Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Creativity Tips: Make a Wish

Holiday time! Creative Instigation will be back Jan. 4, unless inspiration hits before then and I feel the need to post. If you want email notification of new posts, there's an easy "subscribe by email" link on the right. For now ...

I wish you time to truly enjoy
People you love
Places that make your heart happy
Good books, good movies, good art
Friends who make you laugh
Food that reminds you of home
Moments of pure silence
The joy of just being

You are a creative wonder, and I thank you for being part of the CI team. See you in 2010!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Creative Query: Gifts

If you could give yourself one gift, what would it be? It can be magical, mercenary, mythical ... whatever makes you happy.

I'd like a camera that takes pictures of the past, so I could have snapshots now of everything I didn't take photos of then.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Creativity Tips: Examine This!

We're going to start the week with a team update: Our group of amazingly talented people is doing incredibly wonderful things.

Angela has a new creative adventure: She recently started writing articles on baking for Very fun stuff! Check it out.

Leslie is almost finished with her gorgeous Year in Pictures project and she's looking for big ideas for that final photo. That's our creativity exercise this week: Post photo-finish ideas here or on Leslie's blog.

Joe and Michele aren't stopping with publication of a book. Nope. Now they're recreating Harzfeld's Petticoat Lane perfume. (The book is wonderful, fyi! And I know the perfume will be too.)

If you're a regular reader and want to share a creative accomplishment, just let me know!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Random Friday

Got up this morning and found great links from Leslie (thank you!), the perfect holiday photo and remembered it's Vanessa's birthday (Happy Birthday!!!)

Links from Leslie:
Cool Hanukkah post
Wonderful holiday moments

And here's what I'm doing today: Breathing. My sister is in town and I don't have to run out the door to a client's office. Yep. I can feel the brain cells coming back.

I hope you take time this weekend to simply relax. Sip something warm. Eat something sweet. Appreciate how lucky we are. It's good to take a moment out of the holiday craziness to just feel happy.

Friday Fun: Origami Wrapping

I'm writing this on Thursday night. I still need to decorate the Christmas tree and light the Hanukkah menorah. Try not to think about it too hard.

Instead, get out your paper squares and dazzle someone!

(Quick poll: Are you done with your holiday shopping? Post a yes, no or just walk away laughing hysterically.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Creativity Exercise: That's a Wrap!

For today's exercise, wrap a present in something other than gift-wrapping paper. Here's how it works: I'll get you started with a few ideas, then you give me more, bigger, better ideas! And you give your loved ones a gift they'll enjoy before they even open it.
  1. Wrap a funny gift in comics.

  2. Wrap a robe or pajamas or slippers in a pillow case. You could start with a cheap white pillow case and doodle all over it. Or, buy a really fancy shmancy pillow case, and then the wrapping is part of the gift.

  3. Wrap tickets to a musical in the CD case with the music. Does that make sense?* For example, buy tickets to Wicked. Buy the Wicked CD. Wrap the tickets inside the CD case.

    *When you're not sure your writing makes sense, trust me: It doesn't make sense. Rewrite it. I would, but then I couldn't use myself as a bad example ...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Creativity Tips: Share

My latest poem. The workshop liked it a lot, so I'm sharing* it with you:

I loved a man who cheated

I can see him as a child, kicking a can,
thinking of nothing but the connection,
satisfaction of shoe on tin.

Together, apart.
Together, apart.
The irresistible skittering.

I can see him then, each careful kick,
moving the can five feet, ten,
keeping it in easy reach.

Dancing a tin ballet for boy
while another girl waits on the stoop
at her house down the street.

©2009 Sokoloff Harness Communications LLC

*Gotta tell you: Sharing poetry is scary for me. But it's good to scare yourself now and then.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Creative Query: New Year's Resolutions

Have you ever kept a New Year's resolution? If so, what was it? If not, do you still make them? Why?

OK, that's more than one creative query. Never get an old* reporter started ...

*I've been told to never call myself an old reporter. Former reporter, possibly. Some have even suggested recovering reporter. Never old. Whatever. As Popeye would say, "I yam what I yam."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Creativity Tips: Believe in Your Own Magic

My buddy Linden brought his dad Chris and brother Clarkson over to the house this weekend. Our time together reminded me that a preschooler is the best creativity boost on the planet. Here are a few lessons from Linden:
  • If the rules of the game aren't working for you, change the rules.
  • When you win, celebrate. When someone else wins, celebrate.
  • Be honest. If you don't like the latke, don't eat it.
  • Push the limits. How else will you know where they are?
  • Believe in your own magic.
  • Laugh out loud. Sing even louder.
I'll leave you with one final Lindenism. As they were leaving, Chris reminded Linden to say "thank you" to Miss Jan.

"Thank you," Linden said.
"Thank you for what?" Chris prompted.
"Thank you for you!"

Thank you for you. Happy Monday. Go play.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Fun: Happy Hanukkah!

Back in the day, when I was in radio, I had to listen to Christmas music for about a month. Non-stop Christmas music. Day in, day out. Hour after painful hour.

Before that, I always enjoyed Christmas music. And I've been out of radio long enough now that I can listen to it without wincing. But if I never hear Jose Feliciano again, I'll be real good with that.

In the spirit of the holidays, and tonight's start of Hanukkah, here's my Friday Fun gift to you: Sen. Orrin Hatch's new Hanukkah song. (Don't think about it. Just enjoy it.)

If you prefer the Jewish version, enjoy Light One Candle, one of my holiday favorites.

Party on!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Creativity Tips: Recognize the Rat

Every year, I have my daughter Mary address holiday cards so they're ready to go in the mail the day after Thanksgiving.

This year, I'm running so fast in so many directions, I forgot. I have the cards; they're lovely. But I don't want to send them now. Why?

Because I'm not the first to get my holiday cards in the mail.

Yes. That's right. I have turned seasonal greetings of love and joy, friendship and good wishes, into a competition. I turn everything into a competition. It's not good. It's bad. Real bad.

It's also possible I'm not the only one on the CI team doing this. I'm guessing, of course. But I can hear you laughing through the computer screen -- and I don't think you're laughing at me.

We need to recognize how this became a rat race, folks. And then we need to do something about it. I, for one, am ready to stop being the rat.

After all, as Mary Schmich said in one of my favorite essays: The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Good Ads: Sexy Forever

People magazine has a special issue out called Sexy Forever. It's cover-to-cover skinny stars, who lost all their pregnancy weight in five minutes. Since the editors understand their audience, the magazine even highlights stars who still look sexy even though they are -- gasp! -- in their 40s.

In the midst of all these scary skinny people, the ad above. And all I can say to New York, New York and its creative team is: Thank you. From all us sexy, laugh-out-loud, nickel-playing gamblers.*

*You know who you are, Eva.

(OK, the headline for the post is going to bring some new visitors. If you stopped by for juicy stuff, sorry. Wrong blog. Bye bye.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Creativity Tips: Laugh at Yourself

This is my favorite holiday card of all time. Patty sent it to me years ago and I framed it.

