Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Creativity Tips: It's time. Head in the right direction.

If you had told me a couple of years ago that I could do a headstand, I'd have laughed at you.

If you had told me I'd be willing to attempt this headstand in FRONT OF PEOPLE I DON'T EVEN KNOW, I'd have stopped laughing and questioned your sanity.

And yet ... this happened last night:

Naturally, I wrote about 8 million funny captions between the time my buddy Julie took these photos and I got home from Shanna Haun's yoga class. But then I started thinking about it ... and realized I didn't want to turn this into a joke. This headstand is serious stuff:
  • Two years ago, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis with severe risk of fracture. I was suddenly terrified of falling and breaking -- I clung to the railing when I walked up and down stairs. Now, I'm flipping upside down. There's nothing like finding the right incentive to get us moving -- whether we're moving toward an improved physical condition, an artistic goal, a better relationship or anything else.
  • I could not have done this two years ago. I probably couldn't have done it one year ago. Physical strength is just like creative strength. It builds. Sometimes slowly. And the best way to build it is to exercise the relevant muscles daily.(Want to be a writer? Write. Every single day.)
  • We can't get to the next step -- we can't discover what we are capable of doing TODAY -- unless we're willing to take a risk. And that means letting go of our old self-images. It's hard to take a quantum leap if you're worried about how you look leaping. Last night, I never even considered what people would think, or what might happen if I fell. Could I have looked silly? Absolutely and big damn deal. The world is in dire need of more silly.
  • Know what you need. When it comes to creativity, my needs vary by the project and by the day. Sometimes I need silence. Sometimes I need people. Sometimes I just need a dictionary. When it comes to my headstand, I need to know that someone I trust, someone who believes I can do it, is ready to catch me if I can't -- and won't think less of me if I fall. For me, and a whole lot of other lucky people, that someone is Shanna. I hope I've been that person for a lot of my writing puppies.
So let me ask you: What do you really, really, really want to do? What motivation do you need? How long are you willing to work? How hard are you willing to work? Who (besides me, I'm here!) is going to support you?

Today is the perfect day to start, my friend. Turn your world upside down. It's a really beautiful view. 

P.S. When you were a kid, did you like looking at the world upside down? I used to hang off the couch, look at everything upside down, pretend the floor was the ceiling, etc. I liked figuring out how the chairs could stay in place. It's completely possible I was weird from the get-go. 

P.P.S. If you don't think those photos illustrate a perfect headstand, you're wrong. It's a perfect first headstand. Wait until you see how my headstands look in six months ...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Creativity Tips: Don't Rely on Random

You know the whole "practice random acts of kindness" concept? It's lovely. But ... why rely on random? This week, practice a few planned acts of kindness -- just to make sure you don't forget. Because the weeks get away from us, and opportunities for kindness too often slip by.

How do you plan ahead for kindness? Let me help get some ideas flowing. You could:
  • Make a donation to someone's favorite charity in their honor. Do it online. You're online, right?
  • Send an email for no reason other than to make the recipient smile. Think about the subject line. What line would make you happy if it popped up on a Monday?
  • Bake cookies for the neighbors. It doesn't have to be a holiday. 
  • Volunteer to babysit for a harried friend. Don't wait to be asked.
  • Mail a handwritten note thanking someone for a kindness received -- maybe a shoulder or smile when you needed it, a wink that let you know you were seen, a good long hug that said I love you louder than words.
Getting some of your own planned kindness ideas? Perfect! I knew you would. You're that kind of person.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Kiss and Tell

I like not only to be loved, but also to be told that I am loved. I am not sure that you are of the same mind. But the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave. This is the world of light and speech, and I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.” -- George Eliot

I love that you're here -- that you read what I write. Such a gift, and it's appreciated with every post. You are very dear to me. Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Fun: Fake but Fabulous

Well, according to this story, there is no Soggy Bottom Boys winery. Nonetheless, this is a classic wine label. Long live Photoshop and here's to the weekend! L'chaim!

P.S. Thanks to Stephanie for the pic!
P.P.S. I really need to get control of the exclamation points!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Creativity Tips: How to Write a Valentine, Redux

Don't you love love? Come on, it's OK to be mushy. It's February! The month of love.

I was poking around the CI blog the other day and found this 2011 post on How to Write a Valentine. It's still good stuff. Go. Read. And then make your Valentine a Valentine!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Creativity Tips: Never Assume Anything

My first day at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, one of the professors handed out a brochure covered with a single lesson: Never assume anything. 

It's good advice for a journalist or anyone else. When you're creating a work of art -- with words, with paint, with clay, whatever -- never assume that the reader/viewer will understand your message. Find a few first readers, first viewers. See what they see.

Valentine's Day always reminds me of this particular lesson. Years ago, I bought Tom a Paul Simon CD as a Valentine's Day gift. Wouldn't you think this would be romantic?
You're the one! Perfect for a Valentine!!
Yeah. No. The basic lyrics for the title song are ... You're the one. You broke my heart. You made me cry.

Never assume anything. And marry someone with a good sense of humor!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Creative Inspiration: Your One Wild and Precious Life

It may be warm where you are. In KC, we're in the midst of a ridiculously cold winter, so I'm starting the week with a favorite poem by Mary Oliver, The Summer Day. For the summerness, and because her last line keeps running through my head: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

The Summer Day
Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA