Monday, March 31, 2008

Creativity Tips: Know When to Go

Some artists do their best writing, painting, baking in the midst of tragedy and misery. I'm not one of them. I thrive in happy.

Here's my theory: No matter how long it is, life is too short to spend the majority of your waking hours someplace you don’t enjoy. Why face Monday mornings with dread?

If you're not looking forward to the week ahead, ask yourself why. Decide one step you can take to get you closer to happy. Then, take that step. Today.

Yes, I know. It’s easier said than done. But you tell me: How easy is it to get up every morning, and go to a job you hate?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Fun: Success is Counted Sweetest ...

Emily "Boring" Dickinson* was wrong. Success is not counted sweetest by those who ne'er succeed. Success is counted sweetest by those who work their tushies to the bone and see their dreams take flight.

My friend Kat launched Kat Clothing this week ... and I'm so proud of her I could bust a seam! (But since it's a clothing store, that would be inappropriate.) Kat always walks tall. Now, she can strut.

And, while I'm pointing out sweet success stories, take a look at Jenn's offerings at TeaMoka. Green tea, black tea, white tea, decaf tea, chocolate tea, you name it -- she has the best. And I say this with great certainty, since I'm writing between sips.

*Fine, you like Emily Dickinson. I think she whines from the grave. Feel free to post a protest, or write your own whiny poetry.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Creativity Tips: Tell Me a Story

Yesterday's post featured the cover of Bill Bryson's book. A quote from the book demonstrates how a good writer and/or reporter uses anecdotes to help communicate what some might think is "boring" information:

It’s probably not a good idea to take too personal an interest in your microbes. Louis Pasteur, the great French chemist and bacteriologist, became so preoccupied with them that he took to peering critically at every dish placed before him with a magnifying glass, a habit that presumably did not win him many repeat invitations to dinner.
-- Bill Bryson, “A Short History of Nearly Everything”©2003

It's the same advice producer Don Hewitt used to give reporters on 60 Minutes: "Tell me a story." Paint a picture with your words, and people will remember. They may not invite you to dinner, but they'll remember ...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Creativity Exercise: A Short History of You

In the beginning ... of conversion classes, the instructor gave my friend Maureen a concise history of the Jewish people:

They tried to kill us.
We survived.
Let's eat.

Today's exercise: Take out a clean sheet of paper. Write your life history in three sentences -- with no more than six words in each sentence.

If you spend more than 90 seconds on this, you're thinking too long.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Creativity Tips: Count on an Expert

As the old saying goes, you don't know what you don't know.

When I showed my latest knitting project to an expert, Leslie, she gently asked me if I was counting every row.

Counting every row? Nope. Counting any rows? Nope. The English grandmother I watched on that "learn to knit" Internet video clip didn't mention counting.

I now have a new project on the needles, and I'm counting every row. And damn, if it doesn't look like a scarf. And, double damn, if I don't know enough of the jargon to say "new project on the needles."

There are times when you're cooking, or writing, or struggling through calculus, and you know something is wrong -- you just don't know what. My advice? Count on an expert. Find a Leslie.

P.S. My other knitting expert, Vicki, is holding me accountable for having this done by Saturday, for my daughter's birthday. I'll report in later ... but it's looking good! (In more ways than one.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Creativity Tips: See Better

The awareness test from the Friday Fun post has approximately 89 million creativity lessons embedded in it. I'm going to hit a few of my favorites here .. I hope you comment on some others.
  1. It is easy to miss something you're not looking for.
  2. We see what we want to see. (I drive a VW Beetle. Because of that, I see every VW Beetle on the road -- each one validates that I made a smart decision.)
  3. Following directions limits our perspective.
  4. Just because we know we're right, doesn't mean we're right.
  5. Perception is not reality. (Go ahead. Argue with me. "Perception is reality" has given me more heartburn than any other business concept I can remember.)

The big takeaway for me? See better. Let's be aware of even subtle prejudices and stay open to new inputs. And remember, your reality and my reality are very different. But if we look for a way to find a better reality together, we won't miss it.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Fun: This Is Only A Test

Right before the Easter Bunny visits, it's only fitting that we have a Friday Fun feature brought to our attention by the big bunny at Rabbit Fumes. Take a look at this awareness test -- I could do a whole week of Creative Instigation posts on this one!