Why is this a creativity tip? Because laughter sparks creative synapses in the very molecular structure of your beautiful brain. I'm sure this is a scientific fact. After all, I used big words and said it with authority. What other proof do you need?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Creativity Tips: Invictus

I was reading an article about Invictus, the Nelson Mandela movie that comes out Friday. It reminded me of the time I spent with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, years ago, when he visited the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

I had the pleasure of driving Tutu and his wife while they were here. You know what he wanted to talk about as we drove? Me. He was full of questions about my life -- how I balanced work and family, things like that.

He's a Nobel Peace Prize winner, a hero, and has an awe-inspiring aura. He literally glows. Yet he made me feel like I was special. After the visit, he even sent a "thank you" postcard -- it's one of my most-prized possessions.

Today, ask someone a question that matters. Then, listen to the answer. Now there's a holiday gift!

P.S. I'm done with the Chronicle thing. I just need to bite the bullet and actually write the book proposal. Sigh. You know, follow the process. I do so dislike following the process ...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Fun: Bus Stops

When is a bus stop more than a bus stop? Check these out! Thanks to Leslie for the link -- and here's to a great weekend for all of us!

P.S. for those of you who've asked about Amber: She's doing so great! Gaining weight, gaining strength and just went through another round of chemo. She's a trooper.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Creativity Exercise: How Did This Happen?

Next week, my writers group will get together to share poems and I've got nada. Nothing. Zip. Haven't written a poem in 10,000 years. I come up with killer titles and great first lines. Then, I'm stuck. On the bright side, you can help me! Why would you do this? Because you are good and kind souls and creative teams stick together.

One such poem-in-process is titled (and that is not entitled, no matter how many times you see the word used that way) Sooner or Later. This is the start:

Sooner or later
you ask yourself, "How did this happen?"

Promising start. What would you write next?

P.S. Chronicle Books does publish poetry. Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree, trying to get them to publish a version of Creative Instigation. Maybe I should gather poems from my writing buds and send in a collection ...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Creativity Tips: Watch the Traffic

I just love the Quick Quote this week: Watch the traffic. The light will never hit you. Moms Mabley got that right.

Today, consider what's getting most of your attention. If necessary, refocus.

I'll give you an example: I've been focusing too much attention on everything my 16-year-old does that annoys me. I need to remember the classic parenting advice and catch her being good.

That sound you hear is me, shifting gears.

P.S. to Chronicle Books. Yes, I can gear creativity tips to parenting. Or love. Or work. If there's an area you're especially interested in, let's talk.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Creativity Tips: The Power of Persistence

It's December! Unbelievable. As the poster says, "Time flies, whether you're having fun or not."

I'm having fun checking out Leslie's 2009: A Year in Pictures project. If you haven't seen her daily photographic journal lately, take a look. While Leslie's eye is amazing, this is also a gorgeous example of the power of persistence in creativity -- because talent alone isn't enough.

Calvin Coolidge said it beautifully:

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

P.S. to Chronicle Books: Leslie took the pics in my free e-book. If you ask me, I will send you a copy. Yes I will. And this will give you an idea of what we could do together on a bigger project.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Creativity Tips: Change the World

My friend Shanna in Germany.
Different walls these days.
Change is good.

P.S. This post marks the end of National Blog Posting Month. Vicki and I both did a post every day! Whoo Hoo! We are now eligible for spectacular prizes, according to the official site. In keeping with the "every day for a month" concept, I'll keep up the Chronicle Books "draw them to me through Google" approach for one month. Then, if they haven't come to their senses, I'll stop.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Creative Shout Out: Harzfeld's -- A Brief History

Huge congrats to Joe and Michele Boeckholt on the publication of their first book, Harzfeld's: A Brief History. The press coverage has just begun! When you read the article, make note of the book signings scheduled.

Joe and Michele, you rock!

P.S. See, Chronicle Books. Publication, fame, fortune. It's all here at Creative Instigation.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Creativity Tips: What You Don't Know ...

Read this wonderful story in the NY Times about an actor with cerebral palsy learning to dance. Then, watch the video. The whole thing is amazing. And, for me, one of the most fascinating parts is the choreographer's decision not to learn too much about cerebral palsy: “That way I didn’t have any ideas about what he could and couldn’t do,” she said.

It's creative brilliance, unhampered by preconceived notions. I love it.

Thanks to Jon for the link.

P.S. I don't have anything new to say about Chronicle Books today. But, I know they want me. They really want me.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Fun: Personas

Check out Personas ... a fascinating computer art installation by Aaron Zinman. How does the Internet see you?

P.S. to Chronicle Books: Think of the money you could save on the book tour. I don't need media training. I do media training.

P.P.S. Thanks to Steve for the Personas link!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

You know what I'm thankful for? Possibility. Today -- and every day -- is stuffed with possibility. Enjoy!

P.S. Yes. I ended a sentence with a preposition. I'm a professional. I know the rules, so I can choose to break them.

P.P.S. The image is from FishbowlNY.

P.P.P.S. to Chronicle Books: You'd be thankful to have me as an author. Truly. My tens of readers would buy the book, I promise!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Do We Need More Words?

Thanks to Barb and Terri, one of the wonderful sister acts on the CI team, we now know the 2009 Word of the Year.

I don't think it's a word, but I'm not a dictionary.

P.S. Chronicle Books has an interesting list of dictionaries. (Hmmm. I'm starting to think this mentioning Chronicle Books every day may work out better for them than it does for me ...)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Creative Critic: Non-Sequitur

If you only read one comic strip, well, you're not reading enough comics. But, if I had to choose one, I'd choose Non Sequitur. I am an unabashed fan. I even have a signed original in my office. Wiley Miller is brilliant.

Now, he's giving you the opportunity for fame and fortune. Put your comic genius on display. For this week's creativity exercise, enter The Great Non Sequitur Sign-Off!

(And for goodness sake, after you check out the link and the rules, email your line to the address given. Don't post it for the world to see. Can't anyone follow simple directions?)

P.S. to Chronicle Books: Yeah, yeah. I'm promoting a Universal Press guy. But you know my heart belongs to you. And my book could ... if you'd only call.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Creativity Tips: Listen to Me

Make plans today to listen to someone Friday. It's the National Day of Listening and, as their site notes, all you have to do is "set aside one hour to record a conversation with someone important to you."

Why do I promote this every year? Because I think listening is a lost art in America. And we need to bring it back.

P.S. to writers: If you listen to clients, you'll hear the headline. You'll capture the voice. Works all the time.

P.P.S. to Chronicle Books: Are you listening?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Creativity Tips: Chronicle Books Wants Me

Pretty exciting headline, isn't it? It's not a statement of fact yet, but it will be. And, as part of the worldwide* Creative Instigation team, you're one reason I have faith in the prediction. We're too good to be ignored.

Several people from Hallmark have reviewed my material and independently suggested that Chronicle Books would be a good fit. I am working with an agent on a book proposal. However, that process keeps bogging down because she and I are both on overload with other work. (It's a good problem to have. We're not complaining.)

To keep things moving forward, here's my plan. I am going to mention Chronicle Books in every post. It won't be obtrusive, I promise. Probably just a P.S. mention. Then, when the PR folks or social media gurus at Chronicle Books do a Google search for the company, they'll find Creative Instigation. They'll love Creative Instigation. They'll publish Creative Instigation.

That's my theory, and I'm sticking with it. Chronicle Books, welcome to the team!

*Hey! Stop laughing. I've got the analytics to back it up. We are a global force for good and happiness.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Pick Three

Quick! Think of three things you're grateful for this year that you weren't grateful for last year.

(Can you feel those brain cells sparking? Very good!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Fun: Mystery Google

Ah, now here's the advantage of having the 19-year-old home this week. She knows about things like Mystery Google. Check it out.

Meanwhile, there's no mystery about the time of year: It's time to shoot a turkey. I played this game after a long, tough day. And I really enjoyed the sound effects. This is probably not a good sign ...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Seven Tips for Working with a Writer

My former Blades & Associates' boss, Barb Pruitt, knows how to get the best work out of a writer -- even if that writer is something of a creative diva. (Hmmm. Yes. Me.) Today, in honor of Barb's birthday, seven tips to help you wrangle writers:
  1. Be smart. When talking with you engages our brains, you get better copy. We stay amused, which helps us stay alert. And we generally write better when awake.

  2. Feed us information. Yes, many of us can pull copy out of thin air. We do it regularly. We prefer not to. Remember the old computer line: GIGO.

  3. Challenge us. Do not accept good when you know we can do great.

  4. Never assume we know what we're talking about. People tend to trust good writers. We're writers. We're not the ever-popular Subject Matter Experts. Check our facts. And for God's sake, if there are numbers involved, check the math.

  5. Start feedback with praise. We're like 2-year-olds. Except, "Good job!" won't cut it. We need more than that. Barb used to walk into my office, carrying my copy, and say, "Jan, this is brilliant! I laughed so hard I cried. It's totally off strategy and we can't use it, but it's brilliant! Now, let's talk about ..."

  6. Understand our priorities. This is especially important if you're trying to build a creative team. My priorities? My family comes first. My friends are family. And I don't work on Saturdays. When you understand what makes a writer tick, and respect that, we will go the extra mile for you. Always.

  7. Back us up. I was once in an agency meeting -- different agency, not Blades -- where I was so angry with an account person, all I could do was scrawl an obscenity over and over again on a piece of paper. I couldn't speak. The art director, Pat Stout, took over my portion of the meeting and presented my copy along with her design. I will write anything for Pat. (This is not a Barb example, but it could be. Barb always has my back.)

  8. Bonus tip: Let us go. When I decided to open my own company in 2002, Barb didn't try to keep me at the agency, even though she and I were a great team. Her encouragement helped make my entrepreneurial launch a success and her support continues to be a comforting mainstay. No wonder I love her, even if she is tall, blonde and gorgeous.

    Finally, a tip for short, brunette* writers who have to deal with tall, blonde, gorgeous bosses: Never, never, never stand next to them.

    *Fine. We all know this isn't my true hair color anymore. No need to rub it in.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Creativity Tips: Give Yourself a Break

Here's the deal. My daughter is home from K-State, sick with H1N1. I'm on deadline for three clients. So, I'm going to listen to great advice from Cory. I'm taking a day off from blogging.

I'll be back with creativity tips tomorrow. For today, to keep your creative batteries charged, look at Dispatches from Kansas.* You could pick any photo and write about it. Or, be inspired to take a photo. Or, you could just relax and enjoy the beautiful photos and words and stop this insane multi-tasking.

(Clearly, I can't stop. There's still hope for you.)

*Thanks for the lead, Big Bunny.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Creativity Tips: Freshen Up

One of the biggest creativity killers is the status quo. And the list of links on the CI blog has been "status quo" for way too long. I've been thinking about the list for a while now, but followed the sacred creativity rule: No deadline? No action.

Astonishingly, even without a deadline, I found incentive to act. Less astonishing -- the incentive came from Barb Pruitt. Barb pointed me toward The PRess Room from the Greater Kansas City Public Relations Society of America. I hope you'll subscribe to it and contribute. Or, as Barb says, "consider it your professional playground."

I've added The PRess Room to our list. What else should we add? Do we want biggies -- like The Pioneer Woman and Grammar Girl? Would you prefer less-known gems? Let me know. Post ideas, blogs, sites, whatever.

One given: I will continue to promote my buddies -- even if they do say Tall Chicks Rule. (I'm buying one of the T-shirts. I may be the only 5-foot-tall customer Kate has, but I'm a loyal shortie.)

P.S. If you haven't given me an idea for the VW license plate, what are you waiting for?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Creativity Exercise: This I Believe

At our monthly writers' workshop, my friend Teena read her beautiful This I Believe essay, which inspired me to go to NPR for more. Check this out: Edward R. Murrow, introducing the original series. Turn on your speakers and listen to him. Sigh ... the good old days.

And it's not just his sound. His words still ring true today:

We hardly need to be reminded that we are living in an age of confusion -- a lot of us have traded in our beliefs for bitterness and cynicism or for a heavy package of despair, or even a quivering portion of hysteria.

This week, write your This I Believe essay. Don't worry if it fits a certain word count; you don't need to submit it. Just write it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Name My Ride

Well, this is un-freakin'- believable, but apparently someone else has the license plate "BUGGY" and I've been told by the powers-that-be that I have to give it up.

Excuse me? I've been driving my 2003 VW Beetle with the BUGGY plate for six years.

Whatever. You can fight City Hall, but I don't have the time or the energy. I do have you -- and that means I have a whole bunch of creative minds who can help me come up with a new license plate. We do have to play within the box: No more than seven letters, numbers or spaces. Dashes or symbols are not allowed. Letters, numbers or wording cannot be profane, vulgar, lewd or indicate any indecent meaning. (You can see why I'm having trouble coming up with an idea by myself.)

My daughter Mary named the car six years ago, so I need to break this bad news to her and see if she has any ideas. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to your ideas! Post away.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Fun: Blog-4-Cause

Let's wrap up the week with a few fun things.

Fun 1: Thanks to a suggestion from Leslie, I'm a contributing author to Blog-4-Cause. The e-book has raised more than $1,000 so far for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. One donation, and you receive the Blog-4-Cause e-book, and a bonus book. Such a deal. Leslie, good thoughts heading to you and your mom with this one!

Fun 2: Amber update. She's up! Our little CI team member is making great progress. She'll hopefully be out of the hospital soon and regaining strength for the next round of chemo. Yes!

Fun 3: Since I'm playing along with National Blog Posting Month, I'll be posting over the weekend. And, one of my posts will deal with my VW bug. So, it's only fitting that we play Beetle Bomp. I hope you're better at it than I am ...

Here's to a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Hard to believe, but today marks two years of Creative Instigation. Some of you have been on the team since the early days, and I'm sending special thanks your way.

The Google Analytics for the blog are interesting. About 4,400 people have stopped by, for more than 13,000 visits. Our visitors have been from 93 countries/territories -- literally, from Argentina to Zambia. I think that's amazing and cool. I wish I could say gracias to all of you in your native language, but I only speak English, Spanish and a bissel Hebrew. (I'm using Yiddish to quantify my Hebrew. After all, this is a creativity blog.)

