Turning Right into Creativity

Security camerasWhen I first met the spy, I thought he was kidding about his occupation. However, his explanations were plausible, so I listened further. It wasn’t until he started teaching me how to escape from a populated area that I knew he was telling the truth. Well, that is except for his name. I’m certain the personal information he shared was not real.

The best way to escape from any arduous state of affairs is to plan alternative routes in advance of a dicey situation. The preplanning process must be nonchalant and atypical of the most efficient route that we all conform to over time. This is true within the creative world, which helped me relate the need to escape with high-pressured creative sessions.

Here are the three spy lessons that have helped my creativity.

TURN RIGHT, NOT LEFT

To draw from your creative instincts during intense circumstances is like the spy who has to shift to his plan “B.” The man told me the first step in creating an alternate route is to turn right at your normal first left turn. This sends you in the opposite direction and forces you to make new decisions in developing a B-route.

During a creative session, at the first observable moment that a story beat is supposed to happen, its time to turn right into a new creative perspective. Coming up with a completely unexpected turning point in a story propels the characters into a mode of exploration. Further development is required to determine what direction or next step they must follow to survive.

Spies like unexpected twists in circumstances since few can guess what their next move might be. Only the well-prepared plan-B can help the spy survive the new reality as it unfolds, losing those who attempt to follow. Due diligence during the exploration phase will empower the spy to move quickly during the execution of the plan.

The search for new routes or creative viewpoints forces us to be alert. We are no longer able to function on autopilot, which helps us to avoid traps hidden within our customary creative reserves. When we lose the ability to rely on our habits to get by, we’re forced to innovate and keep one step ahead of the audience.

SKETCH NOTE NEW SURROUNDINGS

The spy told me to turn right and drive for a block or two, then pullover and sketch note everything I observe. The notes would be like a location scouting report with enough picture detail for strategic planning. Once the sketches are complete, he suggested I drive a couple more blocks, stop and repeat the process.

It was also important to figure out what the common next step might be for the average thinker and establish an unexpected action. This choice would then lead me down a new road for a couple of blocks. I’d then pull over and sketch again. Capturing every detail helps the spy during rapid escapes, and helps me during intense creative sessions.

WORK PLAN “C”, “D”, AND “E”

When on the run, spies know their pursuer is trying to out guess their every move to get two steps ahead of them. Those with great manpower throw several agents against the half-dozen possibilities with the hope that one will capture the spy or at least learn his next steps.

In the creative world, there are always a few in the audience who try to figure out where the story is headed before it gets there. I’m one of those who can usually guess the ending ten minutes into the film. Few movies startle me with interesting plot points that captivate my attention with surprise. When a director has multiple plans to draw from the audience is typically amazed at the new and fresh ending.

Pixar is known for brainstorming a dozen endings and then throwing them away for the sake of coming up with that one new idea no one thought about. Their productions take extra time to develop because they don’t want anything to seem old. They work every possible plan until they find the one that stirs the audience with both delight and surprise.

Meeting the spy gave me some interesting viewpoints to consider within my realm of communication and creativity. I even learned how to back into parking spaces for quick get-a-ways. But, there was one other thing I learned from the spy that bothered me. He said, “And whatever you do, don’t trust anything a spy says because he’s probably using you as a disposable asset in the moment.”

As the man disappeared from my sight, I realized that he might have lied about being a spy. And if he did lie, could I trust what he taught me? Certainly if he had told the truth, it was clear that I couldn’t trust a single word he had shared. Hmm, maybe the lessons in today’s blog aren’t lessons at all.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers

Recipient of 2017 Torch Award

Photos by: Sean Su @[203867963313063:0]I was thrilled to be a part of the management team that created and implemented an ethical business model, especially since it was acknowledged and rewarded by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). We received Honorable Mention for businesses in the 1-9 employee category at the 2017 Torch Awards for Marketplace Ethics.

The BBB received over a thousand nominations from consumers and businesses in Illinois. The awards banquet was sponsored by numerous companies serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. Present for the award presentations were WGN, ABC, and the WCIU.

Photos by: Sean Su @[203867963313063:0]ABC 7’s Hosea Sanders hosted the event and handed out the awards. Melissa Stockwell, Army war hero, mother and three-time world champion Paratriathlon medalist was the keynote speaker. The event was well attended by 400 plus Illinois business leaders.

I was given three minutes to share highlights from our ethical practices, journey and gratitude for the award. It was the first time I received an award of that magnitude on behalf of a team and I found myself extremely nervous until my foot hit the stage. Once on the platform I quickly came up with a new speech, since Sanders touched on my planned comments as he introduced me.

