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In part 1 of my interview with Tim Attaby we talked about psychology, teaching and whether or not creativity is effective. This time we talk about laughter, the creative force behind many relationships.

To me, one of the biggest signs of creativity is being able to think and to use wit. So, I’ve always kind of felt that you were outwardly creative. We used to skate together, we used to play video games, I remember all of that stuff, but I really remember that we used to laugh and make jokes a lot. That’s one of the things that’s always been important to me in my life, and I think that’s a high sign of creativity which is overlooked quite a bit.

Yeah, I think that’s probably true. I think that it’s funny that you say that, because I actually had the exact same feeling about you. That you were like one of the funniest mother fuckers that I’ve ever known in my life. (laughs) I’m serious. You’re just like absolutely hilarious. I agree, and I think that humor, to try and not get too psychological, brings an ingredient to a relationship that is definitely creative. If you think about it, like if you watch Comedy Central, there are people who make lots and lots of money that I think have zero sense of humor. I just don’t understand it. I just don’t think it’s funny, but they make buttloads of money. So, is that person creative and effective? I guess so, but it’s still relative. As soon as I see Dane Cook on TV, I turn it off, because I can’t stand the guy. (laughs) That’s an example of someone that you can say is creative and effective, but I just don’t understand. I think that humor is something that is very personal. You are either with people who understand your humor or you’re not. I think that’s one of the things that’s a real staple of my marriage. My wife and I have a very similar sense of humor. I think it’s one of the things that I love the most about her. She just makes me laugh. For absolutely no reason, she’ll say some stupid thing, and I’ll just die laughing.

It’s a type of creativity, but it’s also a component to a successful relationship. If you have two people who have two different senses of humor, then that can really make that relationship awkward. It can change the nature of the relationship. It can determine going from acquaintance to an actual relationship. I have people that I respect professionally, but I can’t really have extended conversations with them because I just don’t get them. Their way of laughing and thinking about the world is something that I don’t agree with or I just don’t think it’s all that funny. Like you, one of the things that’s really important to me is to laugh. If I can’t laugh, then there’s something going wrong.

Who would you say has been the biggest influence on your life?

That’s a good question.

I’d probably have to say my main graduate school mentor, who at times I had a very conflictual relationship with. I find myself at least professionally saying things that he said and thinking about things in a way that I thought that he would. I would have to say that professionally it was probably graduate school that changed me. When I came into graduate school I was definitely not what I would consider to be well centered. I wasn’t necessarily insightful. I had a certain level of intellectual curiosity about a lot of different things but as far as being emotionally centered and being able to build strong mutual relationships with people I don’t think I was probably as good at that. I think through school, but a large part of that was probably the therapy I was in as well, I think it helped me.

And to be honest, all of the patients that I’ve worked with as well have been inspirations, as well as learning things. I’ve learned more things about life, how different industries work and learned stuff about different people than I would have ever known had I not been in this business. So, I think that I’ve learned a lot about life through people, working in therapy and learning about things sort of vicariously.

Humor brings an ingredient to a relationship that is definitely creativeI would have to say that it’s a combination of mentors and patients, as far as getting me up until I met my wife and I think that she inspires me in different ways. My wife also being in the business is a blessing and a curse. We’re at this place now to where we can really call each other out without even thinking about it. It’s like what you’d imagine two mental health practitioners do. “Oh, you’re acting like your father right now.” And it’s stuff like that where in some circles it might be seen as an attack, but because it’s so much of what we do, we can say things like that to where it’s like you actually stop and think, “Oh, yeah. You’re right. I am doing that. Aren’t I?” (laughs) So, that’s the blessing part. The curse part is that there’s sometimes that I just don’t want to think about that stuff. Sometimes I don’t want to be told that I’m acting like my mother or acting like my father, but I end up having to look at it anyways.

I think finally it’s kids. (laughs) They make you think about things so differently, and it can be such a painful mirror to have a kid. I’m typically not a morning person. So, waking up early in the morning usually takes about an hour to get into the full swing of things. It’s even something simple like, I’m talking to my son and he asks, “Daddy, why do you have a funny face?” I didn’t even realize that I had a funny face, but I’m scowling or growling and I’m totally not even aware of that. The thing that I’ve learned from being a father is how to be different in the world. I find myself more intrigued by other peoples’ kids, more interested in other kids than I ever was before, because I just hadn’t had the experience with it. I think it’s definitely softened me up in numerous ways.

So, I think that is the other thing that has inspired me. I’d like to think about myself as, if my kids grew up as if they knew absolutely everything about me, inside and out, everything that I’ve done, would they be proud of me? I think that’s sort of where I find myself now, living my life, thinking about things, and the behaviors and actions that I choose. Is it something that I’d want my kids to know about? If the answer is no, then it usually ends up being a pretty easy choice as well. “Then I can’t do that.”

So that’s been the final edge of the mold as far as the people that I think have influenced me.

Lalli’s Question: How do you disconnect your work and home life? Do you think It’s better to care about patients too much or too little, and has your work ever affected your home life?

Okay, so that’s like five questions by the way. (laughs) So, remind me if I don’t answer them.

Disconnecting never happens. At least for me, it’s impossible to be a good therapist and to be able to just shut off. It just can’t happen. I’ve never been able to figure out a way to do it, and I think that people who claim that they do are either lying (laughs) or they’re not doing something very well. They’re doing something else to forget about work, and in a lot of cases that ends up being stuff that’s not very effective in the long run. For me, there has never been a way to disconnect. You’re always thinking about patients. You’re always worrying about them. You’re always wondering about what you did the last session, and how you’re going to do things better. It just doesn’t turn off. You get used to it. You find ways to do other things. For me, video games have been away to have a total disconnect from the world.

When I was seeing patients, and even now, I still think about patients that I saw. It’s impossible for me to disconnect from that, and it’s the same for my wife. If you’re not thinking about your patients then you’re doing something wrong. It’s a little judgemental. If somebody says, “When 5 o’clock comes after my last patient, I turn off and do something else.” Either that person does a really good job of compartmentalizing their life, or they’re lying.

Has it ever affected my family life? I think one of the benefits of being in a relationship with somebody who has a very similar job is that we can come home and talk about our day and we know what each other is talking about. We not only can hear it, but both of us can empathize with the other person because we’ve been in that situation. She can come home and talk about a very difficult family session that she had with the kids and family, and I can relate to that, because I’ve been in that situation. Or I can say, “I don’t know what to do with this person. They said this. They have this problem, but they said this as well.” She can say, “What about this? What about this? Or what about this?”

