things and had trouble narrowing down my interests. Choosing one major and one minor in college was challenging. (I ended up with 3 minors. Who does that?) Saint-Exupéry’s quote above resonates with me because I’ve finally gotten to the point where I know what my life’s work is:

My passion is to tell stories. Whether they're ones that I've made up, ones other people have lived, ones I perform on a stage or ones I share in a magazine article, telling stories is what I know I'm meant to do.

So with the launch of HSL Creative, there is nothing left to take away. This is the next step in living a life on purpose. I'm a storyteller. And I look forward to continuing on this journey of sharing humanity with you through the written word.