Don Henley Overturns Creativity Myth


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by Lynn S. Schwebach

A pernicious, low-level anxiety has settled like pond scum on my creative impulse, and it stems from growing up with the depressing axiom that creativity diminishes with age.

Those front and center in middle age—namely baby boomers—heard the age and low- creativity toxin so many times that many of us took it as truth. I thought about this axiom in October 2015 as I drove to a Don Henley concert at the Bellco Theater in Denver, Colorado. He had just released Cass County, his first solo album in 15 years—and was 68 at the time. As I drove to the concert, I kept recalculating my age in relation to Henley’s. Would I like his new stuff, or only enjoy his old hits and Eagles repeats? Could he still innovate in his 60s?

After opening with one of his hits from the 1980s, “Dirty Laundry,” and then playing a few of the songs off of his new album, it became apparent that Henley’s creativity continues to produce new, fresh and unique work. He sounded like Henley, with his penchant for introspective lyrics and storytelling, but something was different. The music wasn’t pure rock or pure country, or country-rock. It wasn’t pure blues, although you could hear blues-inspired riffs. Instead, you detected elements from each genre.

Rolling Stone magazine wrote: “Written and produced with Stan Lynch, the original drummer in Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, Cass County is meticulously crafted, sharply written and absolutely free of neo-country additives like reheated Seventies-rock bombast and Twitter-verse vernacular.”

The album and Henley’s 11 original songs (plus a few covers) speak to originality and novelty—hallmarks of genuine creativity. And Henley told Billy Joel in an interview at New York City’s 92nd Street Y that iTunes couldn’t categorize the album, which “is fine with him.” Well said—because the inability to categorize new artistic work is yet another ingredient for authentic, groundbreaking creativity.

As I listened to Henley that night, I wondered how the theory that creativity declines with age became so pervasive—so I did some exploring.

I discovered that initial studies on aging and creativity focused on quantitative creative output rather than qualitative output. Past researchers also used timed tests that focused on one component of creativity, such as divergent thinking, and compared the results of older participants to those of younger. The results from these tests strongly suggested that creativity diminishes after the age of 40 or 50—peaking in the 30s.

Thankfully, there are skeptics and recent studies are debunking that narrow-minded theory.

The book, “The Fine Arts, Neurology and Neuroscience: New Discoveries and Changing Landscapes,” cited research by Jock Abra, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Calgary, and a renowned creativity expert. Abra contends that rather than decline, creativity might instead change as “different stylistic and thematic concerns gain priority.”

Additionally, artists themselves refute the theory of diminishing creativity. A study reported in the Creativity Research Journal examined 88 well -respected graphic artists in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. These artists felt more confident today because they had conquered the technical aspects of their craft, allowing them to spend more time with self-expression and experimentation. Their art was improving as they aged—as judged by graphic arts experts.

Authors Martin S. Lindauer, professor emeritus of psychology at the State University of New York, College at Brockport, Lucinda Orwoll, and M. Catherine Kelley, noted “the artists did not feel bound by trying to live up to others’ standards or conventions as they might have when younger.”

Irene Reed, a gerontologist at the Institute of Gerontology, St. Joseph College, confirmed these findings. She studied 21 artists of various media, ages 53 to 75, and in the article “Creativity: Self-Perceptions Over Time,” wrote that their knowledge and experience had become integrated with age, expanding their creativity.

And when told that some of the existing research suggested that creativity declines with age, most of them laughed. One participant commented: “Maybe they ought to change those tests!”

Another 63-year-old woman participant commented: “I think for me, and it’s probably that way for many artists, [creativity] is a spiritual journey. It’s like trying to find out who you are; it’s expressing where you are at the moment; it’s moving through your life and reflecting on what’s going on in your life and trying to find the essence.”

Henley has toured the U.S. and Europe for the past 18 months and will travel to Australia and New Zealand in March for numerous concerts. The album has sold 259,400 copies in the U.S (as of August 2016). But I don’t think at this stage of his career, Henley perseverates much over sales statistics. He has said in numerous interviews that he enjoyed making Cass County more than any other album. As he opines in his song, “Where I Am” on the Cass County album: “When people say ‘Would you go back?’ I say, ‘No way, nohow’ because I like where I am now.”

And that should inspire and motivate all aging artists—and dispense with the creative pond scum anxiety once and for all.