That’s been one of the perks of being married to someone in the business. I can take it home, but there’s actually a real benefit for me taking it home. I can get some additional consultation on it. So, bringing it home in that sense has been a real benefit. I can’t say that it’s been a detriment overtly. It can be distracting at times, because I can sometimes think about it too much to where I’m not really present at home. I think at this point, my wife is pretty good at calling me out, and saying, “What are you doing? Where are you right now? You’re not talking to me.” So, I can kind of snap out of it a little bit.

I would hate to think that I was a person who cared too little for a patient. My wife is much more neurotic than I am. I’m much more laid back. She really, really thinks about her patients to the point that it can interrupt her sleep. She’ll wake up thinking about them. Although it’s annoying at times for me as a spouse, I would love to be her patient. I want my doctor to be thinking about me all the time. If I’m coming into somebody to get help, I want my doctor to be losing sleep over me thinking about ways that they can help me. I don’t want to have the doctor that can shut off. I don’t want to have the doctor that can go home and not think a thing about work. I don’t want that person. I would much rather ere on the side of thinking too much than thinking too little.

Wanda’s question: Since you moved to San Francisco what’s one thing that would have inspired you to pick up a pencil and paper and start drawing?

I live on a hill. The property we live on is 19,000 square feet. Huge property! 80 percent of that property is uphill. My backyard actually climbs up the side of a hill to the top of it. So, I can actually hike up my backyard to the top of the hill. When I stand up there I can see everything. The folks across from us have some tall trees, but when I hike up to the top of the hill I can see everything in the west bay. So, I can see San Francisco, I can see Sausalito, I can see the Golden Gate, I can see the Bay Bridge, and it’s absolutely amazing at about 5 o’clock at night. It’s the most awesome sunsets in the world. So, if I had any actual physical type of artistic ability, I could very easily set up a canvas and start painting. It’s just amazing, because you can see the bay, but you can see past the bay into the Pacific Ocean. You can see the entire San Francisco skyline, and the Golden Gate. When there’s fog rolling in it’s just absolutely amazing. Unfortunately we’re just renting, so we’re going to have to move at some point.

I want to thank all of my guests that allowed me to take some time out of their day to talk about creativity. Be sure to read all of the  Untapped Creativity interviews with Jeni Herberger, Nicole Dobbs, Elizabeth Lalli-Reese, Lynda Campbell, Wanda Dobbs and Tim Attaby.

Like what you see don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

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Stained Glass Window Pattern

In part 1 of my interview with Wanda Dobbs we talked about the inspirational people in her life and her stained glass work. Find out how she uses her creativity as a nurse to help others on a daily basis.

How long have you been drawing?

Since I was a kid. I’ve never taken a formal drawing lesson or class. It’s just strictly something that I took up as a child and just love doing. I’ve never taken a lesson to expand my drawing, and I don’t really paint or anything like that. My drawing is kind of limited. (laughs) It’s very primitive. (laughs) I guess you could say that stained glass is about as far as it’s going to expand.

Do you feel that there is a conscious connection between your love for drawing people and the fact that you went into nursing?

I think so.

Do you feel that creativity is something that is reserved for the creative fields like art, cooking, music, dance, etc.?

To me defining creativity is not being artistic necessarily. Being creative can be most anything to me. You just have to be able to define it.

People who say they’re not creative, I don’t think they’ve identified it yet. I think everybody is creative to a certain extent. My father would probably say that he’s not creative, but he is the world’s greatest storyteller. He can completely just hold people spellbound with a story. It doesn’t matter if he’s got two people or twenty people in the room, but they are all going to sit down and listen to him. Storytelling to me is a great art. So, being creative has so many different aspects.

Some people have found their creativity in a lot of different things. I love to cook. People say that I’m a gourmet cook. I don’t know. I just like to take chances and make up things, and I love to entertain. I guess I get a lot of that from my grandmother. I love shopping for clothes, and coordinating outfits and jewelry. Being inspired by other creative people makes me happy. We feed off one another. I love to take pictures. I just bought myself a brand new Nikon 3100D camera for Christmas with a big lens. So, I’m practicing taking a lot of photos. I want to be able to go out on the boat this summer, and take a lot of pictures of some blue herons and a lot of the island pictures from far away. Just to be able to capture things that I haven’t been able to do.

There’s just so much that’s in my mind all the time, just constantly thinking about all kinds of things that I like to do, not just stained glass. Nursing is improvising too, which is a form of creativity. You don’t have this or that handy, and you have to try and think of something else to use in place of it. That’s definitely something that I have used, especially when I worked in home health. Being out in someone’s home, trying to figure out a way to maintain their quality of health, helping them learn how to eat good quality food, or how to give themselves their medicines. Even taking care of their child when I worked pediatrics. You try and be creative doing those sorts of things. (laughs)

I would imagine that emergencies are coming up left and right. Being able to think on your feet and improvise becomes a big part of the creativity used in your job.

Yeah.

Do you think the idea of risk-taking and taking a chance is a big part of creativity?

Oh yeah! Sure. Don’t you think so?

I think a lot of creativity is forging new ground and experimenting. You really can’t do that without taking risks. It doesn’t have to be risking your life, but you have to be willing to try something that it may come out as a disaster.
Knowing that you feel creativity is something that we’re all born with, do you think it’s a skill that can be taught, or is it something you have to be comfortable with yourself and learn on your own?

I think to a certain extent you can be taught. Obviously, I would have never learned stained glass on my own. You have to have that inspiration to do it. Inspiration is 99% perspiration. (laughs) You have to have the idea. I think a lot of creativity can be taught. Obviously, music and the arts can be taught. I think to be able to have that drive, to be able to advance, and go that one step further to want it bad enough to be able to excel in it, you’ve got to have it in your heart. My son may never make it to the top, but everyday he lives and breathes it. He loves it. He works a nine to five job, but every night he comes home and he’s either playing guitar, writing music or he’s writing a screenplay. He would just die if he would not be able to pick up a guitar or a keyboard or a computer and be able to write something. He may as well just lay down and cover his head up. (laughs) He really doesn’t care if he ever makes 50¢ with it. He just has that drive, because he loves it so much. He’s a perfectionist at it. And he’s very critical of those that sell-out to others. After they make the first album, it’s seems like they just want to give in to the money.

Creativity is a burning desire to be able to express yourselfHe’s inspired me a lot, too, and encouraged me along with the stained glass.

I want to write a book about the women that have been in my life like your grandmother and my grandmother. There have just been all sorts of women in my life that have inspired me. When I retire, I’m going to sit down and write a book. I want to write about how all these women have been an inspiration in my life. I feel like there has got to be a common ground between them all.

How do you define creativity?

It’s just something that’s in me. I just feel like when I get inspired to do something I just feel this warm rush inside me that I’ve got to get it out. If I can’t do it in my stained glass, which is put to the side right now, then I’ll do it in the kitchen, or I’ll take pictures. It’s just kind of an inspiration — a burning desire to be able to express yourself.

