Monday, May 14, 2007

Are You A Mardy Bum? (Part 1)

Do you find that you have times when you are being irritable with everyone around you? You know you're doing it, but find it almost impossible to stop yourself? A lot of people in the music industry (and me too!) tell me that have days when no matter how much they try to stop themselves, they are almost biting the heads off everyone around them! You too huh?

If you are not familiar with the term, 'mardy bum' - it has now been immortalised by the fantastic Arctic Monkeys' song "Mardy Bum" from their first album "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not".

But what is a mardy bum? Do you display 'mardy bumness' within your music career? And how can you stop being one?

Mardy is a word that describes someone who is: sulky, in a bad mood, being stroppy, grumpy, tetchy, irritable etc. They usually look as bad as they feel and people will often say, "What's up with him? - he's got a right face on!" meaning that he looks really mardy.

Most of my clients tell me that they either display 'mardy bumness' themselves or they certainly come across others who do! How does this manifest? Artist Managers will tell me that the artists they represent are 'difficult' and become 'mardy' leading up to a live gig or before an interview, for example. Artists themselves have said they become mardy before going into a studio to record or when they just feel the pressure of a huge music schedule. Unfortunately the impact of you being mardy is that everyone around you finds it hard to talk to you and feel like they are walking on eggshells around you.

Of course mardy bumness isn't confined to just artists, but extends to everyone involved in the music industry - managers, producers, A & R personnel, studio managers, publishers, promoters, booking agents - you name them, they get mardy!

However, most people don't get mardy just for the sake of it - there is usually an underlying reason for it. So what is this mardy bumness all about? It's about your stress, your pressure, your loss of confidence, you lack of self-belief, your feelings of insecurity. The problem is, is that most people don't realise what is happening to them and certainly don't know how to communicate their feelings of stress etc and so it inevitably comes out through being mardy.

In part 2 of this article, you can see a worked example of how to work through your own mardy bumness!

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Monday, May 7, 2007

How to Use Brainstorming to Solve Problems

Have you heard the term "brainstorming"?

Now, the word brainstorming doesn't really mean you have a storm in your brain.

Brainstorming is a technique that was invented about seventy years ago to help people think more creatively when they needed to solve problems.

Brainstorming is used in a variety of ways by many different organizations to try come up with a variety of different types of new solutions to existing problems. Brainstorming techniques are used by many different sorts of organizations, from large corporations to tiny neighborhood groups, and even families.

The types of problems that people use brainstorming for can range from how to get humans to other planets, to how to be more profitable, or how to have more enjoyment in life.

The essence of brainstorming is that a group of people meets to come up with ideas to solve a particular problem. While they create and write down their ideas, no one in the group is allowed to criticize or judge the concepts they come up with.

Even if you think of yourself as a person who is not particularly creative, brainstorming can help you find innovative ways of thinking that might not have occurred to you before.

The size of the group matters. It's best not to have more than ten people involved, but there should be more than three. One person should be the leader, and one person should take down notes about the ideas generated. It's a good idea to involve some people who have used brainstorming before, because you can get better at it the more often you do it.

Before you start, it's very important to clearly define the problem you are trying to solve. For example, a business might want to brainstorm ideas such as "how can our business save money in the coming year". A group of city planners might want to brainstorm ideas about "how do we cut down on crime in our inner city neighborhoods" or "how can we attract more people to live in our city". A family might want to brainstorm "what sort of vacation would we all enjoy this summer".

Before you start brainstorming, make certain that everyone in the group is very clear on the exact nature of the problem they are trying to solve. Remember to have one person designated to keep order and focus in the group, and have someone write down all ideas as they are presented.

The leader should try to encourage the participation of everyone present. No matter how wild or how ordinary the ideas might be, no one in the group is allowed to criticize or judge any idea or person.

When the group seems to run out of steam, the leader can suggest new questions to encourage everyone to think about the problem from a different angle.

Here's a list of questions that can help the group look at the problem in a new way.

• What if we did this backwards?

• What if we change the order we do things?

• What if we spend no money?

• What if we have a lot of money to spend?

• How else can the same products be used?

• What can be totally eliminated?

• What can we add?

• What can we combine?

Try random combinations of ideas, and see if they trigger new solutions.

Only after all reasonable ideas have been presented does the group move on to the next step of evaluating, discussing, and choosing the best ideas.

Instead of moving into the evaluation stage immediately, it's best to let the group take a break of several hours.

This will help the information to sink in and get sorted better. Remember that the process of generating creative thoughts is quite different from the process of analyzing them rationally. These two processes use the brain in very different ways.

If at all possible, schedule the analytical sessions to take place the day after the idea generating sessions. Very often, the process of sleep will help a person see solutions in a new light. During sleep our brains sort through the thoughts, impulses, and data of the day, and consolidate information.

Why does brainstorming work? The technique provides a safe way to imagine and express creative thoughts, which encourages the flow of even more creativity. When the critical faculty of the mind is suspended, our inner creativity can surface without fear of judgment or ridicule. The rational part of the brain wants to analyze and classify as soon as it comes across any new idea. It starts to think, " Is this idea good or bad? Will it work or not? What will other people think of my ideas? What will they think of me?"

Although both the analytical and the creative components of your mind are important, your brain cannot do both activities effectively at the same time. Concentrate on one of these tasks first, and then do the other. When you need to be creative, send your inner critic out for a walk.

If you would like to know more ways to use brainstorming effectively, simply type in the word "brainstorming" into your favorite search engine.

You can also use other variations of the word, such as "how to brainstorm effectively" or "improve your brainstorming."

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Saturday, May 5, 2007

Creativity Killers - How A Clown In Your Kitchen Kills Your Creativity

Imagine you had a clown in your kitchen.

Bright red nose, painted face, huge floppy shoes, baggy trousers, the full outfit. Just sitting there right on your worktop in between your kettle and your toaster.

The first time you saw him, no doubt you'd get quite a shock.

What's this clown doing in my kitchen??! Unless you live next door to a circus, it's unlikely you've had a clown in your kitchen all that often before...

The next time you go in your kitchen, he's still there. You still jump a little, but it's not as big a shock as the first time.

A few weeks pass and by this time, you're getting used to Bobo being there.

Sometimes you even make him a cup of tea and engage him in polite conversation. "LOVE those shoes. Do they come in any sizes smaller than a 30 Extra Extra Wide?"

Months down the line though, you don't even notice him anymore.

He's blended into the background, become part of what you expect to see in your kitchen when you make your breakfast every morning.

Friends come round for dinner. Friends you don't see very often.

"Hey there's a clown in your kitchen!" they shout in surprise.

"Oh yeh," you reply. "We don't really notice him anymore, he's part of the furniture".

So how does having a clown in your kitchen drain your creativity?

Remember when the clown first appeared? What a shock it was? Then how over time, the impact of him being in your kitchen got less and less until months later you barely noticed him.

It's the same with the kind of negative, destructive thinking that slowly kills your creativity, often without you even realising.

The thoughts start off kind of obvious.

Just as you settle down to begin a new project, they appear in your mind:

"Why are you even bothering to start? You know this'll end in failure, you'll mess it up just like you do all the other projects. Stop kidding yourself, you haven't got any creative talents anyway."

If you were with a friend who was just starting a new creative project and they this said this out loud, how would you react?

It's unlikely you'd let it pass without comment, and without reassuring them that they have LOADS of creative talents and they DON'T mess up everything they start, and then produce the evidence to prove it.

Why is it ok to turn a deaf ear when you say the same to yourself?

Because they're just clowns in your kitchen.

They've been around so long, and been heard so many times, that you don't notice them anymore.

But this is the precise reason WHY they're so dangerous.

Although it SEEMS you don't notice them on the surface, deeper in your subconscious you're absorbing every negative comment, every disparaging word.

And this adds negative pressure and makes it more and more difficult for you to create.

So what's the solution? How DO you get the clown out of your kitchen?

Step one, you have to recognise the negative thoughts as they appear.

Step two is turning them around, replacing them with something more positive.

Here's an example:

Negative thought: Why are you even bothering to start this project? You know it'll end in failure.

Positive Turnaround: The only way to truly fail is not to begin in the first place. Each time I get a result I don't expect, I can learn from it. Then I'm in a better, more informed position to take the next step.

This won't be easy at first, it takes patience and practice.

Make the commitment to start right now. Each time you have a negative, critical thought, stop it, write it down, and turn it around into one more positive. The more you do it the easier it'll become.

Stick with it and the positive rewards for your creativity in all aspects can be quite profound, and more dramatic than you could have imagined.

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