There are some experiences that are so good that they set the bar for any other experience past or future to try to match or emulate. Facilitating my first full day workshop on creativity at FITC Amsterdam goes on record as being one of the best days of my life. Yes, it was that good. Seriously.
For starters, I was bolstered by the fact that I had been in contact with a few of the attendees beforehand. One woman emailed me in advance to tell me how excited she was about the workshop. Another gentleman flew in to Amsterdam for the day in from Madrid, Spain expressly to take the workshop (he further interviewed me afterwards to get Inside the Creativity), then left soon after it was over to catch his flight back home.
I was further encouraged by the number of attendees: 16, which was more than I thought would be there. Because the workshop focused on more “soft skills”, I figured that at a technical conference it would be the least well-attended out of all the workshops offered. Much to my surprise and delight, it turns out that The Unfolded Brain had the highest number of attendees of the four workshops that day.
There was minor hiccup to the day: my computer’s hard drive completely died at 6am, four hours before the workshop was about to start. However, my new method of preparation not only put me in good stead, but totally saved me. Having used the Post-it Big Pads to organize my ideas and work out the course flow, I was able to use them as my workshop notes with all of the reminders of the content that I wanted to cover, the exercises to do in class, and the practices for the attendees to work on at home.
The attendees were ready, eager to do some work, and eager for the content. In order to get an idea of what people were hoping to get out of the day, I had everyone write some of their goals for the workshop on post-it notes and put them at the front of their desks. Everyone had great ideas, and it was great for me to see them and know that my content was in alignment with what folks were looking to get out of the course.
After that, I intro-ed the content, and dove in with the first exercise. Despite not having any slides and doing the whole day “analog”, the information flowed and everyone delved into the assignments with gusto. Some of the exercises were individual, some required a partner, a few required small groups, and one exercise included everyone in the class at once.
For me, the experience was amazing. I felt very honored to be able to share my process for enhancing and expanding creative productivity. Workshops are truly my element, as it was through teaching a hands-on handmade herbal soapmaking workshop back in 1998 that showed me my gift for teaching and love for sharing practical information. And from the feedback, no slides was no problem:
“Nice job presenting ad-hoc (broken computer)”
“Great work solving the session without your computer.”
“Laptop was broke, so no slides could be shown, but I didnt miss them.”
At the end of the workshop, the students seemed buzzing with positivity and possibility, and many lingered past the end of the course to chat with each other and stay in the zone of the day. The blogger for the conference was one of the workshop participants, and he wrote up a really nice recap of the day for the conference site.
But that only partially explains why the day was so poignant for me. You know those moments when you have a vision of how your life could be better in the future than it is at the moment? Well, doing this work was part of a vision that came to me at the end of February 2010, when it became clear to me that I wanted to help people feel that incredible surge of energy that you get when you’ve created something amazing and have been in “the zone” creatively. This day and this workshop represented the culmination of three years of work in creating this experience, not just for myself, but for the people in the workshop as well. And seeing that I have the power to create something like this was phenomenal.
If you are wondering what happened to my computer, it turns out that had to spend all of the next day at the Apple Store working to get it fixed. But that did not impede on the great feelings that I had from the workshop the day before, which carried me through the rest of the week, right up to the next amazing experience that I had in Frankfurt, Germany the last week of February. That, however, is an entirely separate blog post.
Full disclaimer: This blog post is sponsored by Post-it Brand Big Pads.
This week marks the first full week ever where I am able to fully focus all of my energy on doing what I love the most: being a Creativity Evangelist. Since my epiphany in 2010 upon completing my book, I have been taking steps to focus solely on my goal of helping people with their creative process. At first small, the steps have gotten bigger and bigger, as with every presentation and article, I have moved farther and farther away in content from front-end web development topics towards those around creativity.
And now, all of those steps have brought me to where I stand today: developing a full-day workshop entitled “The Unfolded Brain: Skyrocketing Your Creative Productivity” for FITC Amsterdam, which I will be conducting on Sunday, 17 February 2013.
