How to Be Creative in a World Full of Sellouts

Sometimes when I travel, I find a takeaway, which is a souvenir for my brain. It can enlighten me and inspire a new way of thinking. This time, it included thoughts of creativity, originality, and its risks in a world where selling out is common. That invisible souvenir was even better than the sunglasses I bought!

Susie in Sunglasses

Lots of ideas floated around in my head after my California trip. I had been inspired by what I had seen and experienced. LA is a place where being different is embraced from fashion trends to lifestyle and everything in between. I really love its creative people. Their energy is contagious!

With stops at The Broad, a contemporary art museum, the art district in Downtown LA, and a conversation with a clothing designer, the five days filled me with all kinds of inspiration.

A famous Warhol in The Broad.

IMG_7504

But what was it about art, design, and the freedom of expression and how Californians wear clothing that kept my brain bouncing?

I was trying to reconcile it with what I’ve been seeing online, lately.

While surrounded by duplication, there’s a risk in originality, right?

When perusing Pinterest, I’ve noticed many blog posts that are super similar. Some promise huge increases in stats. Others, on how to make money. The similarities don’t stop at content. Their blogs are almost carbon copies.

Were they really successful or just snake oil salesmen? The straight-up bait-and-switch bloggers won’t get anywhere. What I do know is there are millions of lifestyle bloggers writing the same posts. Many will quit in less than a year when they become frustrated with their results.

Lari Pittman’s mural behind Jeff Koons’ Jim Beam Train at The Broad.

Abstract art at The Broad

Why should I care?

Like most bloggers, one of my goals is to increase views. I had been tempted to blog a bunch of bullet-pointed travel posts since I have tons of photos. They would do very well on Pinterest, which is becoming a huge traffic generator for bloggers.

After writing one about California, I laughed. I set it aside for a few days and then reread it and laughed again. “No way,” I said out loud to no one. I couldn’t blog it. My brain told me so.

Brain: Don’t do it. Don’t follow the crowd just to blow up on Pinterest.

Me: Why not sellout a little bit for a few extra clicks? This post would totally blow up. (That’s good, BTW. It means my post would soar with lots of views.)

Brain: Because it’s not your brand. Continue being original and creative. Be you!

Me: But being original and me? That is so risky!

Brain: That’s what it’s all about. How do you think the super bloggers became super? By being like everyone else?

Me: …no…

Brain: Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad to want to increase views and followers, but do it in a way where you don’t sell out. You’ve spent almost seven years building an audience. You don’t want to turn them away for more hits. Your goal is to write books while continuing to blog.

Me: I totally get that. So can I write about my travels as long as I make them personal stories?

My Brain: Sure, and don’t forget to include all the dumb stuff you do. Readers love that.

Me: I have tons of material.

Brain: Yeah, I know.

It took almost a week, but I finally wrapped my mind around my souvenir.

If you’re a musician, artist, writer, blogger, or any other creative person who is producing content or a product, make sure to capture a part of you in what you create. Originality is key. Duplicating what’s already popular almost always ends up being a mere shadow of the original. If you’re interested in a popular idea, personalize it somehow. Experiment. Come at it in a new way. Turn it upside down. Put it on your head and wear it for a while. Play with it.

Readers want to be entertained, educated, or inspired. The hardest part is to get them to click. It’s our job to give them something new to think about.

Wondering what to create? Ask yourself these questions:

Who are you? What is your unique perspective or what are you trying to say that’s different from everyone else? Where are you from? What’s your story? What are you afraid of? Why? It’s probably holding you back from your full potential.

Fear is deadly to creativity. Be courageous and unlock your brain. You might be surprised by its crazy ideas!

This is my brain on inspiration:

An illustration of my brain on inspiration.

 

My brain is super crazy. Ask anyone. Especially when it’s filled with invisible souvenirs!

Do vacations inspire you? Are you creative? Do you go out of your way to avoid fear or do you face them head on?

Click for more adventure on the Wild Ride!

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Weird Thoughts from the Sick Bed

I arrived home from a trip to California on Tuesday night and sneezed.

