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.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Creativity Tips: Find Your Backpack

Kate starts her sophomore year at K-State today. Mary started her junior year in high school on Aug. 14. When I went to Back-to-School Night for Mary last week, it occurred to me that I only have one more year of BTS Nights to attend. Whoa ... where did that go?

But here's the deal. On the first day of school in Olathe, I drove by herds of little kids, practically dancing their way to Black Bob Elementary. (I couldn't make that name up.) They were all excitement and enthusiasm -- proud of those new backpacks stuffed with fresh crayons and construction paper, notebooks and number 2 pencils.

When was the last time you rushed off to an assignment, energized and eager? Been a while? Maybe you need a new backpack. A fresh notebook. Maybe an 8-pack of funky pencils would make you smile. It works for me ... but I've been told I'm easily pleased. And easily distracted by shiny objects.

No matter. It's the first day of a new week. Let's dance our way into the day!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Fun: Sushi

Here's a game that's much better than last week's offering: Youda Sushi Chef.

Just for the record, I do play the games before I post them. This is an act of love, because I am sooooooo bad at these games.

And I am sooooooo hungry for sushi.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Creative Critic: In America

In keeping with my new loosey goosey (is that how you spell that? and who would know? and why do I care?) approach to blogging, today's post is a double review -- one book, and one movie. Here's my theory: Appreciating creativity, or pointing out the lack of it, in any medium can open up our eyes to new ideas in our creative fields -- whatever they might be.

Let's start with the movie. Tom and I just watched In America, recommended by my good friend Coop. It's wonderful. Beautifully written and acted. What's it about? Family. Love. Loss. Faith. Loss of faith. Desperados.

The book? I just read People of the Book by Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks. Fascinating story, historical novel, based on the Sarajevo Haggadah.

Give yourself a treat. See the movie. Bring a hankie*. And read the book.

*Have you ever used a movie as a good excuse for a good cry?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Site Seeing: Lemonade

What happens when creative people get the ax? Well, there's drinking, of course. The hard stuff. After that, there's Lemonade.

Thanks to Leslie for the link!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Creativity Tips: Now This is Doodling!

I've been meaning to point you toward the art of my friend Christy Steinberg for some time, and here's the perfect opportunity -- she's talking about my favorite creative activity of all time: doodling.

Check out the doodle, and then enjoy the rest of her site!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Creativity Tips: Start the Week with a Goal

What's your creative goal for the week?* I will finish the current rewrite on the short story I started at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival -- I want to have it ready for the workshop I'm attending next week.

A goal, and a deadline. Nothing better for creative results!

*It's not a rhetorical question. I'd love to know.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Fun?

So, I'm looking for a Friday Fun game, and I go to my trusted Google. I find a lead for online games for girls. Well, heck, I'm a girl. Good enough. So, I click through, and think, "Receptionist's Revenge" sounds like an odd name for a game for a kid.

I'll never learn. I keep forgetting that the Internet is not always a good thing.

(Should I be pleased that the receptionist is a guy? Repulsed at what's going on between the boss and the female employee? Or simply terrified that I kept clicking to poison the coffee?)

I promise. I'll find a better game for next Friday! Let me know if you have any ideas.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Creativity Tips: Join the National Day of Writing

Leslie* pointed me toward this site. Check it out: We can all be part of the National Day of Writing on Oct. 20, 2009, and contribute a piece for the National Gallery of Writing.

Personally, I'm thinking haiku. (And that line is five syllables, so I'm a third of the way there). Or, I could finish that short story I started at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival ....

*Leslie also took this photo of my Corona. And if you haven't checked her 365 project lately, take a look!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Creativity Tips: The Go Green Answer

Did you complete yesterday's exercise? Did you find five different shades of green?

Here's what else you probably found:
  1. You noticed greens you would otherwise overlook. Why? Because we find what we're looking for -- it's simple, but true. I saw shadows on grass, three completely different shades of lime green in my kitchen, and shimmers of black in the green traffic light. The shadows, shades and shimmers were always there; I just didn't notice.
  2. You felt good when you found that fifth shade -- measurable, attainable, interesting objectives are wonderful. Two different shades would have been too simple. Ten? Too much work.

