Don’t be yourself. Be more.

As someone who prides himself on knowing a little bit about a lot of subjects (some serious, most not-so-serious), this quote really rang true to me:

“You can’t just be you. You have to double yourself. You have to read books on subjects you know nothing about. You have to travel to places you never thought of traveling. You have to meet every kind of person and endlessly stretch what you know.” 

Mary Wells Lawrence, advertising exec in the 60s and the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company

Ms. Wells Lawrence made her mark in the ad world (“plop, plop, fizz, fizz” ring a bell?), but her quote about how to exercise your creative muscles is certainly applicable well beyond the realm of advertising. I think it’s sound advice for any career field… and for life in general. Our brains need stimuli to grow, our souls need enrichment to thrive.

One of my favorite words (yes, I’m a certified WordNerd™) is “polymath.”

I’m more of a poly-dabbler, but you have to start somewhere, right? And I do think learning about new and different things makes it easier to find connections and solve problems.

The world seems more polarized today. Us vs. them. But how much do you really know about “them” when you’re trapped in your own bubble? By reading more, by engaging with more people across the spectrum, we all can grow not just our creativity, but also our empathy.

Hugh MacLeod, from the Gaping Void blog

HT to the Gaping Void blog for putting the Mary Wells Lawrence quote on my radar. If you’re looking for some creative stimulus on a regular basis, that blog is a great way to start to “double yourself.”

Coloring outside the lines

Hugh MacLeod gets it. He (and others like him – Austin Kleon, Seth Godin, et al.) do their best to bring out the best in us. Hugh’s 2009 book Ignore Everybody (And 39 Other Keys to Creativity) is quite inspiring. His blog, which features a sketch of his and some musings on life, is highly recommended. Sign up and each post will go directly to your email inbox.

This Monday’s post was an excerpt from Ignore Everybody. It’s about how each of us is born creative, but our creativity can be stifled over time.

Hugh’s artwork can be purchased here.

Reconnecting with that “wee voice” as Hugh calls it, can add color (colors, actually) to your life. It’s not a “nice-to-have” — it’s a “need-to-have” for your soul.

The wee voice didn’t show up because it decided you need more money or you need to hang out with movie stars. Your wee voice came back because your soul somehow depends on it. There’s something you haven’t said, something you haven’t done, some light that needs to be switched on, and it needs to be taken care of. Now.

Hugh MacLeod, in Ignore Everybody

“Don’t let them take away your crayons” is a message we need to hear over and over. Because so many of our societal “norms” (including our education system) are designed to steal them away from us, and because our “adult” brain is very good at trying to overrule our inner creative child.

They’re only crayons. You didn’t fear them in kindergarten, why fear them now?

Writing is editing. Except in my case.

I’ve heard (and read) many writing pros who say “writing is editing.”

This piece by Meaghan O’Connell in The Cut vividly brings the concept of multiple revisions to life. Here’s a quick excerpt:

Imagine taking the very sharpest thought you had each day for two years and then adding it to a pile. If someone walked by and looked at your pile of best thoughts, they’d think you were a genius. They might see your thoughts and feel things. It might be an encounter with the sublime. This is the promise of revision and the good news. The bad news is that to get there, you have to start by rereading your own work.

(HT to Austin Kleon’s weekly newsletter for directing me to this piece.)

I totally understand what she’s saying, and have no doubt that all great writing has been reviewed and revised to achieve that greatness.

On the other hand, I’m a bit of a Seth Godin disciple, and he’s a big fan of “ship your work.” If you keep waiting (and editing) for your words to be perfect, you’ll never actually deliver a finished piece. (Seth’s “one blog post a day for a week” challenge a few years ago was the kick in the trousers I needed to actually start “shipping” some writing of my own, after having set up a WordPress blog a couple of years earlier and then being afraid to actually post anything.)

The two concepts — polished prose and printed pieces — aren’t mutually exclusive. But I think too many aspiring writers spend way too much time agonizing over the edits, and not enough time “shipping” more of their work out into the world. Writing is tough enough as it is… if you ponder the multiple rounds of edits that await you after your “shitty first draft” (as Anne Lamott calls it), you may find the process even more daunting, and you might never put pen to paper.

