Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My Creative Story - Nellie Jacobs


It wasn’t until I sat down to answer these questions myself that I realized the difficulty of being truthful, clear and complete in responses. Thank you, thank you to all of you who have taken the time to share your creative story. And thank you to those of you who will be submitting your responses to my Creativity Questionnaire in the right sidebar.

What does creativity mean to you?
Next to my family and dear friends, creativity is my lifeblood.

What is your creative passion? How do you approach it?
I love to be creative. I love experiencing the creative process. Growing up, art was my sole interest. Gradually, writing was added to the package. And now, it’s all about trying to contain, develop and complete the multitude of glorious ideas, books and projects constantly popping up and swirling around in my head.

Describe the feeling you have when heavily into a creative activity you love?
I, like all creators, am ‘hooked’ on the feeling I get when totally immersed in the creative process. It’s like a drug - and is especially motivating when things go well.

Years ago, a relative who was a sock manufacturer came to visit my home. He asked to see my artwork. Stopping at a painting, he began plying me with such questions as, “How long did it take for you to do this piece?” and “How much do you charge for it,” I explained to him the thought process, the planning and the hours - if not days - put into each painting.

I knew he was trying to figure out the cost of time and effort creating the painting versus its price. Of course, he was comparing the result with the production cost of a pair of socks, the final price he charged to retailers and multiplied that by the vast numbers of pairs of socks he sold each week, month and year. As he realized how little I was compensated for my effort and time, he shook his head, wondering aloud, “Why do you do it?”

What does the creative process do to, or for, you?
I tried to describe the feeling I have while creating so this successful businessman could identify in some way with my explanation. First, I spoke about the creation of a sock. “You know the feeling of accomplishment you have when you develop a new sock, the process of design, manufacturing and then seeing it actually sell well?” He nodded slowly. I continued, "That’s what I get when I finish a piece of art.” T
hen I went to something more intimate:

“You know the sexual high you can get? The actual process of creating gives me much more and the feeling I have lasts way, way longer.” He turned red in his face and jumped back in astonishment. And then he said, “Aha,” a glimmer of understanding appearing on his face.

When I’m caught up in the thinking and doing, nothing can stop me from pursuing it until its conclusion. Whenever I finish it, whether I like it or not, I’m amazed at the product. I feel as though it’s a gift that has been handed to me.

How have you fulfilled your own creative urges?
I’ve taught elementary school, created and taught art, written and published books, designed programs and workshops, pitched and hosted television shows, developed specific projects and - my greatest creative achievement - helped to raise my children to be independent, creative-thinking and resourceful adults.

What do you do to satisfy your soul?
I read and learn as much as I can, take pleasure in good conversations with people I care about, take time to help out when I’m needed and keep creating.

How are you creative in your life?
Besides writing and creating art, I believe I’m open-minded in thinking so can come up with unusual solutions to problems that present themselves.

Who has inspired you in your life to achieve your potential? How?
My husband has been a rock, even when he thinks I’m crazy. His patronage and creative thinking continue to inspire and support me in all my endeavors.

There are so many people along the way who have influenced and encouraged me: teachers and friends included. Among main supporters are three women with whom I have met regularly for several years for that very purpose. We call our group "Inspiration" and help each other work through ideas and steps to completion. I highly recommend anyone join or form a support group: it’s great to have people on your side and working in your interest. And several heads are better than one for brainstorming solutions.

Share your inspiring story about why you love what you do, how it is creative and how you do it.
At this very point, I’ve just completed my Magical MousePainting® manuscript. How it came to be was a roundabout route:

For several reasons, I haven’t painted on canvas or paper for years. Yet, I have been creating art – on the computer.

A few years ago, I used the Paint application to illustrate Six Sparks to Lighting Your Creative Fire! - a PowerPoint presentation I was developing at the time. As I describe in the introduction to Magical MousePainting®, I soon began experimenting with Paint tools as well as possible applications. In the process, I created scores upon scores of ‘paint’ings.

“What is the point of these drawings?” asked several people. "What can you do with them?" I had no idea. However, I knew I loved the process and its results: intense colors; limitless possibilities in design, subject matter and application.

