Write It Down!

UPDATE 1/14/16:

I’ll be delivering this speech at Ignite Chicago on January 31, 2017, held at the Catalyst Ranch.

5 Minutes / 20 Slides / 1 Passion


I’ve attended this several times and it is always a fun night.

Your cheers and claps would be greatly appreciated, register via EventBrite using the promo code SPEAKERFRIEND

See you then!

 


This is the speech I needed to complete my Toastmasters’ Advanced Communicator Bronze level in my quest to improve my communication skills.

What if…

  • There was a process that could improve your ability to learn and recall information?
  • That same process, and its simple tool, could help increase your concentration?
  • And, spark your creativity?

Benefit #1: Learning and Memory

Writing by hand, has been proven to stimulate parts of our brain, called the reticular activating system (RAS), which filters all the ‘stuff’ our brain needs to process everyday.

When we write it down, we give importance to that which we’re focusing on at the moment. I’ll repeat that in case you’d like to write it down, we give importance to that item at that moment.

A name. A date. An address. The morning to-do list. Weekly shopping list. Your bucket list.

The physical process of writing, placing pen (or pencil) to paper, brings that item to the forefront.

There are several research studies available that examined {college} students who took handwritten notes versus students who used a device (notebook or tablet). Which group do you believe performed better overall? The students who took handwritten notes.

It is the physical process of writing–placing pen to paper–that brings that item to the forefront. Writing it down improves our ability to learn and recall information.

Interesting observation about the students who used a devices; the researchers concluded that they were essentially scribing the professor’s lecture; an important skill when we need to transcribe something verbatim.

Writing, either cursive or print, (my own–an awkward combination) is very important to brain development. Do you have kids in school? Ask them about their method of notetaking during class.

Benefit #2: Focus

We are confronted with barrage of information from ALL directions EVERYDAY! Let’s face it… most if it is a distraction.

Did you know the adult brain processes 60,000-70,000 thoughts per day. (There’s a joke in there, I’ll set that aside for another speech.)

The deliberate ACTION to process a thought slows down our brain; thus requiring more mental energy. We are engaging our motor skills when while writing.

Research is suggesting that writing (reading and drawing) are droplets in the ‘Fountain of Youth’ to ward off the detrimental effects of Alzheimer’s disease and/or dementia. Not protect, but lessen the effects while keeping our brains active as we age. 

Write the letters. Break out the journal. Send the postcards.

During an interview, acclaimed author, Truman Capote, said that he wrote the outline and first draft of “In Cold Blood” before he sat in front of the typewriter. Joyce Carol Oates uses hand-written notes and drafts beforehand, too.

Benefit #3: Spark Your Creativity

A pathway for our thoughts, ideas and emotions, writing, as well as sketching, is a channel from your head outward. I personally believe that the heightened creativity is really the result of benefits #1 and #2. Bringing an item to the forefront and concentration.

One of the simplest and beneficial gifts you can give, in my opinion, is a sketchbook (or journal) and pencils to anyone. Enable an individual to cultivate his/her own creativity through the expression of ideas, thoughts and emotions.

Now, some of you might be thinking, pen and paper… that’s sooo old school! You’re not the only one.

While doing the research for this speech, I ran across an article on the Harvard Business Review entitled “Dear Colleague, Put the Notebook Down.” The author states, if you are invited to a meeting with her that you ‘should leave your hipster journal and pens at home’ insisting that taking notes by hand is a waste of time. She wants to be able to ping you digital references, assets and links for your immediate consumption. She went further, after you get back to your cubicle and transcribe your handwritten notes into a project management application, approximately 10-25 minutes, that is a WASTE OF TIME. This time adds up over the course of a fiscal year at a cost to the company.

Coincidentally, the same day I read this article, I received an email from my favorite hipster journal company announcing its latest product the “Smart Writing Set.” The three-part system consists of a newly designed Moleskine paper tablet, a stylus and smartphone app. The notes and drawings made in the paper tablet are digitized via the mobile app, available for iOS and Android. Moleskine is not the only company with similar technologies.

