Thursday, September 26, 2013

Artists 'better protected' against dementia, study finds

Art and music are less vulnerable to cognitive decline, a new Canadian study suggests.
Neurologists at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto found that artists suffering from vascular dementia may still be able to draw spontaneously and from memory, despite being unable to complete simple, everyday tasks.
"We discovered that there is a disproportion between the degree that artists lose some of their memory function, their orientation and other day-to-day cognitive functions. But at the same time, some of their art form is preserved," Dr. Luis Fornazzari, a neurological consultant at St. Michael’s Hospital memory clinic and lead author of the paper, told CBC News.
Artists compared with non-artists are better protected, he added. "Due to their art, the brain is better protected [against] diseases like Alzheimer's, vascular dementia, and even strokes. They have more reserve in their brain in order to give functions.
"So [we know], based on other neuroscience studies, that art in any of its forms uses different neuronal avenues inside the brain to do their work. And the activity, the talent and the art per se gives reserve when the brain requires that reserve.
CBC: Link.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cover Letters

I have always taught my students about the importance of the cover letter. I also emphasize that it should not be about you, rather it should focus on the recipient and prove that you know the nature and scope of the job. Then, at the end, you add how perfect you are as evidenced in the attached resumé and other support material.

Is it time to revise my thinking?  In The Atlantic, Stephen Lurie cites a recent poll showing that “90% of hiring contacts surveyed simply ignored every cover letter sent to them”:

[T]he cover letter is mostly a performance, and some companies are picking up on the act, particularly tech firms that can test specific employee skills. Google, it’s said, often prefers to see the coding already being done by individuals before reaching out to them—skipping the cover letter entirely. Some social media companies now require tweets as proof of competency, not long-form writing. [Companies] that do still require cover letters (in whatever sector), many have simply stopped looking at them. Jobs that don’t deal in formal letter writing—let’s say 95% of them—can find better surrogates elsewhere in samples of a candidate’s work. 
Whether it is a writing sample relevant to the industry, a Github repository or other specific tasks, employers and candidates would be better suited to another test. That’s a good sign for us all. Our government, corporations and non-profits will invariably be stronger when they get the best-matched talent available—not just those who’ve mastered an irrelevant art.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Holy Trinity of Commercial Creativity

"What they forget to tell you in writer school: once you've written the thing, you've got to sell it. You'd think the writing would be the hard part. Not necessarily, at least, not if you're as resolutely non-commercial as I seem to be."
The text above is from the most recent post of a friend who is trying to "sell" her manuscript to a publisher.  I feel for her. She reminds me of so great a percentage of my students when she speaks this way.

I learned to be entrepreneurial because:
  1. I had to make enough money to live.
  2. I was stubborn and refused to do anything but create.
I was raised near affluence. My family was not poor; nor was it wealthy but we lived in a comfortable neighbourhood and I grew up used to many first-world comforts and I wanted to have those comforts with me all through my life. I wanted disposable income so everything I made had to not only sell, but sell at healthy prices. Consequently, my process became the reverse of so many creators I know: I started with the market then created the work. When my first book went to the printer I had sales revenue that vastly exceed my costs.

The common assumption about what I say in the above paragraph can be that I am a "whore," pandering to public taste and creating to market values. To that I say: It is not what you do, but how you do it. The skill and integrity I bring to work I create for an eager market are no different than that which I bring to the speculative work that I create.

For me, there is a creative "Holy Trinity;" Thinking, making, selling.

Art schools and zillions of artists and teachers cover the issues involved with making art. This blog and scads of artists and publications talk about the selling of art, but there is little attention paid to "thinking."

I walk a lot and I don't listen to music when I do. I think. I got rid of my car that was once the only place I was free of distraction and could think and reflect on my work. Now, because I do all my errands on foot, I have more time to think and reflect. Too many of us work on instinct, gut, impulse. Not me; everything I do is strategic; everything is planned. I cannot afford to waste time. And because everything must sell, part of my planning/thinking involves knowing where and how and to whom I am going to sell it.