Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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When Procrastination Isn’t Procrastination

I’ve recently been reading this article.

The article made me feel so much better about myself and my methods. I do feel I incubate my ideas. I’m conscious of them brewing in the back of my mind, percolating into something I will eventually put on to paper or into practice.

This harks back to a previous post about the Creativity Sponge. Time is an important part of the creative process, most times a necessary part. While we want our families and workmates to appreciate our need for incubation time, we also need to respect our own need for that time. This means knowing when not to force something, when to go for a walk, when to leave the idea for a week, a month, until another idea collides with it to take the idea from ordinary to inspirational.

Thoughtful Creativeness

I think the term that best describes this is ‘Thoughtful Creativeness’ – that which comes from time and consideration before anything tangible appears on paper.

We often equate Creativity with spontaneity – loud, unpredictable, surprising etc. But how much of this perception is actually the flurry of activity after a lengthy incubation process?

There will always be those moments of instant inspiration, witty responses right on cue and random ramblings of genius that you cannot prepare for. They just pop out. That’s the creative expression we expect, and is the hardest part of Creativity to predict and quantify. But, Thoughtful Creativeness is something better, more special and, if mastered, far more useful.

How often do we hear a person who has written a book, made a movie or written a song say something along the lines of, “The idea began several years ago when some-unusual-event-or-fact intrigued me. It took me several years before I really knew how I wanted to portray it.” That’s incubation.

How You Can Practice Thoughtful Creativeness

You’ve probably already experienced Thoughtful Creativeness. For example, have you ever been working on a project and suddenly have a brilliant idea for a final touch? The idea seems to just ‘come to you’ or ‘pop into your head.’ But really, could you have come up with that idea if you had not put in the effort and preparation which got you to that point? All the thought that came before incubated and nurtured the ‘flash’ of inspiration.

The biggest part of Thoughtful Creativeness is relaxing to the point where you trust both your Creativity and yourself. When you feel that little bud of inspiration forming in your mind, don’t feel like you have to do something with it straight away. Water it. Keep it warm. Shine encouragement on it. Be gentle and allow it to blossom in its own time. Ideas don’t die from nurturing and patience. They get better, they grow, gradually getting to the point where they open up into beautiful and colourful results that others will marvel at.

Have you ever experienced Thoughtful Creativeness? Do you have any tips on how to develop the skill? I’d love to hear your opinions.

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

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Find Yourself a Creative Project

Piles of coloured crayons

In my last post I mentioned exercising your Creativity on a regular basis. The best way to get into a regular Creativity exercising routine is to start a project. Why?

Imagine this scenario. You’ve worked hard all morning and most of the afternoon.  Now you have half an hour to yourself. Your time. Special time. What will you do?

You feel this inexorable tug. The call of the television pulls you toward the couch. But wait! What was that about exercising your Creativity? Wouldn’t this be an excellent time? Yes! But how? You’re tired. Your head’s a jumble. You have no idea where you should start. In your moment of indecision, the TV wins.

Yup, TV wins just about every time barring extreme determination on your part or power blackout. But, there is one way to beat the TV! Would you like to know how?

The winning tactic is: Choose your Creative Project beforehand.

It really can be that simple. If you have your Creative Project chosen, and the next step in your project planned, your chance of breaking away from the TV’s dastardly grasp is that much greater.

What to Choose

Your choice of project is very personal. I can’t tell you what to choose. That’s between you and your Creativity. However, I can offer some suggestions – starting points for ideas. You and your Creativity need to take it from there. Choose something you’re both interested in, because it’s your interest and excitement that will drive the project.

Now, when you think of creativity (the act of being creative rather than the character in your head), it’s easy to think of it in the context of art, literature or something similar. While this at times is a logical place to start, these subjects are not the end all and be all of creative projects. And here I let you in on a little secret. Lean closer to your monitor and I’ll tell you.

We Creativities love influencing every aspect of your life. Once we get going, we usually can’t stop at the odd poem or doodle. We want to keep going, keep creating, keep exploring. And so, some of the suggestions on this list may be a little unexpected – more ‘practical’ than you might first choose. But take the time to roll each one around in your head. You may be surprised at where interest and inspiration strike you.

