10 Ways to Be Creative in the Summer

Does summertime make you feel creative and want to try new things? Or do you just like to have fun in the sun? I like both, so while I’ll be posting all through the summer, I’m taking a break from blog commenting until after Labor Day. Some of you may remember this post from last year, but I felt it needed repurposing!

What will You be Doing for Creative Fun this Summer?

Summer is a great time to try things you might not normally do. Here are my suggestions for being creative this summer.

1.Build a Sandcastle or a Sand Painting

A.K.Andrew, http://akandrew.com

Brighton Beach by A.K.Andrew

Building sandcastles are one of my favorite childhood memories as we always had beach holidays. Some of the ones you see are amazing, not just the fill a bucket and turn it upside down kind. I love making a moat with a sand castle too, all that foamy water rushing in. And then at the end of the day you can make it disappear with one sweep of your hand or wait for a wave to do the same thing. Creative things don’t need to be permanent. Sand paintings are fun for that very reason. Do one on the beach with a stick or your finger, or buy a sand painting kit.

2.Write a Short Story

This is the time to let go, have some fun with it. And remember no-one but you will see it, unless you want them to. Write about an unexpected sexual encounter. Try out a different genre you don’t usually use. Never written about vampires? Now’s the time. Write in a different point of view, or from the point of view of a different gender, or sexual orientation. Hey, this is supposed to be fun right?

3.Go see a Film or Make a Movie

When was the last time you went to a cinema? No, not your home theatre, but a big screen-Dolby stereo-popcorn-selling cinema. Treat yourself. If you’re a regular cinema goer then try a different kind of film. For me that would be a horror film. Of course, I’d have to take something to hold up in front of the screen though! Maybe you’ll be inspired to make a short movie on your phone or camera. One of the best shorts I’ve ever seen was made by a guy who was stuck in his house in Minnesota one winter, and he used himself as the subject. It was so imaginative, and best of all, hilarious.

 4.Take a Photograph

A.K.Andrew, http://akandrew.com

Sonoma Cowboys by A.K.Andrew

We all spend so much time on our mobile phones these days, but do you use your phone camera for anything other than selfies or groups of friends laughing together? I love those photos, but it’s great to capture even simple things you see that give you a memory of the place you’ve been and the good time you had.  Better still, take an actual camera!You remember those right? I must dust mine off. I happened to catch these cowboys with my phone while driving home last Sunday morning – I wasn’t driving:-)

5.Try a Poem

Lots of people, myself included, sometimes find poetry intimidating. But if you think of poetry as being just the essential information you need, it’s not so threatening. Of course, the arrangement and choice of words is what makes poetry beautiful, striking and memorable. Play around with words that come to mind, and put them together in a bizarre order. See what happens.

6. Watercolors and Painting

A.K.Andrew, http://akandrew

Grasses by A.K.Andrew

I used to think water colors had to be twee little scenes of cottages with roses round the door. They can be if that’s what you want, but you can paint anything you want with watercolors including abstracts. Look at the beautiful watercolors from Leora Wenger she painted during a blackout. It’s a brilliant medium to take on holiday. I have a little Winsor Newton box that is about 3″x  5 ” with a telescopic paintbrush inside. The paints are little squares like a kids paint set. I’ve had so much fun with that little box. The key to both drawing and painting is really looking at your subject. And don’t try and get the whole thing in the painting. Just pick a small section, like a doorway not the whole house, or a single plant, not the whole garden etc. If you really want to be adventurous, try acrylics or oil paints. The textures are delicious.

7.Drawing

A.K.Andrew,http://akandrew.comKids have so much fun with drawing , and there is no reason why adults can’t either. If you want your drawings to look as if you were classically trained, good for you. But if like me, you don’t have that skill, then draw whatever it is you see. If it’s stick figures – fabulous.  You know who they are, and I can guarantee that if you forget about it having to look realistic, you will have fun with it. Think simple , but creative. Look at the work of Keith Haring. I used to think drawing was an innate skill. Some people have more of a natural talent, but it can basically be learned by anyone. So you might want to elaborate on your stick figures, and give it a shot. Drawing your own hands is a great way to practise. Or look in a mirror as I did above for this self portrait. Drawing images from photographs is much easier than from real life, so that’s a good place to start too. Pencils are great, but charcoal or pastels are also really fun too. The important thing for me is the process.

8.Gardening

Gardening  is a fantastically creative pursuit and I’m often amazed the effects people can get from very simple things eg. putting a plant in an old metal jug, or combining flowers with herbs. It’s hot and dry in the summer where I live, and I’ve seen some of the most amazing succulent gardens in our neighborhood. Years ago I thought they were a very boring plant, but once I saw them in the US, and particularly the ones that bloom, I’ve come to love them. They’re great for needing little water too, which is always a good choice. Watch your back though – gardening is addictive, and it’s easy to forget how much work you’ve done. If you find this is the case then try using raised beds. Here’s one surprise I found in a neighbors garden….

A.K.Andrew, http://akandrew.com

Pig in a Garden by A.K.Andrew

 9. Music

How many times have you heard people say, I can’t sing? Nonsense! Everyone who does not have vocal chord issues can sing. Some voices are more pleasant to listen to than others, but we’re talking about having fun here. Sing at the top of your lungs, and who cares what it sounds like. Or pick up a musical instrument you haven’t tried before. Harmonica’s and tin whistles are inexpensive. Ukulele’s can be very cheap these days. The chords are very simple,  – some only use one finger. It’s all about having fun.