Sheila Dunn’s Authenticity on Life and Art—an Update


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Back in 2012, I had the privilege of interviewing artist Sheila Dunn. I continue to follow Sheila because her paintings stir the spirit guiding me, the one called Ruach, the one that delivers divine inspiration. Here is the definition of this Hebrew word:

Ruach is a Hebrew word meaning “wind” or “spirit.” In its prophetic form as Ruach HaKodesh it is derived from the Talmud equating Divine Inspiration (Ruach haKodesh), and a Divine Voice as the word used to refer to the Spirit of God, or Holy Spirit, in the Tanakh.

Sheila recently wrote a blog post for Luminary on the imperative to keep creating even when the ground seems to disappear, when despair overcomes and threatens to break us—when all seems bleak. Sheila’s thoughts on today’s chaos helped me realize that creative inspiration doesn’t always promise or lead to pretty pictures. In fact, she writes, “creativity continually urges us to welcome the raw energy of the moment—the good, the bad, the ugly—into our psyches, our hearts, our spirits.”

Not everyone defines inspiration as Ruach—I happen to love this word and what it suggests—but we all must believe that we have the ability to affect change. We all must fight for what we believe this world can and should be for people of all religions, ethnicities, and genders. If we want to save the planet, if we want to help the marginalized on both sides of the political spectrum, if we continue to value our democratic values, we must become creative warriors.

For the times when we are feeling drained and hollow and empty of spirit (Ruach)—Sheila redirects us back to our innate creativity. Read her article “Creating Amidst Chaos” here.

Thank you, Sheila!

Nude in white

“Nude in white” by Sheila Dunn

Gifting Fine Art-Free Shipping!


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When I was in college, a friend matted a couple of her flower photographs and gave them to me as a Christmas gift. One of the most unique, best gifts I had ever been given, I kept these matted photographs on a shelf in every place I lived. They are with me today, 30 years later.

Because you won’t see gifts of original art in a big box store replicated over and over and sold as commodities, I believe paintings are the most personal, lasting gifts to give. And, as a lover of the arts, I want everyone to experience the joy that fine art brings to any home, office, or classroom.

At my new Etsy shop, Schwebach Arts, I sell original paintings that also serve as greeting cards, and I mat them so that you can write a message that stays in the card, and becomes part of the painting when it’s framed. Your handwritten note inside the card/painting makes the gift mean even more to the special person receiving it.

I also sell cards with mini easels for someone who doesn’t have any wall space left (lucky person!) and framed paintings in numerous sizes. My art spans a wide price range so that everyone can own a piece of fine art.

I love inks—especially alcohol inks. I also am an illustrator and digital artist, so I create prints on the computer and replicate them with standard printing inks. From time to time, I go back to pastels, the first medium I explored as an artist. And sometimes I put all these media together and create mixed media collages.

I hope you enjoy perusing my shop at

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During Thanksgiving week through the end of business on Small Business Saturday, November 26, I offer free shipping to domestic customers on every thing in the store! If you live outside of the United States, contact me for shipping details.

Thanks for shopping!

Welcome Back

Have I mentioned my love for Whirly Pop popcorn?

Oh my goodness. The simple pleasures. Throw some popcorn kernels in with some oil, and crank, crank, crank the wooden handle. Listen closely as the beautiful, white orbs of deliciousness come to life. Add butter and salt, and you are good to go.

I’m eating a snack at 9:35 pm. And that is a beautiful thing.

On Tuesday last, Dylan and I were invited to participate in a Paint and Sip class. I signed us up because I was craving a night out and thought it would be fun to try something new. As we walked into the brewery where the class was being held (yes, brewery – welcome to Northern Colorado) I felt myself relax into the space. Or maybe that was just the beer included in the price of the experience.

Gazing upon a row of twenty blank canvases, twenty…

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Book Cover


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bookcovercandvblogCommissioned by Stephen Nicholson, I created a book cover for his novel, Ciara and Veronica. He asked for the cover in a “comic-book-like” style, which stretched my creativity. But “stretching” is one of the best exercises for creativity!

You can order the novel at

Lit Matters: The Best Literature Isn’t On The Classics Shelf

The Lighthouse Writers Top-Secret Blog

By Benjamin Whitmer

Tom was the name of the guy who turned me on to Harry Crews’ A Feast of Snakes. I worked with Tom on an assembly line in Boulder. He was a little guy with a pot belly and Coke-bottle glasses who’d just gotten out of prison. I never quite understood what for, but it had something to do with credit card fraud. The way he told it, he’d made enough money to get away with not working for four years, and it had only cost him two years of being locked up. Which he figured was a pretty good deal, even with the scars that ran all over his right bicep from a knife attack. He told me he was just waiting for his credit to recover enough so he could do it again. He was one of the bravest guys I ever met.

He was…

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Lit Matters: Beating Loneliness with Lorrie Moore

The Lighthouse Writers Top-Secret Blog

by Alexander Lumans

In a 2006 NPR interview, Paul Giamatti said that he read all of Macbeth aloud, to himself, because he wanted to. (In full disclosure, it might not have been Paul Giamatti, and it might not have been Macbeth, but let’s just say it was.)

I remember listening to this interview in the fall of 2006 because I was in the first semester of my MFA program at Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. The idea of reading the entirety of something aloud sounded crazy, brilliant, and probably a thing you only did if you had the time and the energy. But isn’t that what MFAs are for? So I decided to read a book out loud. To myself. Like a crazy person with too much time and energy. I picked the next book on my reading list: Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America.

BirdsOfAmericaI remember pacing my attic apartment…

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Lit Matters: What “My Brilliant Friend” Tells Us About Survival

The Lighthouse Writers Top-Secret Blog

by Erika Krouse

When I was 12, a girl in my grade gave herself an abortion with a pencil. It didn’t work completely, and she ended up in the hospital. She was in special ed; she had Down syndrome. Without talking about it, we all understood that it wasn’t her idea, none of it. That it wasn’t even her pencil.

In my public elementary school in Kingston, N.Y., children showed up with constellations of pinprick scabs on their cheeks from hairbrushes, with triangular burn marks on their shoulders from the tips of irons, with wrist bruises, with bald patches ripped from the sides of their heads. They were beaten with their own shoes. One girl came to school with a nearly perfect handprint on her thigh, swollen into welts. We gathered around, fascinated, and she said with something like pride, “My mother has leather gloves.”

Teachers were also allowed to…

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How Style Guides Affect Profits (Style Guide Article #2)


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A version of this article first appeared at Summit Publication Design.

by Lynn S. Schwebach


Business in the 21st century requires almost all employees at all levels to produce either in-house or external communications—or both. Time spent writing and editing dramatically affects workers’ productivity, and, what many companies fail to realize, the company’s profitability.

Nearly everyone writing an e-mail hesitates over capitalization, spelling and grammar questions. If there isn’t a written, stated policy on acronym usage, editing proposals heavy with acronyms can slow the pace of editing to a crawl. A poorly written technical manual written for agricultural scientists working in the field and delivered via an App could lead the scientists to make a serious error impacting the project’s timeline and scope.

If a style guide doesn’t exist, it’s obvious that productive time spent on making sales, directing projects, building products, and conducting experiments gets waisted on grammar and usage issues.

Stephanie Haynes, product manager at Vaisala, Inc., a global company headquartered in Finland, works at Vaisala’s North American headquarters in Louisville, Colo. She handles documentation written by employees working in 16 different countries.

“One of the most frustrating activities is to go through documents to delete the extra space after a period,” Haynes said. This is a step that could be eliminated before the document reaches her.

“It’s inevitable that employees who have very little experience in writing professional documents will occasionally have to do it. Having resources they could turn to for help would be a great benefit,” states Haynes.

To appreciate a style guide’s cost-savings potential, let’s consider a hypothetical example using reported efficiency numbers for a well-known company, Apple Inc.

Hypothetical Cost-Savings of Using a Style Guide

According to an online database published by The Wall Street Journal, as of March 2015, on average, an Apple employee generates $1,969,179 of revenue and $426,674 of net income per year.

These numbers appear staggering but they hint at the magnitude of gains that are possible if a company adopts a policy that leads to even minor improvements in time efficiency per employee.

Suppose a new policy, such as using a style guide, is implemented.

The style guide improves labor efficiency ratios by one 1/100th of one percent, equivalent to a labor savings of 12 minutes per year for each employee based on a 2,000-hour work year.

With 92,600 employees at Apple, that translates into an increase in total annual revenue of $18.23 million and an increase in net income of nearly $3.95 million.

These numbers are strictly hypothetical, but they highlight the potential impact of efficiency improvements that are systematically realized by large numbers of employees across different functional areas of the company.

With the adoption of a style guide, such gains can be realized for a relatively small up-front investment. So, establishing a style is no longer a question of if, but when.