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Amelia Bonow is a writer and activist living in Seattle. She is a founder of #ShoutYourAbortion. Follow her on Twitter at @ameliabonow.

🎟 You can get tickets for upcoming CreativeMornings talk here, starting at 9am, Monday, October 10th. 🎟

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
#ShoutYourAbortion works at the intersection of art and activism, creating platforms for people to talk freely and candidly about abortion, whether that’s in real life, digital spaces or across a range of aesthetic mediums. In a culture where abortion is discussed only in the abstract, I look for ways to get people to be open to a different kind of conversation. I have to figure out how to bring people into high-stakes, uncharted emotional territory without alienating them.

More broadly, SYA uses a range of tactics to place new representations of abortion into public space in unexpected ways. One example of this is the <3 ABORTION <3 dress. I designed a shift dress that says <3 ABORTION <3 all over it in large Helvetica type. Martha Plimpton wore it in the Los Angeles Times, Emily Nokes from TacocaT performs in the dress in front of thousands of people and Mel Eslyn, a 2016 nominee for the Stranger Genius Award in film, wore it at the ceremony. About one hundred dresses have been purchased and worn by all sorts of different people in different contexts. Powerful women unapologetically wearing this dress defies expectations, subverts a taboo, and causes people to investigate their own assumptions.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
My friends! This makes me sound like a teenager but it’s true. I’m extremely lucky to be surrounded by a bunch of razor-sharp freaks who are consistently coming up with new ways to make their way. I’m in a great position when it comes to ripping other people off.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Don’t worry about whether or not you’re an artist. Self-identifying as a creative person is often more about how one wants to be perceived than it’s actually about creating anything interesting or unique or genuine. It’s an invented category that allows people to frame their work in an exalted light, regardless of value. On a related note, I think a lot of people call themselves artists to get back at their parents.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
I would like to hear from anyone but myself.

What are you reading these days?
White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty

Where is your favorite place to escape?

Lucia Neare speaks September 16th at the Seattle Public Library for our global theme, Magic. 

Tickets are available here!

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
I consider myself a professional “imaginer.” In what some call my “career,” I have learned to define creativity as a kind of psychological and, even, spiritual freedom; the mental flexibility and spiritual courage to perceive a situation, puzzle, being, place, or idea through a multitude of perspectives – or to imagine something new by combining what may seem to be unlikely ingredients. Creativity is a practice. When I limit myself by being overly attached to certain ideas, dogmas, or outcomes, I radically decrease my own creative potential. Violence, war and even everyday unkindnesses are all crises of creativity. We narrow our imaginative options when mental or spiritual inflexibility keeps us from the love, beauty and grace that might have been.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
The bathtub! That’s the short answer. The more complete answer is that I look to my dream life and to my visions. Ever since I was a girl, I’ve seen things – presences, otherworldly places, beings. As I grew older I realized not everyone saw these sorts of things – or at least they didn’t admit to itin oublic –  but because I thought these visions were normal, everyday experiences, and because they also helped make me make sense of what was a very chaotic childhood, I came to trust their ethereal messages, and found I could truly count on these beings for inspiration.

I also take creative solace beside the Pacific Ocean.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Value process over product. What the audience sees is but a tiny dust mite in comparison to the larger work. And the larger work is The Work. So get to it.

Also, be kind to yourself. And others.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Vanessa DeWolf, Annette Mateo, Matt Goodrich, Cathy Madden, Dean Paton, Hallie Kuperman

Where was the last place you travelled?
Off the grid, to Polebridge, Montana.

What has been one of your biggest Aha! moments in life?
Back in 2005, when I was contemplating my first spectacle here in Washington State, I was trapped by my fears. Frozen. Though I’d come to understand that I’d developed the set of skills necessary to bring my large-scale visions to life on the civic stage, I was afraid of revealing so much of myself, of my visionary life. I was afraid of being too big, too weird, of taking up too much space. Afraid of being too much. Yes, I had the artistic skills I would need: sculpting, singing classical music, as well as a theatre and contemporary performance practice. Personal and interpersonal skills, too, deepened through decades of therapy and self exploration. Nonetheless I was battling powerful fears.

One afternoon, while singing as I do in my Leschi apartment’s bathtub, I was in deep struggle. I’d been stuck for weeks, and frustrated. Then, in a moment, I saw a reason for moving forward that was larger than my fears: If I successfully brought my big dreams to life and shared them, then maybe it would help others take the risk to share their own big dreams, too. That maybe my example would help people –  girls, women, people who feel like misfits or orphans – make the leap and produce their own creative visions – and then together, through our collective creativity, we would foster a more imaginative, soulful society.

