Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Use Your Pencil

A good friend recently sent me a list of 100 interview questions from Monster.com. The last question caught her eye: Tell me 10 ways to use a pencil other than writing.

Your exercise for the day? Answer the question. And, before your mind starts to wander, remember ... this is a job interview.

P.S. I'm all in favor of wandering minds. But there is a time and a place.

P.P.S. Why is there fuzz on a tennis ball? (And do people really ask these types of questions? Good grief. I'm glad I work for myself.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Creativity Tips: Get Off Your Tush

Happy Monday! Let's start the week off with something new. Stand up. You heard me. You're sitting there, staring at the screen. I want you to stand up.

Very good. Now, raise your right hand* and pledge to exercise at least 3 times this week for at least 30 minutes. Walk the dog; play goose, goose, duck, duck; fox trot -- whatever exercise you like. Just don't catnap.

Exercising your body exercises your brain. Get going!

*No. I don't really expect you to do this. But I was a Girl Scout. I've been known to sign pledges.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Fun: Make Your Marx

Enjoy Groucho.

And teamwork!

(Photographer: Leslie)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Creativity Tips: Be Brief

One of my favorite creative instigators, Mike at Brainzooming, recently pointed me toward a six-word story by Ernest Hemingway. "For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn." Legend has it Hemingway called that his best work.

It's certainly inspirational. This week, all the Creative Instigation posts (after this one) will be six words or less. You decide if it's some of my best work.

First six-word tip:

Today is the day to start.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Fun: Word Roundup

Only one way to end a week on writing ... with a word game! Here's to a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Mix of Ideas on How to Write

Here's my quick overview of How to Write, before I share a poetic mix.

Think about your audience. Read short stories. Tell a story. Don't wait for inspiration. Write every day. Rewrite. Be specific. Read the classics. Edit. Keep a journal. Take notes. Doodle. Read poetry. Listen to people. Flip through a dictionary. Get to the point. Have a point. Keep the journal with you. Don't edit. Go to an art gallery. Help someone. Keep sentences short. Use active verbs. Use your eraser. Listen to music. Go to the zoo. Feel alive. Go for a drive. Know the rules. Use the rules. Break the rules. But only with purpose.

Ask yourself: What's that like? What if I mixed two of my loves, writing and baking? Could I have had an idea as lovely as this poem?

A Loaf of Poetry -- ©Naoshi Koriyama
you mix
the dough
of experience
the yeast
of inspiration
and knead it well
with love
and pound it
with all your might
and then
leave it
it puffs out big
with its own inner force
and then
knead it again
shape it
into a round form
and bake it
in the oven
of your heart
I knead this blog well with love fairly regularly. I don't always pound it with all my might. So here's another key to good writing: Remember that you can always do better. We can all do better. Isn't that wonderful?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Creativity Tips: A St. Patrick's Day Story

Here's a classic tip for How to Write: Tell stories.

Kansas City shines green today with one of the country's biggest St. Patrick's Day Parades. It's a real crowd pleaser. Unless the crowd you're talking about consists of rowdy DJs on a company float.

One year when I was news director of KUDL, I was in charge of the Shamrock Broadcasting float. Unfortunately, that year parade organizers decided Prohibition was in style again. No green beer on the floats. No alcohol of any color on the floats.

Now, you try being a 5-foot-tall chick and enforcing that rule with a dozen DJs bent on a binge with a brogue. It was awful. I couldn't win.

I should have been more like St. Patrick. According to legend, he feared nothing. I didn't even have the guts to tell my boss that event management wasn't my forte -- even though I knew it going in.

The same thing goes for writing. Stand up for yourself. If an editor is dissing your copy, and you disagree, speak up. Maybe the editor is simply missing a point -- believe me, it happens.

You don't have to be a fearless saint. Just have faith in your convictions -- and in yourself.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Creativity Tips: How to Write

The title of this post is so presumptuous it almost gives me writer's block.

But, what the heck. According to Google Analytics, people come to Creative Instigation looking for tips on how to write everything from Christmas cards to ads. People also come here for short posts, so I'm spreading the advice out over the week.