I don’t want to get sick.

My mind raced back to the time when I pressed the button on an elevator with my knuckle (I’m so smart) and then rubbed my itchy eye with the same body part. (I’m so stupid!) Or it could have been the lady sneezing next to me on the plane. Or I could have been exposed by cold-suffering cooks the many times I ate in restaurants.

Oh, no. What if it’s the flu? At least I got my flu shot.

My nose turns a handle somewhere inside my nasal passages and becomes a faucet. I’m sick. Dang it!

Weird thoughts while sick in bed:

Self-portrait in Bed

Maybe the reason we get sick is our bodies want a day off and hijack our brains. I wish I could enjoy it. *sneeze*

My head feels like a giant zit.

Whoever (whomever? I’m too tired to remember) invented chicken noodle soup should be honored with a national holiday.

I’m afraid I’m getting a fever. I’m wearing my favorite fleece pajamas under the covers and haven’t broken out in a sweat. Plus I threw on an extra comforter. *shiver*

When I’m booked with a ton of activities, all I can think about is crawling into bed for a quick afternoon nap. When I’m sick, all I can think about are all the activities I’m missing.

I know this has been asked a million times, but where does all the snot come from?

I force myself to eat breakfast to keep up my strength. I have no appetite. Maybe I’ll lose some weight! I wonder how many calories I burn while laying in bed. 800 calories per day? I’ll probably gain weight…

Oh, my God! It’s 4:50 PM! When did I fall asleep? I don’t remember dreaming. I must have fallen asleep. This must be what a narcoleptic feels like. 

How can they (the Internet) say it’s not a fever unless a temperature is over 100.4 degrees? I’m chilled, achy, and my head feels like it’s going to explode. I don’t think a few tenths of a degree is going to change my symptoms.

There really is a huge difference between tissues. Thank you, Kleenex!

Two Tylenol would take care of my fever, chills, aches, and pains. I would feel so much better. I could get something done. AND THEY’RE SITTING ON MY BEDSIDE TABLE!

But someone told me a long time ago that the fever is caused by an army of white blood cells fighting germs. I hate whoever (whomever?) told me. What if it was a lie and all I have to do is take those pills to end all my suffering???? Dammit!

One day later.

Watching TV makes my eyes hurt.

How can I sleep so much?

I wonder how long it takes before my muscles atrophy.

My Bichon, Roxy, has been cuddling with me for two days. I never noticed how much dogs sleep.

Is it Wednesday or Thursday?

Taking my temperature has become a rhythmic, every thirty minutes, thing.

99.9. 99.5 99.7. 99.8 99.5 99.9 99.8 99.9 99.5 99.6 99.7 99.9. 99.6 99.8 99.9…

98.3!!!! My normal temperature!

Woohoo! I want to run around and dance, but I stand up and my bedroom spins.

*sneeze*

*sniff*

I can handle being sick when it’s only a cold.

Have you been hit with the flu? Do you push yourself unless you have a fever?

Click for more Wild Adventures! 

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Bad Luck Comes in Threes, Right?

When I landed on the floor of a restaurant with a BANG a couple of weeks ago, I breathed a sigh of relief. That had to be the last accident, right? It was the third time in three weeks I’d had very bad luck. I remembered that age-old superstition.

Bad luck comes in threes.

#1.  It all started after I cleaned the basement. A flash of light glinted off a strand of hair. When the flash became a lightning strike and all of my hair was swept back in a ponytail, I freaked out. I could see the bright white crackle of a line in the waning afternoon light. While driving to Urgent Care, the darkness around me made the strike even brighter. What could be happening?

lightning-over-water

I knew a little about torn retinas. They were emergency room-worthy. I have a blind mother. I didn’t want to lose my eyesight.

The nice man in reception and the nurse informed me the ER would have the equipment to make a diagnosis. They suspected some kind of tear. I freaked out. The last thing I wanted was more surgery.

Back in the car again. It was a slow night at the ER, thank God, and I was seen almost immediately. After the doctor looked into the back of my eye, he said, “You have a vitreous separation. It will heal on its own.” He recommended a specialist who said the same thing a few days later. People with astigmatism have football-shaped eyes. We’re more susceptible to tearing. Good to know.

