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Creative Series: Just Do It! {7}

Today’s topic for our Creativity Series hits close to home because I personally need to work on my listening skills so you’ll soon see why this discussion fuels my intent even more to develop the art of listening. Our topic?

Ask why and other questions more often and listen to others when they speak. Hear what is said and not what you think was said (reading between the lines).

This is me asking a ton of questions at Egg Mercantile in Amsterdam. The end result? A great shopping experience and an introduction to products I’d not heard of prior to my visit.

We start asking why the moment we learn how to talk. I think everyone had their parents tell them at least once, “You asked why all the time when you were little.” Why did you ask WHY so much? It’s usually based on sincere interest. Children want to know why the moon is in the sky, why the bees need honey, and why mommy or daddy is upset. Asking why is how we learned about the world around us then and it’s how we learn about things today but sadly asking why as an adult usually feels awkward or is considered bothersome. Your question may receive an answer but it is followed by a pause or a deep sigh or worse, the familiar condescending smile, “Well I guess I can show you”. Oh bother! We dared ask!

You should automatically know the answers to everything, right? I mean didn’t you get that memo the moment you finished college? It came with your diploma, “You are officially smart. You need not ask why any longer but instead, smile and pretend you know because that makes you appear smart and confident. Asking why makes you appear to not have all the answers and God forbid you don’t know something. Going forward, nod your head, smile and wave, and pretend you completely understand everything you are being told for the rest of your life. Bothering others isn’t polite when you can just Google it.”

Rubbish. It’s acceptable, normal, professional, mature and dude it’s not annoying to be curious and ask why along with other questions that pop into your mind mid conversation. We were not placed on this planet to be nodding, smiling, know-it-alls. We were put here to be the best we can possibly be, to help others, and to live a meaningful life which usually includes living up to our full potential. How do we do any of it without…

Asking questions! Asking opens us up to alternate ways of thinking, new ideas and opportunities, and a potential rewarding conversation that inspires and encourages.. It can also change the course of something. Lots of people asked why so many quality fabrics in America were offered to the trade only and all that asking (and complaining!) resulted in several companies creating exclusive lines for non-designers to enjoy.

Asking questions can endear you to others forging better friendships because many are fond of those who have enough respect for them to ask for their advice or for answers. It puts the person you are speaking with in a position of respect and honor and who doesn’t love to have a friend around who makes them feel like that? Key is when you ask your questions is to find those that you respect, who possess traits that you would like to emulate, and then decide what exactly you would love to know about that they possess a real knowledge of. Ask them about their work, their passion, how they do what they do. Asking can also be a real time, and in some cases, money saver. Maybe your quilter friend has always wanted to know how to paint and you’re a painter who wants to know how to quilt. Ask if they’d be interested in teaching you their skill and vice versa. Why attend a class if you can exchange knowledge with a friend?

When it comes to talking, most feel comfortable discussing things that they have experience with. This is completely understandable but also very limiting if you think about it. You may find that you and your interlocutor talk about the same thing over and over. Try mixing it up sometimes. Ask them what they thought about this movie or that world event, etc. Select a topic that you know little about but have a sincere interest in learning. You can ask your friend, who perhaps has the best wardrobe, how she developed her sense of style. Ask her if she’d help you find yours (if you feel you need to of course, sincere interest is key). Ask your pal who is amazing at scouting for flea market finds how she does it. Ask her why she got into scouting in the first place. It’s important to learn from others and their personal experience; stimulating conversation helps us to grow and discover new things which can make us think more creatively.

Now for the next part… It is important that when we receive answers that we are careful not to read between the lines.