Do you feel that your creativity is tied into your happiness?

Oh, definitely. And it’s brought Richard and I closer together. He had no idea that he could be creative until he met me. I just tease him so much. When we started this he just got so tickled, because he was able to add to my ideas like picking out a piece of glass. When I was traveling out in California doing travel nursing, he even made some little tiny fishing lures. They were those little sun-catchers. (laughs) I’ve never seen him be so tickled to do something. He’s definitely nothing like he was twenty years ago. It definitely makes him happy.

My previous guest, Keith Van Order, has a question for you. Creatively what are you NOT doing today that you’d like to be doing?

I’d love to be working on a piece of stained glass right now. (laughs) It’s been about six months or so, so it would be nice to be working on a piece.

Do you have any ideas for your next stained glass piece?

Actually, there was a man that called a couple of months ago that said he was building a house, and he wanted us to do above his kitchen cabinets in a fleur de lis. He wanted to do a Saints theme. (laughs) I’ve been thinking along those lines and the kind of glass that I want to use. Of course, we may never hear from him again. You know how that goes.

Thanks to Wanda for taking the time to share her insights and personal feelings on creativity. Don’t forget to check out the other great Untapped Creativity interviews with Jeni Herberger, Nicole Dobbs, Elizabeth Lalli-Reese, and Lynda Campbell.

Like what you see don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

Previously on Untapped Creativity…

I sat down to talk with my wife Nicole Dobbs, about creativity in the science field. The second part of the interview shows exactly how nerdy research scientists can get. You can check out part 1 here.

Getting back to you not thinking that you’re smart enough. Smartness is relative depending on what you’re talking about. I look at that as more of an inner critic. If you had to characterize your inner critic as being a character from a movie, novel or famous person who would it be?

I go back to, especially girls, you have body image issues. I think in that case, it’s probably the stupid valley girl that everybody wants to punch in the face. “Like, oh my gawd! Look at yer big butt!” (laughs) It’s stuff like that.

And there’s always going to be days like yesterday. I was doing an experiment, and the spazzy little critic started freaking out. “There’s never going to be enough time! There’s never going to be enough time!” I started freaking out, because I’m not sure if I did this experiment right. I don’t know that I did the best design for this, and I could have screwed up the whole thing. I had to tell myself, “You need to shut up.” (laughs) And this is probably the same one that when I was going on my interviews for post-doc positions made me start freaking out. “You don’t know anything. The simplest question will get you much further.You don’t anything.” You saw me that morning before I went to that interview, and I had to realize that I’m my own worst enemy. I need to just stop, take a deep breath, and remember that I listen. I listen a lot, and I retain a lot of information. I know a lot of basic stuff. A lot of times when you’re solving problems you start with the simplest solution. Because the simplest question you can ask will get you much further.

I think I have a lot of critics. I think they all look different. I think the most descriptive one is the self-image one who’s the valley girl that I just want to punch in the face.

So that’s the one that you’re most familiar with, but I imagine that one has been there a long time.

Yeah, but you know what? I will agree with you, and this is going on record. The older that I’ve gotten, you’re going to get uglier as you get older…

I don’t think that’s what I said, but we’ll go with it.

(laughs hard) but one of the things that I’ve realized is that I don’t care as much. It’s not as important. We’re all at different stages of our life. I’m never going to be perfect, but it’s the imperfections that make me ME. If I looked perfect, or I looked like I was in a magazine, I would be Barbie. And Barbie is pretty plastic. I’m me. I have a lot of imperfections. I’m not afraid of getting a scar. Those will define me. If I do get a really cool scar, I’m going to come up with a really cool story about how I got it. It’s probably going to involve zombies and robots.

Zombies have come up twice now.

I said Resident Evil. I didn’t say zombies!

We all now what you meant. You clearly have this obsession with zombies. Knowing that you feel so strongly about zombies, do you think zombies should be allowed to vote?

Okay, to answer your question, because I don’t know if I’ve answered any of your questions. (laughs hard) I would say no, because their vote is probably easily swayed with some brains. Then I really do think that everybody deserves the right to vote, but then I went totally the other way with it. They do deserve the right to vote, because you never know the zombies may actually elect a good zombie senator that may actually do better than the ones we have now.

So you would back a zombie-based platform.

I might back a zombie-based platform. I might be a part of a zombie platform, oh, unless project Alice is going to come kill me. But then I’d get to meet one of my heroes.

What advice would you give to someone who’s considering a PhD?

My first piece of advice for people getting a PhD would be, don’t have a fulltime job. Don’t work fulltime. It’s easier said than done, especially if you live on your own. You can’t do science and a fulltime job. It’s just too much, because then you’re never home. You might as well just live in the lab.

Your going to have days where you feel like everything you touch turns to shitDon’t give up. If you really love it, you’re going to have bad days. Everybody knows that if you love something that you do there’s always a downside. I think that the careers we end up in have more of an upside than a downside. The upsides are so much better that we can get through the downside of it. You’re going to have days where you feel like everything you touch turns to shit. (laughs) You need to step away from it, and go for a walk. Take the dog for a walk. You’re going to have hard times, but it’s worth it if you really want to do this. You’re going to have to be able to get through those hard things. You going to have to learn things that you don’t want to learn.

The best advice that I ever received was from Dr. Simecka. “What is the question your trying to answer?” Take that and make it into a story that you can follow. You can explain to people what it is that you’re trying to study.

Just remember if you’re going to do this, it’s not easy. It’s going to take a chunk of your life. Most people will not understand why it’s taken you seven years to get through this, and you can’t really describe it to them because they don’t know unless they’ve been there. Just stick with it, because in the end it will be worth it.

So do you find that getting out of your normal routine or going outside rejuvenates your creativity?

I think so. I have several friends that were freaking out about taking their medical boards, and I understand because I am SO not a test taker. They were doing the same thing that everybody does — locking themselves in the house and studying. I told them, “Okay, you need to go outside, and you need to take a thirty minute walk. I know you’re freaking out, because you’re thinking oh my god, oh my god. You’re brain will thank you.” Exercise I think is probably the best thing in the world. I think it’s almost the cure-all for a lot of diseases. You know if people actually got out and exercised more their body would thank them, but your brain I think really resets. There’s something about it. I don’t know if it’s getting away from what you were doing, but you’re outside, you’re walking, you’re exercising and for me, if you can’t already tell, I talk 15 miles an hour. I’m a little bit of a spaz.

You’re a little calm this morning.

That’s a five mile run, baby!