Whew! Disaster averted. I still have a small lightning strike noticeable when driving at night, but it’s on the mend.

#2.  A week later, I was cutting the heel of a crusty loaf of bread. You know where this is going. Yep. I sliced my finger with a serrated blade. It didn’t hurt but bled like crazy. After a quick internet search, I let out a sigh knowing I’d have to go back to Urgent Care.

bread cutting

When I walked inside, the same man worked reception. “Hey, I remember you from last week.”

“Yep.” I hoped my trouble would end, but you know, threes.

After four quick stitches, I drove home and prepared for Thanksgiving. It was awkward to cook and clean with a bandage on my index finger. It had to be changed everytime it got wet. I survived.

#3.  That Friday, My family headed up to the mountains to ski. Conditions being pre-season and icy, we decided to eat brunch before taking the gondola. It was sixty degrees and sunny while walking from the car to a busy restaurant.

I followed the host to the table and my ski boot hit something super slippery. I swore the floor was wet. Just like when I broke my wrist, I fell in slow motion. First, I worried about my knee. Then I was afraid I’d smash my cell phone held tight in my left hand. I smacked the ground with that hand, then my hip. The rest of me followed with a thwump.

falling down

For a moment a hush fell inside the noisy restaurant. I was afraid to move. My ring finger stung and so did my hip. The manager rushed to my side.

“Your floor must be wet,” I said, and then looked. It was totally dry. As I pulled my feet underneath me, I slipped again and hit my head on the table in front of me. My cheeks heated up. I looked at the floors. Tile. Slippery tile. The manager rushed toward me, helped me up, and made sure I made it to my table. I grew up ice skating, but not in ski boots.

“I must have missed your sign about not wearing ski boots inside,” I said to him. It’s not uncommon to see warnings in ski towns.

“No, we don’t have one,” he said. “I’ve been meaning to post one on the door.”

Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.

Once safely at the table, I looked at my ring finger. It had turned black!

“Oh, no! There’s no way, I’m going to Urgent Care again. If it’s broken I’ll make a splint and tough it out.”

My son, Kelly thought it had dislocated on impact. I figured with my back luck of threes, I had probably broken a bone.

After excellent service (ahem) and a great meal, we drove to the gondola parking lot. My daughter, Courtney, found a purple crayon to use as a splint. It had probably been in the seat pocket since they were in middle school. I taped it up and skied without a problem.

A few hours later, I completely tightened up. I iced my finger and stretched out what seemed to be a pulled groin muscle. Sliding like Bambi in ski boots on a tile floor will do that.

The next morning I steeled myself as I stepped out of bed. Everything was fine! My finger looked bad but didn’t hurt. Kelly was right. I had only dislocated it.

The third accident was the charm. The bad luck of threes had ended. Yay! And just in time for Christmas preparations and card-making.

Avoiding another trip to Urgent Care, I clipped my stitches and pulled them out two days later. I vowed to be more careful with rustic bread and never to wear ski boots in restaurants. My eyes? Safety goggles, of course.

#4. How could there be a #4??? I should wear a helmet, like, all the time.

A few days later, I watched a squirrel slip through a broken tile on our roof and disappear. After a call to critter control and a brief inspection of our attic by an expert, I was told that something had scattered fiberglass across the narrow floor. Oh, no! He suggested sweeping it off to make sure.

squirrel

Later that day, I swept the puffs of yellow insulation back where they belonged. As I crept toward an eave, I struggled with the broom.

I stepped forward and speared my head with a roofing nail! It really stung. I barely bled, so I forgot about it… for a while.

Then I tried to remember the last tetanus shot I’d had. Was it in the last decade? I called around for my medical records and soon realized I was waaaay overdue.

I looked at the time. 5:00 on yet another Friday night! Would I make yet another trip to the Urgent Care? Oh, God! Why four? Why not threes????

Afraid another visit with the same staff would result in a trip to the psych ward for evaluation, I Googled Urgent Cares. I found another one close by.