Ah, reading between the lines. We’ve all done it. This is something I’d like to quickly highlight. Have you ever read something online or heard someone speak and instead of taking what they said at face value, you imagine that what they said is not what they really meant. Sheila says, “Holly you look fab in that new dress!”. The Holly translation software, 2.0 infinity squared, runs that comment and spits out, “Your friend likes your dress because she is fishing for a complement herself!” “She really means you look frumpy” “She meant fat but said fab instead”. It’s a good idea to think about how you listen. Does your conversation translator mess things up a bit for you? When we notice frequent arguments or that we exit conversations a bit drained we may need to ask ourselves if we’re hearing what someone SAID or what they DID NOT SAY. Be honest with yourself on this point. It’s better to hear “Holly you look fab in that new dress!” and then your inner voice replies, “You know it girl, I sure do!” vs. some other weird negative thing that the person did not say. Same applies when we ask someone a question. Listen to each word. Hear what they truly are saying.

So back to asking questions and listening. I can see you are already a good listener because you made it this far. I’m nearly finished so you won’t need a snack or bathroom break anytime soon. I’m wrapping up now…

It’s easy to become excited when others talk, you may be tempted to talk over them, finish their sentences, think about what you will say next, or not listen entirely to what they are saying. Have you ever sat down to talk to a friend only to sense they were preoccupied (lights were on but no one was home)? You may have said “I sold so much in my Etsy shop the other day and Brad Pitt and the monkey went to the picnic and big bird was there too, did you see him?”. More nodding from across the table followed by a “Sure did”.  You know they definitely did not hear you. Or worse, personal experience here: I once had a close friend who habitually would engage in text messaging while being involved in a conversation with me over dinner. She no longer does it because I found a new close friend! It really broke my spirit when I tried to share something with her and her thumbs were busily tapping away on her cell. It’s best to remove yourself from a conversation if you’re not up for being part of it. Really. I’m still learning this myself, I think because I’m outgoing and chatty I will always have to work on developing the art of listening more. You learn little by agreeing and nodding your way through a conversation. Listening to who the person is and what they are trying to share is driven by your need to discover and explore. And yes, it goes back to the whole respect thing that was already mentioned.

You’ll be surprised to see how much others will share when you show yourself to be a good listener.

Here’s an exercise for you this week that may be helpful:

1. List 3-5 people in the comments section below (or you can journal it privately or share it on your blog linking it here) that you sincerely want to learn something from. Just use their initials please or first name last initial.

2. Next to their name, ask them a question that you would love to know more about. It can be anyone from your best friend to someone you work with. No former friends, ex-husbands, famous people, the goal isn’t to dig up ugly stuff or make this exercise negative or potentially harmful to you. The goal is to connect with someone who can recharge you and rev up your creativity. The goal is to ask why of someone you really think could inspire you.

3. Finally, ask one person on your list your question within the next 7 days. When they answer, listen. Do not read between the lines (make a real effort to not do this no matter how hard your brain tries to alter their words). If they do not answer your question fully, that’s okay because no one has to share their inner stuff if they don’t want to. Move on to the next person on your list. And the next. It really feels good to ask why doesn’t it?

(image by thorsten becker)

Posted in get real thursdays on February 26, 2009

Letting Go in the Space Between

This is Marisa from Creative Thursday and I’m an artist, blogger, and author from LA visiting you today while Holly is away. If you already know me in this internet blogging, podcasting land, then it will come as no surprise that my article today is for the creative dreamers, a subject I am endlessly passionate about.

“We All Flock To Ruby”

So you have dreams that you want to see come true? Go for them.

Honestly I don?t think that any one of us can be reminded of that sentiment enough.

If you are a regular reader of Holly?s beautiful blog, then I?m sure you are one of the dreamers, and maybe one of your dreams includes working creatively for yourself? There are always insightful and inspiring discussions going on here in support of the creative dreamers. I was one. In fact I still am. And it?s important to note that I write this as a believer in the idea that you can have what you want in your life. My dream of being creatively self-employed came true. And my intention with this post is to share some thoughts on what has worked for me in allowing that dream to become a reality. It?s about letting go, something I am still learning to practice daily both personally and in my business.

