Creativity for Skeptics is now available in podcast form! Here’s the latest episode, in which I talk about marking the December solstice and using constraints to foster your creativity:
After making the creativity for skeptics video for Winterfest, I wanted to put up more content that wasn’t necessarily in written form. Couple reasons for this. First, writing for another medium gets around my internal editor, and second, I listen to dozens of podcasts, and I appreciate what the medium can do. After doing a couple videos, I concluded that video editing is . . . not a good use of my time? Not a good use of my time. But, from doing a radio show last year, I was already familiar with audio editing, and that is actually interesting.
I plan on posting each Sunday, and I will post transcripts here as well.
Episode 3: Solstice and Constraints (Transcript)
Hello, creative skeptics and skeptical creatives. Tammy here. It’s the weekend before the solstice as I’m recording this, the winter solstice in my case, as I’m in the northern hemisphere. So, happy winter or summer solstice depending on where you are. I bring this up because I want to talk about the solstices and the equinoxes a little bit. And I will eventually tie this back to creativity.
So, the December solstice. I didn’t celebrate the solstices or equinoxes when I was a kid, and to be honest, I didn’t really register them. I grew up in Houston, and as an adult, I moved to Dallas which is a bit less than 250 miles, so a good distance. I think it was moving to Dallas that made me recognize the seasonal shifts, which are far less striking in Houston.
After my partner and I had kids, I wanted to find a way to mark the changing seasons for a couple reasons. First, it’s a concrete and fun way of talking about science, so there’s that. And second, it’s a way of fostering a sense of wonder about the world–what do we notice about the world around us, and why do things change, and what stories do people tell about why things change.
Not celebrating seasonal shifts in my own childhood put me both in a good but daunting position. Good, because we as a family could create out own traditions and really think about why we’re doing what we’re doing. Daunting, because it’s the blank page problem. There are too many possibilities.
I think winter solstice is easiest, because we’re already in a festive mood this time of year anyway. Pretty early on, we started with putting out bird feeders in the morning, taking a walk, and talking about what changes we saw around us. Later, in the day we’d have a nice dinner, and after, we’d give the kids presents, which are always books, usually science books. It’s small, but it feels special.
I haven’t been as good about spring, summer, or fall. Spring and fall because we’re often busy with school, and summer, well, because summer around Dallas is awful in my opinion and who wants to celebrate that? Though, the hours of daylight waning is pretty nice to think about. We’ll bake seasonally-themed cookies, and we’ll talk about the world around us, but since we don’t have the day off as we often do in the winter, the days go more or less like any other day. And we don’t have any particular reason to do anything in particular anyway.
Winter comes with ready-made constraints. We’re feeding the birds (and let’s be honest, we’re feeding the squirrels, too) because there are fewer things for them to eat over the winter. We take a walk because the weather around here this time of year is quite pleasant. It’s overcast and in the 50s today, which is about as perfect as it gets, in my opinion. Thus, it’s easier to find ways of making new traditions because we have the constraints in place.
In 2021, I’m planning on thinking about the seasons more, thinking about how we can use the constraints of engaging with something outside, for example, as our way of celebrating. In March, I’ll report back on what we’ve figured out for the first day of spring. Maybe we can start planning our garden, for instance.
What does all this have to do with creativity, you ask?
If you’re feeling daunted by too much possibility, think about the constraints you can put on your creative project. That makes the scale more manageable, and removes one block between you and the work you want to do.
Have you used constraints to help you along with a creative project? I’d love to hear about it. Drop me a line, firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now, a little plug for one of my favorite technologies.
One other thing I’m trying to associate with the change of seasons is doing a health and safety check around the house. Changing air filters, checking smoke detector batteries, things like that. And making sure our emergency kit is ready. I live in tornado alley, and though tornadoes are more common in spring, they can happen any day of the year, so our emergency kit is all about the weather, really.
Part of that is checking the weather radio. I laugh whenever I hear the “you can listen to our station on your phone, your computer, your smart speaker whatever by downloading this app” or whatever. That’s fine for day-to-day listening, but what happens if your power gets knocked out? Thinking safety, you can spend less than $20 on a small portable AM/FM radio and some spare batteries, and there you go. A number of these have the weather band too, which is where you’ll hear the NOAA All Hazards Radio, which is even more important to have in an emergency. So, there’s my plug for something to keep in your emergency supply kit. And, if nothing else, if your power goes out, you can break out the radio and listen to music, so all the better there.
Thanks for listening to Creativity for Skeptics. If you have any questions about creativity you’d like me to address, feel free to send me an email [or post a comment below].
We’ll talk creativity again soon.