Photos by: Sean Su @[203867963313063:0]During the selection process I was inundated with 25-30 hours of paperwork. Our final document answering the questions of the third party counsel was just shy of 50 pages including process and event documentation for standards adhered to and lived out.

I was energized by this once in a lifetime experience because everyone in the room was passionate about raising ethical standards in Illinois. Being in a room with like minded executives was encouraging and I hoped each company effectively instills within their employees the need for and benefits of working within ethical standards.

Photos by: Sean Su @[203867963313063:0]

Capturing the Surge of Inspiration

If I were to write a formula for innovation it would look something like this:

Creativity * Inspiration = Innovation

There are few who will disagree with my formula, but almost everyone would admit that the tricky part is capturing and maintaining the surge of inspiration. Finding it is never the problem, as inspiration is always associated with life. When you find life, you find inspiration.

To find inspiration all we have to do is seek out the things that are infused with life. The meaning of the word is also associated with life. One definition is about inhaling to bring something to life. Another is about giving life. Still another is about a divine influence that creates life.

When you find a person who is full of life, you find a person that inspires you. If you are able to maintain a relationship with him or her, you have found a source of continuous inspiration. Many artists during the renaissance referred to inspiring people as their muse or a goddess that inspires. Today, we call the person a rare treasure and a joyful find.

CreativeMost artists find different people over time that brings about various levels of inspiration. Seldom do we come upon a person who overloads us with so much inspiration that we go off creating project on top of project—but it does happen.

The key is trying to figure out how to keep someone special like that in our life, especially when they need to receive something in return like any good two-way relationship. But what do you provide a muse?

During days of old, the artist would bring honest heartfelt emotions and words of love to the relationship—driving some into romantic relationships. During the late 1900’s partnerships were formed with each person bringing something to the table that the other needed to keep the business functioning. However, few people developed long term relationships, whether platonic or not, that was based on each person focusing on the needs of the other.

I’m convinced that when you pour some form of inspiration into another person’s life their heart overflows with joy, love and hope. The combination of those three things settles into the heart, which produces inspired words of affirmation and encouragement—life giving things in their own right that inspire the artist in return. This results in the artist being inspired more than they gave out.

In other words, if we sew seeds of inspiration into the lives of those around us, they may in turn inspire us. If my theory is true, then the best way to capture inspiration is by giving it away. To test my theory, I recommend that artists find ways of inspiring others and pay attention to see how much inspiration comes back to them.

But, if you are truly fortunate, you may stumble into a person who matches your synergy for inspiration. You both would fly high with joy overflowing because it takes little effort between you to generate more inspiration than what your humble hearts can hold.

I’ve only had that experience a couple times in life and I can tell you that you feel capable of changing the world because of them, yet you never want to leave their presence for fear that the inspiration might fade. You want to spend every waking hour with them, but instead you’re driven to create and innovate from your overflowing heart. That gift of inspiration gives birth to new ideas and work that changes lives. The inspired creative cannot sit still. He or she must respond to what they receive.

Since those experiences happen ever so seldom, I recommend you put my theory to the test and see if it works or not. Go out and inspire someone and let me know the results.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers

Behind the Writing of Steele Blue

steele_blue_bookcover_72I was recently asked during an interview in the United Kingdom what my passion was for writing. While I later realized he was asking about how story drives my actions, I flashed back to the numerous things that helped birth my new novel Steele Blue.

The initial vision was launched during a chat with my friend and actor, Francine Locke. She was interested in me writing a screenplay that would give her an opportunity to really explore the emotions of a deep character. I shared my desire to write something that allowed me to reminisce about my dad, who was a cop.

Within a few minutes of bouncing around various ideas with a new spin to differentiate the story from anything previously released, we came up with a crime story called The Cop Shoppe. I immediately pictured the lead as Francine and began writing. Since she was nothing like the female officers I knew, I realized that I had to change the character into a composite of women currently on the police force.

Francine didn’t mind a bit and said she’d take any role as long as she could be a part of what we brainstormed. I was free to take the story in a whole new direction and base it on the cops I grew up with and a strong woman who captivated me. And, after watching Francine’s acting on the USA Network and ABC’s Nashville, I better understood her abilities and created a character that one day she could have a lot of fun playing.

By this point I was writing a new draft of the screenplay titled By the Book. Many of the scenes were written to touch the hearts of women, while salting in plenty of action for the men. Lisa England helped me sort through the merging and organizing of those ideas so I could better blend the scenes into one cohesive story.