My Sample List

So, here’s a list of suggestions, from the ‘most obvious’ down to the more unexpected. As you read, look for options that spark ideas in your mind, pinch your gut with excitement, and/or touch off your interest.

  • Writing – You don’t have to be an aspiring author to pick this kind of project. Keeping a journal can be very therapeutic. Poetry is good for the soul. Recording memoirs is a beautiful legacy to leave for future generations. Write something that makes you smile, something that makes others laugh, or something that helps you cry. Buy a beautiful notebook or journal; pick one that inspires you and makes you feel warm and fuzzy when you see it.
  • Painting or Drawing – Once again, you don’t have to be a budding Da Vinci to pick this one. Doodle. Experiment. Get dirty. Paint a canvas. Paint a pot. Paint a house. Use watercolours, oils, charcoal, pencils, crayons, pens, dies, vegetables, tyres, flowers. Anything that leaves a smudge. If you feel an affinity to the brush, pick it up and wield it proudly. And remember, you never have to show anyone if you don’t want to.
  • Craft – What about folk art? Pottery? Knitting? Woodwork? Making jewelry? There are many different kinds of crafts to learn, all with beautiful results. Have you ever considered making lace? Resurrect dying arts and traditions. What about spinning wool? If you’re interested in something, or have always wondered how it’s made, investigate. The answer may be delightfully engaging.
  • Sewing – Alas, it seems the simple act of sewing is one of the dying arts. Remember the good old days when clothes were homemade and all embroidery was done by hand? Remember when you could pick exactly what design, colour, buttons and ribbons you wanted? Recapture the excitement of a new pattern, the wonders of fabric, and the satisfying feeling of having made something yourself.
  • Cooking – Be brave. Experiment. Discover why beetroot and chocolate make great muffins. Discover 23 different recipes for egg whites. Cook every recipe in the entree section of your cookbook, or in the whole cookbook! Find the least used spice in your cupboard and discover its perfect use. Find the dish you are most afraid of cooking and give it a go. Try yeast cooking, and enjoy that lovely smell of freshly baked bread.
  • Music and Singing – Learn a new instrument, or practice one you already know how to play. Learn a new song. Learn a new technique. Play with songs you already know. Play them faster, slower, higher, lower, softer…you get the idea. Experiment with the feeling of the song. Create your own medley. Compose your own song. It’s not as hard as it first sounds. Tinker. Throw caution to the wind and just play; really play, not just in the sense of performing music but in the sense of having fun. Sing, when you’re in the shower, when you’re in your car, when you’re walking, cleaning – anywhere anytime. Look up the lyrics for a song you’ve always mumbled your way through. Replace lyrics of songs. Change the subject, the tense – change one thing, change everything.
  • Language – Learn a new language. Use creative mnemonics to remember words. Discover new idioms. Embrace new cultures. What if you don’t want to start a new language? Why not continue studying the deeper meanings of your mother tongue? Learn new words, or check the nuances of words you already know. Buy yourself a Dictionary of Word Origins and unearth the ancient meanings of the words you use every day. Explore the wonders of the language you take for granted.
  • Viewpoint – Try looking at your life, or a situation in a different way. Change your viewpoint. I’m not just talking about changing a negative to a positive. I’m talking change a blue to a yellow, a discovery to a journey, a criticism to a gem. Take the things that annoy you, frustrate you, bore you, inhibit you, and explore different ways of envisioning them. Build mental pictures of these things. Illustrate the concepts. Find new ways of coping, and enjoying, these situations.

And that’s just a beginning. Did anything stand out to you? Interest you? Intrigue you? Use these points as stepping stones, or launching pads for your own Creative Project.

In the coming months we will explore some of these points in more detail. With that in mind, I present a new category on this blog: Practical Creativity. In this category we’ll consider how your Creativity can benefit you in practical ways. Stay tuned.

In the mean time, do you have any ideas for your Creative Project? If so, let us know. 🙂

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art


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Work That Creative Flab

I’m Jessica’s Creativity (you can tell from my purple text) and I’m here today to talk about exercise – the kind of exercise you can do while sitting down…and eating chocolate. Interested?

