ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.

Simon Sinek on Creative Mornings

Simon Sinek on Creative Mornings (Source: Geo Davis)

Sometimes we need a little bump to jumpstart our shift. If today is that day, I encourage you to invest the next hour of your commute in Simon Sinek’s ideas. Like a multivitamin that tastes good!

Long Live Poetry

Eureka! Surveys and statistics generally make me wary. Even slightly worried. But this is jolly news.

So, poet friends, if you needed a little pick-me-up, this is for you. And if, like me, is bugs you just an iota to think of poetry “making a big comeback”, I’m with you. Some of us refuse to believe that it ever went away. Look closely. It’s baked into sooo much of our cultural diet, we just call it by other names. Poetry. Incognito!

That said, hurrah for good news like a well stocked life raft in a stormy sea of bad news. Long live poetry!

Visothkakvei: Minuscule Doodles and Optical Illusions

Doodle by Visothkakvei (Source:

Doodle by Visothkakvei (Source:

Hat tip to friend and artist Mary Wade for introducing me to the mesmerizing doodles of Visothkakvei. Wow. Wow!

Mary Wade introduces me to Visothkakvei via Facebook.

Mary Wade introduces me to Visothkakvei via Facebook.

Thanks, Mary. And thanks, Visothkakvei for pushing the limits of doodling. Here’s a quick introduction from the link Mary sent me:

Artist Visothkakvei creates detailed drawings that go way beyond your average doodles. Armed with a pen and an endless imagination, he fills sketchbook pages with sprawling compositions that are full of tiny, fine-lined elements. Throughout each of his works, motifs of delicate blooms, fancy flourishes, and crystallized forms fit together like puzzle pieces as they ebb and flow effortlessly around the page.

Some of Visothkakvei’s most striking works are his optical illusion drawings. Here, the minuscule patterning is strategically shaded to build depth and volume. They lead us down a rabbit hole—literally—and ignite our sense of awe. (Source:

Many of Visothkakvei’s doodles appear to move. Optical illusion? Yes. But not always.

Wild animation. Here’s another intriguing doodle. It appears to be 3-D, but it’s an optical illusion.

Ever wonder what’s it on the other side?

A post shared by Visothkakvei (@visothkakvei) on

Here’s how Visothkakvei creates his enchanting doodles.

🐓#art #visothkakvei

A post shared by Visothkakvei (@visothkakvei) on

A Clarion Call to Take Creative Risks

What an important reminder! This morning I’d like to introduce you to the man behind that video, John Spencer (, @spencerideas). Force of nature. Sketchy video animator. Professor. Author. Inspiration. In his own words:

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both. ~ John Spencer

And in my words — and with another excellent animation — earlier this morning after stumbling upon the video above (and subsequently bingeing on about a dozen more):

Risk, Fail, Risk, Succeed

John Spencer asks us to consider failure as a legitimate and acceptable possibility whenever we take creative risks. Taking risks always involves the chance that we will fail. But taking risks is a process, a commitment to ongoing experimentation, and failures are simply iterations on the journey to success. Rather than embracing failure as defeatism, it is liberating and empowering. Embracing the possibility, even the inevitability, of intermittent failure enables us to replace comfort, security, restraint, predictability, fear, and cowardice with permission and confidence to take creative risks. Permission to fail. Confidence to succeed.

This could fail. I know it sounds negative and maybe even pessimistic. But, actually, it’s the opposite… a reminder that every single creative act is an experiment. It might work. It might fail… [but] every failure is another step closer to success. ~ John Spencer

Risk Getting Unstuck

This is precisely the choice and the process I’ve been exploring at 40× for the last few years. Getting unstuck from midlife malaise involves risk (and inevitably plenty of failure), but we shouldn’t eschew risk or failure simply because middle age brings heightened responsibility and stakes. Nor, of course, should we abandon our wits altogether and jump into the seat of an overpriced, lipstick red sports car. Or worse.

Balance decades of experience with the sort of creative risks that will rekindle passion and curiosity and wonder and hope. I’m no guru, but it’s certainly been a rewarding adventure for me so far!

Sure, I could take the safe route. But I’d rather take a plunge into the creative unknown. I’d rather do things that are challenging. Because ultimately that’s where the creative life is found. ~ John Spencer

More from John Spencer

If you’ve made it this far I’m guessing you might be curious where you can tap into more of John Spencer’s motivational bounty. Here are a few links to help launch your adventure.

