I love creating things, whether I'm developing a TED talk, hosting a conversation series for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, giving a talk about creativity, throwing a tea cup, creating a Peabody Award-winning radio show, or cooking dinner.  My first book, Spark: How Creativity Works, is published by Harper and is released as an audio book.  And please check out my podcast series, Pursuit of Spark! There you'll find conversations about creative approaches to the possibilities, challenges, and pleasures of everyday life.

Amazon  Barnes&Noble  Indiebound

 Photo by Pavlina Perry


My Spark Talks continue this season at The Met in spring 2015, with a series I'm very excited about, exploring words and images in ancient and modern art and design.  More information here.


Four lessons in Creativity at TED:

Loved leading a workshop on uncertainty and giving a keynote on creativity at Days of Communication Croatia in May.  Wonderful participants, fascinating stories, and a beautiful setting in Rovinj.  

Thrilled with the recent Spark Talk at The Met on April 30, exploring the way artists play with time, with wonderful guests -- musician Laurie Anderson; Rebecca Stead, author of When You Reach Me; astrophysicist and art historian SeungJung Kim; and Met curator Melanie Holcomb.   

It was a pleasure to give the keynote at the Clifford Symposium at Middlebury College.

Mitch Joel and I had a conversation at TED about creativity, which you can hear on Mitch's Six Pixels of Separation Podcast.

Big Think asked me to speak about creativity for three short segments.

Webcast of my talk for educators at the Smithsonian.

My thoughts about creative struggle in SGI Quarterly.


Subscribe to Blog

Today's blog -- Four lessons in creativity.

Pursuit of Spark: conversations about creative approaches to the challenges, pleasures and possibilities of everyday life


Four lessons in creativity

It was such a thrill to speak at the TED conference in 2012, and I am delighted that my talk has reached more than a million viewers since TED put it on their website!  Here it is: 


My great thanks to the many people who made this possible at TED, at Studio 360, at WNYC and PRI; to Miriam Katin for her wonderful drawings; to Joy Yagid for photographing my little clay pot, and to the artists whose stories I share in this talk.  Thanks also to Seth Godin for telling me I needed to break something (easier said than done!); my friends and family for listening to me rehearse until they knew the talk by heart; Bob Miller, who gave me the chance to write Spark; to Laureen Rowland for her wise and insigtful guidance; Julia Cheiffetz for her thoughtful editing and inspired title choice; to Louise Cort at the Smithsonian for the beautiful photographs of the Japanese teabowls; to Tom Neugebauer for his raku photographs; and all of you who are brave enough to pursue your creative spark!


Joel Meyerowitz and Maggie Barrett

Photographer Joel Meyerowitz and writer Maggie Barrett talk about their life together, and their collaboration on their new book Provence: A Lasting Impression.  Their honesty, about the pleasures and challenges of their creative partnership in life and in art, is an inspiration.


In this week's Work Mystery on Pursuit of Spark, Dick Nodell offers his thoughts about creative collaborations, sparked by Joel and Maggie's conversation. 


Give thanks for who you can become

It was delightful to meet the young singer/fiddler/songwriter Sara Watkins and to hear her play with her brother Sean and bassist Tyler Chester.  They performed live in WNYC's studios, capping off my second day as guest host on the Leonard Lopate show.  I think Sara's interpretation (with Fiona Apple) of the Everly Brother's You're the One I Love on Sara's new album Sun Midnight Sun is my new favorite song.

I also love the song and the sentiment in Sara Watkins' song Take Up Your Spade, which finished her short set.  In it she gently tells us all to get to work, and to "Give thanks for all that you've been given/Give thanks for who you can become." 


On being a pattern interrupt

On being a pattern interrupt by Sparkwork

Ed Zimmerman is a lawyer who specializes in tech deals. He's happiest in gatherings where he's the host, so for many years he's organized conferences and workshops for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists so they can get to know each other, and he can get to know them. Ed came up to me at TED right after I'd given my talk, and invited me to one of these meetings, where I got to see up close the informal and engaging way he gets people to talk about what they do. I was interested in how he chose this kind of work, and in talking with him found that the answer is complicated and fascinating, and that part of it comes directly from his father. Here's the interview, which is full of Ed's humor and generosity.



Samuel and Edward Zimmerman at Edward's bar mitzvah You can also hear some of the music Ed talks about in this 5:00 story I produced for Studio 360 for Fathers' Day about Ed and his dad, Samuel Zimmerman, who had unrealized dreams of being a writer and a singer, and whose passion for words and music had a profound impact on his son.  


The sound of slaughter

My family went to see War Horse on Christmas day, and the kids loved it -- Zeke remarked that that the cinematography was fantastic.  I didn't see much of it, because I couldn't bear to watch the combat scenes and spent most of the movie with my head buried in my husband's shoulder. 

But I couldn't close my ears, and I did marvel at the extraordinary soundscape, which was gruesome but also had a lyricism to it, at least when listening without looking at the carnage on screen.

So I was fascinated to read Melena Ryzick's story in The New York Times about how the sound designer Gary Rydstrom did his work.  Here's his description of creating the feeling of an incoming shell, which was so jarring in the theater that the sound was felt as well as heard:

“That’s one of the scariest sounds in war to me, knowing that a shell is coming in to explode near you. I recorded my vacuum cleaner. I was vacuuming my stairs and if you vacuum in the crack of the stairs in the carpet, it makes this crazy whoosh. This happens to sound people all time, you’re doing something mundane one day and you hear this great sound. My wife has long thought I’m crazy; she probably had to be quiet for a few hours while I recorded a vacuum cleaner. The cracks of my stairs are so clean now.”

Rydstrom's comments reminded me of Ben Burtt's wonderful descriptions on Studio 360 of how he came up with the sounds for Star Wars and Wall-E, which is always worth another listen.