I am a spaz. My brain goes a million miles an hour. I think we’ve joked about this, that I’m probably a little ADD. What I’ve noticed is that when I get out there my brain is all over the place. It’s thinking about everything. It’s playing back scenarios. It’s playing back conversations. It’s thinking about what I watched on TV. It’s thinking about what I’m going to do next week, in a year, in 12 years. And it’s going all over the place, which I think is kind of good, but then at some point it starts to slow down. And then it reorders itself.

If you have a problem that’s on your mind that you’re going around 50 million ways, sometimes when you comeback from that walk you have that solution. Or you have a place to start, or new way of looking at it.

My previous guest Jeni Herberger has a question for you. Was there ever a moment during your PhD that you wanted to throw in the towel? How did you end up overcoming it?

Yes! (laughs) There’s been a number of occasions where I’ve wanted to throw in the towel. Every step of the way was scary. You were there with me going up in the elevator when I was going to my oral exam. It felt like going to the guillotine.

For those of you that don’t know, I have a 45 minute commute to get to the school. Tad had to drive me on that day, because I was so freaked out. I was going up in the elevator, and I’m pretty sure I was having a panic attack. I ran into the chair of my committee, and he looked at me, which I’m sure I looked horrible. I said, “Dr. Easom, I don’t think I can do this.” He said, “Take a deep breath. All we want to know is what you know. That’s it.” So, that helped me get past it.

Then for my grant writing exam, I was able to drive myself. But it once again felt like I was going to the guillotine. It was weird though. I don’t what happened, but I relaxed more. I gave my presentation, and I guess I realized that I was really doing it, that I actually am a scientist.

I think during grant writing there was a point where I thought I was having a panic attack, too.

That’s the one that I most vividly remember. You were just so upset on my office floor, and you couldn’t put together a sentence. You were just hysterical. I’ve never seen you that stressed out.

It’s because when you go for many days without sleep, or with only little bits of sleep you really can’t focus.

Sleep is really important everyone.

I’m really good at not getting sleep, but you really should make sure that you get sleep. That’s probably where a lot of that came from, and the stress of everything. It was crazy. Me and Sheetal, my good friend, talk about grant writing as if it was the Vietnam War. Like we’re veterans. (laughs) It was a really important step in our career, and we got past it. I really feel like once you get past it you should get some kind of girl scout badge or boy scout badge for that.

It was even worse towards the end. Not so much writing my thesis as much as doing the experiments, because I think we were still going in one direction in March, and I couldn’t prove what I thought I was trying to prove. I was so unhappy. “Why is this not working?” I even made Dr. Simecka miss his poker game, because I was like “This is not working!” He said, “We can try this.” And I was like, “THAT’S GOING TO TAKE ME ANOTHER MONTH!” That was the day that I walked to my car and I put on one of my anthems — Broken Social Scene’s “It’s All Gonna Break.” I cried walking all the way to my car. I cried all the way in my car on the drive home. I think I got home at 8 o’clock that night. When I came in, you looked at me, and I had big puffy eyes. You were like, “It’s gonna be okay.” I guess it looks like a funeral when I come in like that.

Sometimes you’re going to get to the point where you just have to let it out. You can’t be tough all the time. When you’re in the car and nobody else is around, you can cry all the way home. And go to sleep, because the next day is going to be another day. Today is the day you’re going to figure it out. The story still came out good.

How did I overcome it? I think it’s a life lesson that my parents taught me a long time ago. You’re going to get knocked down, and you have to get yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going. Ultimately, at the end of it, just like with Frodo’s journey, although it did result in Frodo’s death… STOP LAUGHING!

I’m just laughing at how much of a nerd you are, because you brought up The Lord of the Rings and Resident Evil in the same interview.

Oh, my god. That was a long journey. I was like, “Oh my god. Are you going to get to Mordor? Would you just throw the damn ring!” (LAUGHS)

The longest journeys, the stuff that is the hardest to do is the stuff that’s worth doing. That’s really what I believe. That’s probably what’s kept me going. I think I’m going to get to the end, and at the end I’m going to figure it out. I hope that when I die that I get to go to heaven, and they’re going to tell me all the reasons why those experiments didn’t work like they were supposed to. (LAUGHS) They’re going to go, “Okay. Here it is, and here’s the book.” Or as my mom always tells me, it’ll be all the things that you’ve ever done wrong. (LAUGHS) It’s going to be the library of black books. And I told her one day when she told me that, that there are volumes on me. (LAUGHS)

Be sure to check back soon from Creative Exercise 2.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

Believe it or not, it’s actually pretty hard to schedule time to sit down and interview your spouse. My wife, Nicole Dobbs, has been one of the biggest influences behind the topic of this blog series. When people first meet us and discover what we do for a living, they often assume since Nicole is a scientist, more specifically an immunologist, that she isn’t the creative one. We almost always respond by explaining how similar the thought process is for designing experiments and designing brands. I know that she’s just as passionate about the creativity in everyone as I am, so I’m thrilled that she gets to talk about her own approach to science in my next couple of posts. If you know her, it’ll come as no surprise that Nicole had a lot to say. It’s all great stuff, so I’ve split the interview into 2 posts.

Tell us a little bit about your background and your journey to get to where you are today.

I think I was always a weird kid. It goes back to what you talked about, you exhibit certain signs at an early age. And I think that I was always a great observer of small things like realizing that plants are actually living, and they move. But I think what really tipped my parents off more than anything else was in 6thgrade when we learned about the cell. You’re a mosaic of different kinds of cells. So your heart cells, your liver cells, your skin cells, they all work together. Within each one of those cells there are components that keep them running. We had to do a model of a cell, and it had to have all of the components that make a cell work. I was really into music, so I made mine like a little punk rocker cell. I ended up making a 98 or a 100 on that test just because I just found it so interesting.

I think my parents always knew I liked science, and before I went off to the University of North Texas they made me pick a major. (laughs) So, they sat down — actually it was just my mom that sat down — and started reading majors to me. It was so funny, because she got to Biology and said, “You’ve always been good at science.” So, she read the description for biology. “It’s the study of life, but it’s also classifying things in their kingdom, phylum, class, order, blah, blah, blah.” And I found that really boring, but when she got to biochemistry, which talked about the components of the cell, RNA and DNA, I was like “Okay, that sounds cool!” And then I just started down that path. The further I went down the path the more interesting it got. At UNT there were a lot of people working with micro-organisms — manipulating their DNA, which I thought was just the coolest thing on the planet.

So, I got into that, but ultimately I arrived at where I am now which is studying cellular immunology. Micro-organisms are awesome, but pathogens are even cooler! If you get infected by a few pathogens, they can make you sick and kill you. That’s pretty crazy! On the other side, your body has these awesome mechanisms to fight them off.

That’s how I got to where I am. I love immunology, and I love pathogens. And I love them both equally.

