Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Creativity Tips: Doodle in the Snow

Clean slates are where you find them.
Find them.

Here's my farewell nod to 2008 (accurately described by my friend Steve as a kidneystone of a year). It's passing. And I'm thinking good things for 2009!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Creative Inspiration: Christmas 1963

I hope your holidays are happy! I'm planning to sit back and relax a bit, so my posting could be sporadic for the next week or so. We'll be back to a normal routine in 2009!

Meanwhile, a bit of inspiration from poet Joseph Enzweiler:

"Christmas 1963" by Joseph Enzweiler
From The Man Who Ordered Perch. © Iris Press, 2004.

Because we wanted much that year
and had little. Because the winter phone
for days stayed silent that would call
our father back to work, and he
kept silent too with our mother,
fearfully proud before us.

Because I was young that morning
in gray light untouched on the rug
and our gifts were so few, propped
along the furniture, for a second
my heart fell, then saw how large
they made the spaces between them

to take the place of less. Because
the curtained sun rose brightly
on our discarded paper and the things
themselves, these forty years,
have grown too small to see, the emptiness
measured out remains the gift,

fills the whole room now, that whole year
out across the snowy lawn. Because
a drop of shame burned quietly
in the province of love. Because
we had little that year
and were given much.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Creativity Tips: The Rockettes, Take 2

Seeing the Rockettes with Mary provided creativity lessons at the start, and at the curtain.

When we arrived at the arena, the ticket taker told us we needed to go to another line and "be reassigned." Mary and I both wondered what was wrong.

There was no need for our angst. The show simply hadn't sold out, and Sprint Center officials had the good sense to move people closer to the stage. Our seats were upgraded, with smiles.

Lesson 1: Creative people often take, "We need to make a change" as a bad thing. Change can be wonderful -- moving you closer to where you want to be.

As the show was ending, one of the Rockettes fell in the final kick line. I know, because Mary -- who's a high school drill team dancer -- noticed. I was watching the show, but looking somewhere else.

Lesson 2: When you fall, remember: Most of us are looking somewhere else. Follow the Rockette's lead -- don't pull anyone else down with you, get back up, and keep on kicking!

P.S. Falling can be fun.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Creativity Tips from the Rockettes

Mary and I went to see the Rockettes on Saturday, and the show was wonderful. And, as an added bonus ... the performance gave me ideas for two posts. We'll start today with Lessons from the Rockettes:

1. It's not how high you kick. What really sparkles is the ability to all kick together.

2. Support each other, but don't lean on anyone too much.

3. Forget mom's advice. Make a spectacle of yourself. How else are you going to be spectacular?

  • Friday, December 19, 2008

    Friday Fun: Doodling with Mr. Picasso Head

    Since three is magical, we'll wrap this week up with a third post inspired by Leslie, who pointed me toward this site: Say hello to Mr. Picasso Head!

    Thursday, December 18, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Here's My Recommendation

    The next time you're upset with someone -- at home or at work -- pretend that you need to write a letter of recommendation for that person. It doesn't have to be real long, but at least three short paragraphs. It does have to be sincere.

    Composing the letter reminds you of the person's good traits. It's a matter of creative focus: Look for what's wrong, and you'll find it. Look for the good, and it's there too.

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Try a New Tool

    Yes. This is the same photo that was in the blog yesterday.
    No. This is not the same post.

    Today, the photo is an example of a very important creativity tip -- periodically change your creative tool of choice. Leslie took this shot with a Polaroid, rather than the digital camera she had been using. Switching cameras makes her think about lighting, composition, etc., in a new way. The results -- after some initial challenges -- are beautiful.

    Tackling those challenges is what teaches us, what spurs us on to be better.

    Today, if you typically compose on a computer, pick up a pen. If you paint, use a crayon. If you're a baker, try whole wheat flour instead of white. And stir with a whisk, instead of a spoon.

    Mix things up, and feel your brain light up!

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    Creativity Exercise: Write Our Holiday Card

    Over the years, I've written far more ecumenical, business-friendly, say-absolutely-nothing holiday cards than you can imagine.

    Today, it's your turn to turn that trend around. Write a holiday card with a message -- funny, sarcastic, happy, sardonic, reverent, whatever you want. Your client? Creative Instigation -- and you've got this great photo from Leslie* on the cover.

    Now, you tell me: What's on the inside?

    *After you write the card, take a look at Leslie's photostream on flickr.

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Unwrap Your Ideas

    Chris -- aka, the son I would have had if I'd had a son -- wants to start a new trend. Throw a gift in a box and don't wrap it. Save the paper. Save the environment. Yada, yada, yada.

    OK, that's harsh. I recycled before recycling was cool. But gifts need to be wrapped. And I'm not going to budge on this one.

    That said, Chris does have the right idea. So, let's go with it: What are some creative, environmentally friendly wrapping ideas for the holiday season? Go beyond my basics -- wrapping with the comics, using grocery bags, etc. Give us some festive new concepts, and make Santa -- and Chris -- happy men.

    (And after you come up with your own ideas, look here. No peeking.)

    Friday, December 12, 2008


    For those of you who receive the blog via email:
    1. You're brilliant, and that's a great way to stay instigated! (The rest of you can be equally brilliant -- just click on the "Subscribe to Creative Instigation by email" link.
    2. I'm not always brilliant, and hit some key that published a post I was writing for Dec. 24.
    3. When you see the post later this month, hopefully I'll have fixed the spacing in the poem ...

    Friday Fun: Kid Around

    Given my preference for non-violent movies with talking rodents, it's not surprising that I love Disney. (Have I told you I used to work for the Disney family? Roy Disney Jr. -- Walt's nephew -- owned the radio stations I worked at in KC.)

    But I digress. Check out the Bolt web site, just to admire the animation. Then, wander over and play a Disney game. Come on, you know you're a kid at heart. I can't be the only one here with a Mickey watch ...

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Always Admire Alliteration

    Want to be a better writer? Listen up.

    No, not to me. Well, yes, listen to me. But, far more importantly, listen to the people around you. Here are two wonderful phrases I heard in the past week:
    1. Garlicky guacamole goodness -- from Rachael Ray. She's perky, but well-spoken.
    2. Lifelong lousy love life -- from a funny friend who shall remain anonymous.

    And here's a quick creativity exercise: Using one of those two phrases, write for 120 seconds. You got it: 2 minutes. Don't tell me you don't have time. And don't self-censor. Just write!

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Creativity Exercise: Laugh with Non Sequitur

    I think Wiley Miller is one of the finest cartoonists ever. I even have one of his signed, original pieces in my office. Naturally, this one hit home. And I am keeping the day job!

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Say It Once

    The best creative environments accommodate different opinions. And I received an early lesson on the best way to do that.

    Some 30 years ago, before she became my mother-in-law, Betty Harness thought I was going to do something wrong. Flat-out wrong. And she wasn't going to let that silently go by.