And, since I'm aware of how much you're enjoying the Friday Fun games, here's a quick way to get rid of a little workweek stress: Gunny Bunny.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Won't You Wear a Sweater?

This would have been Fred Rogers' 80th birthday. In his honor, the folks from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood are asking people "from Pittsburgh to Paris" to wear a sweater today. Doesn't have to be red -- just a sweater.

Now, you may not be a Mister Rogers' fan. You may have an aversion to sweaters that zip. But I'm betting you appreciate this Mister Rogers' quote:

The older I get, the more convinced I am that the space between communicating human beings can be hallowed ground.

Here's to hallowed ground. And comfy cardigans. And the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Creativity Tips: Find Your Own Truth

Recently, I told a friend she was making a mistake in one of the most creative aspects of her life -- parenting a teenager. I could do this because:
  1. She's a wonderful mother.
  2. She's a brilliant woman.
  3. We've been friends for years.
  4. She'd do the same for me.

For all these reasons, I am comfortable giving my friend advice -- knowing she'll take what I consider the truth and weigh it against her own reality.

No one makes the right decisions all the time, and no one gives the right advice all the time. Surround yourself with people you trust and listen to what they say. Then, find your own truth.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Creativity Tips: Business is Personal

Want to make a point with people? Hit them where they live.

Check out this link Neil Neumeyer sent, in honor of my daughter Mary's participation in the Together We Remember Holocaust project.

Make it personal, and you make it memorable. You make it real.

Thanks, Neil!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Creativity Tips: Luck of the Irish and Everyone Else

Creative people get lucky. (Stop it.)

I'll start again. There are times when I can't find the right word for an ad or brochure or poem. I can struggle with it for hours. Then, I'll be driving down the highway, and see the perfect word -- the perfect word -- on a billboard.

It's pure luck. And being open to it.

This week, be receptive to all the luck that surrounds us. Appreciate it. Get lucky.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Fun: Feeling Irish? Feeling Lucky?

Why wait for Monday? Let's start celebrating St. Patrick's Day now! Look for a lucky four-leaf clover, or just grab a green beer and enjoy this Irish dance. Thanks to Patty for sending the video our way!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Creative Query: Process or Product?

When you're part of a smart and engaged creative team, one idea -- one comment -- can spark another, and another. That happened yesterday with the Creative Instigation team. If you haven't read the comments on the Wednesday post, take a look.

Then, ask yourself:
  1. Are you more excited about the process, or the product?
  2. Are you creating art, or manufacturing something?
  3. Do the people on your creative team balance you? If you lean toward process, is there someone supporting the product side?
  4. What are you learning from the process?

I also want to give a Creative Shoutout to all of you who are turning this blog into a wonderful creative team. I truly appreciate each and every comment you leave, and all the feedback you give. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Creativity Tips: Enjoy "The Show So Far"

When you're working on a looooooooong project, it can be hard to keep the creative wind in your sails. Here's a trick to help you keep moving forward: Stop now and then. And enjoy the show so far.

It's a lesson I learned years ago from Todd Hanna, video guru and all-around good guy at the UMKC School of Medicine. Todd taught me to slow down and enjoy the creative process -- not just the final result.

Today, give it a try. Rewind the video, and admire the brilliance inherent in that intro. Pull out the knitting, and marvel over the first two feet of scarf. Eat the cookie dough.

Don't wait to celebrate. Enjoy the show as you go.

P.S. Todd says he thinks "the show so far" is an old Monty Python line. Which brings us right back to that "creative wind."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Creative Inspiration: Robert Frost and David Ray

"New" is at the very heart of creativity -- so we're going to try something new here at Creative Instigation. Now and then, I'll bring you poems, stories, Web sites, whatever, that I find inspirational. And since this blog thrives with your creative input, I'm hoping you'll post your own inspirational ideas!

We'll start with a David Ray poem titled* Thanks, Robert Frost. For me, there's double inspiration in this poem -- the way Frost turns the question around with his answer, and the fact that Ray hears the poem. Good writers are good listeners. Enjoy!