Reaching for something greater than where you presently stand is life giving. Exciting and a little bit scary, it makes you feel ALIVE. Well let me re-phrase that; if you feel hopeful that your dream will happen it is life giving, but if you are afraid it might not, it can be a very unpleasant experience. Believe me, I know all to well that there are days when because it hasn?t happened yet, it can feel more than frustrating, often even devastating. Part of the delicate dance we learn in our life is how to find happiness in the times between the dream and the realization of that dream, a place I will call the space between. Because what you come to realize is that this is where you actually live, every day, in the space between.

Once you come to accept and even embrace the space between one dream and the next, the process of letting go becomes easier. So you might be wondering, why exactly do I want to ?let go? of something? Because when you let go, your dream has a chance to become real. I?m not sure how this happens exactly, but as much as I don?t want to believe it, every time I let go, something that I?ve been wanting comes in, even if it?s simply an answer about what to do next.

Chances are if you?re not letting go, then you are probably afraid, holding on desperately to the idea of what you want. And by doing this your life begins to stagnate, you become tired, you may blame those around you for things not happening faster, you begin to lose hope, you become frustrated. You make important decisions out of a fearful place instead of a hopeful place. Simply put if you?re not letting go on some level, then you are not trusting. And if you?re like me, you may even be trying to control EVERY aspect of your life. Not only that, but your present days become clouded with disappointment of what has not happened for you yet, instead of filled with appreciation for all you do have. And in a separate topic altogether, being in a state of appreciation is a blissful place to be and a sure sign that you?ve let go for a moment.

Not only does ?letting go? allow room for the new dreams to manifest, but it creates this space for you to notice and be grateful for your life just as it is.

And when you appreciate your life just as it is, more space is created for happiness to come in. I think it?s fair to say that most of us are in pursuit of our dreams because we think that by having them, we will be happier. True?! So why not be excited about your next dream and feel happy now. It is also important to note that I?m not referring to ?letting go? of the excitement that your dreams bring you, or letting go of the hope that they will come to fruition. I?m referring to knowing when to release the grip a little, knowing when to step back but doing so in a state of peaceful trust.

Usually there are two ways people let go. One is to give up. Right, you?ve heard that before? The familiar story is ?someone gave up on their dream and then boom! their dream came true”. The second is to trust that it will all work out.

I find it very sad to ?give up?. While I have unknowingly taken this approach, I find it incredibly disheartening to just throw in the towel. So recently I?ve tried a new approach, and that is to turn feelings of desperation and fear as to whether ?it? will happen, into feelings of hopeful expectation that ?it? will happen. This slight shift brings about a sense of knowing and calm that I can only hope to experience more often.

When I do glimpse it, this sense of calm allows me to move more graciously in life, to operate from a clear state of mind. Let?s face it. As much as we try to plan out our lives, LIFE still has a life of its own. And even though uncertainty, also known as the space between, can feel a little intimidating, there is still an excitement to not knowing how it will all turn out. What I am coming to know is that when you give into the unknown of it all, when you trust and ?let go?, whatever that means to you, life will flow in the direction it is meant to, and I believe, with your best interest at heart.

Dancing this delicate dance is constant, knowing when to take action and when to step back. When I achieved what felt like my very ?BIG? dream of being creatively self-employed, ~ somewhere just before it took hold, there was a moment where I let go, not so much in the trusting way, but in the giving up way. I literally felt like I had tried everything and I was all tapped out of ideas of what to do next. In my mind I had given it my best shot, and that?s all I knew how to do. Within weeks of this awareness, my business changed forever and has been going strong ever since. I experienced firsthand what happens when I let loose of my grip on my dreams. New doors opened and new inspiration appeared, a momentum took hold and it hasn?t slowed down. Now I have so many ideas at any given moment, that it?s all I can do to stay focused on one at a time.

