Word – Pt 2

September 5, 2015


Just now this photo and link showed up in my Facebook newsfeed. It’s always good to know others (who are smarter and better writers) feel the same way!

Word (Pt 1)



August 29, 2015


Since I enjoy reading and writing, words are important to me. Intellectually, I know that the concepts attached to words are fluid since there really is not such thing as the Language Police to reign us in for meaning-shift violations.

I get it, but I don’t like it.

With use words suffer entropically, losing a great deal of specifity. (Yes, I did just alter two common words for my own purposes.)

For instance, anxious used to describe a gnawing fear. This meaning lives on in the related form: anxiety. Today, however, when someone says she is anxious for Christmas, she doesn’t mean she has a Christmas phobia, she means she is eager for Christmas to arrive. How did we get from fear to eager?

Another word issue that’s annoying is when people make up a word when we already have a good one. Signage is someone’s self-aggrandizing effort to dress up signs.

We don’t need more words when we already have a good one (word clutter), and we need descriptive words to retain their specific meaning instead of becoming generalized. These are two of my hot-button word-issues.

The most annoying of all, however, is overuse. When words are captured by popular culture, we all lose. Imagination sits on the cliff watching culture lemmings run en masse over the cliff. Why? It’s easier to throw out a word in vogue; no work required. I think those who fall to this practice think they will be seen as something appealing– trendy, in-the-know, novel, and maybe even culturally superior.

In actuality, running into these types of words makes a part of my interest in reading an article die. I find myself working a little harder to read something peppered with throw-away or gratuitous words because I to into editing mode. “What word would work better here?” “What, exactly, is the writer really trying to convey?” I usually give up and move on to a piece more interesting.

Here is my current list of word speed bumps:

  • epic (rarely is something that grand)
  • awesome (if everything is awesome, nothing is)
  • badass (“take note because I’m rebellious, naughty, or reckless,” no, you’re just a lazy writer!)
  • does that make sense? (state your case, don’t ask me, and edit until your point is clear!)
  • out of the box (meant to show originality that is anything but)
  • on the same page (the book writers take this from has run out of pages)
  • passion, as in “I have a passion for _____” (this intense word suggests you would die for your passion; use sparingly– or be prepared to die)
  • literally (verbatim, not to a great extent)
  • absolutely (not a term of agreement, but, well, an absolute!)

Ah…. For now I can rest with this rant purged from my mind.

Until I find another one!


Creative Rhythm Reset

August 8, 2015


Creativity concentration. When faced with a creative challenge or artistic task, I go into tunnel-vision concentration mode. All else fades away and falls off the to do list.

But everything I notice on the periphery gets stored somewhere in my head!

As soon as the Big Deal is over, my mind takes a short respite, then the Great Reset begins. Off I go, working on all the items that appeared to have lain dormant. Like…

  • Changing the light bulb that burned out last week
  • Sweeping the wood splinters from playful doggies’ chewing session off the patio
  • Gathering framing supplies from every flat surface in the house and returning them to their homes
  • Doing the laundry… and taking the time to hang it outside in the sunshine
  • Standing (still!) in the sunshine and looking at the curly clouds
  • Cleaning out the rotting cilantro from the refrigerator, and remembering to eat
  • Writing a blog post
  • And more

The Big Deal provided energy and creative passion and thorough enjoyment.

The Reset calms my heart, restores perspective, and prepares my soul (and space) for the next Big Deal!


Can you relate? How does the rhythm of your creative flow work? Please share— I have much to learn from you, my creative friends!


Venti Exaggeration

March 27, 2013

My lunch came to work with me in a Starbucks bag which now sits empty on my desk. While I downed pico de gallo on multi-grain chips with slices of colby-jack cheese, I read the text on the bag. The photo below is from the bag’s side panel. And it has a problem.


Grammar Lesson

Re-wording this poorly constructed sentence makes the meaning clear:

Making this bag out of 100% post-consumer material saves 48,000 trees.

Here’s why this is a problem: The dependent clause after the comma modifies the verb, made. Only one bag is made in the original sentence. The rewording above makes the relationship

between made and saving clear, exposing an impossibility–

Grade School Story Problem

How many bags can be made from one tree? I have no idea, but we need a figure to do the math. Let’s use the round and easy figure of 100, for surely one tree can produce that many small bags.

Question 1) How many times would the bag sitting on my desk have to be re-used to save 48,000 trees in one year?
Answer: 4,800,000 times. (100 bags in a tree x 48,000 trees.)  That’s one very durable bag!

Question 2) If an average person lives to be 85 and starts carrying a lunch to school and work at age 5, how many lunches will use a bag in his or her lifetime?
Answer:  20,800 lifetime lunches. (52 weeks x 5 days a week = 260 lunches a year; 260 x 80 = 20,800)

Question 3) How many friends would you need to help use your bag to save 48,000 trees?
Answer: 229 — with 16,000 uses short. (4,800,000 total uses ./. 20,800 lifetime lunches per person = 230.769231 people. Since you are one person, you would need 229 friends.)

Extra credit: Do the above math using the figures 150, 200, and 400 bags from one tree.

Grammar Correction

I think what Starbucks really means is:

Making all of the bags we use at Starbucks this year out of 100% post-consumer material will save more than 48,000 trees.

Using the same figure as above (which I’m sure is way lower than how many bags can really be made out of one tree) means that Starbucks uses 4,800,000 bags in a year. For a business where most customers don’t require a bag, this seems a little suspect.  And if a tree yields 150, 200, or 400 bags (which seems more likely than 100) the total bags used in a year increases to 7,200,000;  9,600,000; or 19,200,000 respectively.

