What I'm Reading: The Laws of Simplicity

Since I posted a recap of my "10 Things to Do in 2010" last week, I've been thinking about what 2011 holds for Connect the Dots. I don't have a list yet - I'm still figuring out what I want to focus on this year. But I do know at least one thing I want to work on...

A few weeks ago, I posted about my current life philosophy: "You are creating a work of art called your life." While this was my focus for 2010, I'm feeling ready to move on to a new philosophy, one that my Mom frequently tells me when we talk on the phone: "Keep it simple."

2010 was an exciting year of changes and growth. I went from being full-time at the museum, to dropping down to part-time to devote more energy Connect the Dots, The Hive Archive, and New Urban Arts. Then I left the museum for a new part-time job at the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. Now, I find myself walking around with three different types of business cards in my pockets. When people ask me how my job is going, I say, "Which one?"

It's exciting to be working on so many stimulating and wonderful projects. But it's also exhausting. I've divided myself into little parts, and sometimes I feel unable to be my best at any one of those things. Having some time off over the holidays was so good for me - I could unwind, take a break from going a mile a minute, and get some perspective.

I picked up this book, "The Laws of Simplicity" by John Maeda, to help me think about how to simplify in 2011. It's a quick read, just 100 pages, and I pulled out a few nuggets that could help me feel less overwhelmed. There's one that I want to share with you, because it's too perfect.

Maeda talks about Gestalt Psychology, and how the human mind likes to find patterns and organize things into groups. He's applying it to the evolution of the controls on an ipod, but go figure - I found that I can apply it directly to my life.

He writes: "What the difference between the cluster of 30 dots displayed [in the middle], and those on the [left]? The answer is simple. [In the middle] there is no order to the randomly placed dots; on the [left] there is a clear grouping of some of the dots. We immediately pick out the group of dots as a "whole," even though it's composed of many little dots. In effect by gathering the dots into the group as on the [left], we have simplified the otherwise haphazard display of 30 dots by giving order to the chaos" (Page 18). An then there's the figure on the right, where "the cloud of dots represents where all of the individual elements have melted into one as if they were optically blurred through a lens" (Page 20).

Okay, here's how it applies to my life: on the left, I have what I've been referring to as my "four jobs." When separate, they are overwhelming and disjointed. I need to change how I think about my work to the blurred figure on the right. I have my work at the Humanities Council, and I'm an Artist. My work with The Hive Archive (organizing networking for artists) and New Urban Arts (teaching art) are merely extensions of Connect the Dots and my work as an Artist.

Do you see the crazy thing here? I have to connect the dots. Literally.

So starting now, I'm connecting the dots and making myself whole again. Keeping it simple. Just like Mom says.



  1. this looks like a good read! I have so much on my to read list..

  2. This sounds interesting. Would you recommend it to someone like me? I find that right now things are maybe...too simple? Could that be my reason for lack of creativity (or ideas of what to create when it comes to non-knitted non-photographic projects). Or am I simply making it too complicated and over-thinking what I could create? Maybe I should still give this book a try! Wish I read this earlier...I was just at borders looking at craft and knitting books! (I really do mean it when I say I was completely inspired by the other night!)

  3. Brittney - you might want to pick up "The Creative Habit" by Twyla Tharp. That's a great book for getting the creative juices flowing!


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