Now that I?m fully living this dream that felt like years in the making, I am still reminded every day I run my business, of moments where I need to let go. There are always those times where you gear up and put action and effort into the direction you are wanting to go, and the trick is recognizing the subtle difference between those times and the times when you need to let go and trust that you?ll know the next step. These are also the moments when you become a hopeful, appreciative observer of the magic of your life, especially in the space between.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I have to say here and hopefully start a discussion so please join in with your thoughts.

Thank you for having me today decor8 readers!

(image and text by marisa haedike of creative thursday.)

A Fine Line: Inspiration or Imitation?

Today Erin from Design For Mankind is here to talk to us on a topic that I asked her to write about because I thought she’d have a lot to say on the matter and she does! I think her words just may encourage a good discussion here today so I invite you to grab a cup of tea, sit back, and tune in to Erin’s message below — and be sure to add your comment to the mix, too! Take it away, Miss E!

We’ve heard from the fashion folk. It’s been noted by renowned photographers. Interior designers are speaking up. Web programmers are furrowing their brows.

Call it what you will: visual plagiarism, hacks, or sheer knock-offs. However you slice it, an increasingly saturated art/design community is becoming a feeding ground for inspiration? or is it imitation?

I recently read an article in Harper’s Bazaar about the inspiration behind today?s fashion designers. Many designers mentioned historical figures such as Napoleon, Carmen Miranda and [no joke] Minnie Mouse.

And I can?t help but wonder what exactly dear Minnie Mouse would think if she knew her look was being imitated. I can only imagine she?d hijack Goofy?s wagon and skitter on over to Zac Posen?s studio to give him a prompt speaking to.

Yet can we really control when inspiration sets in? Not at all. What we can control is what we do with that inspiration. Do we carbon copy the design? Or do we tastefully implement elements from the designs that we, ourselves, cherish? [And for the record, Zac Posen?s inspiration was quite tasteful in fact!]

Of course, this is how a trend is born. We certainly didn?t don gladiator sandals this summer for comfort; the Greek and Roman influences were found to be inspirational by a few key designers. And that?s perfectly fine. What?s not perfectly fine is an intentional lifting of originality. I mean truly, how odd would we look like running around in togas AND gladiator sandals?

I’m saddened at how often this happens in our creative community. Rather than lifting each other up and encouraging originality, I fear that we’ve become envious of the instant gratification that the Internet often provides. It seems that one good design and a few press mentions can skyrocket an artist into serious success. Just how far will we go to present that “one good design?”

It breaks my heart to see an unoriginal piece. To me, a unique design has life. It has passion. And it becomes beautiful only when you can truly see the artist’s spirit behind his/her work. Thus, when we attempt to borrow elements of someone else’s work, the result is often never quite right. Much like a person without a genuine spirit can be spotted like a sore thumb, so, too, can an artist without an individualistic nature.

And you know what? Bloggers, we’re to blame as well. How often have we posted material that originated from somewhere else, only to (a) forget, (b) refuse or (c) fail to credit our source?

Indeed, there is a fine line between inspiration and imitation, and although I hate to create additional boundaries in art, I’d like to see us all work harder to find our true passions. I quite understand that many of our inspirations derive from the same source, and I think that’s a wonderful thing. The problem lies in our intentions. Are we creating something that we truly believe in? Or are we creating a spin-off of something that already exists simply because it sells?

From now on, let’s embrace the community that we’ve helped to build. Let’s encourage, congratulate and experience alongside of each other, not across from. I hope that someday we can each feel proud of the talents we’ve been given and showcase these unique gifts in beautiful, original ways.

Until then, know that imitation? It’s not such a form of flattery after all.

What are your thoughts on this topic? When does inspiration become imitation? What is the difference between inspired by and ripped off? Your thoughts?

- All text by Erin from Design For Mankind.

(images from evaxebra)

Get Real: Are Celeb Designers Sharing Enough?