10. Cooking

A.K.Andrew,http://akandrew.com

Wrapped Buffalo Mozzarella by A.K.Andrew

Cooking does not have to be complicated, and in the summer, many of the dishes we eat are cold. Some people are so creative in what they make. Check out Susan Cooper’s site Findingourwaynow.com. She has lots of great recipes, and you can tell she has fun in her cooking. I like simple dishes in the summer. There’s nothing more beautiful than a caprese salad – luscious heirloom tomatoes with fresh buffalo mozzarella, sprinkled with chopped basil and dribbled with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Talk about a treat for all the senses.

What else do you like to do creatively? Welding, sculpture, making jewellery, beading, rockhounding? Try something new this summer, and whatever it is, make sure you enjoy yourself.
Have a fantastic summer everyone and don’t forget, comments have “Gone Fishing” until after Labor Day!
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Does Internet Dopamine Stop You from #Reading #Books?

a.k. andrew, akandrew.com a writers notebook,readingWhere do you get your nightly dose of dopamine? No, let me put that a different way… What is your preferred visual stimulation of choice before you go to sleep? Watching a movie, the TV, going online and catching up on email, tweeting, texting, Facebook etc… or reading a book?

Come on, let’s be honest. I guarantee at least half of you did not go for the book reading option. So why is that? What’s happened to our bedtime story?

This is from a Post published by Susan Weinschenk Ph.D. on Sep 11, 2012 in Brain Wise which says that “Dopamine makes you addicted to seeking information in an endless loop.”  This is from Susan’s post:

Pleasure vs. seeking 

 You may have heard that dopamine controls the “pleasure” systems of the brain: that dopamine makes you feel enjoyment, pleasure, and therefore motivates you to seek out certain behaviors, such as food, sex, and drugs. Recent research is changing this view. Instead of dopamine causing you to experience pleasure, the latest research shows that dopamine causes seeking behavior. Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search.

Rewards of the Dopamine Loop

So what that’s telling us is that one tweet is never enough. We are going to continuously reward ourselves by searching for more information, more connection however tenuous it might be online. Who wouldn’t want to be rewarded each time we perform any of these tasks? And there is a sense of accomplishment that we have achieved something. What’s not to like?

This next part is from a more recent article published in the Guardian in January 2015, and is from a book by Daniel J. Levitin.

In a famous experiment, my McGill colleagues Peter Milner and James Olds, both neuroscientists, placed a small electrode in the brains of rats, in a small structure of the limbic system called the nucleus accumbens. This structure regulates dopamine production and is the region that “lights up” when gamblers win a bet, drug addicts take cocaine, or people have orgasms – Olds and Milner called it the pleasure centre. A lever in the cage allowed the rats to send a small electrical signal directly to their nucleus accumbens. Do you think they liked it? Boy how they did! They liked it so much that they did nothing else. They forgot all about eating and sleeping. Long after they were hungry, they ignored tasty food if they had a chance to press that little chrome bar; they even ignored the opportunity for sex. The rats just pressed the lever over and over again, until they died of starvation and exhaustion. Does that remind you of anything? A 30-year-old man died in Guangzhou (China) after playing video games continuously for three days. Another man died in Daegu (Korea) after playing video games almost continuously for 50 hours, stopped only by his going into cardiac arrest.

……. But remember, it is the dumb, novelty-seeking portion of the brain driving the limbic system that induces this feeling of pleasure, not the planning, scheduling, higher-level thought centres in the prefrontal cortex. Make no mistake: email-, Facebook- and Twitter-checking constitute a neural addiction.

© Daniel J. Levitin. Extracted from The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, published by Viking

Short attention Span

My concern is that all of this information that we constantly both receive and dispatch, essentially leads not to successful multitasking, but to a short attention span. And that is not something you can have if you want to read a book amongst other things.  What I’ve been in the habit of doing is to start reading and then feel compelled to look up the meaning of a word, or see exactly what part of the world is the author talking about, or when was that in relation to the first moon landing etc etc. Minutiae that I either dont need or could find out later, but have felt the need to immediately find out while I’m reading a novel!!!

Banished from the Bedside

So what I’ve been doing recently is banning all  electronic devices from my bedside table, as I was often ‘just quickly checking my email, twitter, Facebook account, etc, and before you know it an hour or even two had gone by, my eyes were closing and gone was my reading time! So I’ve been focusing on books and felt more relaxed for doing so.

Bright Lights

I’ve also read that the bright light from any kind of display monitor also simulates day time which is obviously not very conducive to sleep. How that works for ebooks I’m not sure, but one does tend to have the screen a little darker at night.

So I’ve just started reading The Gold Finch by Donna Tartt and at 700+ pages, I’m going to definitely need to focus on my reading time. And as a writer, as I mentioned in my last post on writing tips, that is essential.

Ak.K. Andrew, akandrew.com TheWriters Notebook, The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

What is your opinion on visual stimulation before you go to bed in particular? And what about the Dopamine Loop-do you find it effects you in the ways described? If so what’s the answer?

Come join the discussion, and please share this post on your favorite social media. 

Many Thanks!

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