Seems like a venti exaggeration brewed and served with a dollop of poor grammar.


IMAGO FLOW: Creative Limitations – Part I

February 11, 2013

Limitations can enrich or hinder creativity. The difference is in knowing how to make them work for, not against you. The following is the first of two posts on how limitations affect creativity.

I have a love-hate relationship with limitations.  Especially when creating.

When limitations work in my favor I allow them to participate in my creative process; but when they get in my way I spurn them like a Ferrari in Detroit.

Creative flow

Creating in-the-zone allows no stopping to eat… or sleep… or run to the bathroom. Until recently I thought this singular focus was artistic eccentricity.  Turns out there is a scientific reason for neglecting food and drink during a creative frenzy that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (how do you pronounce that?!?) calls spontaneous flow or flow experience.1

Mr. C says the human nervous system can process, or attend to, a total of 110 bits of info per second.  That’s not very much—listening to one person talk takes 60 bits. That’s why we can’t understand two people talking at once. It’s physiologically impossible. 2

Creating in-the-zone uses all 110 bits of human brain bandwidth. So hunger, sleepiness, and even being self-aware don’t register when creativity is humming like a V-8 engine firing on all cylinders fed with high-octane petrol.

When you are really involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new… you don’t have enough attention left over to monitor how your body feels or [think about] your problems at home.  You can’t even feel that you are hungry or tired.  Your body disappears. Your identity disappears from your consciousness because you don’t have enough attention, none of us does, to do something really well that requires a lot of concentration, and at the same time, to feel that you exist. So existence is temporarily suspended. 3

No time to eat

This was true for George F. Handel, composer of MESSIAH, which includes the Hallelujah Chorus, one of the most-loved choral works of all time.  Handel began composing the oratorio August 22, 1741. Part One was finished in six days. Nine days later, Part Two was completed. Another six days and Part Three was done. Two days later – 23 days, start to finish – he finalized the orchestration. The story goes that during the composing, he rarely left his room or touched his meals, writing like a mad man—most assuredly firing at 110 bits of information per second—and therefore, unable to notice his most basic needs.

I can’t compare myself to Handel, but I do know something of the intense concentration that makes hours fly with half-eaten meals long since forgotten and cold.


Like the time I worked on this mosaic for a sermon series at Trinity. I began working in the late afternoon, painted through the night, and finished the assembly in a stupor more than 36 hours later. The creative process during that weekend is still a blur to me. I moved from one task to another, as if the process was all decided, and I simply progressed to the next section or task. I don’t remember eating or doing much else except working.

I get like this when writing, too. It’s not uncommon for me to begin writing in the morning, only to realize “minutes” later that the sun has set and everyone wants dinner. On days like these I completely understand the disconnect of time between our world and Narnia!

Since watching Mr. C’s video, I now know there is a scientific explanation for ignoring everything except my current creative project. And I know I’m not loony! Where Mr. C and science fall short, however, is describing the reason for the intense focus.

Imago flow

I believe this drive is part of what it means to be created Imago Deiin the image of God. He created the world, and then made people in his creative image. He created for seven days straight—and then he rested.

Csikszentmihaly calls it “spontaneous flow” or “flow experience”.

I call it the image of God creating through me.


1. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow.html at 11:05.

2. Ibid; 8:30.

3. Ibid at 8:50. The tenses and broken English have been cleaned up a little for better readability.


Grandma Ford’s Spice Cookies

October 3, 2012

This is one of our family’s favorite recipes.  My mother’s mother adapted it from a recipe she found somewhere (we think).  Autumn has not arrived until we’ve made Grandma’s cookies.  I have two containers sitting on my counter waiting for an art reception this weekend.  Strong self-discipline and restraint has been required as we taste them with our eyes as we walk by.  Stop by the show and see if we were able to withstand such fragrant temptation!

1.  Preheat oven to 350o

2.  Cream together:
—  ¾ c shortening
—   1 c sugar

3.  Stir in:
—   1 egg
—   ¼ c molasses

4.  Add and stir in:
—   2 c flour
—   2 t baking soda
—   ¼ t salt
—   1 t cinnamon
—   ¼ t ground cloves
—   ¾ t ginger

5.  Drop by teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350o for 8-10 minutes.

6.  Cool on paper bags cut open or cooling racks.  While still warm, sprinkle with powder sugar in a sifter or wire sieve.

Makes 2-3 dozen, but I make at least a double, and most times a quadruple batch of these, they are so good!


Workshop: The Four Stages of Creativity

September 29, 2012

Getting to the “AHA!” moment quicker and more frequently

Oct 13 – Saturday  – 9:00 am – 1:00 pm
$10 by Oct 11;  $20 at the door
The Art Bank Gallery, 811 Mass Ave, Indianapolis 46204

Every person is creative!  The belief that only the eccentric, artistic, and brilliant are creative is a myth.  Through short presentations and practical activities for each stage of the creative process, you will learn simple techniques and practices that increase your creativity immediately, and strategies that build your creative muscle.

Writers, contractors, artists, mail carriers, accountants, stay-at-home moms, CEO’s— anyone wanting to release their innate creativity and strengthen their creative muscle will benefit from this workshop.

Reservations by Oct 11 will guarantee you a table.
Walk-ins are welcome, too!

Bring: writing supplies, and lunch money if you want to eat with the group on Mass Ave after the workshop.  Optional: art supplies, if you can learn and create at the same time, and a drop cloth if your art is messy.

The Art Bank has lots of free parking.  Hand-outs, snacks, and all materials will be provided.

For reservations by Oct 11, call or email: 317-918-4720 cathy@howies.org

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