A few months ago, CI team member Richard sent an email that fits with today's celebration: If I remember right, did I read that you went to the Iowa Writers Workshop? I’m just curious why you write.

I have gone to the summer festival for the Iowa Writers Workshop several times, and I highly recommend it. And, after giving it lots of thought, I can tell you why I write. I have no choice. Literally. I am a writer. It's who I am. It's who I've been since I was little.

I write in my head continually. I don't know what other people do with all their words.

With this blog, what I write matters -- because I'm writing for you. And there's no way, no language, no words, big enough to express my gratitude.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Site Seeing: How to Write a Great Novel

I was snooping around on the Internet, doing research for a project, and stumbled across this article in the Wall Street Journal: How to Write a Great Novel.

Fun to see what keeps writers writing ...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Follow the Big Bunny

On a blog post last week, I linked to a video of Dan Savage and suggested that if the video offended you, don't watch it.

A comment re: that post by Le Grand Lapin reminded me of why I love a good creative team -- it keeps you honest. Here's what the big bunny said:

I think it's extremely important to look at what offends you, look at what you don't believe in, look at what you don't understand. Otherwise, to paraphrase Bill Moyers, you're jogging in an intellectual cul-de-sac.

The bunny is right. And he has given us our creativity exercise for today: Get out of the cul-de-sac. Look at a site, a book, something that offends you. Consider the world from a different perspective. I may get a Rush out of this assignment ...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Creativity Tips: Laugh

I'm sure there are some folks who are massively creative when depressed. I am not one of them. So, for those of us who are most creative when happy, here's a laugh to start the week: Taylor Swift's Saturday Night Live PSA on bad driving.

All I can say is guilty, guilty, guilty. Love the getting something out of the purse bit ... and telling family secrets ... and searching for the cell phone ... and ... yeah. Don't drive with me.

Thanks to Angela for the idea!

If the link doesn't take you directly to the clip, click on the one where she's wearing the full mouth brace.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Creativity Tips: Google is Fascinating

I was just online, writing tomorrow's post, and noticed that Google is now running medical ads on my blog since I had two posts re: cancer. Last week, Google was running ads for creative writing programs on Creative Instigation.

It's an interesting lesson in targeting your copy to your audience -- something all writers should consider. If you want an audience. And you may not.

The Pro Does Pro Bono

I am heading out the door this morning to a session re: a pro bono project, a session where a committee will edit my copy.

Committee copyediting. A fascinating concept.

Copy can always be improved, but you so rarely see five or six people standing over plumbers, suggesting what wrench they use. Do firefighters hear: "Your boots look really great. Really. And I hate to criticize, but I just don't like the way you're holding that hose."?????

I could go on, but I must go ...

P.S. I'm posting on the weekends as part of the National Blog Posting Month exercise.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Good News!

As promised, the update on Amber. Yesterday's surgery went well!

Before they went in, the surgeons told Cary and Amber that it might be simply an exploratory surgery. They weren't sure what they would find, and weren't sure they'd be able to do anything once they made the incision and looked around. Fortunately, they were able to work wonders. Thank God some people grow up and want to be surgeons. I can't imagine ...

One of the biggest problems -- an obstruction in the small intestine -- was removed. They were able to take the mass out and reconnect the plumbing. Excellent news.

They couldn't remove all of the tumor in her abdomen because of its location, but they got a good portion. And, more good news, the mass is shrinking and appears to be dead. Chemo works.

For the next couple of weeks, Amber needs to rest and start eating again; the obstruction in the small intestine prevented her from eating. She's thin to begin with and lost 10 pounds, including muscle mass, so she needs to build up her strength for the next round of chemo. But she'll be able to go home with Cary! Yes!

Thanks for the prayers and good thoughts. Keep 'em coming! We're counting on a complete recovery for this cutie!

P.S. Literary sidenote: Yes. There are a whole lotta exclamation points in this post. The purists can gasp, but I feel exclamatory.
P.P.S. There actually is a creativity tip in this post too. Consider your subject line when you're sending an email or writing a post. By saying, "Good News!" in the title, I immediately let CI team members know Amber is OK.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Stand Up 2 Cancer

As those of you who read the CI blog regularly know, most of my posts are personal. This one is very close to my heart.

Amber, the beautiful young woman here, is my nephew Cary's sweetie. She's wonderful. She's 25. Today, if her blood counts look OK, she'll be undergoing surgery for cancer we thought she had kicked last year. It's back and it's bad.

This leads me to three things:
  1. If you could send good thoughts zooming through the universe to Amber, that would be great. She appreciates it.
  2. Amber supports the Stand Up 2 Cancer site, so you can check that out here.
  3. Cary is giving us updates on Amber's condition through a wonderful site called Caring Bridge. I hope you never need it, but if you do ... it's here.
Thanks! Enjoy the weekend and hug the people you love. Heck, hug someone you don't even like. I'll post an update on Amber over the weekend.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Site Seeing: Atheist Media Blog

This clip with Dan Savage may offend some of you. If you're offended, don't watch.

If you do watch, there are several lessons to be learned, including this: There are many ways to interpret the same work of art.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Creativity Tips: Embrace Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is a wonderful thing. It's energy sparked with hope. Our response to enthusiasm makes a world of difference with the people on our creative team. For example ...

When I was a kid, my family drove to California on vacation. I had never seen the ocean before, so this was a very big deal to me. By the time we got to the beach, I was jumping-up-and-down excited. I had never seen anything so wonderful.

Being a kid, I wanted to run right into the waves, fully dressed. But, being a good kid, I didn't. I asked Mom for permission.

She could have responded to my enthusiasm by reminding me that I wasn't wearing a swimsuit, I'd ruin my clothes, and I needed to have a little patience. She could have said, "Sure, honey, go on in." She didn't do either of those. Instead, she took my hand and we ran into the waves together.

When someone approaches you with unbridled enthusiasm for an idea, a possibility, a half-baked thought, what's your response? Do you squash the energy with logic? Do you encourage them to take their concept to the next level? Or do you grab hold of their enthusiasm and run with it?

Today, let's run.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Creative Critic: The Idea Book

I'm not sure how the folks at found Creative Instigation, but I'm glad they did -- and delighted they provided me with a review copy of The Idea Book. The book is great, and the marketing is inspirational.

First, the book. The Idea Book is a fast, fun read. I'd suggest throwing it in a backpack or briefcase so it's handy when you have a few extra moments.

The idea behind the book is simple -- it's a combo book/journal, filled with brief creativity lessons and activities, interesting stories, fun quotes and lots of blank pages. "150 pages about ideas. 150 empty pages for your own ideas."

Now, the marketing. The book is written by Fredrik Haren, but you wouldn't know it by the cover. There's no name on the cover, because Haren wants this to be your book. And those blank pages you fill up to make it yours? Well, as the PR materials explain, "Because The Idea Book is now filled with personal ideas, people do not lend their copy to others, thereby generating more sales and more happy readers."

Don't you love it when marketers are frank? Honestly, that's enough right there to make me a happy reader.

Creative Critic review: If you're out of ideas re: holiday gifts for business colleagues, don't panic. Buy The Idea Book.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Creativity Tips: Say No In November. Again.