“OkWoman stretching before exerciseay,” you say. “I read the post about trusting Creativity, but I’ve got news for you. My Creativity is no MacGyver or Indiana Jones. I don’t think he/she can go the distance, whether I trust her/him or not.”

A valid point. Before you can trust someone, you need to believe in their trustworthiness. You cannot demand trust with no basis. You need proof, and your Creativity needs practice.

The answer? Exercise!

You cannot accomplish rain forest conquering feats if you have not first walked around the block a couple of times. Couch potatoes tend to do badly during death marches in the tropics, or death marches anywhere come to think of it.

The trick is to exercise yourself into condition, develop experience and accumulate gadgets. Let’s discuss these in a little more detail.

Get Yourself Into Condition

Okay, you’ve just been informed that in a month’s time you and the hero of your choice will be dashing off into the rain forest for an adventure. What do you do? After you ring your best friend babble for an hour and a half about how totally awesome this is going to be, what do you do?

Presumably you look at the less than ideal waistline and think about getting into shape. There are two ways to do this:

  • Rush down to the beach now and start doing laps!
  • Plan a consistent and reasonable exercise routine.

Yeah, I’m all for the do-laps, exhaust-self, swear-never-to-exercise-until-next-year kind decision initially, but time has shown me the benefits of routine. In fact, a consistent and reasonable routine gets you fitter quicker and keeps you there for longer. Why? It’s easier to maintain because you form a habit.

The same can be said for a creative routine. You want to form a habit – the habit of turning up, sitting down and allowing your Creativity to flow.

You can do it in killer clumps of inspiration. At times it’s the only way you can get the mass if ideas out of your head. (It tends to get crowded when too many ideas appear at once. That’s when you need to get them out of your Creativity’s way and down on paper!) However, if you want to be continually and consistently creative, you need to get yourself and your Creativity into a routine.

You’re possibly thinking that routine takes all the spark out of Creativity, and you kill random as soon as you put a schedule to it. To clarify, I am not saying you set yourself a time of day and only let your Creativity come out to play between 8 and 9 in the morning. Spontaneity is a huge part of the creative process. However, regular practice sessions with your Creativity will eventually lead to more spontaneity and creativeness. Counter intuitive perhaps, but don’t knock it till you try it.

Develop Experience

As you develop your daily walking routine, you’ll begin to accumulate experience. By the third day you’ll realise a water bottle is essential. By the fifth day you’ll realise that the first five minutes are always the hardest (or the second five minutes, or the seventh five minutes). By the seventh day you’ll realise walking at 7:45 every morning is a bad idea because Walter walks Caesar the Alsatian along the same path at the same time, and Caesar takes violent exception to your squeaky shoes.

Your creative routine will be the same. You’ll begin to realise when you need that cup of tea/coffee. Is it when you sit down, half an hour in or as a reward when you finish? If you’re writing, you’ll know that the first hundred words are the hardest, followed by the next hundred words which are also the hardest, and then there’s the hundred after that… You’ll begin to learn what to do when you hit the wall. Tough it out, concentrate on something different or reward yourself? You may even learn when you should stop; identify when your Creativity sponge is all squeezed out.

The more experience you have, the better you’ll understand yourself and your Creativity. This knowledge helps you trust your Creativity and know what she needs.

Accumulate Gadgets

Jessica finds exercise much more exciting when she has something to listen to, which is why she walks with an mp3 player (or a family member, although they don’t clip onto the belt quite so comfortably). Other people walk with pedometers so they know exactly how many steps they’ve taken. Still others find walking with a big stick or pole makes them feel more comfortable – presumably Moses was one of these people.

When you and your Creativity are working together, what sort of things do you need? Music? Inspiring knickknacks? A word counter? Find the gadgets that work for you.

Once you have your routine, experience and useful gadgets, you’ll find yourself trusting in Creativity and the creative process that much more. You’ll know where to go and what do to when you need that inspiration.

But when will you have opportunity to do all these things? Stay tuned for a future post about how you can start your own Creative Project.

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art


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Building Trust in Your Creativity

An adventurer in the jungle exploring a Mayan pyramidImagine this. You’re standing on the edge of an unexplored jungle in South America. Yep, South America (which Ellie in Up so succinctly described as: “It’s like America, but south!“). You’re all kitted out with safari hat, pocket laden vest, nifty quick-dry trousers and humongous backpack. Ready to set forth on an adventure – to find the lost treasure of kleptomaniac Mayan King Illtakethatifupleaz.