    Here's what she did -- and we can all use this approach:
    1. She made sure we were alone for the conversation.
    2. She assured me it wasn't me she disapproved of -- it was my decision she didn't like.
    3. She told me it was important that I understood how she felt, and that she'd never mention it again.
    4. She never mentioned it again.

    Betty Harness would have been 95 today. As the saying goes, "In love we are remembered, and in memories we live."

    Monday, December 8, 2008

    Creativity Tips: You Own the Day

    OK, who had a less-than-stellar week last week? I see one hand, no two, nope ... a few of you are joining the club.

    Here's the deal: Doesn't matter. That was last week. This is a new week. Start off with a grin, and a happy Monday attitude. (No, that's not a contradiction in terms.)

    And, if it helps any, start off with the assurance that I have a serious feeling that this is going to be an excellent week!

    Friday, December 5, 2008

    Friday Fun: Play with Ted

    How long is your attention span? Mine is about, oh, 30 seconds. On a focused day. So, ordinarily, I wouldn't suggest anyone watch a longish video.

    But, now and then, it's good to sit back, relax and learn. This weekend, check out the TED video on creativity with Tim Brown, the CEO of Ideo. (The CEO of Ideo. Now, there's a title with a ring to it.)

    If you're not in the mood for the video, use the link as a jumping off point, and explore TED. Lots of fascinating clips. Enjoy!

    Thursday, December 4, 2008

    Creative Inspiration: Success

    This quote is generally attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson -- research indicates that may be a mistake. No matter who said it, I like it. When I'm feeling like far less than a success, this definition makes me breathe easier:

    To laugh often and much;
    To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
    To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
    To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
    To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
    To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
    This is to have succeeded.

    Wednesday, December 3, 2008

    Creativity Tips: The Buck Starts Here

    I recently met my mentor, Duana, for lunch on the Plaza. She reminded me to tuck a few dollar bills into my coat pocket, so I'd be ready to give whenever we walked past a Salvation Army bell ringer.

    Isn't that a wonderful idea? Be ready to give. Whether it's a dollar to charity, a kind word to a co-worker, or a smile to a stranger.

    You may give more than you realize.

    Tuesday, December 2, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Stick with the Classics

    I had a friend who forbid her young son to play with guns. She wouldn't buy toy guns, wouldn't let other little boys bring them in the house, etc. Then, one day, she went outside to see what the kids were doing, and they were happily "shooting" each other. With sticks.

    I was reminded of that story when the Strong National Museum of Play® recently inducted the stick into the National Toy Hall of Fame®.

    "It's very open-ended, all-natural, the perfect price -- there aren't any rules or instructions for its use," said Christopher Bensch, the museum's curator of collections. "It can be a Wild West horse, a medieval knight's sword, a boat on a stream or a slingshot with a rubber band."

    Imagine that: No rules. No instructions. Now there's a creative approach worth trying -- at work and at home. No rules. No instructions. Just go!

    Monday, December 1, 2008

    Creativity Tips: It's Never Too Late to Listen

    Listen up, people! I blew it. Last Friday was America's first National Day of Listening, sponsored by StoryCorps, and I missed it.

    But that's no reason for you to miss out on this great holiday idea. As StoryCorps suggests:

    This holiday season, ask the people around you about their lives — it could be your grandmother, a teacher, or someone from the neighborhood. By listening to their stories, you will be telling them that they matter and they won’t ever be forgotten. It may be the most meaningful time you spend this year.

    Not a natural interviewer? No problem. StoryCorps has a Do-It-Yourself Guide to download. And if you're just looking to break the ice at a holiday party, check out this list of questions! (For example, "How would you describe a perfect day when you were young?")

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    I'm Not Thankful For ....

    I know, not a very gracious headline. But here's the deal: Everyone is telling us to make a list of all the things we have to be thankful for ... yada yada yada.

    Let's not.

    Instead, take out a clean sheet of paper, and list five things you're not grateful for ... things you're not thankful for ... rotten stuff. For example, the current state of my retirement account goes on my list.

    Got it? Good. Now, rank those five things, using this measuring stick: Is it brain surgery? Is it life and death?

    Hmmm. No? Not a one of your five things is a life-and-death issue? Not even that temporarily disappointing 401(k)? Well then ...

    Enjoy the holiday weekend, and I'll see you back here on Monday!

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Learn from Your Mistakes

    Back in June, I told you the sad but true story of my research call from Victoria's Secret.

    They called again last week. Guess what? I haven't gotten any younger. And my opinions are still of absolutely no interest to Victoria, although she will take my money. And my daughters' money. Which, (gasp!) is my money.

    So, here's the secret: There's absolutely nothing wrong with making a mistake. Once. That's how we learn. Making the same mistake twice? That's something else.

    When you make a mistake, in a creative project or anything else, don't beat yourself up for it. Tell yourself to stop the negative thoughts. Literally. Stop. Then, quickly analyze what went wrong and why. And make yourself proud -- do better next time.

    P.S. It's a Van Gogh painting. An Old Woman of Aries. He apparently saw some value in old women.

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Be Strategic

    I'm guessing you love words, or you wouldn't be visiting this blog. So, you might think that I added the thesaurus widget a while back because we're all such wonderful word wizards.


    I added it because Google Analytics told me that the blog gets a number of hits from people who Google "another word for (something)." The widget fits the CI creative approach, while also being a strategic magnet for new readers.

    Which brings us to an interesting exercise/query, based on one person's Google: What's another word for stay?

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    Friday Fun: Digital Conversion

    Analog? Digital? I'm with granny.

    (I can't even figure out the multiple remotes we have in the house.)

    Thanks to Kat for the link!

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Site Seeing: Everyone Has a Story to Tell

    One of the first things I learned as a reporter is that everyone has a story to tell -- and almost everyone is eager to tell it.

    Check out this fascinating site, Write In My Journal, where David has figured out a very cool way to get those stories, and share them.

    P.S. Thanks to Leslie for the link!

    P.P.S. You gotta love a man who loves Moleskine notebooks. The only way to write ...

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Creativity Exercise: Thank a Friend

    Today is Barb P.'s birthday, and as regular readers of the blog know, we never miss a reason to celebrate. So, all together now:

    Happy Birthday, Barb!!!!

    And, in honor of Barb, here's your exercise for today -- take one minute, and send an email to an old friend* and say thanks for something they did, maybe years ago, that meant a lot to you.

    *Gosh, Barb. I didn't mean old old. But I do understand. They say the sense of humor is the first thing to go ... (And thank you for always making me feel appreciated, while gently prompting me to do better!)

    Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Creativity Exercise: Define Doldrums

    Have you ever found yourself in the doldrums? Of course you have. We've all been there. But, where is there? Help me out here. Define "doldrums." (And if you have an escape route, let us know.)

    P.S. For those of you not in the Midwest: Kansas City in November may be the definition of "doldrums."

    Monday, November 17, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Get Energized

    I recently had the pleasure of conducting a presentation training session for a client.

    For me, leading the session was like shaking hands with the Energizer Bunny. (In a good way.) Maybe because it's a break from writing. Maybe because it's a throwback to my days in radio. Maybe it's the opportunity to immediately see that my work makes a difference.

    Maybe my why doesn't matter. What matters is finding what energizes you. Need a jump start to answer the question? No problem. Let Mike Brown, who helps me daily, help you determine your distinctive talents.

    Friday, November 14, 2008

    Friday Fun: Dr. Seuss

    Very well, sir.
    Step this way.
    We'll find another
    Game to play.
    -- Fox in Socks

    I love Dr. Seuss. So, it's no surprise that Seussville amuses me no end. Go to the Playground and try the Story Maker. Here's to a happy weekend!

    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Are You Happy of Me?

    When my youngest daughter was a toddler, she made up wonderful phrases and words. For example, when caught in the act of misbehaving -- a daily event -- Mary would simply stop, look up at me with her big brown eyes and ask, "Are you happy of me, Mommy?"

    How can you not be happy of someone smart enough to come up with that line?

    Another common Mary phrase was, "I did that lasterday." Lasterday could be yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that. It covered a fair amount of territory, but I always knew exactly what she meant. She'd been there and done that. Lasterday.

    Today's tip? Don't setttle for the ordinary. Don't accept, "It is what it is." Make it what it should be. Do that, and I'll be happy of you. Far more importantly, you'll be happy of you. Lasterday, today and tomorrow.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Celebrate!

    Today, we're celebrating ONE YEAR! of the Creative Instigation blog.

    And you know what I like best about this blog? You. I love your comments. I love the idea that people who don't have to read what I write are reading what I write. I love knowing (from your feedback) that some of what you've read here -- posts and comments -- have made a day or two better for you.

    As my special "thank you" to all of you, I'd be delighted to send you a copy of my very first e-book, because I finished it. Yep, I finished it. That alone shows the power of the blog.

    Just send an email to jan@sokoloffharness.com and I'll send you Creative Chai, with much gratitude and appreciation.

    Here's to Year Two! And keep those comments coming!

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Don't Be Too Creative

    Now, there's a headline you may not have expected from me. Don't Be Too Creative.

    Let me explain: I'm planning the annual Thanksgiving feast. Our family tradition has morphed a bit, with the passing of parents, and the big meal is now at our house.

    One thing hasn't changed: the basic menu. I make the same turkey, stuffing, dressing, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole. Mashed potatoes and gravy for Amber.

    I make hot rolls from scratch, using Lynn B.'s recipe. The butter for those rolls has to be Land O'Lakes. Unsalted. Because that's what my grandmother used.

    I open a can of that jellied cranberry sauce that no one will eat, because we always have that jellied cranberry sauce that no one will eat. I need black olives for Eva. Whether she's here for the meal or not, she's always part of it.

    Mary bakes chocolate chip cookies for Kate and Cary and Sam. And extras, for them to take home.

    As we prepare for the holidays, remember: There are traditions worth respecting. When you find one, at home or at work, enjoy it. And if you want to add a creative touch, reduce your stress level. Think small. Come up with new toppings for that pumpkin pie. Add a Food Network side dish to the menu. Forget the fancy linens, and let the kids decorate a sheet of butcher paper -- remember those handprint turkey drawings?

    And this year, let the joy of the holidays begin with anticipation.

    Monday, November 10, 2008

    Creative Query: What Aren't You Reading?

    I'm enjoying the book I started reading while waiting in line to vote, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. I started this new book, despite the fact that I already have bookmarks in Wicked by Gregory Maguire and Love in the Time of Cholera, the classic by Gabriel García Márquez.

    Problem is, I can't seem to get past the first few chapters in either of those books. I want to read them. I plan to read them. I can't read them.

    Bringing us to my creative query for you today: What's the best book you haven't been able to read?

    Friday, November 7, 2008

    Friday Fun: A Kinder, Gentler Graffiti

    If you ever think there's an end to creativity, think again. And look around. People come up with new ways to express themselves. Every. Single. Day.

    Thanks to Bud for the link!

    Thursday, November 6, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Little Things Amuse ...

    Here's a tip, and an exercise: Change the ring tone on your cell phone. (Hey, that's cool: It rhymes!)*

    I recently changed my ring tone. The first day, I missed calls. I missed calls all day long.** I heard the sound, but it didn't register. I historically have the ringer turned off 90 percent of the time. Yet, my mind is still conditioned to the old, familiar sound. I've become Pavlov's dog.

    That ain't good. Don't walk around with your brain on automatic. Think again. Change the ring tone.

    *This is when my mother would say, Little things amuse little minds.
    ** No. It didn't matter. At all.

    Wednesday, November 5, 2008

    Now, It's Time to Work Together

    "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."
    -- President Elect Barack Obama

    "Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans, and believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that. It is natural to feel some disappointment, but tomorrow we must move beyond it and ... get our country moving again."
    -- Sen. John McCain

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    Creative Query: What Will You Read In Line?

    I'm hoping for long lines at the polls today ... I've gone to vote far too many times when there were no lines at all.

    We have some wonderful CI team members who aren't American citizens. And, we have some who aren't old enough to vote. For the rest of us, today's the chance to be part of national Creative Instigation. Get out there, and instigate change!

    Before you go, cast a vote here for what you'll take to read in those long lines. I'm waffling between a new novel (well, it's new for me: I just bought John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany) or a copy of Vanity Fair, with those lovely long articles that I never quite get around to reading ...

    Monday, November 3, 2008

    Monday Morning Surprise

    In the spirit of what makes America work, I can start the week with a bipartisan post ... thanks to Amber, who sent the link!

    Thursday, October 30, 2008

    Site Seeing: Holley Portraits

    One of my favorite Paul Simon songs touches on The Myth of Fingerprints.

    Holley Portraits make it clear: No one leaves a fingerprint like you.

    Thanks to Leslie for the link to Holley Portraits. And let me know if you make your own fingerprint portrait!

    Wednesday, October 29, 2008

    Creativity Exercise: Head Start on a Haiku

    I know, I know. It's not the first time I've asked you to write a haiku. But here's why I keep coming back to this poetic format: It's doable. No matter how busy you are, you have time to write 17 syllables.

    Remember the rules: Five syllables in the first line. Seven syllables in the second line. Five syllables in the third line.

    And, there's a twist this time. Let's all incorporate the phrase: Love is letting go.

    (The wonderful thing about creativity? None of us will do the same thing with that same line.)

    Tuesday, October 28, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Lessons from Fourth Grade

    In my attempt to turn the recent basement flood into a positive*, I've been using the resulting disarray as incentive to clean things up. And I found this among the school papers from Mary's fourth-grade class:

    From the author talk today I learned ...
    that you never, never, never give up.
    And don't throw away your first draft.

    I can't think of any better advice.

    *Pollyanna lives. And don't cold, wet Octobers make you want to watch Pollyanna? Possibly with a cold, wet beverage ... but still.

