Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Fun: Here Kitty, Kitty

I have been trying, without success, to load this bmp so you can see the machine gun action. It's not working.* So, go look at it on their site. It's worth the trip. Makes me laugh every time. (Thanks, Jenn!)

And, while we're in full kitten mode, here's a game my daughter Mary and her boyfriend Lee introduced me to. Twisted? Yes. Fun? Absolutely. Enjoy the weekend!

*Creativity tip of the day: Know when to quit. I could spend hours trying to figure this technology out. It's the kind of thing I'm playing with on my test blog site. But, it's not worth hours. So, no. That said, if any of you know what I'm doing wrong, please tell me.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Get Home Before Dark

OK, so this week you've discovered I was kicked out of Girl Scouts. Now, another confession: I don't like eating out alone. So, when I recently found myself alone at a restaurant, I was glad to also find a magazine to read while I ate.

Flipping through, I noticed a story about Neil Diamond, and his new album, Home Before Dark.

The album title came from a note he wrote to himself, a memory jogger to book a plane ticket that would bring his girlfriend "home before dark."

He saw a song, where others would see a reminder.

Right now, stop. Take a close look around your office, your kitchen, wherever you are. What creative inspiration is hiding in your plain sight?

P.S. Don't like Neil Diamond? Doesn't matter. Sometimes the best inspiration comes from people, things you don't like.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Creativity Tips: You Can Do Better, People

I admit it. I subscribe to People magazine. It's expensive, it's shallow and I love it.

As a subscriber, I receive a daily email. I generally just delete these, but here's a subject line that brought a lesson:

PEOPLE: Jessica Alba Gets Married to Cash Warren!

The lesson? Edit better. When possible and appropriate, write in the active tense. This would easily and more effectively be:

PEOPLE: Jessica Alba Marries Cash Warren!

P.S. I know. You're thinking: "Who cares?" I don't care that Jessica married her baby daddy. I do care that we're now using terms like "baby daddy."

P.P.S. Another headline option: Jessica Alba Cashes in on Pregnancy!
But that's so harsh ...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Creativity Tips: Be Prepared

My brother is an Eagle Scout. He understands the motto, "Be prepared."

On the other hand, I may be the only woman you'll ever meet who was asked to leave the Girl Scouts. (Apparently, I was a disruption in the friendship circle. Go figure.)

But recently, on a walk with JoJo the pup, I was prepared -- and able to take this photo in our neighborood park.

Now, this isn't great art in terms of photography. It is three great lessons in creativity:
  1. Change your perspective
    I saw this shot by getting out of my element. Without JoJo, I rarely sniff around under evergreens.
  2. Slow down
    I was wandering. If I'd been exercising, I would have quickly walked past it.
  3. Be prepared
    I had the right creative tools with me -- in this case, a cell phone with a camera. The same tree was much prettier on my next walk -- better lighting -- but I didn't have the phone.

This week, celebrate summer. Stroll somewhere unexpected. Creative inspiration could be right around the corner.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Fun: Indiana Jones Rocks

Hey -- a movie I love and a game I can play! It's all good. Happy weekend!

P.S. No, I haven't seen the new movie yet. But it has Harrison Ford and his fedora. That's all I need to know. And more than you need to know.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Creativity Exercise: Very Punny

My friend Barb is the Pun Queen of the Universe. She sent these photos of the Dinner in the Sky restaurant, along with a series of one-liners, such as: Wonder if the prices are sky high? The overhead must be low.

I could go on, but that's your job. Give me a pun!

P.S. No, I couldn't eat there. I know I'm short, but I don't need a highchair.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Creative Inspiration: TED Talks

My daughter Kate graduated from high school on Sunday. Sigh.

Along the way, she had amazing teachers and a wonderful time. She learned so much. And her educational journey has just begun.

Where's your journey taking you? Travel somewhere new this week. Visit TED. And don't get lost along the way.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Creativity Tips: The Rule of 3

I recently posted an entry about the magical, mysterious Rule of 3.

It wasn't my best work.

Here's the problem: I know the Rule of 3. I like the Rule of 3. I live the Rule of 3. It's so integral to my writing style, I have trouble explaining it. And, as a creative instigator, that bothers me. Big bunches.

So let's go back to my favorite parenting rule: Don't worry that they're not listening to everything you say. Worry that they're watching everything you do.

If you want to understand the Rule of 3, just watch. Read the blog regularly. Re-read the third paragraph of this post. You'll see how it's used, and you'll figure out -- for yourself -- how it works.

I guarantee it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Creativity Tips: "Why?"

Three-year-olds know the most creative question to ask.
Thirty-year-olds forget.
This week, ask: "Why?"

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Fun: Things Younger Than John McCain

OK, regular Creative Instigation readers will not be astonished to discover that, politically, I'm a tad on the liberal side. A big tad.

Nor will you be astonished to find out that today's post is completely stolen from Rabbit Fumes. Who probably stole it from someone else ...

