Poke the Box (But Not Too Hard) – A Book Review of Seth Godin’s Latest

Over Halloween weekend, I read Seth Godin’s newest book, Poke the Box. I find it fitting that I read this tiny tome between bites of fun-sized Snickers and mini Reese Cups. Although full of little nuggets of wisdom, this book is not hearty enough to satisfy those with a deeper appetite for insight and motivation.

Book Review of Poke the Box

Please don’t get me wrong.  I like fun-sized candy.  And I enjoyed Godin’s book. Ultimately, though I was disappointed that he didn’t give more.  I suppose it’s a positive that he whet my appetite.  He just didn’t deliver the main course.

Seth Godin

What is Poke the Box about?  To borrow a phrase, (Nike’s phrase, to be exact) Godin tells us to “Just Do It”.

He makes a significant point – that what is lacking in our world is not education, talent, skill, vision, or creativity – but (my word) gumption.  He sees offices full of dutiful followers, universities pumping out fearful dreamers, and a culture which often confirms that risk is…well… not worth the risk.  Godin defines this risk as “starting something”.  He also emphasizes that truly starting something involves finishing it.  (Those who have been following my Good Idea series will know this is a stand out point for me)!

Seth Godin book reviewDo I recommend Poke the Box?  Yes, I do, as a starting point… and perhaps this how Godin intended it to read.  You’re sure to come away with an emotional sense of “Yeah, I really should just DO this thing that I’ve been thinking about for months/ years/ ever”.  This is not a bad thing.  Godin’s book cheers you on, (“You can do it, you can do it, rah, rah, rah”), but does little coaching (“Yes, you can do it, and here’s a workout you should do every day so that you can succeed on game day.  I’ll do it with you for a while”).

Neither a book – nor a blogger- can solve all of your problems, or walk you all the way through life’s twists and turns.  Godin doesn’t claim this, but his claims are a little too lofty for what Poke the Box delivers.

Read it?  Yes

Savor it?  No

 

 

Boo! Failure is Scaaaarrrrrryyyyy!

In a series on Good Ideas, Our Flirtations with Them, and Our Commitments to Them.

Well Happy Halloween to you!  Today, our discussion is a bit dark and rather scary.  I want to talk about failure, because it has a very important place in a series on Good Ideas.  The creative life simply does not progress without failure.

dealing with failure as an artist

The Raven, mixed media by Mari Lowery, available on Etsy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know this from experience!  When I was an art student, I took my first pottery class.  How exciting!  How wonderful to put hands in clay, and mold it on the spinning wheel into a sleek, organic, functional vessel!  I could totally rock my neuvo-hippie chick thing, sell some pottery at a festival or two, and have lots of Christmas gifts on hand for everyone!

Except that when I sat down at the wheel and hit the pedal, goopy wet clay spat in vicious circles and hit me in the face, covered the wall, and coated the other zen-clay students.  I was humiliated and so disappointed.

After that, the only time I’d return to the studio was late, late at night when few other students were working. I guess my hope was to work out all the kinks and appear one day in my day class as if nothing had happened, and as if I had all my “slip” together. 🙂  I progressed very slowly, as there were no teachers and not many experienced students in the lab at that time of night!

failure and creativity

Me - circa a long time ago

That was a long time ago, and I’ve learned some very valuable lessons since – primarily about grace and the freedom to be a fool and to fail. Here’s what I want to share today:  Not failing (and not failing publicly) will prevent you from succeeding.

  • Failing publicly means you tried to add value in a way that would impact other people.
  • Failing again means you tried again.
  • Making a variety of mistakes means that you are experimenting with a variety of “what if’s” and “maybe’s” and “hopefully’s”
  • Failing publicly means that you are in a position to be noticed (oh no!) and get some help, tweaking, direction…
I believe that purposing to add value, trying again, experimenting, and seeking critique as well as support, will lead to successes.  Purposing to achieve perfection the first time, and to make sure that everyone thinks well of you all the time will – ironically –  lead to defeat.
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artists and failure

Finally... a teapot!

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  • If you’ve ever felt paralyzed by creative failure, what got you going again?
  • What kinds of things have you learned from failure?
  • Do you put yourself in positions where you can fail publicly? If not, what can you do to be more vulnerable?
  • What advice would you give a friend who is stuck in failure?
Alright, talk to you later creative friends!  I hope I didn’t scare you too much today. 🙂  See you soon. 🙂
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MEET THE ARTIST
Mari Lowery is a former dog walker and a Brooklyn photographer and mixed media artist. Find more of her frightening creations at her Etsy shop.
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And The Winner Is…

I’m so excited to announce the winner of the first ever Mish Mash Make blog giveaway! Yahoo!  Thanks to everyone who participated.  I like to give people things, and am looking forward to doing it again soon.

Our Super Top Secret Scientifically Calibrated Random Picking Machine

Here you can see my highly scientific method for choosing a winner.  I put the names on paper, cut them up, and my 6 year old, Miles, closed his eyes and pulled out a name.  One name only.  And that name is  (dah-dah-dahhhhh)…

Laura!

Laura!  Laura is a Finnish blogger who writes about living a beautiful country life.  (Her blog can be translated with the click of a button – how cool is that?) Laura, I’m so glad you won! I hope that you really enjoy both of the books, and that they spur you on in your creative journey.

If you didn’t win, but are still interested in these books, click on the thumbnails to purchase a download.


This is Miles.  Today, he is dressed up as Super-Bat-Ninja-Man.  We promise that he closed his eyes while picking the name, and did not use his x-ray vision.  🙂

Fellow Creatives: How Do You Choose a Good Idea?

Juggling too many things

This is Not Chaos, *Lisa Telling Kattenbraker - available on Etsy

After learning about my frequent flirtations with Good Ideas, many readers responded that they, too, find themselves in creative overload. They are either overcommitted and overwhelmed, or just fruitlessly moving from one idea to the next.

  • To what extent is an abundance of good ideas paralyzing to you?
  • How do you weed through all the wonderful ideas, schemes, projects and plans that come your way?
  • Do you have people in your life (possibly of a different temperamental disposition) who help to constrain and focus you?  How does this work, and how do you respond?
  • Do you have priorities that guide what you do?  If so, what are they?

Short of starting a support group, let’s come together and share what works (and doesn’t work) for us as we strive to be makers and creators.

Join the Conversation!

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MEET THE ARTIST

*Lisa Telling Kattenbraker is a batik artist. She works on cotton fabric, using traditional methods and tools, combined with experimental approaches to create vibrant, contemporary american batik. She lives in Washington State with her artist husband, children, chickens, cat and puppy.

She says of her work, “The process of batik is, in many ways, a contrast to my daily life. It’s slow going, it’s meditative. I’m drawn to that process part of it…the journey.”

A Good Idea is (Not) Hard to Find – Part 2: The Honeymoon is Over

So yes, I fall fast and hard for good ideas, and can be rather obsessive about them… lots of daydreaming and the like.  The trouble is, once it seems like I’m moving toward something a bit more long term, a bit like commitment, trouble sets in.

For instance:

Me, to Idea #1:  “You know, we’ve been spending an awful lot of time together lately. Frankly, it’s a bit tedious.  I feel like all we do is research tax codes and profit margins and try to make websites.  We used to have fun!”

To Idea #2:  “I had another idea last night, and as much as I like you, I’m just really feeling like it might be “the one”.  You know?  I’m not sure why I ever thought we were a good match anyways…”

I guess this is the stage at which I’ve gotten close enough to see the dark side…

  • My ideas usually require a lot more work and time than I imagined they would.
  • Often, I must do cumbersome behind the scenes tasks before I get to the fun stuff.
  • Sometimes, my ideas just seem stupid the next day.
  • Sometimes, I am too full of self doubt to see how any of it could work out.
So, if I’m not to be the kind of girl who just hops from one good idea to the next, what am I to do?
Next time, read + comment on “I Learn to Commit” – an open forum for creatives to share what is working, and not working for them!

A Good Idea is (Not) Hard to Find – Part 1: Flirting


Good ideas for the creative process

"She Was a Terrible Flirt", Amy Abshier-Reyes*, available on Etsy

I am a flirt.

Well, I was a flirt in my mix and mingle single days, before I met someone who grabbed my attention and has kept it for a long time.  So, no, I don’t bat my eyelashes or stand “a little too close” when I meet new, interesting men.

These days, I save the eyelash-batting for ideas.  I fall in love with them regularly, and I fall hard.

Idea #1.  I’m going to travel to Africa and import textiles that I design along with traditional artisans.  I’ll host trunk shows, run a website, and maybe open some small boutiques.

Idea #2.  I’m going to write a blog in which I interview artists and other creatives.  I will study Terry Gross and Ira Glass and Andy Rooney.  I will be known for both my compassion and direct hits.

Idea #3.  I will open a pie shop with my mother as baker-in-chief.  We will introduce her amazing baking skills to the wider world.

Idea #4.  I will have another baby to keep my (suprise) 5th baby company.

Idea #5.  I will eat only foods that are close to the earth.  All the time.  And I will walk everywhere I go. And everywhere I walk, I will be stylishly, yet naturally styled.  Yes, I will have a style, and people will like it.  Maybe I’ll also design clothes for women with my body type… with the textiles that I import…

the creative process and good ideas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It happens every time.

I meet a good idea, or catch a glimpse of one across the room, and my heart starts to beat a little faster. My eyes sparkle. I get a little sweaty. You wouldn’t believe how good these ideas are when I first think of them.

I lie awake at night imagining our lives together in ten years.  Everything is in technicolor. I’m always so happy during this phase of our relationship… a little high, even.  I get more done around the house, I’m nicer to my family, I call a whole bunch of people to talk.  It feels GOOD to be that close to a good idea.

As I’ve gotten older, it’s come to my attention that I need to commit to some of these ideas. This is where the trouble starts.

Next time, read, “The Honeymoon is Over“.  

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MEET THE ARTIST

*Amy Abshier-Reyes was raised on the Texas Gulf Coast, in a small farming and ranching community. She graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute and has shown paintings in galleries all over the country, as well as providing illustrations for books and magazines internationally.

She’s happily married to a sweet guy that builds motorcycles and plays guitar, and has two awesome little kids, a cranky old cat, and a huge record collection.

The Gap Between Good Taste and Ability

Ira Glass photo: Tina Fineberg/ AP

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap.

For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.  But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

– Ira Glass of This American Life