Thanks, Robert Frost
© David Ray

Do you have hope for the future?
someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
Yes, and even for the past, he replied,
that it will turn out to have been all right
for what it was, something we can accept,
mistakes made by the selves we had to be,
not able to be, perhaps, what we wished,
or what looking back half the time it seems
we could so easily have been, or ought ...
The future, yes, and even for the past,
that it will become something we can bear.
And I too, and my children, so I hope,
will recall as not too heavy the tug
of those albatrosses I sadly placed
upon their tender necks. Hope for the past,
yes, old Frost, your words provide that courage,
and it brings strange peace that itself passes
into past, easier to bear because
you said it, rather casually, as snow
went on falling in Vermont years ago.


I may have pointed this out before, but it's good to repeat key messages: Harper Audio has wonderful recordings of Frost reading some of his classics ... I think his voice alone is inspirational!

*Poems and books are "titled." They are not "entitled." Someone needs to tell the editors at Vanity Fair this.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Creativity Tips: It's All About Me.

OK. It's not all about me. And, deep breath now, it's not all about you, either.

It's all about them.

Approximately 98.9 percent of the people we deal with -- from clients to kids -- have the same communications preference:
Be brief. Be quick. Be gone.*

When you're trying to get a message across, consider the audience first. Make sure you're tailoring the message -- and the medium -- to them. My friend Greg has been known to send a text message to his teenager in the next room. It works.

Trust the bunny.**

*Completely stolen line, from a personality profile.
** Modified stolen line, from Rabbit Fumes.
*** Yes. I will eventually do a post on the value of creative theft.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friday Fun: Help Horton!

Earlier this week, I talked about Heber Springs, Arkansas. Then, we did a Dr. Seuss exercise. Today, it all comes together.

The area around Heber is known for its swinging bridges. A favorite Dr. Seuss character -- Horton -- has a swinging bridge to cross. And he really needs your help to do it.

Oh, the places we go ...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Creativity Tips: When You Fall ...

My 14-year-old daughter Mary tried out for the high school drill team Wednesday night. She's been on the junior high team, was comfortable with the tryout routine and knew exactly what she needed to do.

When her time in the spotlight came, she smiled, she danced, she leaped.

Then, unfortunately, she fell.

Her heart fell, too. But you know what she did? She kept on smiling, got right back up, and gave it her best. She didn't cry until the dance was over, and she was out of the auditorium.

We could all learn a lesson from Mary. When we take a creative leap, sometimes we soar. Sometimes we fall. The trick is finding the courage to get up and do it again -- and the determination to do it better.

Mary did two more leaps before the dance was done. Beautifully. And I'm very proud to say, she made the team.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Creativity Exercise: Get Loose with Dr. Seuss

Here's your chance to finish a sentence brought to you by the incomparable Dr. Seuss in his classic book, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you're ....

(I have no research to prove this, but I bet there are new synapses firing because you're trying to make something rhyme. That doesn't happen all the time. And not using all synapses is really a crime.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Creativity Tips: Rosebud

Years ago, at a family reunion in Heber Springs, Arkansas, one of my husband's cousins whittled while he chatted with us. Without paying hardly any attention to what he was doing, he carved a perfect rosebud.

Being a city girl, unaccustomed to whittlers and wooden rosebuds, I oooooohed and ahhhhhhed. He looked at me like I was crazed, and quickly walked away. Result? He missed out on the joy of being an appreciated artist, and I felt city-stupid. I certainly never complimented his whittling again.

Today's tip? Appreciate your own talents. If you don't, no one else will.

P.S. No, the photo isn't from the reunion. I'm not quite that old. It is a photo by Heber Springs native Mike Disfarmer. According to the Hood Museum of Art, "The reclusive Arkansas photographer Mike Meyer (1884-1959) legally changed his name to Disfarmer to disassociate himself from both his family and the farming community of Heber Springs, where he worked for forty years."

Monday, March 3, 2008

Creativity Tips: Strategy Is Our Friend

Some of the most creative ads in the world are never seen outside agency walls. Why? Because these brilliant bits of copy and design don't match the campaign strategy.

When you're crafting a message -- whether it's at work or at home, to find a job or sell an idea -- be strategic. Think about the audience. Think about the message. Then come up with a fantastic way to communicate -- with words, pictures or actions.

It's like a game, the old finger puzzle we used to play. The creative and strategic aspects of your project have to work together. Pulling apart simply creates stress.

Your job as a creative genius? Find new ways to push together -- and still push the limits!