I’m thrilled. I’m excited. And I’m currently happier than a pig in poop, because I have ridiculously cool tools to work with to manage my thoughts, workshop flow, concepts, exercises, and take home practices like the brand-spanking-new Post-it Big Pads and a bewildering preponderance of new Post-it Super Sticky notes that have the adhesive on the whole backside of the note. Even my cat thinks these groovy new Post-it products are cool!
The tools are great because they facilitate a process that is already going on in your head. So, these cool Big Pads are helping along the process of capturing and organizing all of the ideas and content that I have been working with over the course of the past 2 years and combining them in a coherent manner. In fact, this workshop will see a culmination of all of the content on creativity that I have been sharing all over the world into a process that helps people access, manage, leverage and express creativity and improve creative productivity.
So, I have until the end of the week to nail down all of the content (fortunately, I already have more content than time to teach it), make final decisions on the exercises, and get the flow of the workshop down so that there is a nice progression between concepts. I have my work cut out for me, and I am going to love every single minute of it.
Full disclaimer: This blog post is sponsored by Post-it Brand Big Pads.
This is a very exciting week for me: last night, I submitted the last of a four article series entitled “CSS Architectures” that I have been writing for the Microsoft Script Junkie site. While the writing of the articles could be seen as exciting in and of itself, the truly exciting thing is that these are the last articles I will write about CSS ever. Yes, ever.
The term “swan song” came about from the ancient belief that swans, who do not make musical sounds during their lifetime, sing a beautiful song at the moment right before death. In common usage, a swan song is a final gesture given before retirement. I lovingly think of these articles as my CSS swan song: my final contribution to the world of front-end web design and development as that part of my professional life fades into the background and my work with the creativity process steps fully into the forefront.
This morning, I woke up smiling, as I thought of all of the work that I have been planning to do around my creativity content and the fact that I am now free to put all of my focus and attention on developing workshops for clients, more articles, writing books, launching websites, and organizing events.
So, HTML and CSS, thank you for everything that you have done in my life: for moving me into an industry with amazing minds, unfettered creativity, rampant innovation, and unlimited potential. Thank you for being the subject of my first book. Thank you for allowing me to do what I love traveling the world to speak, teaching and sharing concepts and ideas. Thank you for all of the friends you have made me. And thank you for creating a situation where I could finally tune into what my true life’s work is.
The first article came out last week: “CSS Architectures, Part 1: Principles of Code Cleanup and the New Best Practices” on Script Junkie, so check it out. There will be three more articles after that, and then, as they say “that’s all she wrote!” (at least about CSS, that is.)
Happy New Year! Already, 2013 has started off with a bang: the latest issue of Appliness Magazine, which has tons of great articles for web and mobile developers, features an interview with yours truly!
I am so honored and thrilled to have been able to spend a couple of hours conversing with the wonderful Maile Valentine of the Appliness team at Adobe. I was equally thrilled to have had the extremely talented Derek Kearney photograph me for the article. I’ve been feeling like quite the super-star!
I just wanted to follow up to my post asking for votes and support to get my presentation “Your Brain on Creativity” into the programming for SXSW Interactive 2013.
Your votes worked! So come and see me speak at SXSW in Austin in March and get what I am thinking of as my “TED-length” version of “Your Brain on Creativity” that will be part of the Future 15 programming.
I skipped SXSW last year, so it will be great to be back with all of my industry peeps and getting my mind opened for a week.
See you there!
If asked if they wanted to be more productive during their day, most people would respond with an emphatic “yes!”. But what we usually do to create and produce more is to “push through it”, “suck it up”, and have a “no pain, no gain” type of attitude.
What if some of the answers to being more productive involved actually doing less work and more not-work? If you are intrigued, then you should read my latest article that just came out at NetMagazine.com: “Four secrets to enhancing creative productivity“.
You may be surprised at what you find!
In 2010, right after finishing my book The CSS Detective Guide, I had an epiphany. And not just any old garden-variety epiphany, but a earth-shattering, soul-illuminating one. At that moment, I realized that something I had aspired to and a quality that I have long sought after and longed for I finally had. Not only did I have it, I had it in spades. What was this coveted essence? Creativity.