Recently you finished graduate school. What was your degree in specifically?

Well, on my actual GIGANTIC diploma, I believe, it’s a PhD in Bio-Medical Sciences which sounds SO generic. But it’s actually the study of immunology, particularly micro-biology and immunology. That’s what I study.

What are you planning to do now that you’ve got your PhD?

Well, I find that I’m most interested in staying in academia. You pretty much get to a point, at least as a scientist, in your career where you have to decide, “Do I want to go into industry, where I work for a company? Or do I want to stay in academia?”

I decided I wanted to stay in academia, and I came to that conclusion, most importantly, because to me, it is actually more creative. You may be doing your studies, but then you come across a weird idea, and maybe you can follow that for a little while. You never know where that’s going to lead. So, that’s the route I’m going.

You’ve touched on an interesting idea that academia is a little more creative. People generally are not going to think of science as creative. What is it specifically that you find creative in science?

It’s so funny, because I just had a conversation with one of my colleagues who was insistent that she wasn’t creative even though she’s a bio-physicist. She insisted that creativity is like a Van Gogh or a Francis Bacon where you physically look at the products they come up with, and you have a strong emotional reaction. I was telling her “No, you don’t understand. We’re just as creative.” It’s just we’re creative in more of a “Hey! Here’s a bunch of Legos, why don’t you start putting them together and see what you can make out of it or see what comes out of it.” We’re creative, just differently. (laughs)

How would you define creativity in its most basic terms? What to you is creativity?

I’ve thought about it, and that’s a really interesting question. It’s difficult to answer, because everybody thinks creativity is like a Jackson Pollock painting. You look at it and you’re like “Wow! That guy really knew what he was doing, but I could never come up with that. Or I could never paint that.” I think in the science field, it’s more about… So this is how I described it to the lady I was talking to. I said, “Haven’t you ever been in the Creativity is figuring out what you can do to answer your question.middle of an experiment and something goes terribly wrong?” because you weren’t paying attention or because you just didn’t expect it. So, literally, you’re jogging down the path, and BOOM something goes wrong. What are you going to do? You can’t scrap this entire experiment that you spent 2 months working on. All you can do is come up with some solution on the fly to figure out how to salvage whatever kind of data you can salvage. That’s on immediate terms, but in the long-term it’s, “We’re thinking about our problem, and we’re thinking about what kind of question we want to ask about this problem that could lead us down a path to the answer for something.” The problem is we don’t know how to answer it, so we have to design experiments to answer a question. I mean there are some basic experiments that have already been designed, or have been put through the mill. Everybody does those. Flo-cytometry. Oh yeah, that’s great! Everybody believes it. But sometimes you have to be more creative than that. You have to figure out what you can do to answer your question. That involves a lot of design of the experiment and creativity in and of itself.

Do you think creativity defines you, or do you define your creativity?

I think that you define your own version of creativity. I think it fits whatever solution. You use it how you use it. You just don’t realize you’re doing it. And when you realize you’re doing it you’re like “Oh!”

Would you say it’s a trait that has to be taught or is it a talent you’re born with?

I think it’s a little bit of both. Some people are more gifted. Thelonius Monk was clearly musically gifted. Now, we can also say that maybe some of that was enhanced by drugs just like Coltrain, but some people are just naturally talented. Some people can draw better than others. You can learn to draw, but some people don’t have to sit down and think about it. They can just do it. I think that everybody to a certain degree is born with it, but I think you learn to use it. In other cases, like the person I was talking to, when you point out to them “You know you’re being creative.” They kind of freak out “No, I’m not!” and then the magic’s gone. The magic that they used to answer whatever the question is gone.

Were you born with creativity or did it develop? Do you think hard about what you do or does it come naturally?

It’s both. I think where I’m probably most creative, and I think a lot of people would agree with this, is probably where I’m not trying. I LOVE to make people laugh, especially in awkward situations or when weird stuff happens. I love to tell stories. I might embellish my stories a little bit and do people’s voices. The wit comes to me. It just kind of happens, but it’s because I LOVE to make people laugh. I get on a roll, and I start telling stories.

When I use what I consider my creativity for my experiments, I spend a lot of time thinking about them. I think about them on paper, and I write them out. A lot of times I find when I sleep at night that I probably spent most of the night thinking about whatever problem that I’ve been focusing on. It almost overwhelms me to where I stop paying attention to conversations, because I’m thinking so hard about this one problem.

So it’s kind of both. I think when I’m relaxed and making people laugh, it just kind of rolls out of me. But when I’m applying it to science, it’s actually something that I’m using, and I have to think really hard about.

Do you consider yourself to be living an outwardly creative life?

No, I don’t think I necessarily live an outwardly creative life, because I think in general if you put you and I side by side everyone will go “Oh yeah! He’s the creative one.” Especially with my mom. My whole family thinks that you’re Jackson Pollock and you throw paint at a canvas. (laughs)

And we both know that’s not true at all.

NO! I do find it really nice, because a lot of times when we’re decorating I get so overwhelmed. Even when I shop for clothes, because there are too many choices and too many colors. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know what to do and where to go. A lot of times I have to rely on you to go “Okay, well what do you think about this.” You can find something that I think sticks out, or that you know I’ll like. Then we can start there. When we start there, it’s like “Okay! Now I understand.” So, that kind of stuff I like doing, and I don’t like doing.

I guess most people wouldn’t say that I live an outwardly creative life. But I think living with a graphic designer has made my life much easier and much more interesting.

How does it feel to have recently completed your PhD?

It feels like I climbed Mt. Everest. (chuckles) It’s so weird, because this is really only the beginning of my career. I’ve been in school for seven years, but about ten years ago was when I was seriously thinking about going back to get a PhD.  When you get an undergraduate degree in something like BioChemistry, and you’re like “All right! Now I’m going to go and get a job!” You get paid very little to be a technician. Though that was probably the smartest thing that I ever did, because the two years being a technician allowed me to understand how to work in a lab which is really important. But I have to be honest with you, and maybe you know this, I really didn’t think that I was ever going to be able to do it.

Why?

I didn’t think that I was smart enough. I thought to be a scientist that you had to be a super-genius, maybe a mad scientist. That you had to understand what a flux capacitor was. (chuckles)

Why would you pursue something that you didn’t think you could accomplish? Are you that glutton for punishment or is that just what you told yourself?

Yes! (laughs)

There was that little glint that was like “You don’t know if you don’t try.” I still love it. It’s kind of hard to describe.