Let's start with personal messages -- birthday cards, holiday greetings, thank you notes. It's best if these are actual, physical, I-can-touch-it cards. People feel special knowing you drove to a Hallmark store, wandered around, read 20 cards and finally found the one that reminded you of them.

Now, card in hand, think about the person on the receiving end. Does Aunt Peggy know that scarf is your favorite color? Would Harry be happy to know his gift card was spent on the new Flogging Molly album? Tell them.

Be specific. It's not the devil in the details. It's the delight.

P.S. Want to be a good writer? Keep a dictionary at your side. Sure, I looked up the spelling of presumptuous online, but since I spelled it wrong, it didn't show up. I found it in my trusty Webster's paperback. And the book makes it much easier to flip pages and find a "d" word to counter "devil" in the last sentence. Alliteration. Alleluia.

P.P.S. Yes, I have heard of Flogging Molly. I am way cooler than you think.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bonus Friday Post: Bernie Madoff

Drek is Yiddish for trash. Drekonomics is our current financial state.

Drekonomics leads to insanity. There's the whole Bernie Madoff disaster -- stealing money from Holocaust survivors, etc. How low we can go.

And I'll give you another example -- on a completely different level, but still indicative of the times. One of my best friends was recently in a group being lectured on new office procedures. The manager's farewell shot? "If you don't like the rules, there are plenty of talented people out there looking for work."

That's a pep talk?

Drekonomics is my word for it. Now it's your turn. Take any aspect of the current financial disarray -- from layoffs to pay cuts to Bernie Madoff -- and give me a new word to describe it.

Friday Fun: Play with Your Blocks

Well, it's only fitting to wrap up the week on breaking creative blocks with a block game.

And ... a creative block-busting bonus from my friend Christy, a wonderfully talented artist. Here's her approach -- and it applies to any endeavor:

Don't think about it too hard. I stare at blank canvases sometimes. It starts with one big stroke of some color. I try to get in a place where I'm painting but not thinking about it. Don't worry about the end result.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Top 10 Creative Block Busters

I don't think we've had a Top 10 list on Creative Instigation before, but breaking through creative blocks deserves special treatment. Forget the environment, print this page, and post it.

1. Do something that makes you happy. Looking at Linden's face makes me smile. Playing with Linden quadruples the creative impact. (He's not my son, so don't tell me you don't have any kids in your life. There are plenty of kids waiting to be in your life.)

2. Take your mind off it. Forget about it for a while. Take a nap. Take a shower. Enjoy a really good meal. Call your best friend.

3. Change your perspective. Literally. Leave your office. Take a hike. Get in the car and drive. The last poem I had published was written at a stop sign.

4. Ask for help. Don't know where to go? I'm right here.

5. Find inspiration online. There's Brainzooming. There's Whimsy. There's a list on the side of the blog, and I need to add more. (Hmmm. Bonus idea: Make a list and cross things off. What a lovely feeling, that crossing things off.)

6. Find inspiration offline. Close browser. Open arms. (I saw that line in a Dentyne ad. Check out this really cool concept.) Talk to people, and listen to what they say. Ideas are everywhere.

7. Doodle. It's fun, and it helps your brain work.

8. Do a jigsaw puzzle. A real jigsaw puzzle. The tactile and visual stimulation work wonders. Another trick for this tip: Write notes about the topic in question with your non-dominant hand. Then, laugh at yourself. Laughing at yourself is extremely freeing.

9. Steal an idea and make it your own. In The Writer's Block, Jason Rekulak suggests you "Write about an incident that could be used against you if you ever ran for political office." Do that. Or, write a Facebook or Twitter post (very short and not so sweet) that could be used against you.

10. Begin.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Creativity Tips: Let Someone Else Do It

OK, so there you are, mired in your creative doldrums, no ideas whatsoever. No inspiration. No interest. Your get-up-and-go has got-up-and-gone.

No problem. Happens all the time. That's why we have creative teams. When you can't break through your creative block, let someone else come up with the perfect solution.

Here's the nice part: With the right team, you won't even have to ask for help -- although that's a perfectly wonderful thing to do. This post is an example. The links are from Vicki and Leslie, and they're both great. ("Both" in that sentence referring back to Vicki and Leslie, and the links.)