We’re excited to have Electric Coffin speaking on the theme “Weird” for our August 12th CreativeMornings Seattle at Oxbow Seattle. Be sure to register for your tickets here

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
Creativity is being able to be adapt and apply a diverse range of inspiration to guide you through your problem solving process. It’s being able to visualize the end goal and work through all the roadblocks that will inevitably pop up. Everyone can be creative, as long as they are willing to be patient and get out of their own way. Another part of being creative is being resilient, because to truly explore you will encounter a lot of trial and error.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
Our best creative inspiration comes from collaborating, sharing, and conversations. We also are always looking, whether we are in the studio, on a road trip, walking through the market, we keep our eyes peeled for things to jump out at us.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Being a professional creative means being creative professionally. There is no set career paths for artists, you need to define your own path. That and charge more for work.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Anyone with a good story!

What is the one movie or book every creative must see/read?
Stefan book: Dancing with Wu Li Masters
Justin book: Skinny Legs and All
Duffy book: The Outsiders
Taylor book: Truck Nest, a record nine years in the making

We’re excited to have Hum Creative’s Shirley Hendrickson speaking on the theme “Broken” for our June 10th CreativeMornings Seattle at The Impact Hub. Be sure to register for your tickets here

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
To me, creativity is the outcome of an innate, relentless desire for change, for newness, for a solution that leaves the world better off than before. Slightly more beautiful, more true, more meaningful. Being creative is a way of saying thank you to the miracle of our own existence—the fact that we humans get a chance to create, to put something new out into the universe, as we spin around temporarily in its endlessness, is a gift.

The key word is “outcome”. To use an unromantic term, creativity is a product. Ideas aren’t creativity. Think about the root word—"create". Something has to get made from all those crazy synapses firing inside of you. You have to do something with your ideas. I used to overthink everything, agonizing over making my ideas perfect before making them real. Now, I try to remember that making creative work is really an exercise in part fearless mind-barf, most part ruthless editing and crafting. Get it out, however painfully and imperfectly you can. Then you can worry about how to make the barf into something pretty and amazing.  

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
Creative symbiosis. Surrounding myself with brilliant people who are much smarter and more talented, soaking in their experience and their secrets, and doing whatever I can to return the favor so they’ll let me stick around. I love reading biographies and learning the stories, and specifically the processes, of great creative people—the people who have actually done the work to turn their crazy ideas into the things that have changed our lives.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Growing up, I was the kid who was always drawing things, making things, starting businesses, teaching myself new techniques. When I got to college, there was no other path I’d considered—it was all art, all the way. I was accepted into a good design program, but two years later, I quit. I was debilitated by intimidation. I was surrounded by other art kids who were far better than me, and I choked. I thought I had no ideas anymore.

I would have told myself to quit it already with the jealousy. Jealousy is the death of creativity. It’s petty, it’s not a good look, and it kills what makes you different. I would have said, “Little Shirley, there is plenty of room in the world for their ideas and your ideas. In fact, let their ideas inspire you and motivate you. Steal their secrets. Don’t run away. Also, don’t take yourself so fucking seriously. Jeez.”

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Beyoncé. Duh. 

Polymaths really interest me. Beautiful, sexy, unapologetic polymaths. Beyoncé has been constantly creating since she was 8, exploring endless personas, genres, media, businesses—and has never felt the need to choose, to let herself be labeled as one thing or another, or to do things the way people tell her it should be done. She’s a woman who’s built her life creating on her own terms, and she continues to put out her ideas without looking back. She has a clear vision, and she surrounds herself with mind-blowing talent to help her realize it. In the case you can’t get in touch with Bey, there’s a creative force of nature here in Seattle named Linda Derschang (of Linda’s, Tallulah’s, Smith, Oddfellows, etc.), who’s like our Beyoncé of hip-as-heck restaurants. Linda is the shit. What are you reading these days?
At any given time, I’ve got five or six books I rotate through. I’m currently reading and underlining every page of 99U’s series (Managing Your Day-to-Day, Maximize Your Potential, and Make Your Mark), which I enthusiastically recommend to every creative professional. Also, A Short History of Nearly Everything by the ingenious Bill Bryson, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (his language is mind-blowing), The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl (for the hundredth time; it’s my favorite short story), Warsan Shire’s Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (she’s the poet responsible for the incredible spoken-word interludes in Beyoncé’s Lemonade), Lindy West’s Shrill, and probably a handful more that I’m forgetting. Is book ADHD a medical condition? There’s got to be a book on it. 

