All posts by catletts0

The Early Bird DOES in fact, get the worm

For years and years I thought I was a night owl.  I loved to stay up and out late, either having fun or working on projects.  More recently I discovered that I am not a night owl, but in fact a morning person.  Even though I was up late, I wasn’t being productive on my projects.  I was working on them well into the evening due to my procrastination.  I began to get up early to complete my projects and felt significantly more ambitions, focused and productive.

Last week I saw this article and tweeted it to share with my fellow #tfwf14 classmates:

My first reponse:  Does Hazma Kahn know me?  Is he watching me?  This is my life!

Kahn’s article “Don’t Waste Your Two Golden Hours of Productivity” him home for me.   I fall into the category that Kahn gives data on, that “80 percent of 18- to 44-year-olds who check their smartphones” as soon as they get up.  My smartphone has replaced my alarm clock, so it is the first thing I touch in the morning.apple-iphone-5-white-all-sides

First I check Facebook, followed by Instagram, then Twitter and finally email.  All before my feet have hit the floor and I have to agree with Kahn that we need to avoid this habit.  He states that “the problem with jumping right into our inboxes and notifications is that it steers your morning off-course”.  I get very distracted and behind in my morning routine when I pick up my phone.  So I decided to give it a try, to leave my phone on the night stand when I got out of bed.

I spent the 90 minutes of my morning feeling as though I was missing something, but I was more focused on the tasks that needed to be completed and able to successfully complete them all.  I found my morning flowing along smoothly without having to rush because I was behind on the time.  I could get used to this!

Now, I wish I could say that I was able to keep this routine and I’ve been tremendously successful in being on time and maintaining my easy-flowing mornings.  If I did, I’d be lying.  What I have done, is limited my time on my phone in the morning.  I check social media and then put the phone down.  Emails are put off until I arrive at work.  I couldn’t quit cold turkey, I’m not a quitter.

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So from now on, if I don’t like what I see, I’ll just go back to bed!

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How Important is a Creative Culture?

My fellow blogger Adam Goscinski tweeted a blog entry titled “It’s a creative culture that counts – time schools and teachers created such a learning culture” from the blog Leading and Learning.

This blog brings up an excellent point regarding the curriculum taught in schools in relation to the standardized testing that is now required of children.  “Developing diverse gifts and talents of many students is lost in such procedures and is not helped by the inevitable narrowing of the curriculum by teaching to the standards” according to the blog.  Not only are teachers forced to teach to the test, most times that results in their need to exclude subjects such as art and music, where children are most prone to show their creative side.  However, creativity is not just for the arts, creativity is relevant to any and all subjects when children are able to express themselves.

The blog goes on to state that “it is a creative culture, not obsessive testing and formulaic teaching that is the answer – culture counts”.  Bruce, the author of this blog even includes the lyrics to the popular Pink Floyd song Another Brick in the Wall, “teacher leave that kid alone – we don’t need your mind control”.   Is it really the teachers who are controlling the kids, or are they merely acting on direction from the government?  (I’ll save that argument for another time, another blog post.)

Painted child hands By creating a creative culture, teachers and students alike are able face learning in a way that works best for them, not the general population.  Teachers need the freedom to teach their students the way they are able to learn.  Students need to be able to express their interests and pursue subjects creatively, and not just the subjects that are required for testing.  Both of these ideas will foster a creative learning environment where both students and teachers benefit.

Once we create this culture, a new attitude toward learning will be formed.  The lack of pressure applied to students will allow them to relax and engage in the learning environment rather than feeling rushed to get through massive amounts of material in a short period of time.  Teachers will not feel as though they have been through the wringer at the end of the year from running the marathon of instruction prior to test season.  Call me crazy, but if teachers are happy and students are happy, won’t great things come of it?

