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?")