Embrace everyday creativity in 2017

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave it neither power nor time.”

– poet Mary Oliver, Of Power and Time

The New Year is a great time to re-evaluate priorities and make plans for how better to spend your precious life-time. If you are feeling the call to create, the urge to escape the corporate nine-to-five, or the need to balance your life with some more fulfilling pursuits, consider joining the Better community in 2017.

Better is a place where people doing creative things for fun or money can work, share and relax. Better is about promoting a culture of making and about celebrating creativity.

In Making is Connecting, David Gauntlett speaks of the “inherent pleasure in making; we might call this joie de faire (like joie de vivre) to indicate that there is something important, even urgent, to be said about the sheer enjoyment of making something that didn’t exist before”. He goes on to propose a definition of everyday creativity that takes into account the emotional aspects of creating, as opposed to the more traditional definition of creativity as that which results in unusual or celebrated outcomes. It’s a long definition, but worth repeating in full:

“Everyday creativity refers to a process which brings together at least one active human mind, and the material or digital world, in the activity of making something. The activity has not been done in this way by this person (or these people) before. The process may arouse various emotions, such as excitement and frustration, but most especially a feeling of joy. When witnessing and appreciating the output, people may sense the presence of the maker, and recognize those feelings.”

That’s the kind of creativity Better is about. We believe that all human beings are inherently creative, and we want to make a space where you can explore your creativity and experience the joy of making.

Better caters for artists, designers, writers, poets, programmers, photographers, and all kinds of crafters. We are open to accommodating other creative pursuits where at all possible. We’ll provide space and some equipment, as well as fast internet, tea and coffee, and a program of events. We need you to help us create a friendly and stimulating atmosphere. Come for coffee, stay to write, compare notes and helpful tips, join or host a workshop, and share your latest project with others who care about creative work.

Better is an emerging project; we are making it up as we go along! We welcome your input. What do you want at Better?

Better is based in Saxonwold, Johannesburg (more about that here) and will be opening in February 2017. Watch out for more information during January, including your invitation to visit. Leave us your e-mail address to be kept informed, follow us on Twitter (@betterjoburg) or find us on Facebook.

 

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Software tools for writers

While you are planning and outlining your writing you might want to try note-taking tools to capture thoughts, quotes and resources, and to play with structure. EverNote allows you to capture notes as text, or photos, and has a plug-in to your browser so you can automatically save from web pages. WorkFlowy enables you to put together nested lists (of chapters, sections, characters, tasks). I love the mobile app that allows me to work on these lists in meetings. For the less linearly-inclined there is Spiderscribe that keeps your notes in mind maps.

For the actual writing, you can use your favourite word processor, but you might want to try tools like Scrivener or Writer’s Blocks that are designed for more heavy-weight writing. These tools help you to keep track of large and complex writing projects with outlining and overviews and allow you to easily move text around to re-structure a large manuscript. Scrivener also gives you the tools to output your work as an e-book. If you want to write an e-book, but don’t want the full power (and cost) of Scrivener, try Sigil, a free and open-source e-book editor.

If you struggle to just get the words out, try WriteorDie which uses a game-like format with rewards and punishments to make you write. You set a target for, say, 1000 words and then you have to keep typing until you reach it. It’s a great tool for doing initial free-writing about your topic. I use it for the first draft of blog posts. And if you are easily distractible, try some of the tools that declutter your desktop, taking away all the social media notifications so that it’s just you and the text, and possibly a soothing background image and soundtrack. FocusWriter and OmmWriter are worth a try.

For academic writers taking the time to build up a database of references in a good reference manager will pay off in the long run, making it easy to find and format references and taking your productivity to dean-pleasing heights. Mendeley and Zotero are both free (for basic functionality) and store your references in the cloud so that they are easy to access. Both have tools to automatically index your database, making it quick and easy to add items.

Do you have favourite software tools for writers? Share them here.