In and out in a half an hour. Yes! 

It’s been several weeks and I’m holding steady at trouble coming in fours.

Why the number three?

Since pairs come up in nature, like two hands, two eyes, two feet, threes are considered abnormal or troublesome – Yahoo answers.

ABC’s summary of the number threes makes a lot of sense: People naturally seek patterns.

Until that third Friday, I hadn’t thought about threes. I mean, come on! The irony of the timing was hard to dismiss.

Running into the nail tossed the whole law of threes into oblivion. I have smacked my head so often, I have an indent on my forehead! I never saw that nail coming.

 

Do you believe that bad things come in threes? Are you superstitious? When was the last time you allyooped in a restaurant?

Click here for more adventure on the Wild Ride!

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Escape Room – You Have to Try This!

Escape Room in Breckenridge

When I heard an Escape Room had opened in Breckenridge, I had to try it. The idea of solving clues in order to escape during an allotted time period piqued my wild imagination. When I told my family about it, one of them said, “I wouldn’t want you to be on my team. You would freak out.” I wondered if they were right. I have been known to be impulsive under pressure. The challenge was on!

When I met our team, I worried that eight of us inside a small room would be too many people. Would I end up being an onlooker while others solved riddles or would I become Little Miss Bossy Pants? I would soon find out. Our new teammates introduced themselves as family and friends from Texas who were engineers. Hmm. Engineers, a businessman – my husband, Danny, and a novelist/artist – moi. It would either be a great combo or a major failure in communication.

Our guide instructed us not to take photos or videos and then led us into the room. He showed us the TV that would count down from sixty minutes. We could ask for three clues. Then he shut the door and the game was ON!

It’s killing me NOT to share the details of the game, but I don’t want to prepare anyone before they go. We used a wide variety of tools. Surprise and discovery were the best parts!

One of the Texas women took charge of the group and made some suggestions. We spread out to search for the first piece of the puzzle. Every time we solved a clue, we made a huge stride. We hooted, hollered, and high-fived. It was such a rush!

As the clock wound down to thirty minutes remaining, I was surprised by how chilled-out I was. One of the men said we should ask for a clue. It seemed like cheating to me.

“Let’s wait another five minutes,” I said. When the minutes passed, we used the phone to ask for one.

Our leader read the clue on the TV and then we dashed around the room with this new piece of information. After that, we didn’t waste any time asking for the last two.

With a COUPLE MINUTES TO SPARE, one of the men was having a problem with a padlock. I asked if I could try. Danny told me the numbers. I took my time and swept the dial sequential order. IT OPENED! The Texas girl used the piece of information revealed and together we solved the last piece of the puzzle.

With one minute and thirty seconds left, WE ESCAPED!

Afterward, the Texan leader turned to me and said, “You were so good at finding clues!”

That surprised me. I hadn’t kept track of my contributions, but said, “Thanks. You were a great leader. I think we all helped one way or another.” It was true. We all focused on different parts of the room and kept moving around while working together. No one freaked out or gave up.

Victorious - Escape Room

V for Victory!

On our way home, Danny and I recounted the game. He insisted that I had done the lion’s share, but I was so in the moment, I didn’t notice. The biggest surprise was I was one of the calmer people in the room.

Somehow, working with everyone evenly distributed the stress. We all had one common goal. We depended on each other to escape in time. There was no question that we were all doing our best. It really taught me the value of teamwork.

Would I do it again? Absodanglutely! There are three levels of difficulty, so I expect the next escape room will be a lot harder. Don’t worry, I won’t wait thirty minutes for clues. Maybe we’ll escape five minutes sooner!

Have you ever gone to an Escape Room? Have you heard of them? How do you work under pressure?

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A Silhouetted Bonfire!

Last weekend, Frisco, Colorado hosted a roaring bonfire next to Lake Dillon. The Fire Department tended the blaze fueled by Christmas trees. That’s one way to get rid of them! Mesmerized by the crackling fire, I found magic in silhouettes of the onlookers.