Here's the site that's causing the stir: Things Younger than John McCain.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Creativity Tips: Think Burma-Shave

The Burma-Shave campaign was brilliant. It's over, but there's still plenty of roadside poetry available if you keep your eyes open. One of my published poems was inspired by a swinging sign:

Found Poem: Rural Route 20, Oklahoma
© Jan Sokoloff Harness

An unintentional poet summed it up
on a swinging sign

outside an auto parts store
near Tulsa.

Jesus is Lord
Everything is for sale

Amen, brother.
Amen and hallelujah.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Creativity Tips: Enjoy a Daily Dose of Poetry

There are approximately 39 gazillion daily feeds on the Internet.

Here's my favorite: The Writer's Almanac by Garrison Keillor. You can sign up for the daily email, or just check the site out now and then.


P.S. Look at that face ... there's a fun poem in that expression, just waiting to be written ...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

You Like Me! You Really ...

When the Webby Awards are presented next month in New York, winners are limited to five-word acceptance speeches.

I like it.

So consider this: If you won an award, and could give a five-word acceptance speech, what would you say?

P.S. All of you who do the exercise are hereby presented with the Creative Instigation Award of Excellence for Incredible Insight, Brilliant Bloggerness and Amazing Actions.

The rest of you receive the equally dazzling Creative Instigation Meritorious Award of Being.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Creativity Tips: Celebrate Spring

My friend Leslie recently sent me this "single heart" photo she took in her garden.

What a beautiful picture. What a wonderful time of year!

Don't let whatever insanity is on your plate this week keep you inside. Go for a walk. Wander. Celebrate spring.

Your creative soul will thank you.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Friday Fun: Parenting is a Puzzle

In honor of Mother's Day, I'm going to share one of my parenting tips: Buy a puzzle.

Set it up, do the hard work of turning over all the pieces, and get ready. Everyone will want to help. Puzzles are an easy way to play, and a simple, subtle opening for quiet conversation.

Here's to all our moms! Those with us, and those we miss.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Creativity Tips: Trudeau is One Smart Man

Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau is taking a 12-week sabbatical. It's a well-deserved break, and I hope he's enjoying every second of the time off.

When Universal Press Syndicate President Lee Salem made the vacation announcement, he said Trudeau wanted to "regenerate a few creative cells" before the political conventions and general election.

We can't all take 12 weeks off. But we can learn a lesson from Trudeau: Let's give our brains a break. Here's an easy "sabbatical" approach that helps me -- I don't work on Saturdays. I don't write for clients, or do invoicing, or handle any of the 90 million jobs that go along with owning a company.

I started the one-day a week totally off approach at the start of the year. It took about a month for my brain to realize I was serious. Now, my week has a better rhythm. My work has a better rhyme. And I have time to catch up with Doonesbury online.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Creativity Tips: Listening Lessons, Take 2

Yesterday, Toddy from St. Pete reminded me of a very real danger in listening -- we often focus more on what our response will be, than on what the other person is saying.

When I was a new reporter, I approached each interview with a list of questions. I eagerly waited for the person to stop talking, so I could check off a question, and move on down my list.

I was young. It's my only excuse.

Fortunately, I grew up quickly (radio news will do that to a person) and discovered that the best questions were the ones that came naturally -- the "follow-up" question, based on what the person being interviewed had just said. The best question could be as simple as, "Why do you say that?" or "Can you give me an example?" or "I'm not sure I understand -- can you explain it again?"

Today's advice? Forget your list. And listen.

(Thanks, Toddy!)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Creativity Tips: Listening Lessons

Several people have expressed surprise about last Monday's post -- they didn't know I was half-deaf. And that got me to thinking ...

Since I've been half-deaf all my life, and a writer most of my life, I've learned to listen. And it's possible that what I've learned can help you:
  1. Don't answer your phone during meetings. You can pretend to pay attention to two conversations. I can't. I'm glad.
  2. Look at the person who's talking. I lip read. You don't need to do that, but if you watch a person's face, you'll hear more of what they're saying. You'll also hear what they're not saying.
  3. If you miss something, ask people to repeat it. Trust me: They'd rather repeat themselves than be misunderstood.

To sum it up: Focus. You'll hear the difference.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Friday Fun: Color Your World

One post seems to be leading to another this week ...

So, let's wrap it all up. There are times when you can't color outside the lines. Because there are no lines. TGIF!

P.S. Try the paint can splatter. Oh yeah ...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Creativity Tips: Breaking the Rules, Take Two

Like most little kids, my daughter Kate loved coloring books. She'd scribble all over them, and I'd applaud her brilliance.

Then, one horrific day, she started drawing inside the lines.

I was distraught. My free-spirited child had been compromised by society's creativity-snuffing rules and regulations.

For consolation, I turned to an artist friend, Nancy, a good and gentle soul.

"Jan," she said quietly. "That's fine -- it's part of the process. Kate has to learn to draw inside the lines, so she can choose to draw outside."

It's your day. What's your choice?