Writers' Block
Peeps Show

The photo? Ah ... that's another creative block buster. It's from Claire, a young woman who clearly inherited her creative genius from Jody, who forwarded the photo. Meet Billy Ray Cyrus Gilbert. The block buster? Play with a kid. Borrow one if you need to. There's nothing like a younger perspective to get those creative juices flowing!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Creativity Tips: Take a Step Back

As part of our quick series on kicking creative blocks, I want to explore one of my favorite breakthroughs: regression.

In true Creative Instigation spirit, I'm stealing the idea. My friend Bud is a wonderful photographer who recently started shooting portraits in a northlight studio, using only natural light.

Apply his idea to your creative block: Find your true north.

If you're a writer, step away from the computer. Grab a pen. If you're a cook, turn off the Food Network. Make your mother's favorite recipe for dinner.* If you sew, back away from the seven million stitches available on your fancy machine. Pick up a needle.

The different approach will make a difference. Step back, and you'll move forward.

*Seriously. What dish did your mom make that you really loved? And when was the last time you had it?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Creativity Tips: Breaking Creative Blocks

For the next few days, we're going to talk about creative blocks, and ways to break through. There are a variety of approaches and they don't universally work. Stick with us, experiment, and you'll find what works for you.

While our breakthroughs may be different, we do start in the same place: Accepting responsibility. The first step in breaking a creative block is simple.

Step 1
Put your big girl panties on and deal with it.

You know what you're dealing with. It could be anything from boredom to exhaustion to unemployment. Let's take that last option as an example. I know fabulously talented people who aren't bringing in a paycheck right now -- ranging from writers, designers and photographers to a Harvard-trained scientist.

If you're in that group, you have choices every day. You choose to be angry about the situation or excited about the possibilities. You choose to be out of work or looking for work. You choose to use your time off, or waste it.

Today, make the smart choice. Be a big girl. Because big girls kick blocks.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Fun: You Don't Look Jewish

When I worked at the PR firm Blades & Associates, one of my younger colleagues went out to a meeting, met someone Jewish, and came back to the office very excited -- eager to tell me, "You must know her! She's Jewish!"

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, there are about 80,000 Jews in Missouri and Kansas. Oddly enough, I don't know them all.

My friend -- who is a sweetheart -- realized what she had said the minute it fell out of her mouth, and it became a standing joke at the office.

Another line I hear periodically: You don't look Jewish. Check it out.

(How is this Friday Fun? I think performance poetry is fun. I'll give you a game next week. Promise.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Welcome Home

During one of my recent whines about leaving Florida sunshine for Kansas cold, my friend Steve sent me this simple message: Cold welcomes you home.

Isn't that a pretty phrase? Almost made me feel better about getting on the plane. Almost.

Your exercise for today? Take 45 seconds and come up with five words that could fill in the blank.

(Blank) welcomes you home.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Happy National Grammar Day!

Use your red pen with pride today: We're celebrating National Grammar Day! (For our international friends, we'll consider it International Grammar Day.)

P.S. This post is a great example of why I love having a creative team. Leslie sent me the National Grammar Day info on Monday. I had no post for today -- and no idea of what to post. Teamwork rocks.

P.P.S. I am planning a series of posts for next week on how to overcome those creative blocks, doldrums, etc. If you have any great ideas to share, let me know.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Creativity Tips: Play with Your Words

I LOVE this short video. You will too. It's an amazing example of the power of words and perspective. Turn up your monitors and enjoy.

P.S. Thanks to new friend Sarah for the link!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Creativity Tips: Be Kind

This past weekend, it snowed in Kansas City. I don't like snow. I don't like cold. At the moment, I don't much like Kansas City.

EXCEPT ... I love the people here, especially the anonymous neighbor who woke up early and shoveled my sidewalk and driveway.

Today's tip includes an exercise: Be kind. This week, create happiness. Give a neighbor or coworker a wonderful surprise. And shhhhhh. Do it anonymously.

P.S. Spring is almost here ... spring is almost here ... spring is almost here ...