I understand and respect the editing process… in fact, I love it. But this is a tiny little speck of a blog, it ain’t no Great American Novel. (It ain’t even grammatically correct sometimes.) I’d rather err on the side of “done” — and I do think that shipping a greater quantity has actually helped improve the quality over the years as well. [You, faithful reader (singular), may beg to differ.]

In other words, if you came looking for the “pile of great thoughts” that Ms. O’Connell mentions, you’ll be sorely disappointed. But if you’re OK with a pile of… er, stuff… then this is just the blog for you!

Wunderkinds

Your thought for the day… nay, thought for a lifetime for any parent, comes from cellist, composer, and conductor, Pablo Casals:

“Each second we live in a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that never was before and will never be again. And what do we teach our children in school? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all of the world there is no other child exactly like you. In the millions of years that have passed there has never been another child like you… You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is like you, a marvel? You must cherish one another. You must work—we must all work—to make this world worthy of its children.”

Source: Joys and Sorrows: Reflections by Pablo Casals, page 295

It may be the weekend, but let’s get to work!

That time I scooped the New York Times

Faithful readers of this blog (all three of them) will recall that more than a week ago, I wrote about colleges that are announcing they’ll be open this fall, and surmised that it was driven by dollars, not sense.

Lo and behold, check out the lead story in the New York Times “The Morning” daily briefing today:

Colleges have come rushing forth to announce that they will be inviting students back to campus this fall. But as I’ve spoken to college officials over the past few weeks — usually not for quotation — I’ve been struck by the difference between their public optimism and their private uncertainty.

Many university leaders aren’t sure how well on-campus living and in-person classes will work during this pandemic. Some acknowledge it may not work at all.

It will require radical changes to the normal campus experience, like canceling many activities, rotating which students can return (to keep dorms from being too full) and continuing to hold classes online (to protect professors).

This approach is likely to frustrate students — and it still might not prevent new coronavirus outbreaks. Nearly all distinctive parts of a campus experience, including parties, meals and extracurriculars, revolve around close social contact, often indoors.

So what explains the surge of “We’re open!” announcements? Competitive pressure, in part. Many colleges will face serious financial problems if they lose a year of tuition and other revenue.

Now professors and administrators have begun publicly criticizing reopening plans:

  • “My suspicion,” Susan Dynarski, a University of Michigan economist, wrote on Twitter, is that “colleges are holding out hope of in-person classes in order to keep up enrollments.” She added: “If they tell the difficult truth now, many students will decide to take a year off,” which “will send college finances into a tailspin.”
  • Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington, noted that the new class of Army recruits at Fort Benning recently suffered a major outbreak, despite universal testing there.

There are no easy answers. Telling students to stay home in the fall also has big downsides. And it’s possible that students will do a better job wearing masks and remaining socially distant than skeptics like Steinberg expect.

But the path that colleges are choosing comes with big risks. American higher education is about to embark on a highly uncertain experiment.

Geez, they even cribbed their final sentence “experiment” language from my blog post header:

Maybe the Giant Cheeto in D.C. is telling the truth for the first time ever… the Times must be “failing” if they are getting story ideas from this blog. Sad!

Looks like it’s time to sic my law firm on the Old Gray Lady…

And we’re adding a tagline to the Dubbatrubba masthead: All the news you’ll find elsewhere a week later.

(To be fair, while all the other articles and tweets linked in the NYT briefing were published after my post, the Atlantic piece, by Michael J. Sorrell, the president of Paul Quinn College in Dallas, was published in mid-May. So he really scooped the rest of us.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to the hard-hitting, insightful, industry-leading journalism for which this blog is now known.

2020: The Odyssey continues

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

Zora Neale Hurston

“Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Poster art above by Cincinnati teenager Owen Gunderman, a.k.a. Tenzing. See more on his Instagram and YouTube channel.)

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”

Desmond Tutu

“The more that we allow our hearts to expand to love, deeply appreciate, and feel inextricably tied to the places, things and people of this world, the more we are likely to take a stand on behalf of what we value.”

Kristi Nelson
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