Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Fun: Bonus Day -- Bonus Fun!

Since this is Leap Day, you might expect me to offer up a leap frog game, or something like that as the Friday Fun feature.

However, this is a creativity blog and I have standards. Nothing that predictable is acceptable. At least, not on its own.

Instead, I'm going to point you toward the Netherlands, and the HEMA department stores. Give the page a second to load, and enjoy -- there's no language barrier when it comes to appreciating creativity.

P.S. The animation on the page didn't work on my computer tonight. However, it did work on my husband's computer. Ordinarily, I would rewrite the post and find another link. But today feels like a good day to take a leap of faith ...

Thanks to Barb Pruitt for the HEMA link -- and keep those ideas coming my way!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Creative Query: Hidden Talents

We haven't had a "creative query" on the blog for a while ... but a fun team-builder exercise at a client's meeting brought one to mind.

Everyone in the meeting had to ask everyone else one question. My assigned question was: "What's a hidden talent you have that could help others on the team?"

Since I'm working with a creative group, the answers ranged from Rob's "mind control" to Jade's "I know CPR. Sort of." (So if you're "sort of" dying, Jade's your man.)

This leads us to a double Creative Instigation query. What's your hidden talent? And why is it hidden?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Creativity Tips: Disturb the Status Quo

This "do not disturb" sign from Embassy Suites is one of the props in my creativity presentation. I love it. Some writer, somewhere, came up with the perfect way to convey an important message (or two) and the brand.

Starbucks did a similar thing years ago, when the company added a legal liability line to the cup sleeves: Careful, the beverage you're about to enjoy is extremely hot.

It's brilliant. Costs no more to print than, Caution. Beverage extremely hot. Yet it says so much more.

These are wonderful examples of seeing and seizing an opportunity -- and both steps are essential to creative success. Today, find an opportunity to make the ordinary extraordinary. And do it!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Creativity Tips: Once is Enough

I know. You're wondering if this post is connected to my ongoing "smaller is better" campaign. It's not -- but it is the first time the Creative Instigation tip is also a safety tip.

Here's the deal: Picture yourself walking, alone, to your car in a dark parking lot. You only need to click the key once to unlock your door. Easy, right?

Yet, according to recent research, that's not what many of us do. We click. And we click. And then, if we're really in the mood, we click again. The door on the passenger's side unlocks, too -- and the bad guys can slide right in.

What's this have to do with creativity? There are times we all over-click. We use four colors and embossing, because the printing budget allows it. We add another dash of salt to the soup, just for good measure. We insist on keeping every single solitary word in that lead sentence because if we really, completely spell it out maybe the audience will grasp every nuance of our meaning.

This week, take a fresh look at projects you've had on your plate for some time. Maybe they're done! Maybe you're over-clicking. One perfect color grabs attention. Salt is over-rated. Short sentences communicate.

Trust me. And stop opening dangerous doors.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Creativity Tips: Just Say "Thank You"

A Kansas City Star story about the recent Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson concert at Sprint Center made me cringe.

According to the Star, "after Clarkson's spectacular rock-soul performance of Patty Griffin's 'Up to the Mountain,' Reba took a couple steps back, bowed respectfully in the 'I am not worthy' gesture and then told Clarkson she had more soul in her little finger than most singers have in their entire body. Clarkson shrugged and said, 'Whatever.'"

Whatever is not an acceptable answer to a genuine, generous compliment. Whatever is not an acceptable answer to anything.

It's a common tendency to deflect compliments. It is not a good common tendency. And it's time to stop.

The next time someone praises your creative accomplishment, relish the moment. Give 'em a grin. And just say, "Thank you."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Fun: Double your Pleasure

Double your pleasure, double your fun ...

If you're as old as I am, you're now humming the Doublemint jingle. If you're not as old as I am, you're lucky. Go outside and play.

Or, stay here and play. Today, we've got two Friday Fun features. First, a marketing quiz that I thought I'd ace. I didn't.

Then, in keeping with yesterday's doodle exercise, a doodle game. I can't do it, but you may still have some eye-hand coordination left. Although, judging from last week's helicopter crashes, I'm not real sure about that.

P.S. Double your pleasure is a lovely line. Such copy possibilities. But that's fun for another day ...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Creativity Exercise: Doodle Doodle

Isn't the word doodle wonderful? It's not just great for saying ... it's great for playing. Give it a try! What can you make out of the letters of doodle?

If you'd like to doodle online, let me point you toward Napkin Notebook again.

P.S. I'm not sure you can post drawings, but you can always email your masterpieces to me!

P.P.S. This is a creativity exercise. Make up your own rules. Use some of the letters. Use all of the letters. Doodle in color. Doodle in ketchup. Whatever you do do doodle will be brilliant. I guarantee it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Creativity Tips: Cut the Knot

When it comes to writing, I know what to do when I hit a knotty problem -- a phrase that refuses to work, a word that doesn't fit, an idea that isn't clear. I fall back on the writer's mantra:

You own the sentence. It doesn't own you.

I stop trying to fix what isn't working. I start a new sentence.

However, I am far more comfortable with writing than I am with knitting. On the current scarf attempt, I recently hit the mother lode of all knots. What was once yarn became a relentlessly twisted wreck of unforgiving fiber.

Being a newbie knitter and a psychotic over-achiever, I refused to admit defeat. I spent hours trying to untie the knots. Hours.

Then, I finally realized: I own the yarn. It doesn't own me.

I cut the cord. Literally. Cut the knot out, tied the yarn back together, and took off knitting again. Now, this may not be the approved approach in knitting, but this is a scarf -- not a nuclear power plant. One glitch won't end the world.

The next time you hit a creative roadblock, remember: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. If that doesn't work, cut the knot.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Creativity Tips: Change is Good

Oh, come on. I can hear you groaning and we're not even in the same city.

Creativity thrives on change. Today, learn something new and put it to use. Take the road less travelled, and be inspired by the scenery. Listen to your kids, your colleagues, your significant others -- before you answer them. (For most of us, that would definitely be a change.)

And, yes, I did mean to make "significant others" plural. Why? Because we can change the way we think about the phrase.

We can change the way we think. Now, there's power.

Change is good. Or, as Frank Zappa once said, "Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible."

Today, deviate. And don't wait. Go first.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Creativity Tips: Listen to Lincoln

In honor of Presidents' Day, today's creativity tip comes from Abraham Lincoln:

Often an idea would occur to me which seemed to have force ... I never let one of those ideas escape me, but wrote it on a scrap of paper and put it in that drawer. In that way I saved my best thoughts on the subject, and, you know, such things often come in a kind of intuitive way more clearly than if one were to sit down and deliberately reason them out.

Lincoln is talking about drive time. Shower time. Dream time. Whatever time it is when your brilliant ideas occur. Don't let them escape! Keep paper and pen with you, and file those scraps!

Scrappy ideas are often the best ideas ...

P.S. Lincoln, who wrote at the desk pictured here, is the only U.S. president to hold a patent. Talk about a creative mind ...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Fun: Go Fly a Helicopter

I almost posted a "That's some valentine" valentine from one of my friends ... but, just in case any sensitive souls are reading this blog, I've decided to take the safe route.

Safe, unless you're in my helicopter. In which case, you're a goner. Enjoy the game, and I hope you're a better pilot than I am!

P.S. Thanks to Patty for pointing out the helicopter game.
P.P.S. And, to Vanessa, my funny valentine.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Creativity Tips: That's Some Valentine

A kid is lucky to have one great mother. I was doubly blessed. I have the world's best mom, Lillian Sokoloff. And, when Lynn Dougherty and I became best friends for life in fourth grade, Lynn's mom took me under her wing.

Her presence was a gift. Joyce Dougherty was one of the most creative women I ever knew. Whether she was painting, stitching or cooking, she was an artist.

She was also a cigarette-smoking, no-fools-tolerating spitfire, with rock-solid Southern manners. If that sounds like a contradiction, I'm guessing you've never been to North Carolina.

Today, I'm going to share one of Mrs. Dougherty's most creative lines -- one that you can use in any number of awkward instances:

That's some baby

What do you say when a proud new mama shows you the world's ugliest newborn? "That's some baby!" What do you say when a friend decorates a less-than-Martha-Stewart cake? "That's some cake!" And what do you say when your lover gives you a completely inappropriate Valentine? You got it.

Happy Valentine's Day. From me. And Mrs. Dougherty.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Creativity Exercise: A You By Any Other Name ...

As we continue our Valentine's theme this week, consider this classic from Shakespeare:

What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

Olympic gold-medalist Picabo Street knows "what's in a name." Street's parents let her choose a name when she was three. (No, I am not making this up. I heard her speak recently, and this tidbit was in the official bio.) Picabo chose an Indian name ... it only sounds like peek-a-boo.

If you could do that -- name yourself -- what would you choose today? And what do you think you would have chosen when you were three? If you'd like to share, I'd love to know.

P.S. My sister and I played this re-name game when we were kids. She chose Rose.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Creativity Tips: Love Is All You Need

I was flipping through a quote book the other day, and saw this line from Emily Dickinson:

That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love.

The line played in my head, transforming from poetry into lyrics, from Dickinson into the Beatles.

Love is all there is love is all you need love is all there is love is all you need

All you need is love. Along with 3 minutes and 41 seconds to appreciate that just because it's all been said before, doesn't mean you can't find a wonderful way to say it again.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Creativity Tips: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

No matter where you are in your love life, St. Valentine is in your corner. According to Catholic Online, St. Valentine is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, and young people.

I have been married long enough to know I shouldn't joke about the logical, albeit alphabetical, progression from happy marriages to the plague.

And I've been writing long enough to know there's a poem hiding in that list.

This week, let St. Valentine watch over you. Get out of your comfort zone and be a traveller. Visit a tattoo parlor or a toy museum, a friend's church or a dueling piano bar. Go somewhere new.

You might find something you love.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Friday Fun: Ninjawords

In yesterday's post, I promoted dictionaries.

Today, I'm sharing a new online favorite -- Ninjawords, by Phil Crosby. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Creativity Tips: Remember Reality

Yesterday, I mentioned that we bought Guitar Hero for the kids. Both Kate and Mary have been playing it non-stop, with visits from Chuck, Caroline, Katie, Justin, Lee, Lindsey, Dan and Joe.

Basically, the rec room is now Guitar Hero heaven. They bring their own PlayStation guitars, plug in and rock out.

As far as I know, not one of these smart, talented teenagers has picked up either of the real guitars leaning against the wall.

Does that seem wrong, weird, or worrisome to anyone but me?

P.S. OK, that's not really a creativity tip. This is: I wanted a third "w" word for the last line and couldn't think of any that fit. I picked up the dictionary -- and there it is. Worrisome. If you don't have a dictionary by your side, get one. You'll worry less.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Creativity Tips: Show Up

Now and then, when I get good advice, I can follow it.

For example, in a commencement address she gave at Villanova years ago, author Anna Quinlan repeatedly used the line, "I show up. I listen. I try to laugh."

I liked the line when I first heard it, and I still like it.

This weekend, I had the chance to put it to use. We bought our teenagers Guitar Hero TM. It's an interesting game -- and when you watch the body language involved, clearly a creative outlet.

That said, there are things I'd rather do than watch my daughter rock out to Miss Murder. (One more reason I won't be named Mother of the Year. Add it to the list.)

However, having an audience was clearly important to her. So I showed up. I listened. And I didn't laugh.

Encouraging creativity requires building trust -- and to do that, you have to be there. Really be there.

Try it today. Show up for someone. Listen. Laugh, if appropriate. You never know: Show up often enough, and you could be a hero! (Or, at the very least, you could learn some interesting moves ...)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Creativity Exercise: One Sheet of Paper. One Million Ideas.

Creative Instigation exercises generally begin with, "Get out a clean sheet of paper." When I see that paper, I think of words. When Peter Callesen sees it, he thinks of images.

We all see the world through the prism of our own talents ... and fears, and loves, and hopes.

For today's exercise, look at the world through Callesen's eyes. Get out a clean sheet of paper and write something, anything, inspired by his art -- there's a lot more to see on his Web site. Or grab some scissors and start cutting!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Creativity Tips: Mary Poppins Was Right

I was recently at a Fazoli's restaurant, where employees go table to table with hot breadsticks. A woman about my age -- the same woman who had taken our order -- came over with a smile.

"How many breadsticks would you like?" she asked.

"Three," I replied, since there were three of us at the table.

"Just three? Get a few more, and I can build a breadstick pyramid for you!"

We got the pyramid. And I sat there, dazzled at how this woman managed to find joy and creativity in a job that 92.9% of the world would consider "shift work."

What does this have to do with Mary Poppins? As I left the restaurant, this song was playing in my head:

In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun.
You find the fun and snap!
The job's a game.

This week, let's find the fun!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Fun Stuff!

You just never know where a little creativity exercise can lead ...

The haiku that I wrote as part of a Creative Instigation exercise was published Sunday by The Kansas City Star.


(Hey, when I said I believe in celebrating success, I was serious!)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Friday Fun: Test Your Reflexes

Is it just me, or did January 2008 seem like the longest 31 days in the history of mankind?

Anyway, I'm ready for mindless entertainment. And today's link is about as mindless as it gets. Before you count sheep tonight, tranquilize a few! I finally made it to "rocketing rabbit." I may never be a "turbo-charged cheetah," but it's good to have a goal.

Oh -- before you go shoot sheep: I love getting your comments. Let me know if there are topics you'd like me to address, or if you have a creativity tip to pass along. And I'm always delighted to get ideas for posts or Friday Fun chuckles.

Thanks for reading and for sharing!