This being the first work day of November, I am morally obligated to pull out my soap box, jump on, stretch to my full five feet, and shout:

That's right, kids. It's time to turn down every project you don't want to do, party you don't want to attend and present you don't really and truly want to reciprocate. Reclaim the holidays. Stop the insanity. Say No In November!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Adding Ads

After writing the blog for almost two years, I've decided to try a little harder to make money off it. As a baby step, I'm adding Google ads. We'll see how it goes. If you have any strong response -- pro or con -- please let me know.

Thanks to Vicki for the instigation!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Fun: Dylan Does Christmas

Bob Dylan's new album, "Christmas in the Heart," is making news -- and the stories are making me laugh. I mean, you have to love a music review that includes the line: Dylan does make his slow, deliberate version of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" sound more like a threat than a promise.

Read Ken Tucker's review. Listen to the album clip. Then you tell me: Worst album ever?

P.S. to Mike: It's good to start new adventures with old friends. And you're starting with quite a crowd. Here's to Brainzooming!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Creativity Exercises: NaNoWriMo

Sharpen those pencils and fill up the coffee cups! It's NaNoWriMo month, beginning Sunday. You can sign up now, and have a novel written by this time next month.

Or, if that sounds like too much work, here's a different exercise. A battle of the blogs. Write to Done has a list of 176 ways to become a better writer. Surely, we can do better than that. But we need to start a different list.

Today's exercise? Give me ideas for what we can list! Keep it clean, folks. Some of the CI members are under 21. And, speaking of our great group, thanks to Terri for this idea!

Hmmm. We could list ways to recharge your creative batteries. Food that makes you happy. Best books in the universe. The world's worst albums. (Ah, a hint of what tomorrow's post is all about!)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Creativity Tips: Go Beyond What's Required

You know, someone could have just painted Johnson County Public Library on this truck. But no. Some wonderful someone was a creative genius -- and the truck has undergone a metamorphosis. Unexpected creativity. It's a good thing.

For CI team members outside the KC metro area, Johnson County is the Kansas county I live in; I took the photo on my way to a client's office.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Am Not a Pre-Existing Condition

For a terrifying period of time, my family and I were among the working uninsured. Now, there's an experience that will change your view of the health care debate. We have to fix this system.

While we figure out how to do that, take a look at this -- my friend Bob Waldner at Concept Farm worked on it. Great campaign. And I am not a pre-existing condition.

P.S. Turn your speakers on before you visit the Concept Farm.
P.P.S. Yep, that's a Facebook picture of Bob. Looks exactly like his twin brother, so you might have been confused.
P.P.P.S. This has nothing to do with any of this, but: Happy 24th anniversary, Tom! One more year, and we're silver! And they said it would never last ...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Creativity Tips: Sounds of Silence

This past Saturday, I was alone all day. No kids, no hubby, no dog. Just me and the house. No radio, no TV, no noise. It was bliss.

Silence and solitude are so rare in my life that I had forgotten how regenerative they are. Let's not forget. This week, make time for you. And enjoy the sounds of silence.

P.S. It just seems wrong to do a tip on silence and link to a song. But, if you're going to listen to music while you're alone, you certainly can't go wrong with Simon & Garfunkel.

P.P.S. Their video is an interesting example of creativity. Two singers, one guitar. No fancy footwork. Simple beauty. And even though they had sung this a million times before, they made this version fresh. They're brilliant.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Fun: Halloweenies

There is nothing I wouldn't do for you, my dear CI buddies. So I searched and searched and found Halloweenies, a Halloween word search game. And, on the off chance that you're not into word games (Gasp! The Horror!), I also found the Volcano Shoot Out Molten Menace.

Think of this as the Happy Meal version of Friday Fun, with a girl's toy and a boy's toy.

P.S. Can you believe they still ask that in the drive through? "Do you want a girl's toy or a boy's toy?"
P.P.S. Can you believe I still eat Happy Meals?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Site Seeing: We Are All Connected

What a delight -- finding someone who connects seemingly disparate ideas into something unified, fascinating and beautiful. Check out The Symphony of Science.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Give Homer a Friend

Here it is! Your chance for fame, fortune and a free trip to LA. Help the lazy designers with The Simpsons create a new character. I've got one in mind ...

By the by, this is the perfect exercise to help celebrate my favorite cartoonist's birthday -- Happy Year, Mike!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Creativity Tips: Red Tape is Good

Red tape gets a bad rap. Sure, bureaucrats can use it to stop progress. But anything that can transform a sweatshirt and stocking cap into a Where's Waldo? costume is OK in my book.

A couple of quick creativity lessons here:
  1. The Where's Waldo? packaged costume cost $35. Kate got the idea to do this -- and spent less than $10. The sweatshirt was $5, the hat $1.40 and we spent $3 or so for the red tape. A tight budget isn't always a bad thing -- it can be a wonderful creative spark.

  2. We had fun making it. Way more fun than we would have had opening the packaged costume. And, as you know, creativity thrives on fun.

  3. I thought all red tape was metaphorical. Fortunately, Kate knows that if mom can't help, she can always call dad. Tom sent us to Lowe's for red electrical tape. Who knew? (Well, he knew. And that's a classic example of a good creative team. Tom was the perfect resource for this; he did all the electrical work when he finished our basement. Broaden your team and increase your chances for success!)
P.S. I know she's mine, and it's possible I'm not completely impartial on this, but isn't she adorable?

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Rant and a Rave

We'll start the week with a two-part post. First, the rave.

HUGE CONGRATS to Barb and Richard and any other CI team members involved in the Greater KC PRSA PRISM awards this past Friday. Absolutely wonderful event -- fun from start to finish. You done good.

Now, the rant. More "I'm not fat" stories in the magazines, with a woman who's probably a size 4. Are you kidding me? No, you're not. And, along that vein, this video may be a few years old, but it's a good example of why we're so messed up when it comes to appearances. Look and learn. Just because we have creative tools doesn't mean we should always use them.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Fun: Caverns of Blood

Yeah, yeah. I know. Having a title for a post that uses the words "fun" and "blood" does seem a bit odd. Trust me on this. Go. Look. Play the games.

It's scary how much I love Halloween ...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Creativity Tips: Appreciate Good Luck

As promised yesterday -- an explanation of why the random nature of my photograph just doesn't matter:

There are times when you're driving down the road or flipping through a book and you see it -- the very word you've been searching for or the exactly right image.

You just got lucky. Ain't life grand?

P.S. I think I forgot to include this image when I did the creativity cards series. If you haven't looked at the series, check it out below -- explains the images on my business cards. Photos by the wonderful Leslie Adams.

P.P.S. Happy birthday to LynnMyVeryBestFriendInTheWorldSinceFourthGrade. (Are there people you always identify the same way? I think everyone who knows me knows when I bonded with Lynn.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Creativity Tips: Just Shoot It

When my daughter Kate was playing basketball, she taught me the famous You miss every shot you don't take philosophy. Turns out, it works with photography too. (And I hope this photo looks as cool online as it does on my screen. The bird is pretty small.)