The World is Calling

Rita Dove and David Guinn (Source:

Rita Dove and David Guinn (Source:

This morning, while walking my dog near the University of Virginia Grounds, I happened upon these welcome words from former U.S. Poet Laureate and UVA English professor Rita Dove.

“Back when everything was still to come,
luck leaked out everywhere.
I gave my promise to the world,
and the world followed me here.”
~ Rita Dove

It’s the final stanza of her poem, “Testimonial,” which originally appeared in her book, On the Bus with Rosa Parks. Today it’s part of an exuberant mural created by David Guinn and crowned with Dove’s line, “the world called, and I answered.”

Thank you for answering the call, Rita Dove. And thank you for the riotous reminder, David Guinn..

David Guinn (Source:

David Guinn (Source:

Gentle Reminder

Sometimes I (we all?) need a gentle reminder to unblinder and untether. This morning I needed a reminder…

“We walk along in our normal lives, being irritated by the stuff we are normally irritated by, and then a mural – or poetry – can stop us in our tracks and remind us of the here and now, of both the intimacy of the human spirit and the expansiveness of the world… Murals do that even without words. When you add words, that effect intensifies.” ~ Rita Dove (Source:

Spot on! Am I living out someone else’s script? Perfectly articulated, totally accurate, and 100% timely.

“The world is going to call you. Are you going to be ready to answer? Will you be ready to answer?” ~ Rita Dove (Source:

Rita Dove and David Guinn (Source:

Rita Dove and David Guinn (Source:

Empathetic Storytelling

What does good, empathetic storytelling look like in the age of digitally augmented virtual reality? It might look a little like good, empathetic storytelling a century or two ago. Enveloping, enrapturing, and interactive.

Despite my misgivings about an increasingly post analog world, I’m intrigued with the possibilities for immersive, audience-centric storytelling that technology is enabling. And it looks like Empathic Media (@empatheticmedia) in Brooklyn just might be one of the players to watch…

Stories via virtual/augmented reality, 360° video, etc. (Source:

Virtual/augmented reality, 360° video, etc. (Source:

We believe that the combination of experiential, first-person storytelling approaches with virtual reality, 360 video, augmented reality and graphic journalism is the key to fostering empathy between storytellers and their subjects. (Source: Empathetic Media)

I’m onboard with “experiential, first-person storytelling”, but I have to admit that reading aloud, “virtual reality, 360 video, augmented reality and graphic journalism”, leaves a slightly tinny taste in my mouth. I take a swig of water, but it doesn’t quite wash away the acrid, faintly metallic aftertaste.

Good, empathetic storytelling liberates the story… allows the narrative to reinvent itself across media and across realities.

I’m not 100% sure why, especially because I’m truly fascinated with the dynamics of multimodal / transmedia storytelling. After all, a story doesn’t live in a book or a film or a song or a play or a graffiti mural. It is whispered — or chanted, shouted, burped — into existence with a book or a film or a song or a play or a graffiti mural… If the story is viable, it gasps and maybe it cries for a few seconds, and then it begins a wildly unpredictable life.

As it matures, it evolves. Maybe it mingles with other narratives. Maybe it’s a loner. But if it endures, it likely assumes many mantles.

Good, empathetic storytelling liberates the story from its book, its film, its song, etc. Good, empathetic storytelling allows the narrative to reinvent itself across media and across realities. And I suppose that digitally augmented virtual reality is just another mode, just another mantle, just another reinvention that vitalizes the story and [possibly] expands its accessibility. And yet, I’m skeptical that it is “the key to fostering empathy between storytellers and their subjects.” The key? I suspect there are many keys!

Story-boarding toward empathetic storytelling... (Source:

Story-boarding toward empathetic storytelling. (Source:

Cursive Nonsense, Nostalgia and Neurotransmission

A cursory (not cursive) relapse this morning into the pre digital age of handwritten correspondence and refrigerator reminders and maybe even illicitly passed classroom notes and mysterious marginalia

The Lost Virtue of Cursive by Mark Oppenheimer (Source: The New Yorker, October 22, 2016)

“The Lost Virtue of Cursive” (Source: The New Yorker, October 22, 2016)

Mark Oppenheimer’s reflection on “The Lost Virtue of Cursive” touched a poignant and sympathetic chord with me.

