Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday Fun: Be Amazed

Kate and I recently went on a fabulous mother/daughter vacation to Seattle and Victoria, B.C. Gotta say, it was close to perfect. Even the weather cooperated!

At the start of the trip, a friend who lives in Seattle took a day off work to drive us to Snoqualmie Falls.


It's gorgeous. After admiring the view from the top, we hiked to the bottom. Along the way, every twist and turn took us to another incredibly beautiful vista -- a fairy tale forest, complete with moss-covered trees, soaring in the sunlight.



Kate walked ahead, taking these pics, while I dawdled. And oohed. And ahhed. And repeatedly said, "It's so beautiful!"

After a while of this, our Seattle friend finally asked, "What is?"

"All of this," I said, astonished by the question. "All of it."


He looked around again and quietly said, "You're right. I forget to be amazed."

My friend is a writer, an artist. His world revolves around creativity. It doesn't matter -- sooner or later, we all forget to be amazed. This weekend, don't forget. Open your eyes. See the beauty, appreciate the wonder. Be amazed.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Creativity Tips: Treat Yoself

You know the feeling. You go to one of your favorite restaurants, and there's a new menu. It can only mean one thing: They've raised the prices. Right?

OR, in the case of Houlihan's, they've raised the bar on menu copy. Enjoy! Or, as they say, Treat yoself. And think of ways you could add some humor and interest to whatever you're writing today. 


FYI, the website is fun too. I don't know who's handling Houlihan's creative work, but I like it!

P.S. I snapped the menu pic while at Houlihan's with my wonderful Kate, and it's her birthday today! Happy birthday, Kate! You've been a sparkler since the day you were born, and every year, you shine brighter. I'm incredibly proud to be your momma. xxoo
All the love. All the time. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

#MondayMotivation -- Don't Quit. Denik.

When was the last time you had a fun customer service experience? You know, the kind that makes you feel like someone is actually taking care of you and values your business?

I was on the hunt for a specific notebook from Denik, a company that believes Art Can Change the World. The response to my first email was fast and friendly -- and offered alternatives, since the notebook was no longer in production.

Now, options are lovely. But writers can be a choosy lot when it comes to our notebooks. If I'm going to veer from Moleskine, I want what I want, not an alternative.

Then, the second response! While I was thinking about what to do next, the Denik Team searched again, found exactly what I was looking for, and offered to ship it to me ASAP. Yes!

During the back-and-forth emails re: the order, Melanie from the Denik Team was exceptional. Proactive, friendly, instantly responsive, helpful, courteous, informative -- everything you want in customer service and so rarely get these days.

I didn't have to wait. I didn't feel like a number. I didn't get lost in the shuffle. And I'll be back for more Denik goodies in the future.

This week, be extraordinary. Be Denik. If you don't have an answer, if you can't find what someone wants or needs immediately, don't quit. Look again. Look a little harder.

Art Can Change the World. And so can you. Happy Monday!

This is not the notebook I was looking for, but isn't it great?
They still have it online!
P.S. Want to be a Denik designer? Start here.




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