90% of the time our experiments are going to fail. It’s not the failure of the experiment. You shouldn’t be upset by that. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just the experiment and the data telling you that is NOT the answer. You need to try something else. I did a bunch of experiments. I got a bunch of data. But the day that you do the simplest experiment, and then everything you’ve ever done comes together that feeling will top no other feeling in the world. When you do little accomplishments, little experiments that work, it’s like solving a mystery. It’s very much like when we were in college, and we had the Salvador Dali poster on the wall. I don’t even remember what it was, but it was the craziest picture in the world. It had the elephants with the stretched out legs. It had the melted clocks. It had the baseball player with the baseball for a face. It used to aggrevate me. Every morning I’d wake up, and I’d sit up and look at that poster. And I would think, “Today is the day I’m going to figure out what this poster means.” By the way, I have never figured out what that poster means. One day I came up with a good theory (chuckles) as to what it was.

I remember you had several “theories” which you explained quite often, but I don’t know that there is an explanation.

There probably isn’t, but I was going to make sense of it. (laughs) Because it AGGREVATED me, and I think that’s what drives me. Somewhere there’s a little voice in my head that everyday says, “Today is the day I’m going to figure it out.” For me, life is one giant detective mystery, and today is the day that I’m going to figure it out. I hope that I never lose that, because I think that’s what keeps me going.

Be sure to check out the exciting conclusion of my interview with Nicole Dobbs.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

Cultivate Your Creativity

My first interview with Jeni Herberger brought up the idea that creativity is making something, and that we have to give people the room to be creative in the way that they want. Jeni and her husband have made creativity a part of their life through organic avocado farming. I’ve noticed with all of the interviews that I’ve done so far, that everyone has a point that they light up. It’s finding that passion that gets their energy going. Often that passion reveals their secret creativity, or the thing that brings them the most joy. For Jeni, the excitement and energy level went through the roof when she spoke about her avocado farm. Considering how energetic she is “through the roof” may be an understatement.

The first of the creativity exercises captures that very spirit of hidden passion through the use of an idea tree.

Step 1: Draw a line in the middle of a sheet of paper.

Step 2: Write a single or two word topic that means a lot to you centered under the line. (This is the idea seed)

Step 3: Write a word that you immediately associate with the idea seed. (This is the trunk)

Step 4: Write a word that you associate with the trunk. (These are the branches)

Step 5: Write a word that you associate with the branches.

Step 6: Continue writing associations and creating branches.

The key to the exercise is to not think too hard about the words, and to jump around to different branches. You don’t want to think too linearly. Here’s what I did for this exercise.

Idea Tree Example for Music

A lot of times I’ll use an exercise similar to this to get my brain juiced up at the start of a new project. In the case of logo design, I’ll do a visual idea tree or mind map of around 100 ideas before I begin refining. Be sure to read part 1 and part 2 of my interview with Jeni Herberger, and check back soon for my next interview with immunologist Nicole Dobbs for Untapped Creativity.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

For part 2 of my interview with Jeni Herberger we talk about creativity, public speaking, and we even talk a little shit. Don’t forget to check out part one.

What was the impetus behind you becoming a more prominent public speaker particular with HOW and AIGA?

It was quite accidental. I get a high or rise out of feeling other people’s energy shift from being negative to being positive, or to see them overcome fears. Fears that I don’t really have. Or to see them be hopeful about something maybe they weren’t ever hopeful about. I can literally feel the charge in a room change when I’m talking about something.

I’ve done it in different arenas throughout my life. When I was a very young adult it was for my family. Making a difference for my family. In front of people that I worked with as a photographer and creative director. And then when my company got big, as far as employees are concerned, it was about making differences in their lives. About feeling that charge, that energy for my clients, too. I’ve always enjoyed it.

And then, somebody said, “Why don’t you talk about it?”

What would you say is the hardest presentation you’ve had to get through and why?

The very first time that I had to give a client presentation, not a speaking presentation, but a client presentation. My partner couldn’t make it, so I just went and did it by myself. I walked in to this very, very corporate office. You’ve seen how I dress. I dress pretty stylishly and not very much like a designer. (laughs) I walk into this corporate office. I’m like “Okay, this is going to go great! This is going to go great!” I look into the room, and it is a boardroom of about I’d say 18-20 men all wearing blue suits, red ties and white shirts. And they’re all at least 45, 50 years old and up. And I literally thought to myself “Oh shit! This is going to be horrible. They are going to slaughter me.” I’m this little girl, all by myself going to give this presentation. So, I walk into the room, and nobody stood up. So, I just stood there. And finally, the CEO goes, “Well, why don’t you have a seat.”

I said, “Well, a lady just entered the room, and not one gentleman stood up. So, I’ll wait until ya’ll decide to do that.”

That’s awesome!

And so at that moment, everything broke and I put myself on equal footing with them. (laughs) I figured if I could tackle that one I could pretty much tackle anything, right?

So, did the presentation end up going well after that?

Oh yeah. We totally won it, and it was awesome. It was great, but I knew that those guys were going to eat me alive. I knew that they were instantly going to take off on a very chauvinistic approach, and I was like “Yeah, this isn’t going to happen.” So, instead of balking and rebelling against being a woman I just totally played into it. (laughs) It was a lot of fun. It’s one of my favorite stories I think to this day.

Tell me a little bit about you’re companies.

I actually own five companies. Because you’re required to box all of these into separate entities, right? But what’s really, really funny about it is the only one that I would consider to be a business in the traditional sense of the word is Big Fish Staffing.

And you know, that was an amazing adventure. An adventure that really brought me to the place that I am today both financially and just in how it is that I go about doing what it is that I do. It was tremendously successful, which is awesome, because it’s afforded me the opportunity to do what I’m doing right now. It’s become a bit of a ministry for me for lack of another word. To where I don’t have to worry about whether I’m making a zillion dollars when I’m out talking to people. I truly get to be a human advocate. You know, a minister, call it whatever it is that you want to call it.

Jeni Herberger Logo

And then, the whole branding yourself is always a very interesting thing. I’m not branding a design firm. I am literally branding me, and that’s a trip and a half to brand yourself. Because it can have a tendency to be a bit on the egotistical side, and you’re like “Whoa, whoa, whoa! I am not quite that egotistical. We gotta humble this thing out a bit.” So, that’s [Jeni Herberger Creative Concepts] another business venture if you will.

And then, we have an avocado farm in Hawaii which is just weird.

That’s not weird.

Well, how many people do you know that have avocado farms? (laughs)

Apparently just one, but I love avocados. So I wouldn’t consider that weird at all. I could see myself having an avocado farm just to be able to eat my product.

(laughs) There you go! We actually yield about 6000 pounds of avocados a year, and it’s so bizarre to literally have the luxury, if you will, to throw avocados away. When you buy them over here on the mainland you spend two and half to three bucks for an avocado, and it tastes like crap in comparison to what comes off of our farm. It’s an organic farm. It’s just so amazing. So, that’s just another business, crazy side venture that we have. We make like $3000 off of it a year. It’s awesome!

