Monday, March 6, 2017

#MondayMotivation -- Start Happy!

Want to kick your creativity up a notch this week? Start happy. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh.

What? You don't have funny people around you? Well, then:
1. We need an immediate intervention.
2. I'm going to loan you my incredibly talented friend, Kate O'Neill Rauber.

Yes. I mentor her. 
She's a cutie, huh? And, in a post that takes about 25 seconds to read, Kate explains the sartorial splendor -- and you get a laugh to start the week.

And there's more! Get inspired. You may not change your work wardrobe (not everyone can pull this look off), but while you're on Kate's site, check out the theory behind her 15 and 5 posts. Creative instigation in action.

By the by, since Kate is elegantly tall, strongly slim and totally gorgeous, I would just like to go on record as saying we wear exactly the same size Snuggie.




Thursday, February 23, 2017

Creative Community: Blessing for the Dark Times

True fact, as opposed to any other kind: My Facebook feed isn't nearly as enjoyable as it was before the election. But, I do see some fun news from friends amidst the political updates. And, because many of my friends are writers, I sometimes have the pleasure of a poetic post. I hope you enjoy this one from the very talented Linda Rodriguez, who notes that she was recently reminded that the artist's job in such times is to offer healing and hope.

BLESSING FOR THE DARK TIMES
Creator reminds us daily 
through the fragrant winds,
the re-leafing trees,
the dark-of-morning bird chorus,
the taste of rain on upheld faces,
that this world was built in beauty,
made for harmony and wholeness.
We must remember
it is we humans
who break what is shining and whole.
It is our species that creates dark times.
We must learn to live
in tune with creation once more. We must sing
balance back into this bountiful earth.
As we work together
to mend the broken world—
against the forces among our own kind
choosing destruction over grace—
may we keep in our imaginations
the ancestral memory
of this world as it was created to be.
May we will it into existence
again. May we move always toward healing
and wholeness. May we never forget
the force of willed action
and words of power.
May we create a blessed light
in these dark times in which we find ourselves.
May we know
deep inside our bones
that, no matter how broken,
our world is always
worth the labor of mending.
© Linda Rodriguez 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Creativity Tips: Read Like a Reporter

I received my Bachelor of Journalism degree back when dinosaurs roamed and social media consisted of notes we passed in class or chain letters.* However, the passage of time and the evolution of my career hasn't changed my love for journalism and my respect for the First Amendment.

Knowing my history as a reporter and news director, several people have recently asked me about social media stories that creatively pass as fact when they are fiction. How can you tell the difference? Read like a reporter.

  1. Approach all stories with a healthy dose of curiosity. Keep in mind, curiosity is not the same as cynicism. But ask yourself the five basic "W" questions: Who wrote this? What publication ran it? Where did it first appear -- in the "News" section or the "Opinion" section? When did it run? (I have seen stories presented as current that were published years ago.) Why is this in my social media feed? (Is it from a trusted news source? Is it from Uncle Jerry? Is it a post someone has paid to distribute?)
  2. Consider the source. Andy Borowitz is satire, dear hearts. This particular Borowitz column brings up another red flag that we see in non-satirical fiction online these days: Inaccurate information. Unfortunately, the cutbacks in news rooms across the country have led to fewer editors and fact checkers. But facts that are this blatantly wrong would be captured before publication at a valid news outlet. Think as you read. (Example: If you're thinking, you realize I just stated as fact the info re: the news room layoffs, and I didn't give you any supporting data to back it up.)
  3. Consider the source again. Along these same lines, remember that anyone can put "News," "Report" or "Daily" in the name of their post and make it sound legitimate. This could be the Kansan Daily News, rather than the Creative Instigation blog. How long has the news source been around? Have you ever heard of it before?
  4. Get information from multiple legitimate sources. If you think The New York Times leans left and The Wall Street Journal leans right, then go for the center. I've started following the Associated Press and Reuters. I relied on the Associated Press as a reporter, and still find their information factual and non-biased.
  5. Look for attribution when you see an adjective. If the story says: Jan and Tom Harness have two daughters, the "two" is an easily provable fact and does not need attribution. If the story says: Jan and Tom Harness have two brilliant daughters, the "brilliant" needs attribution. (Even though it is a fact and we all know it.) The correct approach for that would be: According to Jan Harness, both daughters are brilliant. An attribution would typically be from one person or source -- people don't say exactly the same things, even when they are married. And, when tackling this topic, the question I ask myself is: "Can you prove it?"
  6. Read critically. Reporters know that the concept of "two sides to every story" is wrong -- there are typically far more than that. But, in a news report, look for both sides, look for multiple and differing opinions. Reading critically also means separating fact from opinion -- per tip #5.
  7. Remember that photos and videos can be edited. Case in point: A video "showing" Anderson Cooper laughing uncontrollably at Kellyanne Conway got a gazillion hits. It was an edited clip. If you have questions about the nature of a photo or video -- or story -- Snopes is a great resource. 
  8. Question hyperbole. If you see a story with a number like "a gazillion" in it, ask yourself if that's a fact or if the writer (in this case, me), is stretching the facts to make a point. And because she (the writer, in this case, me) is too lazy to look up the accurate number of hits. If I did look it up, I would need to qualify it: A video "showing" Anderson Cooper laughing uncontrollably at Kellyanne Conway had received 1,333, 291 hits at the time this story was written. Or: A video "showing" Anderson Cooper laughing uncontrollably at Kellyanne Conway received more than 1.3 million hits. 
  9. Check the spelling and the grammar. If the story includes misspelled words and poor grammar -- especially in the first paragraph -- chances are it is not from a reliable news source. Do reliable sources make mistakes? Absolutely. But most mistakes will be caught by an editor.
  10. Back away from vulgarity. Respected news media do not use obscenities in the headline unless they are quoting someone. Consider the publication's style preference, but all caps can be another giveaway that you're seeing a creative take on a story, rather than a news report. With the headline below, using all caps with the vulgarity only provides two immediate clues that you don't need to read this story. 