    Monday, October 27, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Make It Personal

    One of the first things you learn as a copywriter (or a radio newscaster, in my case) is: Make it personal. Don't talk to thousands of people. Don't talk to some ephemeral "audience." Speak directly to one person.

    Last week, MoveOn came out with a classic example of using technology to personalize a message. In this case -- Jan, get out there and vote! Take a look.

    P.S. Thanks to Amber and Leslie for the link!

    Thursday, October 23, 2008

    Creativity Exercise: Thursday's Child

    In the classic children's poem, "Thursday's child has far to go."

    Take out a clean sheet of paper. List seven places where Thursday's child is going. Give reasons, if you want, or just locations.

    Remember, this is a creativity exercise: a location can be anything from a galaxy to a chair. You choose.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Hang Up and Walk

    During my daily walks with JoJo the wonder dog, I frequently walk by VERY IMPORTANT PEOPLE on their cell phones having VERY IMPORTANT CONVERSATIONS.

    It's ridiculous. We're so multi-task oriented, we're ruining one of the nicest events of the day. A leisurely stroll. An opportunity for creative rejuvenation. A chance to enjoy the sounds of kids swinging on the playground, leaves skittering on the sidewalk, dogs barking in the distance.

    I am now taking a vow of silence. While walking. Alone. I am not that important, and my call is not that important. I can take 30 minutes to just walk. If you need me, leave a message. If I need you, I'll call when I get home.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Say No in November

    My life is full. This is absolutely a good thing. It's also why I launched my own personal anti-holiday stress campaign last year: Say No in November.

    Beginning now, I stop automatically saying, "Yes," to every job, every invite, and every volunteer request. I weigh my options, and choose carefully.

    Writing the 50,000-word novel suggested in yesterday's post does not fall into the carefully chosen options. It might for you.

    Or, if you're on overload now, join me! Use the campaign as a good excuse: No, I can't possibly chair that committe (attend that party, buy that gift, or work on your tedious project). I'm very, very busy with the Say No in November campaign.

    It could catch on. Hmmm. SNIN isn't much of an acronym. Anyone got a better idea?

    Monday, October 20, 2008

    Creativity Exercise: NaNoWriMo

    OK. "NaNoWriMo" has to be one of the worst smushed-up words/acronyms ever.

    It stands for National Novel Writing Month. Participants are challenged to complete a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. You can gear up for it now. In Kansas City, The Writers Place will host a kick-off event Sunday, Oct. 26, from 6 - 10 p.m.

    For CI team members outside KC, check out the NaNoWriMo site. I do like the approach. Here's a quote from the site:

    Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

    Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

    I won't be participating. And I'll explain why. Tomorrow.

    Friday, October 17, 2008

    Friday Fun: Missionaries and Cannibals

    Albert Einstein once said, "Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting different results."

    Playing Missionaries and Cannibals reminds me of that. I seem to make the same moves, over and over again, as the cannibals feast. I hope you have better luck!

    (If I'm right-brained, this must be a left-brained game.)

    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Creativity Exercise: What Is She Saying?

    According to my daughter Kate's anthropology textbook, 60% of language is non-verbal.

    So, in honor of the political season here in America, list five things people could be saying with a wink.

    Share, if you want. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Turn Things Around

    Last week, I was eating at First Watch with my mom and sister Eva, and saw this -- the subhead is a great example of paying off an eye-catching, phrase-turning headline. It's hard to read with this pic from my cell phone, but it says, "Celebrating 25 years of putting you first."

    I like it. And Eva had the great idea of using it as a post. You thank, Eva!

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    Site Seeing: Grammar Girl™

    You've gotta love a Web site that poses the question: Why isn't "gruntled" a word? Thanks to Jody for suggesting Grammar Girl!

    Monday, October 13, 2008

    Shit Happens

    Well, I'm not saying it was a bad weekend, but the disaster recovery team just left the house, and I'll never again look at a sewer pipe without wincing.

    Fortunately, as I mulled over posting or pouting, my good buddy, The Big Rabbit, came to my rescue. In addition to pointing out that home ownership is "greatly over-rated," he pointed me toward a site that appeals to me as an artist, a knitter and a nut.

    Friends are good.

    Friday, October 10, 2008

    Friday Fun: Double Fun!

    A few more weeks, and we'll be through,
    But first: this Sarah Palin video for you.

    And, because there's more to life than poking fun at politicians, here's a Bart Simpson game -- with nothing political on the menu. And nothing at all on Bart.

    Thursday, October 9, 2008

    Creative Inspiration: Cherish Your Doubts

    Today is Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. Faith, or lack of it, is an incredibly personal choice -- and not always a constant. Knowing that, I want to share one of my favorite readings from the weekly prayerbook used by Reform Jews*:

    Cherish your doubts, for doubt is the handmaiden of truth. Doubt is the key to the door of knowledge; it is the servant of discovery. A belief which may not be questioned binds us to error, for there is incompleteness and imperfection in every belief.

    Doubt is the touchstone of truth; it is an acid which eats away the false.

    Let none fear for the truth, that doubt may consume it; for doubt is a testing of belief.

    For truth, if it be truth, arises from each testing stronger, more secure. Those who would silence doubt are filled with fear; the house of their spirit is built on shifting sands.

    But they that fear not doubt, and know its use, are founded on a rock.

    They shall walk in the light of growing knowledge; the work of their hands shall endure.

    Therefore, let us not fear doubt, but let us rejoice in its help: It is to the wise as a staff to the blind; doubt is the handmaiden of truth.

    *This reading is also used by other denominations.

    Wednesday, October 8, 2008

    Creativity Exercise: Get Writer's Block

    I was wandering through Borders the other day, and found this wonderful book, The Writer's Block, by Jason Rekulak. It reminded me of the great session I attended at the summer festival for the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

    So, in keeping with that, here's a paraphrased example of one of the 786 ideas in the book: As a student, Ethan Canin (who has taught at Iowa), was captivated by the stories of John Cheever. To discover what it would be like to write them, Canin literally typed them out.

    It's a brilliant idea -- especially for those of us who process through our fingers (as many of you know, I can't think without a pen in my hand or my fingers on a keyboard).

    As Rekulak says, "... this is an opportunity to sift an author's words through your own hands, to feel a fraction of what Flannery O'Connor or Raymond Chandler might have felt as they completed the final typewritten drafts of their masterpieces."

    Exercise 1: Give it a try! Exercise 2? Get The Writer's Block.

    Tuesday, October 7, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Question Assumptions

    I was on vacation last week with the woman commonly known as Lynnmybestfriendsincefourthgrade.

    Lynn assumes I'm smart. Now, I do have my areas of expertise. But Lynn assumes I'm just all-around smart.

    Well, she did. Then, I took her on a "two-hour" drive to Canyon de Chelly from Sedona. Don't pull out the map. I'll confess. It's closer to a six-hour drive. One way.

    Yessirree bob. I can't read maps. Never could. Don't know why I tried.

    Make our adventure your advantage: Question your assumptions. Especially if they're assumptions about people you love.

    And never ask me to navigate you out of anything but a bad paragraph.

    Monday, October 6, 2008

    Creativity Tips: I'm baaaaaaaaaack

    Hi CI team!

    Thank you for all the posts last week! You're brilliant, and generous, and I appreciate the help more than you know. (My sister sends her thanks too -- she loved the sites you suggested.)

    Here's what I saw when we landed in Phoenix. So I was laughing right from the start.

    P.S. to Anonymous: You're right. I should go away more often! The analytics indicated an increase in readership. Hmmmmmmm.
    P.P.S. The "How's My Flying?" decal is the perfect example of stealing something and making it better.

    Monday, September 29, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Practice What You Preach

    I'm on vacation this week, and you're in luck. Before I left the laptop and the cell* phone behind, I decided to practice what I preach, and asked for help.

    And my buds came through.

    Fabulous members of the Creative Instigation team will post comments on this blog entry throughout the week. They'll bring you creativity tips, rants, inspiration, insights, political jokes, sites to see, exercises, whatever.

    It should be a creative kick in the pants for all of us. New perspectives, new approaches. And remember, you made the team. Now's the time to make your mark. Leave your own comments!

    I can't wait to read what you write when I get back!

    P.S. I got the idea from Leslie, who suggested I watch this. And, then followed it up with this. It's amazing what loveliness people -- even strangers -- can create together.

    * Is it a coincidence that phones and prisons share this word? I think not.

    Friday, September 26, 2008

    Friday Fun: Bullwinkle

    Friday Fun may focus on politics for a bit,
    because it's laugh or cry ...

    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    Creative Inspiration: Windows is Shutting Down

    It's been a while since I pointed you toward The Writer's Almanac, always a good way for me to start the morning. And, Windows is Shutting Down addresses a topic near and dear to my heart.

    After you read the poem, scroll down to the bottom. If the almanac's version of the quote is accurate, Nathan Hale wasn't regretting that he had only one life to give for his country. Words. Each one matters.

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Let It Go

    The amazing Kristie, master hair designer, introduced me to this saying.

    It's a good reminder for all of us. Even for the bald members of the Creative Instigation team.*

    *You know who you are.

    ** The Internet is astonishing. I Googled the saying, and found 80 gazillion entries. And this magnet -- available at Lolly Lu, where they believe everyone should own a piece of art.

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008

    Creative Query: Vitamin P

    We haven't done a Creative Query for a bit,
    so answer this one for me:

    What's your personal Prozac?

    P.S. Thanks to Mike L. for the idea!

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Will Write for Food

    Back to the creativity card series! If you received this card at the Creative Instigation session, congratulations! This is my favorite business card. It reminds me to remind you that I am a hired pen. *

    *That's a stolen phrase. I don't even like it. But I'm writing this late at night and I'm too tired to come up with something else. Leading us to the creativity tip for the day: Don't drink and blog.

    P.S. No, I haven't been drinking. I'm just tired and babbling. And, while I'm babbling:

    P.P.S. I just watched the Emmy awards. Skinny old women shouldn't wear sleeveless gowns. And Candice Bergen's fashion consultant should be shot. And Betty White rocks.

    P. P.P.S. Yes, I'm done now.

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    Friday Fun: Sarah Palin

    This week, it's an easy choice. If you missed the Saturday Night Live skit, take a look.

    I'm voting for Tina Fey.

    Thursday, September 18, 2008

    Creativity Tips: To Move Forward, Back Up

    Are you stuck in a creative rut? Here's a quick tip to get you moving. Use a different technology. If you write on a computer, pick up a pen. Or, if you still have a functioning typewriter, use it!

    If you paint, drop the brush. Fingerpaint. Or, find a drawing program online. If you're dealing with numbers, step away from the calculator. Grab a pencil, and get to work. You can always check the results with the calculator later.

    Back space to the future.

    Wednesday, September 17, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Get Off Track

    OK, one more MU story -- and I'll get back to creativity cards.

    I got off track at the centennial. I didn't attend many broadcasting sessions -- even though that was my "track" at school. Instead, I went to seminars on things like the African-American experience at the Journalism School, and finding and reporting on a life of meaning.

    Here's a great sentence/idea from the "life of meaning" session, which was held on Sept. 11 -- and I hope you can appreciate the concept, regardless of your personal beliefs:

    When faced with great tragedy, people often ask, "God, how could you let this happen?" Perhaps God is asking the same thing: "How could you let this happen?"

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    Site Seeing: Pictures of the Year International

    One of the benefits of attending the J-School's centennial celebration was seeing incredible photographs from the Pictures of the Year International collection.

    And, while a picture is worth a thousand words, it's the photo and story together that had me in tears as I looked at Leia's Daddy.

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    Creativity Exercise: Go Home Again

    Here's a perfect way to start the week -- with a digression, and an exercise.

    As I walked around the University of Missouri School of Journalism last week, I felt right at home. Again. As always. It's the same feeling I get on the rare occasions when I'm out in the wilderness, hiking. I'm home.

    Where are you when you feel most like yourself? Where are you at home?

    P.S. Speaking of digressions, I will get back to the creativity cards series, but I have a few MU posts for this week ... change is good.

    Friday, September 12, 2008

    Friday Fun: Presidential Paintball

    I am at the University of Missouri-Columbia today, celebrating the centennial anniversary of the Journalism School. High school reunions leave me cold, but college ... that was fun. And 100 years is something to celebrate!

    As I gather with my fellow J-School alums, I'm guessing politics may be discussed. I'll be taking my best shots at candidates I don't like -- thought I'd give you the same chance. Enjoy!

    P.S. No, smart stuff. I wasn't in the class of 1908. I'm old, but I'm not that old ...

    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    Creativity Tips: See the Box

    So, you've been told to "think outside the box." Let's be serious: There are times you are limited by the box -- whether the box is money, time or people. There are also times when the box is a wonderful thing, giving you structure to guide your path.

    This creativity card reminds us of a real recipe for creative success: See the box. Don't do what you've always done. But don't go creatively nutso for no reason. Analyze the situation strategically, then decide where to think.

    (This reminds me of drawing outside the lines. I had a fit when my firstborn, Kate, started drawing inside the lines in her coloring books. I was sure her creativity was gone forever. My wonderful friend Nancy, an artist, stopped the insanity by reminding me that we have to know how to draw inside the lines, so we can choose to draw outside.)

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Creative Inspiration: How to Live

    I love this poem: "How to Live" by Charles Harper Webb, from Amplified Dog.
    © Red Hen Press.

    How to Live

    "I don't know how to live."
    –Sharon Olds

    Eat lots of steak and salmon and Thai curry and mu shu
    pork and fresh green beans and baked potatoes
    and fresh strawberries with vanilla ice cream.
    Kick-box three days a week. Stay strong and lean.
    Go fly-fishing every chance you get, with friends

    who'll teach you secrets of the stream. Play guitar
    in a rock band. Read Dostoyevsky, Whitman, Kafka,
    Shakespeare, Twain. Collect Uncle Scrooge comics.
    See Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, and everything Monty Python made.
    Love freely. Treat ex-partners as kindly

    as you can. Wish them as well as you're able.
    Snorkel with moray eels and yellow tangs. Watch
    spinner dolphins earn their name as your panga slam-
    bams over glittering seas. Try not to lie; it sours
    the soul. But being a patsy sours it too. If you cause

    a car wreck, and aren't hurt, but someone is, apologize
    silently. Learn from your mistake. Walk gratefully
    away. Let your insurance handle it. Never drive drunk.
    Don't be a drunk, or any kind of "aholic." It's bad
    English, and bad news. Don't berate yourself. If you lose

    a game or prize you've earned, remember the winners
    history forgets. Remember them if you do win. Enjoy
    success. Have kids if you want and can afford them,
    but don't make them your reason-to-be. Spare them that
    misery. Take them to the beach. Mail order sea

    monkeys once in your life. Give someone the full-on
    ass-kicking he (or she) has earned. Keep a box turtle
    in good heath for twenty years. If you get sick, don't thrive
    on suffering. There's nothing noble about pain. Die
    if you need to, the best way you can. (You define best.)

    Go to church if it helps you. Grow tomatoes to put store-
    bought in perspective. Listen to Elvis and Bach. Unless
    you're tone deaf, own Perlman's "Meditation from Thais."
    Don't look for hidden meanings in a cardinal's song.
    Don't think TV characters talk to you; that's crazy.

    Don't be too sane. Work hard. Loaf easily. Have good
    friends, and be good to them. Be immoderate
    in moderation. Spend little time anesthetized. Dive
    the Great Barrier Reef. Don't touch the coral. Watch
    for sea snakes. Smile for the camera. Don't say "Cheese."

    Monday, September 8, 2008

    Creativity Tips: End Grouchy with Groucho

    Here's a fun way to start the week. Wear your pair of Groucho glasses.

    What do you mean, you don't have a pair of Groucho glasses? How is that even possible?

    As we move through our creativity card series, the Groucho card is very important. It started out meaning: Take a new look -- at people and projects. But every time I pull out the glasses and have someone put them on, everyone laughs.

    Everyone laughs. Now, there's a mood for creative instigation -- everyone engaged, everyone happy.

    Buy the glasses.

    Friday, September 5, 2008

    Friday Fun: Truth in Advertising

    This video is 12 minutes long, it's completely R-rated, and it's hysterically true.

    Welcome to one aspect of my world. (Thanks, Barb, for the link and the laugh!)

    Thursday, September 4, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Do Something New

    As we continue exploring the meaning behind the creativity cards I handed out at the Creative Instigation presentation, let's look at one of my favorites: Coco, the sock monkey.

    I write. I bake. I don't often make sock monkeys. But, there were people I love who really, really needed a sock monkey. (You know who you are.) So, I found a pattern, and voila! Adorable sock monkeys to give away -- and one to keep.

    When you get in a creative rut, try something totally different. Monkey around.

    Wednesday, September 3, 2008

    Site Seeing: Boom-De-Yada

    If you watch the Discovery channel, you've seen this. If you don't, you should. Both, I mean. Watch Discovery. And see this.

    Thanks to Greg for the idea!

    Tuesday, September 2, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Be Generous with Applause

    Start the week off right. Give yourself a hand! And, while you're at it, applaud the person next to you and the person next to that person.

    What are you applauding? You tell me. I'll tell you this: If you look for something to appreciate and celebrate, you'll find it.

    Friday, August 29, 2008

    Friday Fun: Move Over, Mario

    It's time for the Mario boys to move aside ... get ready for the Super Chick Sisters. (Hey, yesterday we talked about rubber chickens. So a chicken game seemed like a natural.)

    We'll be back to instigate more creativity on Tuesday -- here's to a long weekend!

    P.S. Happy 15th Birthday to Mary, my baby chick!

    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Don't Be a Beak Performer

    This is one of my favorite creativity cards -- and creativity props. Everyone loves a rubber chicken. What's it mean? Well, there are many interpretations, including this one ...

    There’s one sure way to deliver peak performance: Just say “no” to beak performance.

    Beak performance is a common and insidious ailment that kids on a farm understand and CEOs don’t. Here’s how it works. If you draw a line in the dirt, and you put a chicken’s beak to the line, the chicken will faithfully walk that line. Day in. Day out. He won’t lift his beak, he won’t look around, he won’t move off the line.

    In business terms, the chicken accepts, “We’ve always done it that way.” In personal terms, the chicken believes, “There’s nothing I can do about that.” The longer you’re on a job, or with a person, the more likely you are to display the dreaded beak performance signs.

    But here’s the good news: You’re not a chicken. So lift your head up and take a good look around. You’ll be amazed at what you see.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    Site Seeing: Funny Politics

    OK. How many of you really need the conventions to determine which man gets your vote?

    Not me. But, before we tire of politics all together, take a look at a Kansas candidate who's putting the fun back in fundraising.

    Thanks to Steve for the link!

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Walk the Talk

    Last year in her art class, my daughter Mary made this perky little penguin. Now, while I don't generally decorate with penguins -- perky or otherwise -- this one is displayed in a place of honor in our house.

    Why? Because actions speak louder than words. Mary knows we're proud of her creative abilities, because she can see our pride -- and her penguin -- every day.

    So, consider this question from your Jewish mother: When you receive a creative gift from a colleague or a kid, what do your actions say?

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Letting Go

    This creativity card features a close-up look at a painting my daughter Kate made for me several years ago. She went with a Georgia O'Keefe look, knowing I liked that style.

    I like Kate's style.

    On Saturday, Kate moved out of the house and into her dorm at K-State. She starts classes today. So, my baby is on her own. And that brings us to the creativity tip for the day: Life is letting go. Make sure the people you love know you love them. Today.

    (How does that apply to creativity? Look at the picture. There's nothing more creatively instigating than love.)

    Friday, August 22, 2008

    Friday Fun: Happy Neurons

    You know you're getting old when friends start sending links to "anti-aging" games -- designed to keep your brain from rusting.

    I tried Split Words on a "difficult" level. I won't mention my score. You'll do better.

    P.S. This is what it has come to. I will reveal my age. I won't reveal my game scores.

    P.P. S. Thanks to Mo for the link. I think.

    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Work with the Best

    I'm going to tell you a secret: The piece of pottery you see here really isn't as pretty as it looks.

    I know this, because I made it. I can tell you where every flaw is -- from the dribbled glaze on the side you can't see, to the uneven width of the walls.

    But you know what? Leslie Adams took this photo -- and she made my pot look beautiful.

    And that brings us to the tip for the day: Work with the best, and you'll look better.

    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    Creativity Exercise: Find Your Mantra in a Magazine

    You're right. I didn't find Breathe in. Breathe out. in a magazine. But the other lines were there -- just waiting for me, thanks to the brilliance of copywriters I'll never know.

    For today's exercise, flip through a magazine and find copy that means something special to you. It could be a headline, or a pullout quote. Or, it could be a photo. Doesn't matter -- there's no chance of being wrong. Cut it out and post it. Give yourself a smiley face!

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Sweat the Details

    I know, I know. You're not supposed to sweat the small stuff. Too bad. Because the small stuff makes a big difference.

    Take, for example, these details on one of the antique recipe boxes I collect. The details make this more than a utilitarian storage item. The details make this art.

    In creativity -- as in much of life -- details matter.

    Monday, August 18, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Ask for Help

    Ask for help. It's that simple. Or, if you're used to being a solo creative genius, that challenging.

    Here's what you need to remember:
    1. Never be afraid to ask for help.
    2. Ask people you trust, whether they're "authorities" or not. That's why you have a creative team.
    3. Don't wait until it's an emergency and the creative sirens are blaring!

    P.S. For those of you joining this series in progress -- we're discussing the meaning behind the creativity cards I handed out in the first of many Creative Instigation presentations.

    P.P.S. Thanks to popular demand (stop laughing, I'm serious, I don't make this stuff up), I have a waiting list for our next presentation. Let me know if you want me to add your name!

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    Friday Fun: What's another word for ...

    It has been a busy week, and I am tuckered out. I love that phrase, but haven't heard it much since my wonderful in-laws passed away, taking their beautiful Arkansas language with them.

    How'd I think of it? I didn't. I plugged in exhausted at synonym.com.

    For the Creative Instigation team members looking for the weekly game or goofy video: Remember. I'm a writer. This is my idea of fun.

    And for those of you looking for the meanings behind the creativity cards, that series runs Monday - Thursday. We take our Friday Fun very seriously at this blog.

    Thursday, August 14, 2008

    Creativity Tips: The Queen of Hearts

    Do you know what this creativity card shows? It's a crown, fit for a queen.

    Know what this creativity card means? Check it out.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Now You See It ...

    Thanks to everyone who attended the Creative Instigation presentation! As promised, today starts a series explaining the photos on my creativity cards*.

    Do you know what this one is? To me, it's completely obvious. It's the antique inkwell I got when I was at MU. (And that would make it an antique now, even if it weren't then.)

    What? You didn't see an inkwell? Are you kidding?

    Hmmm. Interesting. It seems that I see the inkwell, because I know it's there. Most people didn't know what it was, or they guessed -- a crystal or a doorknob.

    Everything you see is filtered by everything you know. So, take a minute and look for an outside opinion. Don't assume that everyone else knows what you know, or sees what you see.

    *A big THANK YOU to Leslie Adams, who sees the shots I never see. Leslie took all the photos and designed the cards.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Let Someone Else Lead

    I recently had a surreal experience that turned out to be an eye-opener. I walked into a radio studio for an interview -- and realized I wasn't the one doing the interview. Mike Brown and I were the interviewees, and Jay Liebenguth was the host.

    Panic set in. I spent almost a dozen years being the interviewer. Being on the other side of the desk felt very, very wrong.

    Fortunately, once I got past the whole "I am not in charge" crisis, it was great. Jay is a true talent, and the show was flat-out fun.

    This week, give it a try. Let someone else lead.

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Take Care of Yourself

    I'm going to play Jewish mother for a minute.

    Are you taking care of yourself? Eating right? Exercising? Getting plenty of sleep? Giving yourself time off now and then, to simply be?

    It's easier to be a creative genius when you feel great. And, if you need another reason, you'll have more to give to others, when you are healthy, whole and happy.

    OK. Mom is done. Now, go eat nuts. According to The Culprit and the Cure, people who eat nuts five times a week live an extra 2.5 years.

    P.S. to Eva, my nuts-allergic sister: Don't eat the nuts. And I apologize for slipping that peanut butter into your bologna sandwich. Hey, I was 5. Let it go. :-)

    Friday, August 8, 2008

    Friday Fun: Born to be Wild

    Here's one for the boomers. Make sure your speakers are on.

    Thanks to Tom for sending this to me -- and to Barbara in California, for sending it to him!

    Thursday, August 7, 2008

    Excuses ... I've got excuses ...

    I've been sick.
    The dog ate my blog.
    It was a computer problem.

    Or, if you want the truth, I wrote an entry to appear at 4:22 a.m., but I forgot to "publish" it in Blogger. So, at 4:22 a.m., nothing posted.

    And yet, the world went on ...

    Cory: I love your words on yesterday's post!

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008

    Creative Inspiration: Mud-luscious

    You know e.e. cummings was a poet. He was also an inventor -- he invented words, fearlessly and famously. One of my favorite examples is his description of "Just-spring when the world is mud-luscious"

    What a delectable word. "mud-luscious."

    How would you describe summer?

    Tuesday, August 5, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Keep It Real

    Regular members of the Creative Instigation team know that my mother was the queen of Unconditional Positive Regard while I was growing up.

    So you'll understand why I laughed at her response, when I mentioned that Mike Brown and I will be doing a PRSA presentation on creativity next week:

    "People have to pay to listen to you?"

    Yep. And worth every penny, Mom. If you're in KC and haven't registered yet, sign up today!

    P.S. Always good to have someone on your creativity team who will keep that ego in check.

    Monday, August 4, 2008

    Creativity Exercise: The Last Time ...

    It's been a while since I asked you to take out a clean sheet of paper.

    So ...

    Take out a clean sheet of paper. Write "The last time I saw you" at the top.

    Now, finish the sentence. Then, write five more sentences. You can make this a poem for a parent, a note to an old friend, a prayer for your first love. Whatever you want.

    When you're done, burn it. Or mail it. You're creative -- you'll know which way to go!

    Friday, August 1, 2008

    Friday Fun with Fonts

    It's possible that I spend too much time working in Word.

    Thanks to Barb and Melissa for the link!

    Thursday, July 31, 2008

    Creativity Exercise: Chair Man of the Bored

    Let's start today with a new perspective! Change your seat at the dining room table. I know, I know. You have "your seat." Well, move it. Sit in the next seat. Sit at the other end. And, while you're at it, sit up straight.

    I bet you look at your next meal in a whole new light.

    P.S. He's such a lame duck, I'm not even going to make a joke.

    Wednesday, July 30, 2008

    Creative Inspiration: A Space in the Air

    I was going to link you to one of my favorite poems, and I couldn't find it on the Internet. I have gotten so used to thinking the Internet has everything ...

    But you shouldn't miss this, just because the Web has. It's not a short poem, but it is a quick read. And it's beautiful. (Unfortunately, I wasn't able to replicate here the imaginative spacing Jon Silken created -- he had varying indents on each line.)

    A Space in the Air
    by Jon Silken

    The first day he had gone
    I barely missed him. I was glad almost he had left
    Without a bark or flick of his tail,
    I was content he had slipped

    Out into the world. I felt,
    Without remarking, it was nearly a relief
    From his dirty habits. Then, the second
    Day I noticed the space

    He left behind him. A hole
    Cut out of the air. And I missed him suddenly,
    Missed him almost without knowing
    Why it was so. And I grew

    Afraid he was dead, expecting death
    As something I had grown used to. I was afraid
    The clumsy children in the street
    Had cut his tail off as

    A souvenir of the living and
    I did not know what to do. I was fearing
    Somebody had hurt him. I called his name
    But the hole in the air remained.

    I have grown accustomed to death
    Lately. But his absence made me sad,
    I do not know how he should do it
    But his absence frightened me.

    It was not only his death I feared,
    Not only his but as if all of those
    I loved, as if all those near me
    Should suddenly go

    Into the hole in the light
    And disappear. As if all of them should go
    Without barking, without speaking,
    Without noticing me there

    But go; and going as if
    The instrument of pain were a casual thing
    To suffer, as if they should suffer so,
    Casually and without greatness,

    Without purpose even. But just go.
    I should be afraid to lose all those friends like this.
    I should fear to lose those loves. But mostly
    I should fear to lose you.

    If you should go
    Without affliction, but even so, I should tear
    The rent you would make in the air
    And the bare howling

    Streaming after your naked hair.
    I should feel your going down more than my going down.
    My own death I bear everyday
    More or less

    But your death would be something else,
    Something else beyond me. It would not be
    Your death or my death, love,
    But our rose-linked dissolution.

    So I feared his going,
    His death, not our death, but a hint at our death. And I shall always fear
    The death of those we love as
    The hint of your death, love.

    Tuesday, July 29, 2008

    Site Seeing: Inside Guernica

    Continuing the summer vacation plans, here's another site to see: the bad banana blog video on Inside Guernica. It's a fascinating new look at a classic work of art.

    Angela, you commented recently that: "Social media is changing other art forms; it's amazing." I think this is another example of that!

    Thanks to site-seeing-superstar Leslie for today's link!

    Monday, July 28, 2008

    Creativity Tips: If at first you don't succeed ....

    OK, I finally tested that technological feat of subscribing to Creative Instigation in a feedburner, and found myself staring at my test blog site, where a kitten holding a machine gun is frozen in action.

    For all of you who also tried, I apologize.

    I have now tried, tried again, and have posted a "subscribe via email" link. I've tested it. It seems to work. Let me know if it doesn't work for you.

    FYI, if violent kittens attack when you try to subscribe, it's not working.

    P.S. to Barb ... I think this is the blog feature you requested months ago. I live to serve you. I just don't serve very fast ...

    P.P.S. The creativity tips? Ask for what you want. And if you know I've messed something up, let me know. I tend to assume I'm perfect. :-)

    Friday, July 25, 2008

    Friday Fun: Be a Bookworm

    I admit it: I'm a bookworm.

    And when I'm too tired to read, I can still play! Here's to a great weekend, filled with fabulous words.

    (By the by, I'm currently reading Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut. Great intro by his son Mark, who also wrote a wonderful book, The Eden Express.)

    Thursday, July 24, 2008

    A creativity tip from dear Abby

    Nope. Not that Dear Abby.

    One of the younger members of the Creative Instigation team is my friend Abby, who has a fashion blog that I find inspirational and instigational. She generously agreed to be my first guest blogger.

    Here's her tip on Designing a Phrog:

    In my spare time I like to design clothes. Although I cannot sew too well, I LOVE doing the sketching. I created my own clothing line (hopefully when I’m older it can actually work) called PHROG. I call it this because my family loves frogs, even though my parents revolt against getting even close to one. We have a pond in our backyard with colossal amounts of frogs. So you can see where I was going with the title.

    Anyway, I enjoy creating my very own characters. They can have blonde hair or brown hair. They can wear plain clothes or ones that are OUT of this world.

    I think if you can draw and you – like me, you have an obsession with clothes – you might want to try designing sometime!

    P.S. from Jan: If you don't have kids in the house for inspiration, borrow one now and then. Seriously. And some of the ideas on Abby's blog could jumpstart your creativity today!

    Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    Creative Query: Your Favorite Dessert

    In the July issue of GQ, there's an interesting, well-written story on Alan Richman's search for the perfect dessert. It includes this line: Show me a man who believes his favorite desserts are those he has eaten as an adult and I'll show you a man who had an unhappy childhood.

    Which made me wonder: What's your favorite dessert?

    I'd have to go back to yesterday's post, and some of my grandmother's baking. She made butter cookies that were beyond delicious, and always made a "J" shaped cookie for me, an "H" for my brother Harry and an "E" for my sister Eva. I can still remember the fun of searching for my special cookie.

    P.S. Yes. I read GQ. Surprised?

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    Creativity Tips: Ice Your Coffee with Coffee

    I was enjoying an iced coffee today, and it reminded me of my grandmother, Sophie Eisen.

    Sophie could cook and bake better than anyone I've ever known. She created her own recipes, and they are amazing. She was also a poet and a tailor and the only woman the men allowed in the weekly family poker game.

    She was, quite simply, the best.

    Here's the iced coffee tip I learned from her -- and it's a bit of creative genius. Nanny, as we called her, would make ice cubes out of black coffee, so she could cool hot coffee without watering it down. It also works great for iced coffee, a true summer treat for me and my fellow caffeine fanatics.

    P.S. No, it's not a real bull. But why let reality get in the way of a great photo?

    Monday, July 21, 2008

    Monday, Monday

    It's Sunday night, I'm writing this for Monday morning, and I've had a lovely, lazy weekend. So I'm going to continue the mood by easing into the week with a simple request.

    OK, two simple requests. (I said I was easing. I never said I was easy.)
    1. Mike Brown and I are preparing a Creative Instigation workshop, and want your input. Please take a second to vote on the survey Mike has posted.
    2. Mark your calendars now! Plan to join us at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12, at the Greater KC PRSA meeting. I'll include a location and sign-up link as soon as the info is posted online.
    3. Heck, let's go for the magic of three. One more request: Have a spectacular week!

    Thursday, July 17, 2008

    Creative Inspiration: Billy Collins

    Among America's poet laureates, Billy Collins is one of my favorites. He takes the everyday, and transforms it. For example, we've all been annoyed by a barking dog, but only Collins has written Another Reason Why I Don't Keep A Gun In The House.

    And, before I forget, poetry and animation make a fascinating combo. Enjoy!

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    Creativity Exercise: Doodle You

    You did buy that sidewalk chalk on Monday, didn't you? You know, the chalk I asked you to buy? I'm assuming you follow my every suggestion.

    Hmmm. Based on my experience as a mother, that could be a false assumption. So here's the deal. You can doodle this outside, or on a clean sheet of paper.

    Doodle your name. Doodle it twice. Doodle it different.

    I'm going to doodle Janet because it's more fun than Jan.