Have you had to learn a lot about farming or did you know a lot ahead of time?

I had to learn a lot of it, although what was so funny about it was, the first house that we looked at over there was a coffee farm. And we decided that that wasn’t for us. We didn’t like the location as much. So, then when we started looking around, and we actually found this avocado farm. I started laughing my ass off when we seriously considered doing that, because my dad and his dad were the first people to ever put an avocado on an airplane.

So, back in the day, in San Bernardino County my dad and his dad and my dad’s brother owned Herberger & Sons which was an avocado processing business where they transported them. And they had a crazy idea of putting gourmet avocados on a plane, and sending them to the east coast. Nobody had ever done that before. And so, avocados are in the blood. So hilarious when I bought this farm. I called my dad and I’m like “Oh my god, dad. I’m going back to our roots.” And I never even grew up on an avocado farm.

Give people the space to be creative in the way that they wantThere’s nothing better than seeing your husband who grew up in Spokane, Washington and had never done anything like that with a pickup truck full of chicken shit. And he’s spreading it around 80 trees. (laughs)

But see that’s when you get back to what you’re talking about and creativity. That’s a creative life. And I think that’s something that we can all pull into. What we have to be able to do, is we have to be able to give people the space to be creative in the way that they want to be creative.

Who’s been the biggest influence in your life, particularly who influenced you to go the route that you did?

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, my dad, and right next to him my mom, because they’re so connected as a couple. I grew up in an all male family, meaning I have all brothers. And my parents were pretty traditional, but they had one of the first marriages I’ve ever seen that was truly a partnership where it wasn’t about roles. It was about getting it done. And my dad realized very early on that I had a pretty good head on my shoulders, and not only that (laughs) he called me a hustler. I’d go after things. And so simply because I didn’t have a penis that did not matter to my father. He pushed me in the most loving and wonderful ways, yet always expected me to act like a lady. He didn’t ever want me to change that aspect, but he wanted me to be able to conquer the world however I saw fit.

And right next to him was always, always my mom with that big smile on her face going “Yep! You can do it. You can do anything you want to do.”

Do you find that you have that same influence on your kids?

I hope so! I think so. It’s always hard when you’re in the moment when you’re with you’re kids, because you sit there and you go “Oh my god, do they really love me? Do they really know everything that I’m doing for them and how hard I’m trying.” You know, being in it is very, very difficult. I think the joy comes once you’re outside of it, and you get to look back. And you get to go “Oh thank god they are well-adjusted!” (laughs)

If you’d like to find out more about Jeni visit  jeniherberger.com, or follow on twitter @jeniherberger. And be sure to tune in to Talk Story to hear her do the interviewing!

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

For the first interview in the Untapped Creativity Series, I was lucky enough to interview the brilliantly talented Jeni Herberger. If you aren’t familiar with Jeni’s show Talk Story, then you need to be. She hosts a blog talk show where she talks to some of the brightest minds in the graphic design world. Often on her show she has brought up the very idea that creativity is something that is present in all of our careers. She even mentioned that she wants her accountant or surgeon to be the most creative person that she knows. In addition to a wildly successful career in the creative industry, Jeni is a guest writer for HOW Magazine, Communication Arts and Business JournalJeni Herberger Logo as well as a veteran speaker for AIGA, AMA, AdClub and HOW. I had the opportunity to meet her last year at the HOW Conference in Denver, and I was immediately struck by her blunt optimism. As she is a person of many words, great ones at that, I’ve split her interview into two parts.

You’ve had an interesting career path and journey to where you are today. Give us a little bit background about yourself.

I grew up in on the beaches of southern California, literally. I was super, über good in science and math and wanted to be a marine biologist. That was absolutely what I wanted to do. I was a cheerleader. I know that is shocking.

Here you go. I’ll give you a little trivia that you can put out to the world that not a lot of people know. I was actually Miss San Clemente in 1984. So, how’s that for funny?

I’m not surprised.

(Laughs) It was hilarious! And I was first runner up in Miss California the following year. So, that was my one claim to “I can’t believe I was that dumb to do this!”

I didn’t end up going into marine biology, because everybody talked me out of it saying, “There was no money in it. You should become a doctor.” So, I got talked into going into a medical school program through UCLA that was for some of the top students in the U.S. which was kind of cool from that standpoint. I lasted about 3 months in that program. I think it was after an organic chem test when everyone was swarming around trying to see what their grades were, and I’m jumping up and down because I got a C- which means I passed. I had a whole bunch of people standing around me crying because they got a 98%. I’m like “Oh my god! I can totally not do this.”

So, I switched my major around to music, but I hated that because it took something that I loved and turned it into something that was far too theoretical. And then from there I actually took photography classes, and I loved it. I took to it. That was the pathway that I started down, and it was also really fun because I had done a small amount of modeling in my past. So for me, it was so fun seeing what was happening on that side of the camera. To me that was where it was all at. That catapulted me into the fashion industry, as far as photography was concerned. I switched my degree one more time and ended up with a degree in theater.

Between my junior and senior year of college, I actually had the privilege of becoming pregnant and having my first kid. So, that kind of accelerated my senior year of college. Made me a mom very early. But you know (laughs), I’ve got a 22 year old daughter. Absolutely, positively, no complaints!

Through photography, I had my own studio. Did a lot of fashion photography, and that led me into sports photography which was really interesting. I did a lot of stuff for the NHL, a lot of stuff for Harley, Marlboro. It was crazy. So, a lot of fun stuff photographically speaking.

Depending on whatever your bent is you’re either going to be somebody who directs people, or you’re going to be somebody who actually does the work. You don’t have to move into directing, but there are some people that will do it. Some do it quicker than others, and some never do it at all. I moved from being a doer to being a director very, very quickly. And I think it’s just because I have a teaching background. So, I started doing a lot of creative directing on the photo shoots, and the next thing you know agencies are hiring me not only to do photography but also to act as creative director on a project. And that’s what catapulted me into the graphic design industry.

Kind of crazy, huh?

You can see all of the skills that you picked up along the way. So it does make sense.

Well, and the fun thing is how those skills breached back. That’s what’s really, really fun, is being in your forties, you know, now I have a chance to look back. And I’m doing things that I haven’t done since my twenties, but it’s so obvious that I had to go through this pathway. Like being on stage. I’m back on stage again, aren’t I? I was a theater major, and I didn’t get on stage for 20 years. Now I’m on stage all the time talking to people. I actually taught high-school biology for two years. I’m back teaching again. So, it’s really, really a beautiful thing when you’re kind of at the height of your career, and you get to look back at that pathway. You can see how everything converged together to make you who it is that you are today.

So, would you say you pretty much live an outwardly creative life?