Recap, the benefits of writing:

  • Stimulates our brain for learning and memory.
  • Helps us concentrate by filtering distractions.
  • Heightens our creativity by providing a channel from our head to paper.

Writing is a mental workout. Keeping our brains SHARP!

History of Pencil (sidebar)

In the 16th century, a dark grey almost black substance was discovered in England, it became the first marking element when the herders where marking their sheep.

Woodworkers in the 17th century were producing graphite as marking tool. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the graphite was encased in wood.

Cross the pond to New England, during the mid-19th century, in Joseph Dixon’s woodworking plant, he mechanized the production and patented the machine that planed the wood for pencils. His machine could produce 132 pencils per minute. Dixon marketed his pencil as “American Made.” The Dixon Ticonderoga is a staple and one of our most enduring products, ~ 1/2 billion Ticonderoga pencils are manufactured yearly.

References:

Wall Street Journal, “Can Handwriting Make You Smarter?” (April 2016)

Mashable, “7 Ways Writing by Hand Can Save Your Brain” (January 2015)

New York Times, “The Story Behind a Nonfiction Novel” (1966) George Plimpton

BuzzFeed, “Joyce Carol Oates Has The Most Inspiring Writing Advice For Authors” (July 2015)

 

Longing for the Dog Days of Summer

I need a break… a long weekend at my favorite beach somewhere along the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Sipping a cold drink. Listening to the waves leisurely lap at the shore. Tip-toeing into Lake Michigan.
Since Memorial Day my schedule has been a bevy of activity:

  1. Niece’s wedding and visiting with my siblings
  2. My youngest daughter’s high school graduation
  3. Funeral of a sweet friend
  4. Moved* into new apartment
  5. Urban Sketchers Chicago 2016 Seminar (teaching 2 workshops)
  6. Bon voyage party for a couple returning to Salt Lake City

My summer-to-date.In a very short time, there have been a lot of changes, excitement, tears, laughter, sore muscles and vino. Despite the exhaustion and schedule I’ve retained my sanity. (Contrary to my husband and daughters.)


Wait, I’m not done yet:

  1. 50th anniversary celebration of friends
  2. Moving my youngest daughter into her freshman dorm at University of San Francisco

Guest what I’m doing Labor Day weekend… not a damn thing!

No to party invitations. No more boxes to open or pictures to be hung. I plan on enjoying some R&R. Taking a book and beach chair to Chicago’s lakefront.

I mentioned a move, *please note my new address:
Creative Aces Corp.
553 W Wellington 1 South
Chicago, IL 60657
direct: 773-327-4538
mobile: 231-633-0945

Projects underway include workshop preparations for the launch of ArchiSketch Chicago in August, finishing my Toastmaster Advanced Bronze, reprising a mastermind group for creative entrepreneurs (I did this when I lived in Traverse City, MI) and illustrations collection for fall/winter products.

Most of all, providing you with creative support to you; helping you (your clients) communicated with their audiences.

I will be gone a few Fridays during July and August, but give me a call or drop me an email; I’m confident we’ll agree on a schedule.

Joann

 

 

Lilacs Are Blooming! (May2016)

Mother’s Day was this past weekend, best wishes and fond memories everywhere.

My girls kept asking me what I wanted… nothing. No flowers. No brunches.

Instead, the opportunity to enjoy the Van Gogh’s Bedrooms exhibit at Art Institute of Chicago, with each of my daughters (went through this exhibit several times). Time spent talking about art, life of an artist, career, college and much more with my girls.

This is the only gift that matters, to me.joannsondy-lilacs-wh-tn

Springtime is my favorite season. I think it was also my mom’s, too. It hadn’t occurred to me that she’s been deceased for sixteen years. Memories springing into my head compounded by the vibrancy of the spring blossoms.