Momento: The 21st Century Version of the Diary

When I was a child, and we won’t discuss how long ago that way, we used a pencil and paper to record our thoughts.  As a little girl I had a diary, complete with lock and key that I kept hidden in my bedroom.  Many of my friends had them as well and that was supposed to be a safe haven or protected area for your deepest thoughts and secrets.   At least until our parents suspected something and found them.  That usually did not end well.

fb_momento_iconFast forward to today and the diary has evolved to include neither paper nor pencil.  Following suit with other means of writing, the diary has gone digital and be accessed right on your smartphone.  The app Momento allows you to record your thoughts anywhere, requiring nothing but the cell phone you most likely already had with you.  This allows us to record our experiences in the moment, instead of after they have already occurred when important details can be overlooked and difficult to recall.  This app remediates the need to keep our thoughts, adventures and secrets on paper, where they can be found and used against us (if necessary).  There is far more protection on a smartphone, and this app, with a pass code than my old diary ever had (my mom used to open mine with a pair of scissors).

image2 In Momento, you can input information on the current day or go back and input on days that have already passed.  The key feature in this app is that you can connect it to your social media accounts, and input your locations whenever you check-in to a place.  When you tag friends, those friends are included in the event as well.  Photos can be attached as well as tags relating categories to the event.  Most importantly, Momento simplifies the time previously required to record events.  It also provides a searchable log of either your day-to-day activities or annual family vacations.  The choice is yours, simply based on how you choose to use the app.

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 With such a vast array of social media sites to link to, you are sure to never miss an adventure, vacation, or Saturday in the city because you forgot to write it in your journal.  Momento even has a programmable reminder so that you don’t forget to take a picture or enter a daily log of events.

This app been quite popular in the past, earning the “iPhone App of the Year” Runner-up award in 2011 and continues to update its interface to make the user’s experience easier and more enjoyable.

Momento is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch and is $2.99 on the Apple App Store.

 

Get your creativity on…

We all want to be creative, right?  Okay, maybe I’m a bit ahead of myself.  Some of us, myself included, enjoy and thrive on being creative in many different aspects.  Creative writing, creative arts, creative design; the list goes on and on.  During the creative process road blocks can occur, throwing us off and causing us to reach a standstill.  Very similar to writer’s block, creativity block keeps us from moving forward in the process.

My fellow blogger @ashmcmichael tweeted the article Excellent Tips to Stimulate Creativity, outlining simple ideas to give your brain a break and get the creative juices flowing:

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1)  Engage in physical activity;  go for a walk, jog, shoot some hoops, dance, or just get outside and get some fresh air.  This will get your mind off of the task at hand and give you the ability to start fresh when you return to your project.

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2)  A simple break is all that’s needed sometimes.  Spend some time with friends, family, pets, etc.; watch TV, listen to music, scan the internet, stop by social media (which I am usually doing anyway), or read a book, newspaper or magazine.  These are all excellent ways to engage our minds in other topics and off of our current project.

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3)  Change up your routine.  If you normally begin a project late at night, try getting up early and starting right away.  If your routine is already set that way, trying flipping it around. If you normally work in your room on your bed, try sitting in the kitchen at the table, and vice versa.  A change of scenery may inspire something new.  Make small, simple changes at first and see if that sparks your creativity.

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4)  Jot it down!  When an idea strikes you, write it down.  No pen or paper? Send yourself an email!  These days most people have a smartphone that allows internet connection, so send yourself an email or a text.  Refer back to it later when you need it.  Don’t be that person that says “I don’t need to write it down, I’ll remember.”  You won’t.

So when your creativity level is waning and you need a jump-start, try one of these four ideas to get back on track.  Good luck!

While coming up with my thoughts/ideas on how to go about creating this blog, Michael Wesch’s video The Machine is Us/Using Us came to mind.  I had to rethink the way I was going to showcase these ideas and the means in which I would present them to you, the audience.  I hope it was enjoyable 🙂

 

Creative Writing: How to get your characters to move along…

As writers, we have the job of creating, developing, and exploring the characters in our stories.  By stories, I am referring to fiction pieces where characters are made up.  While writing a short fiction piece recently I was stuck in a rut of how to further develop my character in the setting and conflict I had carefully placed her.  What direction would she take, what qualities would she display, and  furthermore, how was her story going to end?