I'd like to say I was planning this shot at Niagara Falls last week, saw the bird, yada yada yada. Truth is, I was simply shooting -- snap after digital snap. Most of the time, my focus was on the Maid of the Mist boat. Did I see the bird at all? I don't remember. And it doesn't matter*. Because I was shooting, I got it.

The basketball wisdom works for creative endeavors. So does the Boy Scout approach: Be prepared. Have your creative tools ready. And just shoot it.

*Tomorrow's post. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Creativity Tips: Get Out and Play!

Hi team! I'm back from Rochester and ready to rock. It's so good to see new things, meet new people. Two quick things for today ...

1. The photo is from the Strong National Museum of Play. Thanks to Tootsie for the visit! (Everyone should visit a toy museum with a fun woman named Tootsie. Put that on your bucket list.)

2. Here's "Rule of Three" inspiration from the book I started reading on the trip, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. The book starts with this great line: "Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge." In this section, the narrator remembers how their nanny tried to console a young Laura:

"Tell me where it hurts, she'd say. Stop howling. Just calm down and show me where.

But some people can't tell where it hurts. They can't calm down. They can't ever stop howling."

Love it. Fascinating book -- I'm about halfway through, so can't give you a full critique. I've never read anything by Atwood before.

Happy Tuesday! (Absolutely no howling allowed.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Creativity Tips: Read It. Again.

Really careful proofreading is good because it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm.

Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh?

So, proof carefully. But the next time you pick up a printed piece and see a typo, remember: Siht Hpapens.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Fun: Last Day

My friend Matt Campbell recently lost his job (but not his sense of humor) in yet another round of layoffs. What's a person to do in this economic environment? Follow Matt's example. Laugh. And leave your mark.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Learn from Kodak

Today, I'm in Rochester, New York, to speak at the Public Relations Society of America's NE District Conference. Fun stuff -- new people, new places. Always good to travel. (And to come home.)

Since Rochester is the home of Kodak, we're going to do a photo/writing lesson today. Check out the lesson plan -- your exercise is in the "Purpose and Description of Project" section. Choose one of the assignments and go!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Creativity Tips: Make It Special

To continue down my path of creativity lessons learned from my family ... another one from my grandmother:

My brother and sister and I called our grandmother Nanny. And, with all the wonderful creativity of children, we named her cookies Nanny's Cookies. You can see I was brilliant even at an early age.

Anyway, Nanny would bring us a big box of these butter cookies in all sorts of beautiful flower shapes. And, somewhere in the box, among all those cookies, was one cookie shaped like an H, one like a J and one like an E. Harry and Eva and I would tear into that box, searching for our special cookie. And that one cookie always tasted just a little better than the rest.

The lesson: It generally doesn't take too much effort to make people feel special. What it does take is thought. And the willingness to make a little creative effort. So think about it. Make the effort. And let people know they matter.

P.S. Leslie asked for the cookie recipe. Nanny didn't write everything down, but Eva found this version. None of the versions I've tried taste exactly right. But I may just be missing my J.

Nanny's Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg -- whole
3 egg yolks
flavor -- lemon and vanilla (no amount listed)
3 1/2 cups flour
3 level tsp. baking powder
1/2 package cream cheese
Mix it up, keep in ice box for a while before baking at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
(She also used food coloring, brown and pink and yellow, but that's not listed. She separated the dough, put coloring in it, used one of those cookie presses, so the flowers came out multi-colored.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Creativity Tips: Be Clear

There are times when the most productive creative act is simple communication.

Take, for example, my grandmother. In her kosher kitchen, she kept two sets of dishes and silverware -- one for meat and one for milk.

It was important to her that these sets were kept separate. So, she made it easy on those of us who might put things away or get things out. She wrote inside the drawers and shelves:



We didn't have to think about what fork or plate went where. She made the process simple. It's the KISS approach in action: Keep It Simple, Sophie.

P.S. There's only one blog reader who remembers Sophie. Maybe two. But we can all learn from her. Tomorrow, I'll tell you about the deck of cards with the scantily clad women ... or maybe about the cookies. We'll see what mood I'm in ...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Creativity Tips: AAA Creativity

Years ago, my uncle owned a tuxedo store on Troost Avenue -- Harold's Formal Wear.

Uncle Harold was a smart cookie. In the Yellow Pages, he listed the store under its actual name and under AAA Tuxedo Rentals. Why? Because if someone needed to rent a tux and looked in the phonebook, Uncle Harold wanted to be first on the list.

What are you doing to be first on someone's list? How can you become the AAA photographer, writer, plumber, IT guru? As we start a new week, consider what you can do to stand out from the crowd. And do it!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Random: My Favorite Poem

This is my favorite poem of all time -- just noticed it was posted today, so thought I'd share.

Friday Fun: It's October!

Can you believe it's already October? I love this month. Many of my closest friends have birthdays this month. My wedding anniversary is Oct. 27. And, there's Halloween! You gotta love a holiday that focuses on candy.

And, since my head is on Halloween, here's a fun way to plan ahead for a creative Jack-O-Lantern that will turn the neighbors orange with envy.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Creative Query: Who Inspires You?

I'm planning a series of posts in the next week or two about creativity lessons learned from my grandmother. Lessons she probably passed along unintentionally. That got me to wondering -- who has inspired you? Are there lessons you've learned from family, friends, colleagues that could help the team?

Post your thoughts, or send me an email and I'll include your brilliance with mine*. Thanks!

*Remember, creative geniuses appreciate their own talents. I'm simply modeling good behavior. :-)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Newspaper Blackout Poems

My buddy Chris sent me a link yesterday to this artwork by Austin Kleon on the 20X200 site. Way cool. The art, the idea for the art, and the idea for the site.

Anyway, let's take it and run with it. Pull out the newspaper. Please don't tell me you don't take the newspaper. OK, fine. Find a dang newspaper somewhere. Find a story. Make a blackout poem.

If you create one you love, send me a PDF and we'll post it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Creativity Tips: Come Back Tomorrow

Here's the real tip: I'll never take cold medicine again while fasting*. At the very least, I won't take it repeatedly.

Stay tuned: I'll be functional again by Wednesday.

*Yom Kippur is a fast day. You're allowed to eat and drink if you're ill. Unfortunately, my biggest ailment is stubbornness.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Yom Kippur

I'm writing this a month before the day you read it -- I just finished proofreading the contemporary Yom Kippur service for my synagogue, and thought I'd share one of the readings with you. Give you a sense for what I'm doing on this Day of Atonement, the only day of the year when Jews participate in a confessional ...

For transgressions against God, the Day of Atonement atones; but for transgressions of one human being against another, the Day of Atonement does not atone until they have made peace with one another.

I hereby forgive all who have hurt me, all who have wronged me, whether deliberately or inadvertently, whether by word or by deed. May no one be punished on my account.

As I forgive and pardon those who have wronged me, may those whom I have harmed forgive and pardon me, whether I acted deliberately or inadvertently, whether by word or by deed.
No matter what or whether you believe, fresh starts and forgiveness are good. Happy New Year!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Fun: ThatWhichMatter

To wrap up yesterday's post, my favorite punctuation is ... wait for it ... the ellipsis. Which probably makes sense for a woman who can't let go of anything. Including a sentence ...