That’s when the collaboration ended. My life got spun around a few times and I emerged with a new passion. I hacked up the script and started writing more heartfelt scenes and life threatening situations to fit the mood of my recent life experiences. I quickly learned that the screenplay greatly limited my expression, so I shelved the script and started writing the novel.

I had no idea how time consuming it was to write a novel. The worst part was when I finally got to the place where my confidence started to rise and I quickly learned that I was only a fourth of the way finished. Aargh!

Writing a novel is not about writing, but rewriting. I spent hours cutting things that didn’t work and polishing things that did. Entire chapters were birthed in the shower, while some paragraphs took months to fix or drop from the story. My writing vastly improved during the process, causing me to go back and rewrite the finished chapters into something better.

Then something funny happened. I had a few friends read the book and they shared how certain segments were more believable than others. The things I added into the story from true-life events seemed implausible to them and the fiction I made up was soundly accepted. It was a weird moment when I had to make the decision to keep or drop the information I salted in from the real world.

I decided to keep most of it, but turned some of the real-life stuff into a fictional version of the truth. I figured that the book was designed to entertain, not educate the masses on PTSD, which caused the main character’s memory loss. I’d rather have the readers focus on the struggle my maverick detective worked through in balancing her roles and time as a mom, lover and cop.

Steele Blue: The Forgotten Crime is about Diaz, a notorious dealer that’s expanding his cherry meth distribution in Chicago, who desires undercover Detective Steele as his life partner. Fighting to keep her cover intact with plans to bring down the drug kingpin, Cassie spends extra time with Diaz, blurring the lines between justice and her growing love for him.

Realizing her precarious situation, Cassie sees to her son’s safety and works hard to regain her memory from the night of the opera house fire—the night Diaz lost his first love. Feeling slighted, Diaz hunts down everyone involved in the death of his “Carmen.”

Racing against the clock, Cassie tries to find balance between her motherly duties, her infiltration as the kingpin’s girl, and her role as the officer tasked to close the case. Cassie is forced to face her fears in discovering the missing piece of her memory that will bring Diaz down. But will it alter her future?

Please pick up a copy of the book on Amazon.com today and let me know how much you enjoyed the adventure. And, please tell all your friends about the book. Without your help it can’t become a best seller. Thank you and happy reading!

@2016 by CJ Powers

Steele Blue: The Forgotten Crime

steele_blue_bookcover_72This week was busy with the release of my first novel in paperback. My first interview for the book was in the United Kingdom, which was a fun kick-off event. I’ve already talked with a couple bookstores interested in having me in for book signings. These activities are starting to make me feel like an author.

Steele Blue: The Forgotten Crime is about Diaz, a notorious dealer that’s expanding his cherry meth distribution in Chicago, who desires undercover Detective Steele as his life partner. Fighting to keep her cover intact with plans to bring down the drug kingpin, Cassie spends extra time with Diaz, blurring the lines between justice and her growing love for him.

Realizing her precarious situation, Cassie sees to her son’s safety and works hard to regain her memory from the night of the opera house fire—the night Diaz lost his first love. Feeling slighted, Diaz hunts down everyone involved in the death of his “Carmen.”

Racing against the clock, Cassie tries to find balance between her motherly duties, her infiltration as the kingpin’s girl, and her role as the officer tasked to close the case. Cassie is forced to face her fears in discovering the missing piece of her memory that will bring Diaz down. But will it alter her future?

There are elements in the book that came from rubbing shoulders with cops my entire life. My dad was a Sargent on the police force and many of his friends were cops. Every time we got together the group would share true-life stories from their work. They shared stories that were scary, hilarious and unreal sounding—even though all of it actually happened.

I crafted the main character, Cassie Steele, from interviews with two female detectives. Due to a coupe plot twists in the book, I also salted in observations from a local woman. This combination plotted out over actual Chicago locations that I walked made for a fast paced story sprinkled with humor.

I’ve already heard from two women who read the book faster than I thought was possible. They loved the mother and son relationship, and Cassie having to work through her life balance issues to become the hero by the end of the book. One man said that he couldn’t wait until the movie comes out to see the Lake Shore Drive chase scene.

This book means a lot to me and I hope all of you will purchase a copy. Let me know what you think about the story and be sure to pass word about the book onto everyone you know. I could sure use the help getting the word out of the book’s availability. Happy reading!

© 2016 by CJ Powers