Cecelia, my mother, enjoyed being outside gardening. She was pretty good, the front and back yards of our suburban Detroit home were colorful and well-planned on her meager budget. She planted a variety of flowers and foliage for spring, summer and fall.  Mom’s fertilizer choices were very creative too, sometimes offending the olfactory with fish heads and manure. The end results were the envy of the neighborhood.

Among her best, the lilac shrubs with its dark green leaves and exploding blooms–from white to deep purple–gently drifting sweet perfume joannsondy-lilacs-dk-tnthroughout the neighborhood. Imagine, waking up on a warm spring morning, the windows open and the aroma from the lilacs more potent than the brewing black coffee. Lilac season is too short, only a couple of weeks.

I revisited my lilacs-inspired silk scarf design, “Cecelia’s Lilacs”, adding more blooms to the design and added border. A colorful spring accessory for any occasion. There are two variations, a white and dark lilac background. Available from my Etsy shop.

 

Available in two sizes: 36″ x 36″ for $120.00 USD and 26″ x 26″ for $65.00 USD. Made to order, allow up to 10-14 days for delivery.

 

Form Ever Follows Function

Form Ever Follows Function

My tardiness in writing a well-thought out newsletter was delayed due to book* & presentation projects earlier this month.

I’ve been leading an Art Deco skyscrapers walking tour,  primarily along LaSalle Street in Chicago,  since I ‘certified’ in late spring. Art Deco is about ornamentation, these magnificent 1930s skyscrapers got me thinking about structure and the use of ornament (decoration).

Below is a quote excerpt from Holabird & Roche, architects of Chicago Board of Trade (1930):

“the exterior is an expression of the function(s) of the building…”

I think they were tapping into Louis H. Sullivan’s “form ever follows function.” For the CBOT, many would agree, the ornamentation is not merely decoration; it accentuating the overall design of the commodities exchange–all relating to agriculture (wheat, corn, lumber).

Why the architecture metaphor?
Frankly, there are numerous metaphors beyond architecture.
Each project, even an image for your Instagram feed requires structure and planning. We must invest the time into purpose or function, before any discussion of ornamentation. Then the mechanics of structure structure and flow of the publication will designed. Every writer I know begins with an outline or structure. Yes, even graphic designers begin with function and structure.

No amount of stock images, cheeky infographics or trendy color swatches will hide the lack of thought given to crafting a strong message and story structure; including any call-to-actions.

Working with photographic material presents a different opportunity to create a theme or visual structure for a collection. (see previous post)

I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve been asked to work on pitch deck/publication and the first conversation is about the aesthetics versus purpose, theme, content and audience.

Let’s not design from the outside inward. Sticky notes, index cards or whiteboards are simple, yet effective tools to breakdown your storyboard, eliminating the non-essential, shifting sections to improve the flow, etc.

More about structure or storyboarding:

 

 

 

Break out your coloring pencils to ignite your inner creative juices–coloring is the new meditation. Patterns of the Ancient World and Renaissance Patterns were developed for convenience of travel. The 6×9″ size is ideal to toss in your shoulder bag and fits nicely on hard surface like your tablet. AND, I included blank pages for your own drawings or doodles. Available via Amazon.

Joann

Storyboarding, Not Just for Filmmakers

Storyboarding, Not Just for Filmmakers

The following is part of a running series of posts, from Create Your Own Great Photo Book; the first “Be a Ruthless Photo Editor” covers activities you can use to take control of your image library.

Storyboarding, Not Just for Filmmakers

How do you organize your images? Stay true to your theme.

Developing a structure based on your time is the foundation to create your own great photo book. And, keep you focused. It can be overwhelming when you’re confronted with a volume of images. Refer to my previous post, Be A Ruthless Photo Editor, to eliminate the unnecessary, poor quality and non-relevant images.


A screen shot of one folder.