What’s the most recent thing you learned (big or small)?
Facts about the universe and existence never cease to explode my brain to pieces—if I could go back, I’d be an astrophysicist. Recently, I learned a fantastic description of how recent and lucky human history is, from Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Here goes:

Stretch your arms out as far as you can. Imagine your arm span as the timeline for the entire 4.5-million year history of planet Earth. From the fingertips of your left hand to the wrist of your right, that’s the Precambrian—the time before complex life. Complex life is your right hand. And with the single stroke of a nail file, you would eradicate human history. 

Say whatttt. 

Guys, we have the Wizard of Moz the one and only Rand Fishkin, speaking at our next CreativeMornings on RISK. Tickets will be available at 9:00am on Monday, March 29. If you don’t know Rand, he’s founder and former CEO of Moz, co-author of a pair of books on SEO, and co-founder of Inbound.org. Rand’s an unsaveable addict of all things content, search, & social on the web, from his multiple blogs to Twitter, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a shared Instagram account. In his miniscule spare time, he likes to galavant around the world with Geraldine and then read about it on her superbly enjoyable travel blog.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
For me, it’s the concept of invention applied to ideas. My job is to identify which ideas are new, and which are new to me or new to my field/work, and then find ways to filter them, prioritize them, and apply them. That goes for the software we build, the presentations I create, the content I share, the updates I post to social media, and the ways to craft a company culture and set of processes.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
Perhaps not surprisingly, I get my best ideas from the world of social media. I read a tremendous amount - often via my Twitter feed, Pocket’s recommendations for me, my Nuzzel account, and other aggregators like Hackers News, Reddit, and Inbound.org. Out of a few hundred articles I peruse in a week, I might apply 2 or 3 directly to my work.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
I wish I’d learned more about coding and compsci. I believe a lot of my potential and creativity, especially earlier in my career, were limited by my lack of knowledge and experience in the field of computer science and software programming.

What’s the most inspiring talk you’ve ever heard?
Not quite a professional talk, but the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, certainly ranks near the top for me. The idea of dedicating oneself to perfecting a craft, to putting years into every detail, to relentless focus, and to expressing the utmost standard in one’s work is greatly inspirational.

What fact about you would surprise people?
I’m an introvert. I spend a lot of time talking on stage and interacting with people, but I need a lot of alone time to recharge in order to have the energy for those social interactions.

What keeps you awake at night?
I fear that I’ll always be an underachiever - someone who, with smarter or greater effort could have done more for others, but was limited by a lack of dedication or a failure to learn from past mistakes.

For this month’s theme of CHANGE, we’re pleased to have Seattle’s first-ever Civic Technology Advocate, Candace Faber, who will bring us a talk called “"If not this, then what?“ Tickets are available here.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
Creativity is the willingness to be fully immersed in something and still allow it to unfold in ways you can’t control. I find this to be true whether I am writing a poem or designing a project at work. I often find myself approaching huge, abstract challenges, such as "How might we end homelessness?” or “How can we empower young women?” The only thing that keeps me sane is to accept whatever limitations exist and allow myself to flow freely within them. When I stop being upset about the infinite list of things that are not possible, I discover possibilities that are even better than I could have imagined.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
Planes, trains, and ferries. The key is to be able to disconnect from expectations, deadlines, and structured thinking and simply rest inside some block of time and non-space. I have had many of my best insights and written some of my best pieces while in transit. 

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Not to judge my own work or others’ reactions to it. If you love something you’ve created but it doesn’t resonate with others, there’s nothing wrong with you. If they don’t love it, there’s nothing wrong with them – they’re not idiots who are blind to your creative genius, your work just hasn’t connected with them yet. Just keep doing what you love, and you will get better. I wish we all had the courage to just be who we are and make what we make – life would be so much more interesting, and I have no doubt the world would be a better, healthier, more socially just place.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Hands down: Jon White. He is a cartoonist, a poet, and an oddball in the best possible way, and best of all, he is a civics nerd like me. I have watched him evolve as an artist and human for more than a decade while never straying from his ground truth. His own unique works and his shameless fandom of other people’s efforts fill me with joy even when I know nothing about the subject.