Clichéd, I know, but bear with me.

Your trusty guide for this occasion is: Macgyver. Or Indiana Jones if you prefer. Must be someone with incredible survival skills and the unmatched ability to outdo any baddies by the end of the episode/movie.

With me so far?

You turn to your trusty guide, and you have the following conversation.

YOU: So, Mr. Trusty Guide of my Choosing, sir. Where are we off to?

TRUSTYGUIDE: We’re off into the depths of this disease and baddie-ridden rain forest. Ready?

YOU: Um…Well, I’m not so sure really. Will it be safe?

TRUSTYGUIDE: Of course! I am <insert name of Trusty Guide of Your Choice> and I always find my way out of these situations, with my sidekick intact (unless you’re the kind of sidekick who turns out to be a spy in the third act). My methods may be unorthodox, but the result is always the same. Success!

YOU: Will we encounter quick sand?

TRUSTYGUIDE: Very possibly.

YOU: How will we get out?

TRUSTYGUIDE: There’ll probably be a vine nearby. Or I’ll use my gun. Or there’ll be a docile, nonvenemous snake you could throw me.

YOU: Well? Which one will it be?

TRUSTYGUIDE: Won’t know till we get there.

YOU: What about the baddies? They’ll attack when we get close to the treasure. It will look like we’re not going to make it. There’ll be booby traps and double crosses. What will we do?

TRUSTYGUIDE: I’ll figure it out. That’s what I do. It’s no fun if you know all the answers before you get there.

YOU: But we have to be prepared! How will you fix things if you don’t have a paperclip, duct tape and a matchbox on your pocket to begin with?

You contemplate this conversation as you study the passing rain forest floor, now bound, gagged and slung over your Trusty Guide’s shoulder.

“I would never say those things,” you think. “I’d be so excited to be with my favourite hero I’d be jumping at the chance to set forth. I trust that he will always get me out of trouble. That’s what he’s known for.”

Notice that word? Trust. We trust that Macgyver, or Indiana Jones or countless other action heros will eventually come out on top because that’s what must happen. Good triumphs over evil.

Does this always happen in the real world? Not always. In fact hardly ever at most levels of government, but let’s stay on topic here…

Just because things won’t go as expected, doesn’t mean you should sabotage your adventures before you leave by questioning how you’ll handle every little occurrence.

For instance, have you ever had this conversation (or a thought process like it) when contemplating a story idea?

YOU: I’ve got a brilliant idea for a story!

CREATIVITY: Do tell?

YOU: A super computer takes over the world and begins bumping people off because it feels the population has become unsustainable. You have action, you have moral dilemmas, and I’ll add an autistic boy to provide the answer with a little help from a dashing  hero who falls for the boy’s mother.

CREATIVITY: Cool! Let’s get started.

You and Creativity have several long discussions about how things are going to pan out and so on and so forth. Then you start writing. About three chapters in, you start having this discussion.

YOU: How am I going to solve this?

CREATIVITY: We’ve already worked that out. We’ll…

YOU: Yeah, I know what we’ll do at the very end, but what about the baddies? What about the bugs in the code? What about the end chase? What about…

CREATIVITY: You’re on chapter three. We haven’t got there yet. I’ll tell you when we get there.

YOU: I can’t write it if I don’t know where I’m going!

And you leave in a huff. Creativity bangs head against wall. The manuscript becomes silverfish fodder.

At this point I should say that I appreciate it is very important to know where you’re going when you begin a project. And it’s very important to map out in some level of detail how you’re going to get there. Some people need to have everything all scoped from beginning to end before they put pen to paper. Other people just write. Either way, you need to trust your Creativity.

All Creativities will have moments where they’re not sure what to do. Macgyver and Indiana Jones have their moments of surprise, confusion and indecision too. But give them all long enough in a situation, plus enough paper clips or rubber bands, and they’ll begin making connections. Perhaps your Creativity sees something that he/she can use. Perhaps he/she realises a change needs to be made earlier for all of this to fit together.

