Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods has authored a play to be performed this weekend, July 23 and 24.

Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods has authored a play to be performed this weekend, July 23 and 24.

Yesterday, I had coffee with a friend whose life goal is to locate paid work that allows him to do whatever the heck he wants to do. The fact that he is successful at it, and that he is a lawyer, makes me all the more envious. For he has found ways to minimize the daily-grind parts of the legal profession and to maximize the collaborative, business-building, soul-nourishing parts of his career.

Well, screw him.

Of course, I don’t mean that. I really am very happy for him, and for that small subset of others who manage to make their avocation their vocation, who move their most creative work to center stage.

And the stage is where you’ll find the work of another such creative guy, Grant Woods.

I have previously praised the drive of former Arizona Attorney General Woods to nourish his musical and theatrical impulses. You can read about a few of them, here, here, and here.

This weekend, his playwright chops will be on display. “The Things We Do” is Grant’s play, which will be performed this Saturday and Sunday, July 23 and 24. It will be featured at TheaterWorks in Peoria as part of a New Works Festival. Here is how it’s described:

“A very clever and very real comedy telling the story of Bill, Sarah, Ted and Alice, a group of not-so-young professionals discovering once the kids are grown, you may find yourself searching for very different things in life. Follow their journey as they discover the intricacies of modern love and the myriad ways humans deal with the complexity of our associations.”

Tickets and more information on all the plays are here.

And be sure to read another news story about Grant’s writing life here.

Theaterworks new works festival 2016 Grant Woods-page0001

Think creative life, think Iggy Pop. Iggy Pop in May 2016 Arizona Attorney Magazine-page0001

Think creative life, think Iggy Pop.

Before we exit May, I share with you my editor’s letter from that issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine. It referred to the incredible lawyer–artists who populate the issue’s pages, comprising our annual Creative Arts Competition (See the whole issue here). What do you think of this year’s amazing artists? And what role do artistic interests play in your own life? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

In Chicago back in the late ‘80s, I had a friend who attended an Iggy Pop concert. Through strategy and sharp elbows, she managed to reach the front ranks of the pulsating crowd and stand—OK, quake with joy—right next to the stage. During the show, she reports, Iggy knelt down and licked her palm. Because Iggy.

She claimed she would never again wash that hand. In the office, she would hold out the sacred appendage, aimed skyward for all to see, the invisible stigmata transporting her to new heights.

What makes someone set aside good sense and hygiene for its colorful opposite, I wondered? What neurons does Iggy Pop make pop in people’s brains?

May_2016 Arizona Attorney Magazine coverI was reminded of that graphic story of palm-love as we prepared this issue—and as I read a magazine (of course) published by American Airlines. “American Way” is beautiful (even if it has a vaguely unsettling title). But its beauty is more than skin-deep, for within the current issue is a Q&A with two rock stars, one of whom is the craggy, talented, and ever-punkish Iggy.

He was spreading the word about a musical collaboration with Josh Homme, founder of Queens of the Stone Age. And as impressive as Iggy Pop may be, I was struck by one of Homme’s insights:

“I’ve always loved infiltration. To me, that’s what punk rock has always been about: going where you don’t belong without anyone noticing until it’s too late. … It’s a pleasure to wander in this historic place, set up shop and say, ‘The elegant scumbags are in town.’ It feels good sometimes to be the most rogue person there.”

Infiltration. That may be what Pop’s got popping.

When Homme spoke of a “historic place,” he did not mean Arizona Attorney Magazine, though he could have. Like Detroit’s Fox Theatre, where the two musicians played, AzAt has great bones, sharp looks, and a storied past. But infiltration is not our usual fare.

Except in May. In May we open the doors—main stage and balcony—to creative talents who showcase their art and—more important—the rogue portions of their brains. They rattle the chandeliers and kick over some furniture. Occasionally, a guitar is smashed.

I hope you share my pleasure at the thrill of artists in full concert. Congratulations and thanks to all those who submitted and all those who prevailed in our annual competition. They truly are all winners—brave infiltrators who are conversant with the rogue.

Come on in, find a spot. Reach toward the stage, for the house lights are dimming

Rock on, Iggy.

iggy Pop, "I Wanna Be Your Dog," 1979.

iggy Pop, “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” 1979.

The May issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, online and in print now, is all about creativity. And why not? It features the winners of our annual Creative Arts Competition.

A fortune cookie that cheered me as we worked on our May issue

So with creativity a lot on my mind, and this being Change of Venue Friday, I thought I’d share my editor’s column from the issue. Scroll down for that.

First, though: As I mention in that column, State Bar of Arizona President Joe Kanefield even stepped up to showcase his drawing talents. I enjoyed his self-portrait quite a bit.

Joe Kanefield self-portrait

Joe was an inspiration, and his effort caused me look for my own self-portrait that I inked last year. Our younger daughter asked everyone in the family to draw themselves in a place they’d like to be, and this is what I came up with.

And then, as we were working on the arts issue, I happened into a Barnes & Noble bookstore (yes, there are still buildings that sell books). As I scanned the shelves, I came across a unique offering: Boxes and boxes of activities to feature your hidden talent or ability.

Much to my surprise, the target audience did not appear to be kids. And as I found myself attracted to, say, a kit that would help me make a superb paper airplane, or learn to play the ukulele, I realized how strong that yearning for creativity is. (I rather unkindly dubbed the items “hobbies for midlife”; self-knowledge can be so ugly!)

It appears that we all seek the side of ourselves that can make something, or transform something. And if we’re not sure what that “thing” is, perhaps Barnes & Noble can help.

That, I suppose, is why our arts issue is so popular with readers.

Here is a slideshow with just a small part of the boxed-creativity on offer at your local bookstore:

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Finally, before ending with my column, I share one more piece of encouragement. You may have seen this before; it is a letter declining a piece of submitted art. The author is the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The recipient and disappointed artist? Andy Warhol.

See! What does the world know?

Well, enough of that, Here’s my column. Have a great—and creative—weekend.

Mind the Gap

We all like to observe talented people.

That’s one of the conclusions I draw from the feedback I receive annually to this issue, our Creative Arts Competition winners month.

More evidence of that: To my surprise, two separate columnists this month opened their pages with almost the identical line: “This is my favorite issue of Arizona Attorney.” (I’m not telling you more; you have to scour our pages to see for yourself.)
I, too, have always been a fan of this issue. These people are not only talented; they’re brave to put their creative juices on public display.

But (maybe I’m the only one), my pleasure at seeing all that talent on display is salted with surprise at the wide gap between me and the huge accomplishments of all these lawyer–artists (OK, you might call it “envy”).

I suspect many readers share what I call my “supportive dismay” at how little creative work we have achieved in the past year. This magazine is printed evidence that lawyers can lead balanced lives. And if they can do it, why can’t I? What’s my problem?

Well, if the Lorax speaks for the trees, I advocate for the shrub, yearning to grow taller; I tout the lawyer who is aiming for more creative balance.

My own household offers a kick in the pants. For example, my wife, a busy university professor, took up the ukulele a few years ago—while I gazed at a dust-gathering guitar. And she and our two daughters are about to start tap-dancing class—while I consider trying a new setting on my digital camera. The talent gap widens.

The day I worked on this column, though, a waitress handed me a fortune cookie whose contents offered me—and maybe you—the encouragement we need. I share it to remind us that we all have undiscovered talents, so let’s get on it.

There—Loraxed!

(And before I forget, here are some photos I shot at our photo shoot of the Creative Arts Competition winners.)

Talent lies hidden in many places in this issue. For instance, I commend to you Joe Kanefield’s President’s Message, where he shares his self-portrait.

And deep in our story on the Bill of Rights Monument, you may miss the fact that Chris Bliss of MyBillofRights.org has wowed folks with his juggling talents for years. Watch his talent here.

Inspired? It’s time to jump into your own talent. The Lorax and I will cheer you on.

Nashville, a city for music and creativity

When was the last time you wrote a song? And when was the last time you had a truly fine educational experience?

For me, the answer to both questions is “Last week.” And, yes, they were related.

Happy Change of Venue Friday. I wrote before about attending an annual workshop in Nashville, where communicators from bars across the country gathered to share ideas, trends—and the odd song or two.

If you have ever sat through a continuing legal education seminar—or any educational seminar—the prospect of days of them can give you pause. For although a large number of them are well done and conveyed in a compelling way, a substantial portion of them may be, let’s just say, lackluster.

And is a little luster too much to ask for, I wonder? Am I shooting for the moon to expect that a subject-matter expert might lend a moment or two’s thought to the manner of presentation?

I say that is not shooting for the moon, and that we should expect nothing less.

Well, I am pleased to report that the seminars were pretty uniformly stellar. They engaged me and others, and they delivered important material without any of the drip drip drip of the educational I.V., draining a pedagogical bag while doing the same to attendees’ spirits.

Dan Wise, New Hampshire Bar Association

Of course, these presenters are communicators. Our jobs require that we focus not just on content, but also on presentation (like how I did that, how I shoehorned my own non-presenting self last week into the ranks of those who actually performed? Pretty good, eh? That’s what communicators do!).

But amidst all the good programs, let me explain how a few truly captivated attendees, not through a bludgeon or a tantalizing promise of a pee break. No, they did it by engaging people on a deep level.

I have to remind readers that I did not attend all the seminars offered, because the two tracks competed for attendees’ time. So these stories are examples, not a complete picture. But each of these developed a strategy that put the listener first, rather than subjected them to the grandeur and majesty of the material.

One of the most appealing was titled “The Title Fight: Print vs. Digital.” Audience members likely arrived expecting a mildly rousing rendition of some of the trends facing publications today.

What we got was quite a bit more. In the 10 minutes between sessions, panelists dervished through the hotel conference room, lofting chairs up, down and into a huge semi-circle. Perspiration on brows, they raised an old-time prizefight microphone. And then, in a moment of genius, a bowtie was affixed to the collar of the event’s moderator–referee, Dan Wise of the New Hampshire Bar Association. Stunned and surprised, I failed to snap a picture of the redoubtable Dan—my last disappointment of the day.