One of the biggest journalistic dangers today is the same danger I dealt with years ago -- in our rush to be first on the air with a story, there was always the risk that we would move too fast, not check every fact, and make a mistake. There are times now when I see breaking news, and go to check it at the Associated Press or The Washington Post -- and they don't have it. Later, they will. They may not be the first to report the news, but I'm comforted by the idea that they are checking to make sure it's accurate before publication.

If you want to separate the wheat from the chaff, read like a reporter, my friends. Reporters, by nature, question. Now, more than ever, you need to do the same.

*If you're too young to know what a chain letter is, think of a Facebook message that warns you will lose a valued appendage if you don't forward it immediately to seven other people.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Valentine Week: God Says Yes To Me

Friday is typically the day for the Friday Fun feature on the CI blog -- and nothing is more fun, or more fitting, than wrapping up our Valentine Week celebration with a special poem for Lynn, my bestfriendinthewholeworldsincefourthgrade. I'll tell you what, that first day of Mrs. Mansker's class at Boone Elementary School, when Lynn and I met -- well, God said yes to both of us.

God Says Yes To Me
by Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish 
or not wear nail polish 
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly 
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is 
Yes Yes Yes



Thursday, February 16, 2017

Valentine Week: For Sale by Shel Silverstein

Our Valentine celebration certainly wouldn't be complete without Frank Sinatra singing My Funny Valentine

And, speaking of funny Valentines, here's to all the brothers and sisters in the universe! I heart you, Harry and Eva. I really do. Sure, there were moments when I would have sold you, but ... 

For Sale
by Shel Silverstein

One sister for sale!
One sister for sale!
One crying and spying young sister for sale!
I'm really not kidding,
So who'll start the bidding?
Do I hear a dollar?
A nickel?
A penny?
Oh, isn't there, isn't there, isn't there any
One kid who will buy this old sister for sale, 
This crying and spying young sister for sale?

Eva and the tickle monster.
Harry, the hero!



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Valentine Week: Love Lost

We don't always have a Valentine on Valentine's Day. Today's poem is geared toward those moments. It's also the only one of my poems I'm sharing this week.

First, let me explain: People tend to think all poetry is biographical. It is not. My love life didn't inspire this poem. My love of words did. I heard someone say, No love lost, and I thought, Well. That's not quite right

After signing the papers

I heard someone say
"No love
lost between them.

No love lost."

And passing by, you
hesitated,
then walked away.

You and I 
know love lost. 

Love lost. 

-- Jan Sokoloff Harness

Yes! Let's all go buy some candy. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine Week: Windchime by Tony Hoagland

Happy Valentine's Day! Let me just start by saying publicly to Tom: You're the One. You're still the one. (This is the 38th Valentine's Day we have celebrated together. How ONEderful is that?)

The secret to a long marriage? Laughter. 
Today's poem may surprise you -- I was looking for different poems, something you might not have read and something that captured married love. And I found this beauty. It's written by a husband for a wife, so a bit backwards for me to share it. But ... the feeling is universal:

Windchime
by Tony Hoagland

She goes out to hang the windchime
in her nightie and her work boots.
It's six-thirty in the morning
and she's standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,

windchime in her left hand, 
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she's trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.

She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it -- the wind blowing
through the sound the windchime
wasn't making
because it wasn't there. 

No one, including me, especially anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving -- 
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands upon the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth
with the nail in it. 

P.S. Some of us do still have faith in the whole "till death do us part" part ... Happy Valentine's Day!