What did you learn from your most memorable creative failure?
Here’s an example: In fourth grade, I started learning to play the piano, mostly self-taught. My school had an arts competition, and I decided to enter an original composition in the music category called “A Wild Imagination.” It was basically me sitting there and playing whatever sounds delighted me while recording it on tape. I did not yet know that I could draft and revise my creations, so I entered it as it was. When my teacher played it for the classroom, it sounded disjointed even to me, and everyone called it–and me–"crazy.“ I felt very ashamed and vowed never to fail like that again. The next year, I played it safe and made a poster with pictures of obscure musical instruments. I remember hating every second of that project, even though I made it into the final round of competition.

It took me many years before I realized that it’s better to do the hard work of refining and polishing what you love than to make something empty that "wins.” If you try to make things based on what you think others will like, you will run out of energy very quickly. But if you keep honing your voice and stay connected to the world around you, eventually your work will strike a chord.

What was the best surprise you’ve experienced so far in life?
How easy it is to find allies when you just start doing something. There’s a saying in Pashto: “Pe harakat kay barakat day.” It means, “In movement, there is blessing.” If you ask for permission to love what you love or try what you are dying to try, most well-meaning people will caution you not to take risks. But if you just start moving forward, you will find other people who want to do the same (or you will discover the limits of your own desires, which is just as insightful). Every time I have trusted my convictions and stepped out into uncertainty, people have swarmed around me in support, just like I do for them. It is a truly beautiful thing. 

What object would you put in a time capsule that best represents who you are today?
My favorite outfit from 5th grade: an oversized Esprit t-shirt with rainbow-colored letters, teal cotton leggings, and a pair of earrings that had a pencil for one ear and an eraser for the other. The closer I am to living this life in the colorful, unabashed way 11-year-old Candace wanted to, the happier I am.

Our ace speakers for February’s theme of ETHICS are Berit Anderson and Brett Horvath. They’re the founders of Scout, which combines near-term science fiction with investigative reporting to cover the intersection of technology, economics, and morality. Sign up for the waitlist right here.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?

Berit:Creativity is a deliberate decision to do things differently; a decision not to repeat the same ideas and steps and actions you already know. Successfully stepping into that void requires three things: The willingness to be quiet with yourself for awhile, the intuition to recognize your own great ideas, and a surprising amount of discipline.

Brett: It’s too bad society has come to treat creativity as some gift from a mystical narwhale muse…even though it is. I started having more breakthroughs when I began treating creativity in myself and others as a skill-set, something that can be refined and developed, rather than an inherent character trait. I call it a disciplined imagination. That framing helps remind me that when my writing or ideas are stale, it’s not necessarily some mega-existential question or blocker. It could be that I’m sequencing my questions in the wrong order, or drinking too much caffeine, playing too much of the wrong kind of board games, or repeatedly telling myself unhelpful stories.

It’s also helpful to remember humans evolved to be imaginative so that we could avoid predators or plan group attacks of woolly-mammoths.  Imagination isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must have. 

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?

Berit: Alone. Usually in well-lit, clean spaces. Or outdoors: Nature’s original well-lit, clean space.

Brett: Epic movie soundtracks, long midday walks, and active dreaming. Even if what I’m working on isn’t particularly awesome, just being reminded that life itself is epic helps bring me back to center, and movie soundtracks like The Fountain, Interstellar, LOTR, and others help in a big way. I also practice a form of dream meditation called Active Dreaming which helps with reflection, emotional awareness, and creativity. Various forms of it have been used by all sorts of folks like President Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Jung, etc. I practice it in both waking and sleeping states. It’s a lot of fun and very powerful.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

Berit: If you can see a better way, create it. 

Brett: Publish earlier than you feel comfortable with. Whether it’s a start-up idea, an article, a story, or asking someone on a date. Deep introspection and alone time is key to the formation of great ideas and things, but it’s not until you get it out of your head that the real growth starts happening.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?

Berit: Ursula LeGuin, David Harris, G. Willow Wilson.

Brett:Denis Hayes, Eric Rasmussen, Sarra Tekola

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Berit: Getting married to someone I met on CraigsList. And then starting a company with them.

What was the best surprise you’ve experienced so far in life?

Berit: There’s actually a secret society of grownups out there that has agreed never to stop acting like kids. I’m a proud member. 

What is the one movie or book every creative must see/read?

Brett: Pathways to Bliss by Joseph Campbell. Many people are familiar with Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” writing, but Pathways to Bliss is a beautiful distillation of his incredible life’s work trying to find patterns in all of the world’s mythologies. Learning to interrogate and embrace ‘the shadow’ was a powerful part of the book for me.