A spirited seminar led by Dan Wise, referee

So before even one word had been uttered about pages or bytes, the panel had already busted their you-know-whats to serve the audience.

Their delivery was just as impressive. Staccato yet substantive, Wise and his cornermen (and -women) launched us through multiple rounds of challenging topics. Speaker lectures and audience questions could not drag on, for a ringside bell (via an iPhone) would signal a new topic. It may have been a prize fight, but audience members were the winners.

A second notable event was a seminar titled “The Un-Conference.” There, the Tennessee Bar Association’s CLE Director, Mindy Thomas-Fulks, led attendees to the water of conference alternatives, and encouraged us to drink.

Now, I don’t put on too many conferences, but I was interested in how to increase reader engagement, which is a similar topic. How do we encourage participation and make people feel at home in our pages or our conference rooms?

Mindy Thomas-Fulks, Tennessee Bar Association

A few of the topics Fulks covered included opportunities for hands-on learning, more audience involvement, even changing how we create nametags and handle registration. Each of those steps in the conference process, Fulks pointed out, is a chance to engage attendees and lead them to adopt the meeting as their own.

Could we create alt-conferences for every single portion of our meetings? Probably not, Fulks said. But altering even part of the experience may lead to more involved and attentive attendees.

Fulks did not just talk to us about these topics. She encouraged us to interact with each other and develop our own ideas. Despite my more solitary inclination, I have to admit that it was, well, fun.

The last example from Nashville also has to do with sharing ideas—and songwriting.

Gary Burr

The “Songwriter Session” was led by four noted (you guessed it) songwriters. They divided the attendees into two groups, and we brainstormed and wrote a song.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t that, but it was certainly enjoyable. The session opened with audience members offering song titles that would anchor our efforts. The winning idea was “I Drink Because,” served up by Stacy King of the Federal Bar Association. Now that’s a federal mandate we can live with.

Our group’s assigned songwriters were Gary Burr and Jim Photoglo, accomplished industry professionals both (go ahead, click their sites and even Google ’em). They exemplified the creative process for us communications folks, and they did it with humor and talent. At the end of 40 minutes or so, we all had collaborated to pen a hilarious rendition.

Jim Photoglo

I’ll see if I can post some audio from the song. In the meantime, though, here’s what I took away:

Creativity requires engagement. Engagement must be encouraged. Encouragement requires creativity.

Congratulations to those who put together a successful workshop. Now let’s see how much creative encouragement we can muster in our own shops.

Have a great—and creative—weekend.

On Wednesday, I took my version of a spa day. Well, not quite. But I did clean my glasses.

The truth is less pitiful (and gnarly) than it sounds. True, it wasn’t much of a getaway (in fact, I sat at my desk as I did it). But the minute or so it took served to remind me of the importance of pushing back and taking a breather. And that led to even more good things.

Happy Change of Venue Friday. As the weekend comes upon us, I am happy to report that my glasses-cleaning vacay provided a residue of relaxation from which I’m still benefiting 48 hours later. And it can work for you too.

The action of cleaning eyewear may (or may not) get you jazzed, but my resulting good feelings flowed from doing something typical in a way that was atypical. Let me explain.

Usually, I gaze through lenses that give me a hazy view of the world, to put it mildly (and that is not always a bad thing). Try as I might to keep my glasses pristine, the day’s travails inevitably take their toll, and I’m back to Blurs-ville.

And when I do clean them, it’s typically just a quick swipe with my shirt-front or a (clean) handkerchief. (Young reader, ask an old reader about this “handkerchief”). The result is eyewear only slightly less smudged.

Wednesday, though, I pushed back from my overflowing desk and opened a lower drawer. There, gazing at me balefully, was the clear plastic packet that included the finest tools to clean your glasses: 

  • A “specially-formulated” solution to spray on the lenses
  • A towel made of a NASA-type fiber with antimicrobial something, or antioxidant something else.

I’m not sure what’s in that little towel, but here’s what I know: It’s really swoopy smooth. So smooth that I’m not sure why they don’t make entire robes out of the fabric.

Anyway, though the cleaning kit sits a foot away from me, I rarely use it. But on Thursday, I zipped it open and got to cleaning.

A marvel. That’s what it was. I could see clearly. And my conclusion after the 60 seconds of lens sanitation? I deserve this. Oh yeah.

 

So pleased was I with the larger result—a feeling of calm—that I set to work cleaning my desktop. Within the hour, I had refiled or discarded a mass of orphan papers. My desk was clear, and my day improved dramatically.

Your results may vary, but ignore dirty lenses at your peril. After all, each of us has work to do, and you might worry that the 60-second vacation may cause you to lose a brief moment of productivity.

Comfy chairs await me.

More likely, doing your work in a new way may cause increased productivity. Today, I’ve committed to moving from my standard-issue swivel-type chair to a perch across my desk—into one of my more inspirational guest chairs. Not for the whole day, but for at least a portion.

As I recline in a seat I got from IKEA on deep discount, I will read, write and edit, all as usual. But my viewpoint will shift—and so might my work’s result.

Have a great weekend.