And, in keeping with our grammatical twist, today's fun is to point you toward (gasp) Twitter, and the ThatWhichMatter feed. And, if you have to be on Twitter to get there, and you're not, you can look here at the Lifehacker site, which looks pretty interesting on its own. Heck, check this out, and see why Al Gore might want to spend a little time worrying about his own personal environment. Hey, just sayin' ...

Thanks to Barb, who knows ThatWhichMatter most is giving me a steady flow of blog ideas. Happy weekend!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Punctuate This!

I am not an online expert and I don't play one on TV. Fortunately, I hang out with the right people. So, Mike keeps me updated on Twitter and all the social media I fail to grasp, and Leslie finds the perfect links for the CI blog.

Today, for example, we're celebrating National Punctuation Day! And, while you might think the exclamation point is my favorite punctuation, you'd be wrong.

Which brings us to our exercise:
  1. Guess my favorite punctuation mark.
  2. Tell me your favorite.

If you're feeling really adventurous, scroll down on the National Punctuation Day site and check out the baking contest. Let me know if you decide to enter.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Creativity Tips: Taking It On The Road

Change your scenery and you'll change your attitude. It's true. Changing your view is a fast way to recharge your creative batteries, whether you leave town or simply hang new pictures in your office.

Another creative battery booster? Teaching. There's no learning experience like teaching.

With both those tips in mind, I'm taking Creative Instigation on the road. For CI team members in NY, I'll be presenting in Rochester Oct. 8 at the 2009 PRSA NE District Conference and I'd love to see you there. CEO, adventurer and social media guru Peter Shankman is the keynote speaker.

If you belong to a group that's looking for speakers, remember my motto: Have creativity props. Will travel!

When I leave Rochester, I'm heading to Niagara Falls. Get that barrel ready!

P.S. That's a bad day at the falls in 1911. Surely you didn't expect me to go with the typical tourist shot. You do know me better than that, right?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Site Seeing: Lucy, I'm Home!

Want the back story on the creativity behind American TV? Look here: the Archive of American Television. Fascinating interviews with so many people -- from Walter Cronkite to Betty White. Makes me miss Meathead.

Look around and find your favorite.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Creativity Tips: Rehearse

Every year, my synaogogue conducts a special service to honor the Holocaust survivors in our congregation and their families. It's a beautiful service, with special songs and readings. Most of us who help lead it have been singing or reading the same parts for years. We could practically do them by rote.

Yet, every year, we rehearse. Why? Because we know this is a creative endeavor that matters. So we approach it wholeheartedly; we don't put it in neutral and coast.

Is there a creative task you've been doing for so long you could do it with your eyes closed? If so, this is the week to bring it back to consciousness. Why? Because it matters.

Whether you're writing a resume, reading a bedtime story or baking a cake, it matters. Otherwise, why are you doing it?

As long as you're doing it, here's my advice: Put your whole heart into it. You might even want to rehearse. (How do you rehearse a resume? Easy. Pretend you're the HR director. Now, pick up your resume. Ask yourself: What makes this stand out? Da-da! You just rehearsed.)

And if you decide to rehearse the baking, let me know ...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Fun: Twitteleh

With the Jewish New Year beginning at sundown, it's the perfect day for advice from your favorite Jewish mother: Forget Twitter. Try Twitteleh.

P.S. Thanks to Leslie for the link!
P.P.S. If you're Jewish, you're allowed to have another favorite Jewish mother. Maybe two. But that's it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Creativity Tips: Celebrate!

Never miss a chance to celebrate! I just noticed that we hit the 500 posts mark with yesterday's post. 500! Woo-hoo! Yakka-bakka and yadda yadda! The Creative Instigation team totally rocks!

We should also never miss a chance to say thanks. A big shout-out to Mike Brown for getting me started on this, back in 2007. It's been fun. And it still is!

(Really and truly -- these are creativity tips. Celebrate. And say Thank you. People do better creative work when they're appreciated and their work is valued. Besides, it's simply the right thing to do.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Creativity Tips: Be Nice to Yourself

For those of you who wondered why nothing posted on the blog at 4:22 a.m., here's the deal: I didn't have anything creative to say last night. I wasn't feeling well, and I went to bed early.

The lesson? That's OK. Nobody is creative 24/7.

As the flu and allergy season kicks in, listen to your body. Get your vitamin C. Have some tea. And when you need a nap, take one. Your friends will understand.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Honor Angus

This is just fun -- and an easy way to beef up* your creativity. Visit Honor Angus and write a two-word headline for a McDonald's billboard.

I'll take my holy hamburger with fries. And, of course, a diet Coke.

*Self amuse. It's a good thing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Creativity Tips: Fill 'er up!

This past Saturday, I was making plans to visit a friend who has been ill. I started the phone call by explaining I'd been to a parade to watch my daughter perform with the drill team, I was taking her to lunch, I needed to run a few errands, then check on my mom and take the dog for a walk.

"After that," I said, "I'll be over to see you."

"Your life is full!" she replied.

One short sentence -- and it stopped me short. I've never been a "glass is half-empty" type of gal, but I wasn't thinking my life was full. I was thinking it was freaking insane.

But she's right. My life is full. Wonderfully, astonishingly, fortunately, temporarily full. It's all a matter of perspective, and I'm changing mine.

Here's to creative perspectives, and a week filled with good friends and good work!

P.S. I wonder how many people reading the blog are old enough to understand the "Fill 'er up!" headline. I remember sitting in the back seat of dad's '62 Buick, watching some guy in coveralls washing our windows while he filled the tank ...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Fun: Make Someone Happy

You know what we're going to do for fun today? Nope. Not a game. Not a doodle. We'll get back to that next Friday.

Today, we're going to make someone happy.

Step one: Think about someone you haven't talked to in a while -- someone special.
Step two: Send happy thoughts to your someone.

I'll start. I'm sending happy thoughts to Amber.
And to you.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Creativity Tips: Think Little

I was just watching the Sex and the City movie, and Carrie Bradshaw wrote:


Then, she edited. And wrote:

Love ...

A little thing. Turn a period into an ellipsis. But what a difference it makes -- in meaning, in intent, in possibility. A period stops us. An ellipsis lets us go.

Today, change one little thing. The way you greet people, the route you take on your daily walk, the time of day you make that routine call home. It's your choice to make. And you never know where one change can lead ...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Creative Query: Let Me Utilize You

Can anyone give me one good reason why apparently articulate people would use utilize instead of use? Why are we making up longer words when we have perfectly wonderful short words to use?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Road to Plagiarism

Last week, I ran a guest column, something I've rarely done on the CI blog. The essence of that column -- and many of the exact words -- first appeared on Smoke and Meers, a blog by KC advertising leader Sam Meers. Unfortunately, Sam was not the author who submitted the column to me, nor did he receive writing credit.

There's only one word for it, plagiarism. Let me make this crystal clear: Plagiarism, in any form, is wrong. Good intentions are no excuse.

I have known the man who submitted the column for years, and have never had any reason to doubt his talent or integrity. He read Sam's column and used it as inspiration, adding his own true experiences. He included Sam's word-for-word pay-off paragraph on balance -- which he originally attributed to Sam. Unfortunately, he deleted that attribution line before sending me the copy.