And then, along came a possible opportunity to give a creativity workshop at Mindcamp. What better way to demonstrate what I’d learned to people who probably didn’t even know they had a Paint application already installed on their computer? My proposal for “How to Paint with a Mouse” was accepted.

If you have successfully changed careers several times, tell us what you have done and why. How did you get the courage to do it?
I began as a very young, very shy elementary school teacher of grades three and four. A couple of years later, when a position for kindergarten teacher became available at my school, I applied and was accepted. That summer I took the required courses needed to qualify.

After I left teaching to raise my family, I ran co-op weekly Moms and Tots play groups with friends and neighbors in my home basement (In the photo at the beginning of this article, my 2 year old daughter is having fun painting on paper, wall and floor. Her own daughter is now 3).

When our kids all fell ill at once with either chicken pox or croupe, my sister-in-law Marlene and I, crazy with being home-bound for so long, launched a stay-at-home mothers' support publication we called “MAMMA” (Modern Activities for Mothers' Mental Awareness). We were interviewed by local and national media. Over time, we offered workshops, seminars, mini-conferences and developed a skit “Engagement, Marriage, Motherhood, the Dreams vs. the Reality” performed to audiences all over the region, including national television. We were then offered a half-hour taped interview cable television show run by us and volunteers we gathered. After a year, we pitched and were accepted as a co-creators and hosts of an hour-long, live interview show "MAMMA Speaks Out," also run by volunteers. It became quite popular.

When that project ended at the end of a year, I returned to university to get a communications degree, after which I wrote a manuscript that became the book Grading the Teacher. My most recent step was to become a creativity consultant (after taking an intensive course through a training company called Essential Communications).

Each of these stages unfolded as problems needed resolving, as situations presented themselves and as opportunity knocked.

In what way(s) are you creative-thinking in your private or professional life?
In any way possible. My mind spills over with ideas, and as with many creators, implementing them is the issue.

Describe how you have approached a specific problem in a creative way.
My husband and I realized we needed a larger dining room to accommodate a bigger table for our growing family. Building onto the house was not a viable option. After considerable discussion and brainstorming sessions, we decided to change the use of some of the main rooms. The living room became a beautiful, roomy dining room; the former dining room is now a family room just off the kitchen; and our former family room became a lovely, intimate salon/living room.

What creative interests or projects have you been involved with lately?
After giving the first “How to Paint with a Mouse” workshop, I realized I had so much more to say and that the process of creating art was so beneficial to creative thinking. Wanting to reach a wider audience for the purpose of helping people reconnect with their personal creativity, I decided to develop Magical MousePainting®.

I truly believe this book is an excellent tool for discovering and exploring individual creativity. It also simply outlines fundamental art principles as well as computer functions and applications. Instructions are easy step-by-step and include scores of tips, challenges and vibrant illustrations. It's suitable for anyone of any age who can read or follow instructions. It appeals to either novice or expert to art and computers.

You can find out a bit of what the book is about on On the opening page, you can click onto links to the pages of wonderful work of some people (ages 6 to 65) who have followed my instructions.

(P.S. I've been ordered to promote myself, so here goes: If you're interested to reserve one, two or more copies of Magical MousePainting ®, just e-mail me at with the subject line "Please reserve MM." (There's no commitment to buying the book at this point.) Include your name, email address, and how many copies you're requesting and any note you'd like. I'll send you purchase details when they're available. For more information about the book, click here.)

Describe any coincidences, serendipitous and synchronistic experiences you have had.
I’ve had - and continue to have - countless episodes: however, one particular experience stands out:

In the spring one afternoon years ago, I climbed into my van to drive my young kids to their after-school programs. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a flyer lying on the passenger seat next to me. It announced the upcoming week-long summer writing workshops offered by the University of Toronto.

For some time afterwards, I carefully studied the sessions offered and decided to register for the Freefall Writing offered by Barbara Turner-Vesselago.

I asked around and not one person in my family knew anything about the flyer. No one placed it there. It was a gift that appeared out of the blue. That 5-day intensive course changed my life. It gave me confidence that I had something important to say and signaled the beginning of my writing career. It's why I persisted when submitting my Grading the Teacher manuscript to 29 publishers who turned it down.

After Penguin Books Canada published it in 1996, the book became a best-seller. Posted by Picasa

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