Whatever the case, don’t take away your Creativity’s chance to stand in the room and look at the problem.  Instead of hesitating at the edge of the rain forest, asking for answers to every problem, let your Creativity get stuck in the quick sand, navigate the booby traps and discover the double agent in ‘real time.’ Not necessarily while you’re writing, but perhaps while you’re planning. Give your Creativity opportunity to get in and get messy. To try different things. To live in the moment.

This doesn’t just apply to a creative writing setting, it applies to any problem you’re trying to solve. Creativity needs time, input and the opportunity to play around with the situation. Take away any of these things, and your adventure stops before it’s even started.

So give it a try. Step into the rain forest. The leeches are lovely and warm this time of year.

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art


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Cheesy Advice…The Good Kind

CheeseHave you ever noticed the wide variety of books, magazines, websites, blogs etc. on the subjects of writing and cultivating your creativity? Have you ever noticed how they often seem to contradict each other?

Write with your audience in mind. / Write like you’re the only one who’ll ever read it.

Write, write, write; especially when you don’t feel like writing. / Write only when you feel you have something to say.

Surround yourself with inspiring objects. / Declutter! An empty space provides room for creativity.

Listen to music to get you in the mood. / Silence! Don’t drown out your ideas with other sounds. 

See what I mean? Not just different views. Diametrically opposite views. How do you know which one is right? Is there such a thing as ‘right’ in this case?

Perhaps we should rephrase the question. How do you know which one is right for you and your Creativity? The answer is: Cheese!

Well, not exactly ‘cheese’ but run with it for a bit and you’ll see what I mean.

Cheddar or Bulgarian Feta?

Although most people like cheese, none of them agree on which is the best cheese and how it should be eaten. Some swear by melted cheddar in toasted sandwiches, while others are adamant that feta with coppa and sun-dried tomatoes is the ultimate cheese eating experience. Even those who prefer melted probably started out as kids with tiger bread (grilled cheese and Vegemite), progressed to pizza with extra toppings and then discovered fondue.

Are those who prefer melted cheddar wrong and the feta lovers right? “No,” you say. “Everyone has different tastes.” And you’d be right.

In the same way that people have different tastes and personalities, Creativitys differ. Or should that be Creativities? Making up words is tough! English grammar flummoxes me every time! What was I saying?

There are some truths that apply to just about all cheeses. You can add just about all cheeses to salads (depending on the salad). Just about all cheeses melt. And then there’s cheese and crackers. That’s tradition. Feta, cheddar, edam, bleu, smoked, cream. It doesn’t matter. You can add them all to crackers and yumminess ensues.

It’s the same with creativity. There are some truths that apply to just about all of us Creativitys/ies. We all need input – exposure to information or examples of what we are expected to produce – before we can truly come up with something new. We all need a certain amount of freedom. We all need a little nurture and protection from scathing responses to our work. We all need bright colours, outlandish clothing and permission to dance barefoot on cafe tables in the rainy season. Or is that just me?

Ahem.

There are some situations where a certain kind of cheese is just perfect for a certain kind of dish. For example: lasagna and grated parmesan. One would think lasagna and grated bleu cheese would not work so well (but then I’m not a bleu cheese person). Creativities are the same. There are some situations where they perform brilliantly, and others that are just not their thing. The situations mentioned at the beginning of this post are cases in point.

Some Creativitys are like water pumps. When you first start pumping in the morning, all sorts of icky water comes out. Useless stuff. But it has to be pumped out so the clear water can start to flow. Once you’ve got going, then you start finding all sorts of gems and ideas. But you’ve got to get past the junk first. In this case, ‘write write write even when you don’t want to’ is good advice. It forces out the dirty water so you can get through to the clear.

Some Creativities (I’ve decided I like it better with the ie) enjoy interaction with their intended audience. I personally like to invite an imaginary audience member around to my place for a cup of tea and a buttered pomegranate so we can get to know one another and I can work out what makes him/her laugh. As I get to know them better, I understand what I have to do in order to get (and keep) their attention. However, once I’ve got that worked out, I tend to boot them out and have fun all by myself. Only later do I invite them back. But perhaps your Creativity has a phobia of the intended audience, and clams up completely when they’re around. In that case, ‘write like you’re the only one who’ll read it.’