A few weeks after struggling through the 10-page fiction story, which is no comparison to the novels that most authors write, I came across the article Creative Writing:  When Characters are Difficult to Get On With by Charlotte Seager.

As it turns out even the great writers like Stephen King and one of my personal favorites, Roald Dahl,  have difficulty from time to time with their characters.

The problem isn’t with the characters though, it is with the writer, according to Seager.  Those problems are greatest when the writer is removed from the situation the character is in or facing.  If the character being created or developed is a child, the writer will struggle with it if they are not around or observing children.  Stephen King noted that when he was writing about blue-collar workers he was  “one step away from manual labor”.  Being closely related or having experience in a job or profession enabled him to successfully craft his characters.  Having been out of the profession for so long at this point, he stated that “It is definitely harder”.

However, difficult characters don’t always have to be a bad thing.  Another author, Neel Mukherjee commented on these challenges stating that “a troublesome character is far from an unwelcome guest”.  These characters force the author to be creative, explore traits and behaviors that they might not have otherwise considered.  The result of this creativity may lead to a better story line, as well as a deeper and more relatable character altogether.  So while the frustration and aggravation that writers endure when faced with a difficult character is not ideal, it may ultimately be beneficial in the long run.

Tips for character development?  I thought you’d never ask!  Think about the people you already know;  how do they act?  What difficulties have they faced?  What makes them unique?  What is the purpose of your character in the story?  Those are great places to start and then move on to research and observation.  However, if that doesn’t help, perhaps this article from Writer’s Digest will:  The 9 Ingredients of Character Development

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Which direction will your character take?

Multiple Personalities:  Good or Bad?

When posting on social media, how many of us are actually being true to ourselves?  Do we display the ‘real’ us or are we putting on a show?  The answers to those questions should be yes and yes.  I know they are for me anyway.  As someone who uses social media, I try very hard to be true to who I feel I am and express my thoughts and beliefs.  However, after reviewing the blog article Social Media and My Multiple Personalities, I realize that I am portraying more than who I really am as a person.  The owner of the blog Finding Dutchland is Rina Mae Acosta and she shares ideas in her post similar to those in Sherry Turkle’s article Who Am We?

            Sherry talks about the many versions of Sherry that she displays including “the ‘French Sherry’, Turkle the social scientist, Dr. Turkle the clinical psychologist, Sherry Turkle the writer of books. Sherry the professor…and ST”  All of these people are Sherry Turkle, but different versions of her are displayed on social media in regard to the topic or audience she is addressing.  Rina talks about the world of blogging and how she is on various social medial sites in order to reach her audience.  She goes on to say that “all of these social media platforms have different focuses and target groups, facilitating different types of interactions and promoting certain behaviors” (Acosta 2014).  Different situations call for different discourse, as to be expected.

In Turkle’s article, she explores MUDs or Multi-User Dungeons, where players often play the roles of the opposite sex, where they behave and display characteristics that are a contrast to who they are in real life.  Turkle interviewed a 23-year-old male by the name of Stewart who used MUDs to live in a way that he doesn’t and cannot in reality.  While Stewart insisted “that he does not role play, but that MUDs simply allow him to be a better version of himself” (Turkle 1996).  I don’t know that I would agree with Stewart in this case because based on the article, he has no will or desire to ever be the character he plays in the MUD in real life.  It is not a ‘better’ version of himself, but instead a version he is afraid to be or unable to be in his life.  While Acosta’s social media use allows her to be a better blogger and attract a larger audience, Stewart is using MUDs to live a fantasy life.  Turkle states that “MUDding did not alter Stewart’s sense of himself” (Turkle 1996).

The variances between the ways we communicate on different levels of social media do several things.  As a blogger, in Acosta’s case, it allows her to reach out to many different audiences and build up her followers.  It also allows people like Stewart to explore the possibilities of who they really are and what potential they have for interactions in reality.  For writers in general, reaching out to different audiences and communicating differently over several social media platforms allows the writer to grow, and interact with writers of all genres.