Example: My Family Archive. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, I decided to make a dent in scanning the negatives and photographs––which I have two or three large Rubbermaid storage tubs––from my family’s photo archive. I pulled out an armful of ‘stuff’ and began sorting the pieces. Tossing items that had little relevance to the long-term integrity of the archive, poor quality and extremely damaged. Things like out-of-focus shots, unrecognizable subjects, generic birthday & holiday cards, etc. The result, spending time on quality pieces that would convey the story of my family.


Stay Grounded to Your Theme

As mentioned above, developing a structure will serve as your foundation. Using images and text creates your visual story. Most stories are typical: a beginning, middle and end. Let’s take this further.

Tapping into a more sophisticated organization can add more interest to your photo book. Try one or a combination of the following:


4 types of story organization to add interest to your photo book.


Storyboarding your content gives you a ‘roadmap’ to a finish product. Naturally, we want to be flexible as the project progress. Image sequencing and storyboarding is time well spent!

After you’ve experimented with your visual storyboarding with your first photo book, it will become easier the next time. Eventually, challenging your creativity to try new concepts.

Interested in more? Download “Create Your Own Great Photo Book.”

Next: Add cognitive flow within your theme.


Happy self publishing.

Create Your Own Great Photo Book

Create Your Own Great Photo Book

Create Your Own Great Photo Books

  • Have you ever wanted to create your own photo books?
  • How do you start?
  • What are techniques to make it look professional?
  • How do I get it printed?
Create Your Own Great Photo Books cover
Download Free eBook 

Just released a few days ago to select list of followers, now available for you.

An introduction to self-publishing techniques to create your own amazing book using your photographs or illustrations.

Discover techniques to create and publish of your own photo book, plus an introduction to self-publishing options (print and digital formats). Ideal for photographers, illustrators, architects, chefs, historians and many more.

Topics covered:

  • Image Sequencing & Storyboarding
  • Page Layout and Structure
  • Cover Design
  • Image Preparation
  • Overview: Shutterfly, Lulu and Blurb

* eBook format is 21-page PDF, compatible on desktop and mobile devices.
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Dancing In The Dark

Dancing In The Dark

Wow, it’s been a couple of months since I’ve posted anything new for you.  Frankly, I’ve been immersed in some very exciting projects.

Don’t let the title of this post send you looking for Bruce Springsteen on iTunes. 

Can you deliver your speech/presentation in the dark? 

Without the support of visual aids? Ditch the PPT?


Image courtesy Choose Chicago

Many of you know that I’m a docent with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and this year I’m ‘sponsoring’ a trainee. One of my responsibilities is a walk through or demonstration of one of the core tours. 

Due to scheduling, my trainee and I could only agree to meet after work. This is Chicago, it’s dark by 6 p.m. and this week it’s been cold (again) and damp. Not the best conditions to display my expertise. 

Midway through the two-hour tour, Ben, docent-in-training, complimented me on the descriptive speech I used to describe details of buildings on the Chicago Old & New Tour.

After I thanked him, I was surprised when I realized that the darkness added a new and highly disciplinary behavior to my tour. A way to reduce and eliminate some bad behaviors and crutches. 

I wasn’t relying on the illumination of daytime, as I usually do. Instead, recalling specific details expressed with highly descriptive language. Clearly articulating the core concepts, coherently making comparisons to describe details that are seen vividly during the day.

Plan B–No Crutches
This exercise recalled the disastrous and feeble attempts I’ve witnessed over the years when technology fails. You know what I’m talking about: microphone cut outs, the presentation file doesn’t load, the computer shuts down, the projector lamp burns out, you don’t have the right cable, its the wrong file/version, etcetera, etcetera.

A Challenge
I challenge you to deliver your speech or presentation without the use of visual aids. Take it further and step away from the lectern and turn off the microphone. 

Can you express the core message(s) and support it with details to your audience coherently? Delivered with passion and confidence? 

Here’s the link to your 80s rock-n-roll fix, “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen.