Wednesday, August 30, 2006

layers of creativity

Last night, one of the final evenings of August, I slept with the window open to enjoy the cool air. With fresh air and the gentle sound of a fan to lull me, I slept quite soundly. At about 5:30 the paper delivery car pulled up underneath the window and abruptly cut me off from a deep, dreamful sleep. Often I awake slowly as the dogs become more and more restless. But this morning's alarm was like a sharp knife slicing a layer cake. I could peer directly into my dream state. Like an extravagant cake, my dreaming mind had layers.

In one story, I was dressed in a Victorian green velvet gown. I was planning to sail to England to meet a mysterious person. In a second layer, I was frantically running through the airport trying to meet all the requirements for flight to England. I didn't have a passport and the people who could help me get one were inept. When I made it to the gate I was still missing something - a doctor had to check me. The doctor had left for dinner so his assistant looked at me. "Anything wrong with you?" he asked? "Nothing, except a bad case of airport rage." By the time I got back to the gate, I was in tears. The attendant handed me a beverage in a heavy green glass bottle. After remembering those details, I realized that I had also been dreaming about playing in the dark green grass of my childhood back yard. By the time I recalled this, the story had faded.

If our unconscious mind can create three parallel stories that seem related by story and/or imagery, why do we struggle to come up with a simple creative idea in waking life?

Immediately after recalling this dream layer cake, I thought about my work this week. I have been trying to come up with an idea for the next Schedule of Classes cover. Another unit on campus markets the interim semesters, so we need a compelling image or saying that can be used in advertising. Sometimes I enjoy creating these covers, but this time I can't light any creative spark.

How is it that we can be lavishly creative in our dreams but struggle to come up with one idea while awake? I suspect it has something to do with the criticism we place on our waking ideas and the criticism we imagine - or actually hear - from others. While asleep, our creativity can play like a child in a lush back yard.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Today's Dilbert cartoon strip was, as is often the case, joking on truth.

Because of renovations, the pointy-headed boss has to move Alice to a larger cubicle. Squealing with glee, she announces that she will use the power of her "slightly larger cubicle to rule my coworkers with an iron fist." In the final frame she is pushing a coworker aside, saying "get out of my way, you worthless microcuber."

In my experience I have found that people in a workplace believe that amenities such as more square footage, special wood trim on cubicle cabinets, a door that closes (or locks!), a light switch, or a bigger desk can all be indicators of prestige or importance.

Ideally we would all have the space, furniture, and equipment needed to perform our jobs. Alas, that is not always the case. These things are meted out by importance or influence rather than by need.

Today I reluctantly add "microcuber" to my vocabulary.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

a few calm moments in a crazy week

I left the Publications Office a little late this evening. I had just finished some large-format layouts that needed to be printed at the local Kinko's/FedEx. My eyes burned with tiredness. I wanted to lie down on a soft bed next to an open window by a tree and sleep. As I was driving down University, I remembered that a guest was stopping by for dinner. My husband had called earlier and said he was going to the store and would cook hamburgers outside and buy some cole slaw. We had some fresh Illinois corn on the cob in the fridge.

The Kinko's is in the same shopping area as a nice Goodwill store. What was I thinking? Instead of rushing like a maniac home to help with dinner I stopped in the Goodwill. I think thrift stores on a quiet day provide a nice oasis of calm. You don't know what you might find so it's not like you actually have to look for anything in particular. Things are inexpensive so you don't feel guilty about indulging in some whimsical item or a blouse that may or may not fit properly. You can browse and chat with other people who also like to linger over dusty, dented treasures.

I made it home just as the burgers were coming off the grill. We had a nice dinner. We chatted and made a pot of coffee. I had been so busy at work this afternoon that I actually skipped my 3:00 coffee break. I went outside and watered some plants that I had put in recently. Streaming water from a hose onto thirsty plants is another way to relax the mind after a stressful day. Sometimes just those small intermissions of pleasure keep you going through a busy week.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Coffee and a Nap

I read an article recently, although I don't remember where, that talked about the Caffeine Power Nap.

I haven't done any research into this or read about it previously. However, I did sort of intuitively stumble upon the idea years ago.

You drink a strong cup of hot coffee and then lie down for a nap. You set an alarm or tell yourself to wake up in fifteen minutes.

When your internal or external alarm goes off, you have been able to rest (relaxed by the hot amber liquid) and in the meantime the caffeine has kicked in, so you feel alert and ready to tackle the rest of the day.

I admit to having used this technique at lunch. I have come home, feeling a bit fatigued by a morning of work, and made a cup of coffee. Then, I stretched out on the couch, let my shoes fall to the floor, and dozed off - or at least fell into deep relaxation. When I got up, the caffeine had kicked in and I slipped on my shoes and headed back to work.

Researchers looking into the Caffeine Power Nap recommend it for fatigued drivers. Stop at McDonald's and buy a large coffee. Pull to the edge of the parking lot and down as much of it as you can. Then, tilt your head back and relax. Awake refreshed and invigorated. Finish the rest of the cup as you drive on.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


It happens every year. I horribly underestimate the time it takes to proofread the undergraduate catalog. Before sending to the printer, I doublecheck that all the curriculum changes have been accurately reflected in the new catalog. I check and triplecheck that I have correctly made the updates sent to me by all the departments and offices on campus. I doublecheck that I have correctly spelled the names of the new faculty members. I come home blurry eyed, often with one of the binders of information to check under my arm.

Then I remember that I have to create an index before I can send to the printer. And that has to be proofread and the page numbers verified.

And then I remember that I haven't updated the photos.

Is the date correct on the front cover and the spine. (Someone forgot to do that one year and the printer was able to cover it over and stamp the correct date on the spine. I keep that one out as a reminder.)

I think to myself:…"if I had just one more week I could make it perfect this year." But time runs out. The catalog is delivered to campus and my phone rings. "Could you correct for next year the error on page such and such."

"Yes, I can update the web version immediately, and I'll change it in the file for next year."

"Which," I say under my breath as I hang up the phone, " always comes too soon."