In his words: I thought I had tweaked it and changed it up enough to fit our order of events that I -- when trying to shorten my version -- deleted that attribution line. I ovbiously never went back and compared it with the original.

He was wrong. He has apologized to me. He will apologize to Sam. I sincerely apologize to Sam, and to you.

So, what have we learned?
  1. Inspiration is good. Plagiarism is bad.
    When I talk about "stealing" ideas, I am talking about taking something as inspiration and making it your own. For example, my friend Linda wrote a sestina. I am taking that idea, and the words you provided, and writing a sestina. The idea came from Linda. The six end words came from you. The poem will be mine.
  2. Think before you hit "send."
    My first reaction to Sam's email informing me of this unfortunate situation was an inappropriate, knee-jerk, "how dare you think I would plagiarize copy" response. The immediacy of electronic media is dangerous. As my brother's old poster used to say, "Make sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear."
  3. Ask for help.
    I asked two valued members of my creative team for help. I sent them the materials, and my suggested response, considered their input and changed my copy. Thank you for always being there.
  4. Mistakes happen. And reputations matter.
    I respect the words and reputations of other writers. I also value my own words -- and my reputation. In this business, in this town, reputation is a "make or break" factor. Part of my reputation is built on being Mama Bear. This time, one of my cubs made a big mistake. It's a mistake he's not likely to make again.
Many, many years ago, I did something my mother-in-law thought was wrong. She told me how she felt, and why she felt that way. She also told me she would never mention it again.

She never mentioned it again. Lesson learned.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Fun: Typer Shark

Finally! A game I can do!!!! Welcome to Typer Shark.

(I knew typing skills would eventually come in handy. You know, for something other than earning a living ...)

Enjoy the long holiday weekend! I'll be back -- hopefully with the sestina you helped create -- on Tuesday.

I really need to stop with the exclamation marks. Really!!!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What a Team!

Wow! Thank you for the great response to yesterday's post. I have more than enough words for two sestinas!

For this first go-round, the winners (drawn from a hat) are, in no particular order:

To give you a feel for how the six words get incorporated into end words for six stanzas, and then included in the final stanza, check out Sestina, by Elizabeth Bishop. There's also a rhythmic structure, but I'm not going to worry about that for my first time with this poetic form. I will post the poem as soon as I have it written. Don't expect it today.

While you're waiting -- with baited breath, I'm sure -- you can play along. Try a sestina, or:
  • Choose one of the words, and write for 90 seconds about it. Don't think. Just write.
  • Choose one of the words, and draw it. (What would silence look like?) Click on silence ... it links to a gorgeous, short poem.
  • Choose two of the words, and include them in a haiku. (3 lines, 5-7-5 syllables)
Isn't it fascinating how structure plays such a vital part in creativity? And people think it's all messy desks, and flashes of inspiration. Not so much ...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Creativity Exercise: I Need Words

At our last writers' workshop, Linda shared a great sestina she had written -- it's a structure poem, built on six words. As you know, I love structure, but a woman can only write so many haikus.

Help me get going on a sestina. Post one word. If we have six posts at the end of the day, I'll have the start of my sestina! If we have more than six posts/words, I'll write them all down, and pull six out of a hat. Honest to Pete. And I'm very trustworthy.

Keep in mind, I have to use each word as an end word in six six-line stanzas, then use two of the words per line in my final three-line stanza. Confused? So am I. It will all be clear once it's done.

Ready, set ... give me a word!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Creativity Tips: Remember Bongo Barry

This afternoon, there's a memorial service for Bongo Barry Bernstein, a music therapist who touched the lives of thousands of people in the Kansas City area. He died last week, unexpectedly, at the age of 55.

Watch this. It's from a 2007 conference on dementia care. It's amazing. And there's a great lesson at the end, from a man who will be missed.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Fun: Answer Me This ...

As many of you know, I'm an old reporter. (What is the correct term? Former reporter? Recovering reporter? Whatever ...)

Anyway, I think it's fun to ask questions. So here's your creative query for today:

What's the most creative thing you've ever done?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Creativity Tips: Let's Talk Team

Yesterday, Richard asked, "What do you look for in a creative team?" It's a great question. I look for people who:
  • Know things I don't -- whether it's sports, plumbing, or the structure of a sestina. Their perspectives prompt ideas/questions/possibilities I would never develop on my own. (A great example of this is my creative instigator buddy Mike Brown*. He and I have different areas of expertise, and we think very differently. We're a great team.)

  • Don't know anything about the topic at hand -- they won't worry about coming up with a foolish idea.

  • Don't need to be the center of attention -- because we're talking team.

  • Challenge me to do better, and applaud when I do -- because it's my team, gosh darn it, and I do need to be the center of attention. (No, seriously -- don't you think most of us rise to a challenge, and thrive on praise?)

  • Aren't in creative fields -- people who think creativity resides in a job title miss out on brilliant input from the receptionist, the accountant and the cleaning crew.

  • Are 7 years old or younger -- when they're all still artists and dancers and writers and athletes and everything is possible.

  • Laugh a lot -- because it's easier to be creative when you're having fun.

    Creative teams are dynamic -- and there's plenty of room for multiple teams. For example, I have one group I turn to for writing advice. A different group for decorating questions. And there are a few saints offering creative approaches to bring sanity to my personal life.

    I also consider everyone who reads this blog part of my creative team. You inspire me to write, five times a week. You ask questions that make me think. You send me links that make me laugh. Thank you! I hope you have some idea of how very much you mean to me.

    * Check out this post Mike did back in 2007 -- an oldie but a goodie on creative teams.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Creativity Tips: Create Structure

Four very talented writers expect me to show up tonight with a polished version of the short story I started during our weekend at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. And, I'm happy to say, I have the short story ready.

Why? Because I have the structure of the workshop. The deadline created by our monthly meeting. And a creative team that inspires me. Without that powerful combination, the story would still be moldering in my brain.

You've got a team -- you're part of our incredible CI team. But do you have structure? Deadlines? And could you use a team that can physically pat you on the back -- or smack you upside the head? Because a blog, no matter how wonderful, can only do so much.

It's in your hands. You can create the structure you need to create. Do it.

P.S. If you'd like to read the story, post a comment here or send me a note at and I'll send it your way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Creativity Tips: Don't Kick the Can

This past weekend, I took Mom shopping for shoes and other necessities. The three-hour adventure sapped all her energy, and all my good-nature. (Hey! I do have some.) So, when we got back to her apartment, this was the conversation:

Mom: The least I can do is offer you a can of pop. There's a can in the refrigerator. Take it.
Jan: Thanks, Mom. But I don't want anything.
Mom: You could use a drink. Take it.
Jan: I'm fine, Mom. I don't want it.
Mom: It would make me feel better if you took it.
Jan: I. Don't. Want. It.

Could I be a bigger bitch? Not likely.

How is this a creativity tip? Easy. When you're on a team, everyone wants to feel like a contributor. Let them give. Take generously. And if you're tired and tempted to get hateful, can it.

P.S. Yes. I enjoyed the cold can of pop. She was right. I needed it.