Jun 202015

You might have noticed some changes with this site. Like maybe it took you a while to find it.

Then, the name change. And if you care about such things, the Web addy is also different.

Let’s attack these in order. I am getting rid of the creativeanddangerous.com domain name because it’s really kind of redundant. Why not just put the blog under my main website and let the subdomains fall where they may?

Then there’s the whole name change. As soon as I got the creativeanddangerous.com domain I regretted it. I mean it rolls off the tongue like ground glass. The Creativity Wars sounds much better and it’s a lot more descriptive.

Because it’s really a war out there.

You vs. Resistance.

You vs. you.

But we’ll discuss that more.

Nov 272014
It's not just about the bird.

It’s not just about the bird.

This is that time of year when folks get together to devour a stuffed turkey — or pigeon if you live alone — and think positive. It’s that time of thanks.

But there’s no law says you have to reserve all your thanks for that one day in a year.

Thanks, properly given, is a regular thing. Weekly? Daily? You bet.

If you can’t find something thankworthy in your life, stop and spin again. You’ll come up with something.

Could be a pair of shoes or a warm jacket.

Could be the fact you had something to eat today. Or because you can still fog a mirror.

Dinner for one?

Dinner for one?

Could be the time you spend with loved ones. With loyal friends. With a faithful dog.

Could just be memories. That’s thankworthy too.

Could be your ability to write your thoughts down. To make music to express what’s iin you. To create. To spread an idea. To live.

I can think of plenty in my own crazy life. I’m not going to list them here because it’s your time. Think of your own.

When you think about it, it sure beats mumbling a fast, desultory “hey, thanks man” during halftime of the Lions-Bears game, huh?

Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday, and keep looking for things that deserve thanks. All the time.


May 302014

Sometimes the goofy ideas get things flowing.

Sometimes the goofy ideas get things flowing.

If the good ideas won’t come, I’ll take a crappy one instead. In fact, that may be the one that turns into sheer brilliance.

According to the Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC), it might make sense to come up with the worst idea possible. So says YEC member Brittany Hodak of ZinePak.

It seems Hodak makes this a practice during those sessions, and when minds get gummed up for some reason or other, she’ll take the dumb and dumber just to blow the brain gunk out.

(Brain gunk. That sounded squirrel-dung nutty when I slammed that phrase down. Now I really like it. Borrow it if you want.)

But the worst idea possible? Isn’t that counterproductive? Seems that way to me. When I plot out a novel or article or blog post, I want stuff that works. I don’t want to fritter my time away with a bunch of garbage. I can dream up enough screwball crap without making a special effort to do so, thank you.

Two thoughts on stupid

  • But here’s the thing. A lousy idea indicates someone is really thinking around here. Someone’s going out on a limb. Everyone else is silent, meaning everything’s copacetic or they left their brains in their other pants pockets. It’s better to ask the stupid questions than none at all, and better to dream up a total loser than to not do anything.
  • Now here’s Thing 2: When all is said and done, who says it’s a dumb idea anyway, and are there any guarantees it will stay dumb?

As far as who says, it’s usually me. In those rare moments when I have my filter on, I’ll shoot down any of my moments of a) cosmic brilliance or b) celestial stupidity without even feeling badly about it. A moment like that is scary anyway, and it needs killing.

Staying stupid? Let’s go down the list. At one time people — and the press — howled at the idea of putting a man on the moon. I mean that was one of those what-are-you-smoking ideas, too funny to even take seriously. Or the thought of me running a computer that’s smaller than my bedroom? Now, that one was uber-dumb.

Somebody had to dream up this junk in the first place.

In the early going a dumb idea will get a chuckle out of you.

Bounce it off someone else and he’ll think it’s a real hoot. You’ll brighten his day.

Throw it to a committee and — well, just try it sometimes. I double-dawg dare you.

In a group setting Hodak will have her staff dream up the biggest, dumbest ideas they can. Maybe even engage in a round of can-you-top-this. You think that one’s a real turkey, listen to this.

You know, that’s the idea that just may work.

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Talk to me: Share some of your biggest, dumbest ideas. Did they work?

Mar 282014

I was really enjoying this documentary on the Algonquin Round table. Check it out if you have the time; it’s about 26 minutes. A youngish Walter Cronkite narrated.


Quite a group of writers and others met regularly as part of this group. Guests included Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott, Heywood Broun, Robert Benchley, Robert Sherwood, George S. Kaufman, Franklin P. Adams, Marc Connelly, Harold Ross, Harpo Marx, and Russell Crouse.

From what I get, it’s part mastermind group and part Friars Club roast.



Oct 282013

For some reason I was thinking about Paul, an old coworker of mine. Hadn’t heard from him in 20 years.

Paul eked out a living in a Laughlin, NV casino at the same time I did. His job, like mine, was selling rolled coins to the slot machine players. Not exactly brain surgery, but the pay was pretty good.

He was from Tennessee or Alabama, one of those states that makes Charleston look like a it’s populated by bunch of Yankees. Good man.

Anyway, I was in the process of getting married and he offered to do the cake. Then he told me his story.

He had a bakery back home, and apparently it went bust. That’s when he dug out and moved to Nevada. But it seems he had a real talent for decorating cakes.

I think I took pictures of his work, but trust me. It was a work of art. I felt bad about cutting that thing, it looked so good.

As it is, the marriage did outlast the cake. Not by much, though. That’s another story that ties in with occasional manic moments.

Some time later, the casino fired Paul in an apparent power play and I lost track of him. One can only hope he landed on his feet, though. Maybe he even got back into the bakery business? Again, there’s that hope.

Getting fired or laid off can be the best thing to ever happen to a guy like Paul. Or to me, for that matter. It means I can quit screwing around and wasting my life on a so-called career for the short money. and get on with the real business.

Listen, I got laid off from a railroad gig some time ago. It still escapes me what I was doing there in the first place even though I did the job well. But I tried my hand at a couple of other things since then, enough to afford beans and a hunk of side meat. Helped a friend tear down trees. Did some landscaping. Even played a weekend music gig on the road as a fill-in.

Mostly, it was time for me to get serious about writing and to make a living at it.

Some Web content to keep the lights on. A little hustling for side work. A few ebooks, now four in number and a fifth on the way. This blog, plus another new one that shows promise.

Would I have done those things if I kept that railroad job? Probably not.

I still would have been talking about what a hot writer I once was. What kind of life is that?

I wouldn’t have done a thing with the actual writing. Maybe a blog to keep my hand in, but that’s about all.

Ebooks? Forget it.

Freelance writing? Why? Had a perfectly good job, a lot more respectable one than writing.

Hopefully, it won’t take something drastic to force the action, like a firing or layoff for a person to get started.

What’s wrong with pursuing something while still working a job?

Most of my ebook writing has been done an hour at a time, scratched out on a legal pad with any moment I can steal. On a bus ride. While waiting for the doctor. Standing in line at the supermarket checkout counter. Even speaking your thoughts or humming that music composition into a portable recorder while driving to work (speaking from experience, it’s a lot safer than writing on a legal pad at 75 mph). Shoot, I could have done that with two jobs, as long as I don’t get complacent.

Maybe even helping a friend out, like Paul did.

But just start.

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What say you? Have you been making good use of those stolen moments? Please leave a comment and testify.


Announcement: My latest ebook, Hard Reboot, is now available on Amazon. Covers some of the same territory as this post. Paul’s story is not in it, though. I thought about that later.





Sep 082013

Just like I normally do, I picked up an idea and ran with it. I’m just that way.

For about a year I kept this blog “creative&dangerous,” which covers much of the creative process and urges the reader to get off his butt and do something. But one thing that many creative types share is an undecided brain that can’t decide where it wants to be today. It’s a physiological thing, so just getting over it isn’t a real answer.

I’ve covered my share of bipolar topics here because of this strange correlation, true or not, between creativity and manic depression (or “bipolar” for the politically correct among you). But this isn’t really a bipolar blog, and I don’t care to hijack it for yet another rabbit hole.

Anyway, Mom told me about a friend of hers who deals with this mess, and wanted me to send a link to creative&dangerous.

H’mm, I thought. I have some articles scattered here and there on the topic, and one would have to do some real digging to find them. Why not put together something that has this theme and is hopefully easier to navigate?

That’s why this blog. Mom did it. She gave me the idea. Blame her. Or maybe thank her.

Check out the new blog, “Good Morning Manic Depression (Are You Going To Behave Yourself Today?) at bp.creativeanddangerous.com — it’s so new I’m still playing with the bubble wrap.

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Aug 192013

Can’t remember how it goes.

Is it cluttered desk = cluttered mind, or empty desk = empty mind?

I’m betting on the latter.

Actually, Albert Einstein said that, and based on the photographic evidence he knows a little something about that.

albert einstein's desk

Albert Einstein’s desk, as seen shortly after he died. It’s really not as bad as I expected; he must have been expecting company.

My old work desk at the newspaper office was definitely pure clutter. Open file folders all over the place. Papers and photos in random piles. Notebooks. Two loose-leaf phone directories of all my sources. Coffee cup. Ashtray (newsrooms used to have such anachronisms back then). Maybe even a computer in there somewhere. My boss (the publisher, not the managing editor) was a real clean freak and kept after me to clean up the mess. Of course, she never wrote a word in her life, which may or may not have anything to do with that. The managing editor, my rival in well-sculpted desktops, decided I was a blood relative.

I think it took some newsroom prankster (maybe the publisher) to drop a broad hint. Something like cordoning off the area with yellow police tape. I took enough of the hint to clean things up a bit, and everyone thought I’d resigned or something. Until I mentioned an amazing discovery:

“Hey, guys, look. I found a desk.”

