Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mighty Ugly is a Pretty Good Read

I have been reading a lot of what some people might call 'self-help' books recently.  And books on writing and creativity.  One of the books I came across is Make It Mighty Ugly by Kim Piper Werker.

The thing which grabbed me from the start was Werker stating "Nothing makes me want books to drown more than cheerleading and hand-waving."  Coming from the corporate world, where every couple of years we had to sit through the latest 'rah-rah' fad, I was completely in agreement with her.

The introduction starts out by telling you this isn't a rah-rah, cheery book on being creative.  This book is about acknowledging it isn't easy and we all have demons to overcome.  Except her demons are kind of cute.  The first part of the book has you naming and facing your demons - and we all have them.  Whether you are a writer, artist, business person (or all three), we all have demons in our lives which stop us from doing the things we really want to do.

In one of the first exercises she has you do is to make a list of Things I Am Good At.  Anything and everything.  Form being a super tooth flosser to preparing a meal for four in 30 minutes.  Everything! She goes on to say:

"Your strengths are qualities that make you feel good and maybe even make others feel good."

From a talent to an achievement you have worked hard for, all your strengths.  I sat down to try make my list.  It's hard to think about what we are good at doing and make a list.

The second step is to look for themes to those things you are good at doing.  Organization could be an overriding theme.  It could be one or many themes.  For myself, it was 'ideas', 'planning' and 'making things' and 'art'.  The last step is to write down "The Heart of What I'm Good At" - writing it big and loud - write it proud and use it to fight your demons.  For me - IDEAS and CREATING.  Werker leads you through naming the villains and demons your fight with your hero qualities. 

One of the best take aways from the book is what she calls "Productive Procrastination".  This struck a chord with me because is procrastination were an Olympic sport, I would be a gold medal contender every time.  She says to embrace your procrastination by being a creative or productive procrastinator.  Instead of playing games on Facebook (as I am likely to do), I should -

  • Work on another project
  • Read
  • Knit
  • Exercise
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Run a load of laundry
(Note:  writing this post is my productive procrastination from doing my homework assignments.)

Werker states, "As long as I can keep myself from falling into a rut that's utterly unproductive, I can keep the procrastination demons from derailing my creative life."

Since I have so many projects to work on, clothes to fold, books to read and dogs to walk, I figure productive procrastination is for me!

After a small section on "Making Stuff" and a few exercises to go along with that, the final part "Keep On Making Stuff" has some really interesting ideas.

The first section seemed like a no-brainer to me - "Establish a Regular Practice" and in it she has an exercise of taking 3 pictures a day.

  • Day One - Take 3 pictures by the end of the day
  • Day Two - Take 3 pictures of red things
  • Day Three - Take 3 pictures of living things
  • Day Four - Take 3 pictures of moving things
  • Day Five - Take 3 pictures of yourself
  • Day Six - Take 3 pictures of surprises
  • Day Seven - Take 3 pictures by the end of the day
One of the purposes of this is to deal with constraints and working without constraints and to see how you feel about it.   She also goes on to advocate a daily project, whether for 30 days or a whole year.  Right now I have already signed up for A Documented Life - 2015, as well as a 30 day journaling class starting in January, Flow, with Lisa Sonora.

Then she gets into an area which is where I am now - "Show and Tell".  In other words, put yourself out there.  In my case, actually acknowledging and claiming and SHOWING I'm an artist and writer.

Section 3 involves "The Continuing Battle" and the first exercise is something I have on my to-do list - "Try Something New".  In my case, a fused glass class and dragging a couple of friends into a monthly crafting session on different items.

"Sustenance" is the fourth and final section of the book, or as Werker calls it, "The Rinse, Repeat Cycle".  She urges collaboration and 'finding your people' - whether in your town or on the internet.  Once again - deja vu - I'm looking at starting a writing group locally and working on the above mentioned projects online.

If it's not evident, I enjoyed this book.  On one hand it is a quick and easy read.  But then you get pulled into the exercises and thinking about your demons and how to overcome them and how to do the things you want to do and the read isn't so quick and easy.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in expanding their creativity. 

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