What was the best advice you were ever given?

Brett: My mom once told me: You teach people how to treat you.

James Adams is the founding principal of 5IVE CREATIVE.  He has an extensive background in retail planning, brand strategy and environmental design.  He has lead design efforts for Polo Jeans Co., Bank of America, CVS, Armstrong World Industries, B. Dalton Bookseller, Esprit; Porsche and Starbucks to name a few. You can get tickets and more info for his January 15th talk right here.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results then I think creativity can be defined as doing something for the first time and getting the desired results. Doing something different by itself isn’t creative, at least not in my work world. Doing something different to achieve a specific result, a planned result, that is creative.  

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
Everybody is a creative inspiration. Collaborating with people in any and all areas of expertise generates ideas. Always. I’ve never known anyone locked up to a desk in a nicely isolated room to maximize creativity. They may be highly productive in that setting but creativity is people fed. Talking to people always inspires creativity and if no one is around, I can always talk to myself.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Failure is just part of the process. If you aren’t taking enough risk to fail then you aren’t going to succeed in a meaningful way either.  

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Lauren Weedman, she applies a creative twist to everyday life events and she’s from Seattle.

How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?
We connect companies with their customers through 2 and 3 dimensional design.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
Tom Calvey, he was a general contractor I worked for over a 4 year period. He taught me that schools mostly taught us to memorize information but the real lesson was in how to apply the knowledge.

Jonathon Colman at 2014 IA Summit in San Diego, California.
Photo © Jennifer Jefferson (@uxjenn)

Guys! We have one of the best introverts around speaking at our December event! The theme is TIME and Jonathon Colman is going to bring a great talk on Wicked Ambiguity and User Experience. Tickets are currently waitlisted.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
In the past 20 years, I’ve had at least 11 jobs in over 6 fields, from improv performer to Peace Corps Volunteer to user experience architect.

In all that time, I’ve only learned one thing about creativity that always works: take the opportunities as they come. Don’t save up your creativity for a rainy day. Move fast and you won’t lose your gumption.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
Science and nature—if my nose isn’t in a book then it’s outdoors, taking in the rare air of the Pacific Northwest.

I walk everywhere. That’s when all my best ideas come to me, when I’m moving about on my feet. That’s the only way you get to see a city and know its people. That’s when you realize that the world is darker, stranger, madder, and better than you’d ever hoped.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
It’s OK to not be perfect. Perfection is a myth, an impossible ideal that stagnates progress and destroys creativity. I wish I’d been taught that failure isn’t just to be expected, but that it’s also required for discovery and inspiration. I wish I’d known that failure would come to define the things I care about most.

I don’t want to celebrate failure, but I certainly want to reward learning. That’s how we keep growing as creators and leaders—by learning new things and then daring to apply our knowledge.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
In Seattle, I’d love to see Candace Faber and David Harris of Hack to End Homelessness and Hack the CD. Tom Kundig, principal of Olson Kundig, would be amazing. Batya Friedman, a professor at UW who focuses on value-sensitive design, would be inspiring. And my childhood idol, Gary Larson of “The Far Side,” would be like a dream come true.

If you were on an episode of “Jeopardy!”, what would your best categories be?

  • Ska-Punk of the 1990s
  • Advanced Procrastination
  • Dogs, Dogs, Dogs
  • Introvert Hacks
  • “Doctor Who” Quotes
  • Fun With Coffee

What keeps you awake at night?
My dog, chasing things in her sleep. I wonder what she’s chasing. I want to chase it, too.

Stuck on November’s waitlist? Don’t want to watch the live stream by yourself? These folks are hosting viewing parties starting at 8:30a:

Startup Hall (1100 NE Campus Parkway, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98105 ) in the way back lounge. Ask for Steven Chau. Coffee will be available.

Moz (1100 2nd Ave. STE 500, Seattle, WA 98101). Go up to the 5th floor and ask for David O’Hara. Coffee and donuts will be served.

Lineage Solutions (11111 NE 8th Street, Bellevue, WA 98004) Meet at the fireplace by the Bravern valet parking (map). Jana Gering will be bringing folks up to the office at 8:45a. Coffee will be available. Email jana (at) lineage.solutions if you get stuck downstairs.

If you’d like to invites some creatives in your space to watch Jessica Hagy’s talk, let us know on Twitter!