Now, there were rumors that after the desktop had its massive deep cleaning, everyone saw what I really look like and begged me to start piling papers on the desk again. Of course, that’s just vicious rumor.

Surprisingly enough, everything else was well organized. My physical files — those I wasn’t working on — were stored away in a drawer, alphabetized. I even kept a database of photos, mug shots of all the regular newsmakers. The database — actually an alphabetized text document — directed me to the right envelope where I kept the proper negatives and contact sheets.


Junk science

OK. Long anecdote. But I saw an article about clean vs. messy desks. Seems your work environment has a lot to do with your creativity and ability to make decisions. And while everyone’s different, the messy desk wins out in most arguments.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota decided to take a look at a long-established principle of human honesty and productivity — keep your work area clean and you will be more likely to work your tail off, stay honest, be generous with your coworkers, and on and on … a messy work environment, the research suggested, can bring out a person’s creativity and lead to the birth of bold, new ideas. In other words, a less- than-perfect work environment can make a person more likely to think out of the box, or at least above the horizon of those neat people in the office.

Yeah, that seeing-above-the-horizon idea makes sense. Just being able to see over my desk is hard enough.

At Disneyland years ago, one tour walked you through the administrative section and Walt Disney’s office. I’m sure it was a mock-up; who can work when a bunch of tourists from Ohio stare at you through a big sheet of glass?

My desk is a wreck, but my computer screen is orderly. Note: No icons.

Disney actually had two offices. One was tidy, forbidding-looking, intimidation dripping from the walls. That was his public office where he’d greet visitors or maybe air out a recalcitrant worker.

His other office, to put it charitably, was a wreck. It was more man cave than office, but that was where he did his actual work. He might have even had an electric fence up to keep the janitors out, but that’s conjecture.

I’ve seen pictures of Albert Einstein at his work, and his desk … well, it was about as well-ordered as his hair.

Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who singlehandedly saved the game of baseball after the 1919 World Series gambling scandal (admittedly with draconian tactics), also keopt a scary-looking desk. Piles everywhere.

But he knew where everything was — all of us messy-desk aficianados say the same thing. Longtime manager Leo Durocher, a frequent visitor to Landis’ office on sime disciplinary matter or other, vouched for that in his autobiography. If you lied to the Judge, he’d reach into one of those piles without even looking, and pluck out the very document that nails your hide to the wall.

The grand tour, if you dare

OK. That’s historical stuff; let’s get to the here and now. My own work desk is in a relative state of disorder, though not as bad as it once was. And like Judge Landis, I know exactly where everything is.

  • Reference works on the top shelf, with a pair of Bose speakers serving as bookends.
  • Office supplies on a hanging shelf to the left.
  • Files, stereo and pencil cup to the right.
  • Random stuff to the left of the computer: Sunglasses, flashlight, dry-erase markers, last week’s mail, an 11/16-inch socket from my tool drawer, a wadded-up bandanna for erasing my white boards, decommissioned cell phones, another rolled-up bandanna to rest my wrist on when using the computer mouse, which was on the desk last time I looked.
  • File drawer is fairly orderly, but don’t ask about the open cubbyhole on top of that. It seems some creature has taken up residence there. Not sure what it is, but it has glowing red eyes and only comes out at night.

But my computer screen is fairly clear. No icons — I hate them anyway. One terminal window to open programs, because I don’t use drop-down menus very much either. A couple of open documents. Some notes elsewhere on the screen, in another terminal window.

Very orderly. Or not.

Forced adaptability

Of course I’m going to have my hypothosis, even though there’s nothing scientific about it. But a messy desk may force you to adapt, to think your way around corners, to come up with something amazing even if conditions say you should go back to bed. OK, maybe I’m justifying my own bad behavior, so take that into consideration.

Here’s my challenge. Grab a bunch of random papers and kitsch, and dump it on your desk. Rent a front-end loader if you have to. Slap a couple of HAZMAT decals on the pile to keep everything in sync with government regulations. See if that helps with your creativity.

If it doesn’t work, you can always light a match and get rid of the piles with no lapse in continuity.

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What say you? Can you still see over your desk? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


Jun 122013

My companion blog ‘Baling Wire and Duct Tape,’ dormant for almost a year, comes back up with news of another Google service getting the ax, and some ways to make up for the loss. No, I’m not talking about Google Reader, either. But I’ll miss Google SMS just as much.


Let’s say you wanted the weather forecast. Key in “weather 29406” — or whatever your Zip code is to get the forecast for the next few days. Within minutes it would come back, and you’d know whether to cancel that picnic.

That’s the service that felt the nip of the executioner’s ax. Suddenly. Quietly. Not even a whimper. Google-watchers were so busy with Reader that they didn’t notice anything else …

Check it out in Baling Wire and Duct Tape.


Jun 042013

(Is “grabbable” an actual word?)

Anyway, the free period for this ebook ends Wednesday, so might as well download it and save a few bucks.

I swiped the graphic straight from the Amazon page, so it may or may not do something if you click on it. Probably not.

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