Absolutely! I think that’s an interesting statement from you. When you say an outwardly creative life, what to you mean by that?

I look at an outwardly creative life as you’re ending with what most people would consider a creative product.

For you, I think that’s a great thing to really build upon is that concept of outwardly creative. And I know with all of the folks that you’re going to be talking to a lot of them are going to be people that might be defined as inwardly creative. It’s like you heard me say on Talk Story all the time, I believe because we were created by God, and God is a creative being, and we are made in his image that means we are innately creative. Whether we want to be or not. And I think that there are some people that literally hold that and stifle it because they’re afraid of it. They just don’t want that. They would rather tap into the more analytical side of life. I think there’s some people that just go hell-bent on the side of creativity, and then I think there’s a whole range of us in the middle, and the levels in our life that we decide to be creative in are really interesting. For instance, some of us have gone down what is considered to be a creative career path where like you’re saying the end result is actually art in some respect or another.

I think a lot of it too, is how you live your life. One of the things I look at in myself is not only am I creative in my career, meaning I chose a creative pathway, but  I’m also creative in how I go about everything. If it’s parenting, people ask me all the time “How do you do it? Have three kids and have a business?” And honestly, I’m very creative in how a make sure my kids have what they need, my business has what it needs, and my clients have what they need. It’s a constant process in my head of actually making the life that I want to make. So, I don’t do things the way the book says. Not because I think the book is wrong, but for me it works better if I create it on my own.

I live in Hawaii, and I live in Seattle. People say, “Well, how do you do that?” Well, it’s really, really easy. I wanted to do it, so I found a way to create that for myself. It’s not about money. It’s not about success. It’s about the fact that I created that pathway for myself, because driving fancy cars wasn’t important to me. Traveling all over the world isn’t something that I can do right now. So, one thing that I can do, one thing that I did want to create, was the ability to go back and forth between two places that I really love. So, that to me is the idea of living a creative life.Creativity is making whatever it is you want.

How would you define creativity for yourself in the most basic terms?

In the most basic terms, it is making whatever it is you want. Whether you’re doing that for someone, or you’re doing that for yourself, it is making something that you want. So, if you’re doing it for a client, you’re making something that they want, but you’re going about it the way that you feel it needs to be done.

So, I think we really get hung up on the word creativity? You could define it a zillion different ways. All being creative is IS creating something. If you want to take a different verb then use making it or doing it. So, for me creativity is really, really that simple.

What do you think is the biggest reason why people don’t view themselves as creative?

I think that humans innately have a need to label, to put a box around it, to make it work. When it comes down to even your faith, and some higher power or something, the biggest obstacle that people have with the idea of God is the fact that they can’t put him in a box. They can’t label it. And if something doesn’t align itself exactly right that must mean that He doesn’t exist. The greatest things that we have are things that you cannot define like love. You can’t define love. Why do I love my husband? Hell, half the time I don’t know, trust me. The other half of the time, I absolutely know. I think that because humans have to define things, innately define things, they end up defining themselves out of things.

Look at the words that we put with creativity. You’re rebellious. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say things like “Well, if you draw outside of the lines, you’re creative.” Why does that make you creative? Isn’t it just as creative to draw inside the lines? I really don’t understand that. “You’re creative if you think outside of the box.” Well, who the hell defined the box in the first place? And can’t I be creative inside of the box, as well as outside of the box?

So, I think that innate need to define things and label things makes human being put boxes around themselves, but then exclude them from being allowed to be other things. For instance, designers do this all the time. Designers think they suck at business. You want to know something? I am awesome at business. And most of the designers that I know out there could be if they’d stop saying they aren’t good at it. Because, honestly we should be the best business people out there, because we are tapped into our creativity. We are comfortable with our creativity. Business is not about numbers. It’s about making things happen. It’s about getting things out to the public. Isn’t that what designers do, hmmm?

Another big part of it is just being able to communicate, which is what we sell on a daily basis.

Exactly! Almost every designer I know says “Oh, I can’t communicate. I can’t really talk to people.” You communicate everyday, so if you can’t talk to people then just draw people’s friggin’ pictures for crying out loud. Yes, you can communicate. You just have opted to do it a different way. And I think what we do is, we then box ourselves in.

My first marriage did not work out, and I got divorced. I had a teacher go, “Oh my god. I had no idea that you’re kids were from a broken home, because they are so well adjusted.” And I looked at her and I said, “Broken home? Are you kidding me? I fixed that home.” And so it was a totally different way of looking at it. But we keep putting labels and all of this junk on top of things. And it’s so stupid, because I think it makes us think of ourselves in one particular way.

If you’d like to find out more about Jeni visit  jeniherberger.com, or follow on twitter @jeniherberger.

Check out part two of my interview with Jeni Herberger.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

Beakers with a pencil

Starting next week, I’ll launch the first of many posts about creativity in non-creative industries. It’s a topic that has continued to come up my whole life, and most specifically when people are first introduced to my wife. She’s a scientist, an immunologist to be more specific, and I’m a graphic designer, or creative to be less specific. More often than not people immediately ask what our conversations are like with her being left brain and me being right brain. The assumption is based on the misconception that science involves math, theory and reasoning (non-creativity), and that graphic design involves drawing, painting and brainstorming (creativity). Honestly, we’re a little of both. Designing an experiment follows the same process as designing a logo, we just use different tools and have different outcomes. In other words, we both use facts and strategy to define the problem, and we use imagination to test a solution.

I’ve had a long-standing hypothesis that everyone is creative, and we all use that creativity everyday to solve the problems in our life whether that be at work, home or anywhere in-between. To test my theory, I’ve interviewed people mainly outside the traditionally creative industries to see how they define their creativity. I’ve also interviewed a few people in creative industries as a control. An interesting trend started coming out as I conducted the interviews. People either asked, “Why would you interview me? I’m not creative. I’m just a ________,” or they would ask, “Did you pick me, because you know that I like to paint, draw or play music?”Creativity is being able to imagine while having the courage to act.

One of the main questions that I’ve asked in all of my interviews is “How do you personally define creativity?” The answers are truly amazing and more varied than I ever expected. So, I’d like to start this new series off with how I define creativity.

From day to day, I use my imagination to think of ideas and solutions for clients and myself, but if I didn’t use analytical thinking, processes and a touch of obsessive compulsive behavior then the solutions would never come to life. While I don’t deny my job is creative, I also understand that it isn’t always so. Just as my job and life are sometimes creative, I’m convinced that the same is true for all of us.

Over the course of the next year, I’ll be posting these interviews, and I encourage you to ask myself and the interviewees questions. Check back soon for the first in a series of interviews. My first guest is the wonderfully, brilliant Jeni Herberger.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

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