See what I mean? I’m not saying never take anyone’s writing advice again. I’m saying view writing/creativity advice as trying a new kind of cheese. Instead of reading someone’s writing tips and thinking, “My goodness, I’m doing it all wrong” or “My way’s better anyway,” think of it as a cheese platter. Try it. If you like it, great! Add it to your list of acceptable cheeses. If not, then don’t feel like you’re a failure, or that the other person is wrong because he or she subscribes to a different method. Concede different tastes. Each time you taste, you are coming to a better understanding of your Creativity. And I that’s what it’s all about.

Because even the best writing advice might just not work for your Creativity, and if it’s not working then you’re not getting the most out of him or her. You might even be surpressing the very thing you wish to cultivate. So sit down with your Creativity and try tasting different advice. Work out which work and which don’t. Enjoy the experience and learn from it.

Now, where’s my parmesan? Bring on the smelly-sock-cheese!


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The Need for Creativity

An idea light globe masquerading as a hot air balloonWe use creativity every day. We use it when we run out of sugar, and decide to try honey in our tea. We use it when the freeway is blocked and we try an alternate route to work. We use it when we realise the stapler is as good a paperweight as the Italian snow globe the mother-in-law gave us, which we’ve just broken. Creativity also comes in to play as we try to figure out how we’re going to explain it to her.

Even those of us who consider ourselves less than creative – drink our tea without sugar, dutifully sit in traffic, and never use expensive gifts as paperweights – still use our creativity to get through life.

But many of us believe: There are creative people, and then there’s me. I’m just not creative.

I’ll let you in on a secret. All of us have creativity inside us. It’s how we protect and nurture it that makes the difference between those who are often described as ‘creative’ and those who drink unsugared tea.

“So?” says you. “I’ve managed just fine up until now. Why does it matter?”

Taking a creative approach to work, school, learning and life in general will not only help you stand out from the crowd, but enjoy things so much more.

For example:

  • At work, what distinguishes you from the new computer software that can do your job in half the time?
  • At school, what is the difference between your essay and the 30 other essays on the teacher’s desk?
  • At home, why does the discovery of long lost fabric fill you with excitement?

The answer to all of these questions should be: Your creative approach.

Developing your creative ability allows you to see possibilities in all sorts of situations. It shows your boss you’re a valuable member of the team. It provides a refreshing change to the teacher who reads your essay. It motivates you to make new curtains, a new dress, a new apron, a coat for the dog, a rag doll for your daughter…the list goes on.

“Okay,” you say. “But how does one become more creative?”

I’m glad you asked! At least I hope you asked. My mindreading skills are not exactly legendary. I work mainly on mind-assuming skills.

There are many books, magazines, blogs etc. which deal with creativity and how to develop it. All of them have merit. However, I’d like to introduce you to a different way of looking at creativity. Most methods of developing creativity involve steps, flow charts, circular diagrams, intensive exercises etc. All those have their place. But this blog has a different purpose. I’d like to show you how to get to know her.

Yes, I do know I used the word ‘her.’ Your Creativity may be a boy, but mine is most definitely a girl. A talkative, excitable girl with ridiculous…I mean interesting dress sense and a fascinating workshop.

Ah, now the title all makes sense. Yes, I would like to invite you into my Creativity’s workshop (that is the workshop belonging to Creativity) and demonstrate how you can become friends with your inner Creativity.

Now before you scream, “weird!” and leave as quickly as possible, please give the idea a moment to settle in your mind. After all, most of us are used to that little disembodied voice in our head known as our conscience, and we’re often very comfortable to think of it almost as a separate entity. Well why not try the idea of viewing your Creativity as friend inside your head – a friendship which could lead to many enjoyable and hysterical adventures.

This blog will show how this relationship works (and sometimes doesn’t work) from a ‘normal’ person’s point of view (me) and from Creativity’s point of view. I mentioned she’s talkative. You’ll see for yourself very soon.

I realise this approach is unconventional, but that’s Creativity in general. If you embrace the weird and wacky, life becomes far more interesting…

And on that note, I have nothing else to say except welcome to my blog and please leave a comment.