Thursday, July 30, 2015

Creativity Exercise: Mark Twain

While doing research for a client, I stumbled across a Mark Twain quote I'd never read before:

Is that perfect or what? It's perfect. And to make it even perfecter, show me the fire. This quote screams out for some kind of illustration. A painting, a photograph, a doodle. Go! Do!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

You're Not My Typo

In the past three days, I've had three people express angst over sending me an email or text with a typo or grammatical error. One person? No biggie. Two people? Maybe they're neurotic. Three people? Yikes. I'm going to own that.

So, just for the record, let me clarify: I'm not judging your intellect, creativity or all-around wonderfulness by the grammar and spelling in your emails and texts. Yes, I am a writer. Yes, I'm more aware of grammar than your average bird. Yes, I typically notice those typos and grammatical mistakes.

News flash #1: Noticing doesn't equate to judging.
News flash #2: I make typos and grammatical mistakes myself. Especially in texts. (Let's all pause now for a collective gasp.)

You may be like me in this -- I generally see my own mistakes right after I send a text or email. And, as you know if you've been on the receiving end, I frequently send an immediate correction. Because I am a tad obsessive-compulsive about my own spelling and grammar.

On the other hand, I'm delighted that you are communicating with me at all. I work alone. It's a delight to hear from someone. I'm not reviewing and criticizing every word. Writing two when you mean too does not make you an idiot. You can even use 2 rather than too and I'll keep breathing.

On the other other hand, the same does not hold true if we're working together on copy for a client. Then, I do aim for perfection. They're (there their) paying me to aim for perfection.

So write away. Right away. I love to here from you. ;-)

P.S. OK, I can see why I make people neurotic. Even leaving the intentional typo in the last line, complete with the winky face, is making me crazy ...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Creativity Tips: End of Retirement

Earlier this year, right after my husband retired, our financial planner sent a document outlining how long our savings could last from first withdrawal until the end of retirement. I am embarrassed to tell you how long I stared at that chart, fighting disappointment over the concept that I had to go back to work in my 90s.

Fortunately, even a dim bulb shines a little light.

I did have the good grace to laugh at myself when the light went on and I finally realized that end of retirement didn't mean I'd be hauling my 90-year-old self up to the office to write ad copy again. I'm still laughing -- the phrase may be my all-time favorite euphemism.

And yet ... consider this: The dictionary defines a euphemism as "a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing."

Has death really become something that even financial planners find too "unpleasant or embarrassing" to discuss? Oy.

Here's my advice: When you're trying to communicate, say what you mean. Choose the right words and use the right words. Should you watch your tone? Certainly. But don't obfuscate.* We have enough trouble understanding each other as it is.

End of retirement. Seriously? You're killin' me.

Scottish proverb -- and one of my mom's favorite sayings. :-)
* Can you use words not everyone knows? If they're the right words, heck yeah. I'm all in favor of expanding vocabularies. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday Fun: Do you see what I see?

Thanks to CJ, Leslie and Hedy for their responses to Wednesday's post! Always fun to ask creative questions and be reminded by the answers that we all see the world differently.

It's a lesson to remember. After all, our eyes don't really see. Our brains see. Our eyes just transmit the info.

With that in mind, the creative instigators my brain sees in the photo below are the same ones CJ saw -- but for slightly different reasons:

  1. No Service. How wonderful. When was the last time you were completely out of reach -- with no guilt? I remember when a drive in the car provided that kind of freedom. No phone. No one could reach me. No one knew where I was. These days, I avoid using the phone when I'm in the car, but I still know it's there. Sure I can turn the ringer off. I can even turn the phone off. But the guilt of choosing to ignore the world? That's harder to disconnect.

  2. The camera. What an amazing, handy creative tool. Photography -- like other artistic endeavors -- improves with practice. Shoot a thousand shots. Edit them. Trash them. Save them. Post them. Play with them. Write about them. Use the tools at your fingertips. You're not a photographer? Maybe you could be with a little practice. (FYI, the camera works even when there is No Service.)

  3. 95%. The battery is almost full. After a two-week vacation, I came back with a creative battery fully charged. Writing is fun again. How's your battery? Need some energizing? Read outside in the shade of a tree. Go for a walk. Blow bubbles with a kid. Or a dog -- they're hysterical chasing bubbles. Speaking of hysterical, watch Ghostbusters. Laugh until you snort. 
We all need a break now and then -- a real break, where we put down the day-to-day responsibilities and deadlines and pick up our toys. So here's my Jewish momma advice: No matter how hot it is where you are, take some time this summer to just chill.

Happy weekend! Go! Play!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

#Creative Exercise: Find the Instigators

Hi, CI buds! Long time no talk -- I've been on vacation. Now I'm back, with a quick quiz for you. Look at this screenshot I grabbed while on the road. Along with the two humans, there are at least two other creative instigators in this photo. Hmmm. Maybe three. Tell me: How many do you see? And what are they?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Friday Fun: Take a Chance

When I submitted a story idea for the 2015 Twitter Fiction Festival, it wasn't my usual well-planned, carefully edited copy. I had an idea, I didn't have time to mess with it, I sent it in.

And they liked it. My story idea was accepted and I had the joy of being part of the festival, giving me the opportunity to happily-forever-after tell people that I was listed in the same L.A. Times article as Margaret Atwood. (See me there? Fifth paragraph? I'm one of the lesser-known authors.)

Take a chance, folks. Stop over-thinking every word, every brush stroke. Stop agonizing over every creative decision. Take a chance, put it out there and see what happens!

By the by, if you're not offended by the F-word, you can find the archived version of my story here. If you are offended by the F-word, you can still find it. But you shouldn't look. Trust me on this.

P.S. Think the creative tools you use don't matter? Think again. Not only did I use crowd-sourcing as part of my content generation for the 2015 Twitter Fiction Festival, but I had an awful moment where the computer froze at a critical point of the story line. Terrifying. And yet another reason to love my Moleskin notebooks. They never freeze. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What if Robin Williams Didn't Kill Himself?

Words matter. And I can't think of a time when they matter more than this:

A young man from my synagogue, Jason Arkin, died last week, five days before his 21st birthday. Jason's obituary, written by Mollie Chesis, notes that:

"Jason graduated from Blue Valley Northwest High School in May 2012 as a National Merit Scholar and he was currently a junior at Northwestern University studying electrical engineering. Jason struggled with clinical depression and ultimately passed due to his illness. Jason was one of many young adults suffering with mental illness in a time when mental illness remains stigmatized and misunderstood."

Mental illness is just that -- an illness. And, as is often the case with an illness, it can be fatal. The way we choose to describe suicide, the words we use, matter. Imagine the impact -- worldwide -- if we all had said Robin Williams struggled with clinical depression and ultimately passed due to his illness.

Puts it a whole different light, doesn't it?

I didn't know Jason, but I've been told by many in the community that he was a sweet, kind young man. Memorial contributions in his honor can be made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

P.S. Today is Mollie's birthday. And it is completely appropriate to celebrate this amazing young woman, along with her wisdom. Happy birthday, Mollie! Thank you for giving us the right words.