I can’t escape the conviction that cursive—writing it and knowing how to read it—represents some universal value… This is sheer nonsense, of course. (Source: Mark Oppenheimer, The New Yorker, October 22, 2016)

I totally get his perspective. I’ve become a knee-jerk apologist for alternatives to digital communication. Not because I’m a Luddite. Quite the contrary, in fact. I’ve embraced the digital evolution since I was a youngster. I’m a digital native, thanks in large part to my parents who raised us on proto-PCs and insisted that we learn to code (remember Basic?) and touch type at a time when it was odd. Geeky even. For a couple of decades I’ve logged an unseemly portion of every day on digital keyboards.

And, of course, keyboarding has swallowed my handwriting whole… But when I do use my cursive, however seldom, it’s with a small rush of good feelings. Cursive, to me, is those letters at camp, and, later, letters from my parents at college… (Source: Mark Oppenheimer, The New Yorker, October 22, 2016)

So is it nostalgia then, a hankering for a patinated past that evokes my yearning for  pre digital alternatives? For cursive missives and fountain pen personalization and DNA dripping doodles? Probably, at least in part. But I refuse to believe that it’s just nostalgia. Nor am I willing to concede that writing and reading cursive is valueless.

Maybe I’m just stubborn. Or maybe, just maybe, cursive and hugs have something in common?

I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist or any other stripe of scientific savant. Nor am I qualified to opine on the neurochemistry of happiness, not by a long shot. But I can’t help wondering if there isn’t a pretty potent connection between cursive communications and the blessed buzz of oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Maybe handmade communications provide a profoundly important bridge across the increasingly impersonal, even slightly aseptic modes of interpersonal communications that connect/isolate us in this exciting introduction to the 21st century. Could inky cursive and fingerprinted doodles and just-at-the-right-time hugs be distant cousins?

More than Hugs & Kisses

In response to this post my father, Gordon Davis, emailed me John Donne’s opening to “To Sir Henry Wotton”.

Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls,
For thus, friends absent speak. ~ John Donne

Spot on. Thanks, Dad!

A Doodler’s Look at Paisleys (and Math)

The Math of Paisley by Liana Finck and Megan Amram (Source: New Yorker)

The Math of Paisley by Liana Finck and Megan Amram (Source: The New Yorker)

Math. Paisley. Doodle. Three steps from dread to happy place. I tip my hat to Megan Amram (writer) and Liana Finck (illustrator) for your Math: An Illustrated Guide (Source: The New Yorker, June 8, 2016). At last, the ultimate companion for the mathematically challenged! I speak doodle… not math.

Answers from the Woods

Gary Snyder

A Dent in a Bucket

Hammering a dent out of a bucket
a woodpecker
answers from the woods

Gary Snyder, “A Dent in a Bucket” from Danger on Peaks, 2004

Face-to-Face Flanerie

Face-to-Face Flanerie

I was flattered recently to have an early post (12+ years is practically ancient in cyberlandia!) about flanerie (“What is a Flâneur?“) resurface in the blogosphere courtesy of  The Concerned Canadian. In “The Art of Walking: Lessons from my Uncle” the author introduces us to his Uncle Philly, a wise, wondering, and wide-wandering Dublin flaneur.

It’s a good read.

The author touches on the difference between real life encounters (i.e. flesh-and-blood, non-digital interaction).

People want to know people. The current generation attempts to replicate this experience through the use of social networking and long distance communication. What’s missing though is the closeness which can only be created through face to face communication. (Source: The Concerned Canadian)

A Fuzzy Phantom of Face-to-Face

Face-to-Face FlanerieHe’s on to something. I’ve ruminated before on the upside of digital flanerie, but the relative retreat from face-to-face interaction is real. Digital social networks and long distance interaction are remarkable in many respects, especially for those of us who remember life before the internet, mobile phones, 24×7 connectivity, etc. But they are at best a fuzzy phantom of face-to-face interaction.

I am a collector of people, much to the regret of my tolerant bride, so I’m an easily sympathetic and an enthusiastic audience for The Concerned Canadian. It pleased me beyond description to read the words of a self-described millennial touting the merits of real life, face-to-face flanerie!

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