With the concentrated work I had put into my book, I finally GOT it: I saw that not only can I code, but I can write and tell fun stories, design visually, and put it all together in the tidy package of a book. The realization made me feel…Powerful. Euphoric. Practically invincible!
At that moment, I knew that what I wanted to teach and share with the world was much, much bigger than any single discipline like web design, (or what had led me to teaching in the first place) soap-making, stationery set making, or anything else. I saw very clearly that was I had been doing through my teaching was helping people (and myself) get in touch with, channel and express their creativity. With that realization, I felt that I had truly (and finally) found my calling, my vocation, my life’s work. I decided to coin myself a “Creativity Evangelist“, with the goal of “spreading the gospel” of creativity.
Fast forward two years from that point: I’ve now written a few articles on creativity and the creative process, created and presented several presentations on the same, and have ideas for a least two books if not more. In the spirit of instigating a sea change in the way that work flow, productivity, and creativity are approached, I’ve submitted the presentation that I created in January of this year for New Adventures in Web Design to be part of South By Southwest Interactive‘s programming in 2013.
The presentation is called “Your Brain on Creativity” and it completely unlike your standard presentation. Instead, it’s big on story narrative and performance; and rich with content, information, and imagination. The audience becomes a part of journey embarked upon by an oppressed brain and its wise mentor who travel to different lands solving the problems of the inhabitants while also cracking some of the code of how our brains best work, create, and produce.
The feedback from the audience at NaConf was really great, as almost everyone loves a good story and learns best from them.
So, help me get this great work in front of more people! Please vote for my presentation “Your Brain On Creativity” in the SXSW 2013 Panel Picker, so that may spread my message of creative right work to a many people as possible.
I’ve written recently on how much I loved attending and presenting at ConvergeSE a few month back in June of this year. But what I didn’t write about is that I had the pleasure of being interviewed (yet again!), but the very wonderful and extremely talented Giovanni Difeterici of UnMatchedStyle.com on CSS, the extremely awesome past year of my career, and my future goals.
The conference had me so jazzed — all of the great information, being able to spend time with some of my favorite web peeps and meeting new ones, and being on a high from the warm reception of my workshop on CSS3 and Responsive Design — that I blasted enthusiasm and passion towards Giovanni’s great questions. But he is a passionate, creative guy himself — I think he handled it just fine.
Check out the interview, it’s only 5 minutes or so:
And if you’ve seen me speak and my enthusiasm touched you or helped you feel more empowered in any way, let me know!
I don’t know about you, but I have a very loud, insistent, and mean roommate. Sometimes he’s quiet and well-behaved, and we maintain an amicable truce. Other times – most often when I am trying to produce something brilliant – he’s raucous and destructive, yelling demoralizing epithets at me and keeping me from doing the kick-ass work I know I can do.
I would love to kick him out: take all of his belongings and put them out on the lawn with a “FREE” sign on it all, change the keys on all of the locks, and refuse to receive any of his calls. There’s only one problem: he’s in my head. Don’t look at me askance; he’s not an “imaginary friend”. He’s the troll under my subconscious bridge. He’s my inner critic.
If you have a similar mental companion, check out the article “Banishing Your Inner Critic” that I wrote for the esteemed A List Apart to get a litany of tips and pointers on how to oust him from his post so you can claim your awesomeness and do great work.
ps – shout out to my dear friend and awesome writer in his own right, Daniel O’Donnell (aka The Oscar Delta), for doing an awesome first pass edit on the article for me! Teamwork rocks.
When Lisa Lang formerly of Sitepoint.com (but now of Smashing Magazine) asked me to do a podcast screencast for DesignFestival.com, naturally I said “yes!”, as I love all of the great content that comes from Sitepoint and its related sites.
With the latest movement towards Responsive Web Design, developed by Ethan Marcotte, and also based on the most recent workshop that I gave at ConvergeSE entitled “CSS3: Ripe and Responsive”, it seemed like a presentation on the history of web design and the directions for the future were very apt.
Check out the presentation “The Age of Responsive Design” at DesignFestival.com and let me know your thoughts about the exciting place we are at in the history of the web industry and with web design.