It’s fun to get inside the mind of a creative type! We’re curious to learn about the lives of strangers but learning more about those we feel we already know through the media … Well that’s totally exciting, right? We love learning about their favorite artist, who inspires them, where they shop, even what they eat and where they like to go on vacation. But how much is enough?

Part of me wishes that more decorators and designers would author blogs revealing such things, at least here in America where it still seems that blogs for the most part are divided into two main groups. In my opinion the groups are a.) the unknowns who are out there making a name for themselves and due to their taste level and uncensored opinions, are drawing in a crowd of fans going from unknowns to better knowns and b) the shining stars in the design industry who are household names (at least to design enthusiasts) and then decide at some point to blog or shall I say, sorta blog. They delegate the task to their staff or secretary or who blog but they aren’t really all that engaged or uncensored — you can tell every word is guarded and there is a strong leaning on pushing and promoting themselves and their product (if they happen to have products). Where are their inspirations? Can’t they share? Why don’t they tell us how they really feel about design instead of feeding us what they know we want to hear or what their publicist told them to write? Is there a danger for them if they cross that line?

I still see the guard up amongst stylists, decorators and designers, at least in America. I wonder if this will ever change and the guards will come down, or at least, lower a bit. Not just through blogs, but in everyday conversation. Try asking a peer where they found something for a client that you admire and most of the time they’ll reply, “My secret source”. So many avoid sharing their insider sources, favorite shops, and how they work. Not because they are just being modest, it’s mostly about fear and protecting what one feels they found that should be kept secret. In design school I attended a workshop given by a NH Designer. Instead of having it in a classroom, she invited us to her home just outside of Concord. She revealed to us all of her tricks and tips when it came to how she pulled together her gorgeous farmhouse and then she told us to grab our pens and take notes because she was going to reveal her local favorites, even the ‘secret’ ones. I was completely in awe of this woman and today I still think of her as a confident leader, a woman secure and willing to share. She had no fear when it came to revealing her sources. Years later, she is still in business and doing well. Revealing her sources didn’t ruin her career.

But that’s an isolated case and not everyone is willing to open up so freely.

Just when you think all you need to know is already out there you realize it’s really not, the images you see in magazines are merely the results of all of the scouting, styling, photographing… The end result. What about sharing the process involved in all of that. Would it be so wrong? I’m still waiting to see more. The end result isn’t enough for me and I think that most of you will agree. We want details, step-by-step instructions, we want to truly tap in. Will enough ever be enough though?

That’s why I think that Shannon’s blog, the Aussie celeb-decorator I wrote about earlier, is a good example of what I’d like to see more of in America. We aren’t there yet. Will we ever be? That is the question I ask myself most. Shannon is a lady who has books, appears on television, and has her work in magazines and yet her blog is so natural. She muses about this or that visit to an event, who she met there, what she learned, it’s all very unfiltered and authentic. I wish more ‘celeb’ designers in America would go for it and do the same. I understand time is an issue but reaching out to their fans in this way would be such a refreshing change. Why hide what you love and have passion for? Ah yes, the fear of others stealing your ideas, tapping into your sources. Well honestly if you are secure and have built a name for yourself I doubt there is much to fear. Anyone who owns a shop with a regular celeb designer visiting has already told all of their friends anyway and it will eventually end up on some blog so nothing is really all that secret.



I wonder if the design world will always remain somewhat untouchable? Are celeb designers sharing enough? Who would you love to find out authored a blog? Are there dangers in sharing too much? Feel free to relate this to art and crafts as well.

Your thoughts?

(images from the fully saturated abode of talented Danish illustrator Lisa Grues of Underwerket via Bolig magazine)

Posted in blogs, get real thursdays on July 31, 2008

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Further editions available: Decorate published by Murdoch Books for AU/NZ, Decorar BR, Alt om indretning DK, Inspirace pro váš byt CZ, Dekorácie SK, La décoration FR, Lust auf Wohnen DE, Sisusta tyylillä FI and Sztuka aranżacji wnętrz PL.

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