Silhouette and bonfire

When the wind changed direction, sparks flew and the crowd moved to better locations out of the smokey haze.

Bonfire in Frisco

I had dressed in several layers to hang out in the long winter’s night. It seemed others were better prepared for the heat. A hoodie would have sufficed.

Bonfire at night

I took many videos, but the one that really struck me was a slow-motion recording of the fire. Click on the photo below to view and hear it consume the dry wood! Continue reading

Night Skiing at Keystone!

My great plan a few weeks ago:

I thought it would be fun to go out for brunch with the family, ski a couple of runs before Breckenridge closed for the day, and then relax at night. A complete shutdown at Breck and skiing Keystone didn’t come close to niggling my wild imagination.

The day started out sunny and warm with a light breeze. After waiting an hour for a table, we enjoyed a leisurely meal and then headed for the gondola. As we were about to board, it ground to a halt. We were forced into waiting mode again. What now?

The lift operators talked amongst themselves. Then one of them turned to face the growing crowd. “The mountain has closed due to high winds!”

I looked at her with raised eyebrows. Dang! It was too late to drive to another mountain. All kinds of woulda- coulda-shouldas came to mind.

Then I remembered Keystone is open until 8:00 PM for night skiing!

I hadn’t skied at night for a long time but recalled the excitement of it. While looming shadows swallowed the landscape, the crisp air and contrast of dark and light made an otherwise easy slope, a decent challenge.

It came as no surprise that so many lined up at the base. Some of them must have driven over in the afternoon when Breckenridge closed. I took this photo around 5:00 PM. It looks like the middle of the night!

Night skiing in Colorado

I’ve always enjoyed the lighting while night skiing. Sometimes it’s easier to see the shadows pop from the snow.

Chairlift at night

It’s important to see where you’re going!

That said, after an almost blind run while wearing goggles, I took them off. The lenses were too dark. Then the wind howled and my sight blurred.

Night snowboarding

It didn’t take long until my eyes adjusted, but my camera didn’t. Ha!

Night skiing at Keystone

Even in the chilly wind, we found time to relax with my son, Kelly, and his girlfriend, Leksy…

Kelly and Leksy

And to take the obligatory selfie!

Susie and Danny night skiing

We had a blast!

It’s always fun to try something different when plans change. It forces you to step out of your routine and experience something new. It became a very memorable day!

How do you handle change? Are you up for experiencing something new? Have you ever skied at night?

Click for more adventure on the Wild Ride!

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How to Avoid Major Failure

Have you ever engaged in a difficult activity and lost focus when distracted by someone much better, then failed in a major way? I have. Many times when attempting to fulfill a goal and while ice skating.

Failure happens when we attempt to reach a super tough goal but focus our attention on something else.

It can be as simple as an off-hand glance or a quick comparison. A distraction that causes doubt can result in SPLAT! We hit the frozen lake HARD.

After watching the movie Hans Brinker when I was a kid in Madison, Wisconsin, I wanted to skate just like him. Santa provided the ice skates and Dad drove our family to Lake Wingra.

I was sure I’d glide just like Hans. My mom laced the hooks on my skates in the warming house while some skaters chatted on benches and others clomped past on their sharp blades. Once on the ice, I lost my confidence. My parents pointed out the sharp teeth on the front of my skates. I tentatively pushed ahead.

After a few steps, I looked up as another skater swooshed by. Down I went. I quickly learned that concentrating on my feet was necessary to complete my goal of staying in the upright position. This spared my poor posterior.

Changing my gear

Years later, I tried hockey skates. Seduced by the dark sturdy leather, I asked a friend, Jim Mullen, if I could try them. He and my friends cracked up laughing as I stepped forward and faceplanted on the ice. The toothless blades made pushing off so awkward. After a few quick smackdowns, I switched back to my old skates.

How to avoid crashing and burning

The Winter Olympics

A year later, Jim tried out for the Olympics. He drove to the trials with other skaters like Eric Heiden.

When Jim started his speed skating trial, he flew ahead of the pack. How far ahead, he didn’t know. With the finish line right in front of him, he looked over his shoulder to check. Continue reading