    And here's the other creative payoff: You can apply this conscious perspective-change approach to anything. Including life. I know, because the exercise stems from a question my buddy Lynn asked me recently: What good thing is going to happen today?

    I know this will surprise you, but that's not the question I generally ask myself while I'm driving to a client's office.

    From now on, it will be. You know why? Because I discovered it's just as easy to find the good as the green. It's there, if we're willing to see it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Go Green

Today, find five different shades of green. You can find the green outside, in your refrigerator, in your closet, wherever. Just make sure it's five different shades.

I'll tell you why tomorrow.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Creativity Tips: Scare Yourself

Here's your Creative Instigation goal for the week: Scare yourself.* Try something you've never tried before. For example, you could:
Shoot a photo behind your back.
Write a nursery rhyme.
Give up a long-held grudge.
Read a romance novel.
Mail a postcard to someone you see regularly.

Me? I led the worship service at my synagogue this past Saturday morning. Very scary. But it went just fine, and now I know I can do it!

*When I say, "Scare yourself," I hear my brother say, "Look in the mirror." Isn't it amazing? The voices we carry in our heads ...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Fun: Funny Face

You know how Mom used to say, "Don't make that face at me!"

Well, today you can make whatever face you'd like. Enjoy!

P.S. Thanks to Tom for the link!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Creativity Tips: Stop

On Tuesday, I suggested that you "Begin." Today, I'm suggesting that you "Stop."

I'm not saying slow down. I'm not saying pause. I'm saying stop. If you're a writer, put the pen down. If you're a photographer, step away from the camera. If you're a cook, eat out. You can always come back to the writing, the photography, the cooking. Consider your talent a faithful lover -- eagerly waiting for your return. And absence will have made the heart grow fonder.

P.S. For those of you who read CI regularly, nope. I'm not stopping the blog. I'm back and ready to rumble. I may not post daily. I may. I may post more on writing. Or reading. I may add a few new features -- such as Jan's Refrigerator Door, where I post your creative brilliance. I'm toying with the idea of a 365 days of creativity book, which would include rewritten older posts and new stuff. Let's just let go of expectations, and see where it takes us ...

P.P.S. That's me at the beach house we stayed at for a week. I wasn't reading a good book. I was flipping through gossip magazines. Because when I stop, I really stop.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Creativity Tips: It's Good to be Queen

Jan is on vacation. Here's a favorite post from 2008:

Let me tell you a story from my creativity presentation:

Years ago, during a vacation to Disney World, my husband and I were with the girls in the Alice in Wonderland section. Suddenly, the Queen of Hearts marched up, grabbed an autograph book out of my daughter's hand, and angrily scrawled something on a page. She then threw the book at me and huffed off.

We were all astonished. Why was she so upset? I read the note, "There's only one Queen in this park!"

Now, granted. I am more than capable of being a diva. I have been known, now and then, to act like a queen. But I was on good behavior that day. I promise.

My husband started laughing. I didn't see the humor. "It's your T-shirt, honey," he explained.

He was right. I was wearing a T-shirt with the royally offensive caption, "It's good to be queen."

Tip? I don't know everything. You don't know everything. And just because we don't get something immediately, doesn't mean it's not creative, or funny, or smart, or 100% on target.

Today, when someone says something you think is completely off, consider this: Maybe they see something you don't.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Creativity Tips: Begin

Jan is on vacation. Here's a favorite post from 2008:

That's it.


You know what you want to do. Here's what you need to do.
Begin. Today.

And begin again tomorrow.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Creativity Tips: Keep It in Perspective

Jan is on vacation. Here's a favorite post from 2007:

Today's blog comes to you courtesy of my friend Vanessa Bonavia, who encouraged me to post the advice I gave her years ago. It's a little phrase that's good to remember whether you've made a slight slip-up or a moronic mistake.

"It’s not brain surgery."

Now, God love ‘em, I don’t know what advice to give neurosurgeons. But chances are, your mistakes aren’t life and death issues – even if they feel like it at the time. Go with the creative response to screw-ups big and small: Take responsibility, fix what you can, learn what you should, and move on.

(Do you wonder why it's a screw up and not a screw down? Why we mess up and don't mess down? Why we f... oh, you get the drift.)