Thursday, April 30, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Recession Haiku

I know, I know. Regular CI readers are starting to think I'm haiku-crazed. Well, have no fear. This isn't my exercise -- it's from the Kansas City Star. The Star's business desk is looking for haikus about the recession, such as this gem from my buddy Chris Kuehl, which ran in the Star on Wednesday:

Distant tunnel light
Signals ending of despair
Might be a train though

Ah, yes. The old 5-7-5. Send your recession haikus to ... and, of course, you can post them here!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Creativity Tips: Can You Think at Midnight?

Do you do your best creative work at midnight? I don't. But that's when I worked on the posts for the week -- and that's why you saw two posts yesterday. I was tired. I didn't proofread the posting dates.

Today's tip? Know your limits. And respect them.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Creativity Exercise: This One's a Dandy!

  1. Get out a clean sheet of paper.
  2. Write the word dandelion.
  3. Describe the dandelion, or ...
  4. Come up with a new name for it!

Creative Inspiration: Grace Paley

Grace Paley's last book, Fidelity, is a beautiful collection on aging and love and loss. In one poem about her sister, she noted: The word dead is correct/but inappropriate. That line now applies to Paley, who died in 2007.

Her "Anti-Love Poem" presents a word-perfect first line:
Sometimes you don't want to love the person you love

The exactly right words, in the exactly right order. How gorgeous.

P.S. In my online search for more on Paley, I landed on a great list of literary links. Enjoy!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Creativity Tips: Start Fresh

Yoga instructor Shanna Haun said something at a 7 a.m. Saturday class that made my entire weekend happier -- and while I may not remember the words exactly right, I do remember the sentiment: Let go of your expectations of perfection.

Isn't that wonderful? This week, listen to Shanna. Let go.

P.S. That's Shanna in the photo.
P.P.S. Yes, I made it to a 7 a.m. class. I was at a retreat, so I was in a different frame of mind. Now I'm trying to keep that retreat mode going.
P.P.P.S. Why do we call it a "retreat" when it helps us move forward?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Fun: Sleepless in Suburbia

I don't often publish my own poems here, but ... this one was a big hit with my Facebook friends. Here's to a great weekend, complete with sleep!

Sleepless in Suburbia
by Jan Sokoloff Harness, ©2009

Now I lay me down to toss.
I pray the Lord the night’s not lost.
Let me sleep just one night through
And I will give my soul to you.

But there’s no sleeping anymore.
All hope of REM is out the door.
It doesn’t help to hear that I’m
A woman slipping past my prime.

I am hot and then I’m cold.
This could be menopause, I’m told.
I can’t think if I can’t sleep.
And I refuse to count damn sheep.

I flip my pillow over, twice.
It’s cool, it’s hot, I’m cold as ice.
I flip my pillow once again.
Now I want a freakin’ fan.

My friends all swear that I will sweat
I do not sweat, at least not yet.
I am an emotional basket case.
No tears, but don’t get in my face.

Now I lay me down to fret.
If I sweat, I’ll get all wet.
If I get wet, I’ll have to change.
Oh, Lord, maybe I’m deranged.

Next to me my husband snores
While I obsess on undone chores.
He sleeps all night. I toss. I turn.
He sleeps just fine. I freeze. I burn.

Now I lay me down to sigh.
If I don’t sleep, I think I’ll die.
If I don’t die, I just might kill.
Please get me a sleeping pill.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Site Seeing: This is Your Mind on Books

Bioephemera has an interesting take on a topic near and dear to my heart: What happens when a reader stops reading?

The blog is the brainchild of biologist and artist Jessica Palmer, and the cool photo is from Rag & Bone.

P.S. Thanks to Steve for the idea!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Best Gift for a Writer is a Reader

As I was thinking about what to write for today, this popped into my head:

Will you still need me,
Will you still read me,
When I'm 54?

Today, I'm 54. And you're here -- giving this writer the best gift of all. Thank you! Thank you very much! And here's to a wonderful year for all of us.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Creativity Tips: Capture the Beautiful Ordinary

This is one of my favorite photos of all time. Mary and I were playing Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Tom captured us right as the sun came out and dried up all the rain.

I look at this, and I remember exactly how these moments felt, when the girls were still climbing into my lap, looking into my eyes, and laughing at the silly spider.

Do you wait for a special occasion to photograph family and friends? You're in luck.

Today is a special occasion.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Creativity Tips: LOL

When was the last time you laughed out loud?

I spent Saturday night with funny friends -- smart, articulate, opinionated, wonderful people who make me laugh out loud. None of us were texting or tweeting. We were talking and talking.

And I was reminded of something I forget during the hectic week: what a joy it is to simply relax with people you love.

If you follow only one tip this week, this is it: Relax. Spend time with people who make you happy. It's the best creative boost in town!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Creativity Tips: How do you define ...

Here's another sister-inspired post: How do you define winning?

When Eva and I go to the casinos, we consider it a "win" if we put 9 cents in a slot machine and get 5 cents back.

We won 5 cents! Yes!

You may think our definition is ridiculous. I'd be hard-pressed to argue. But what really matters is that you just gained a better understanding of us, and how we approach a night out.

Now, take that concept and apply it at home and at work. People aren't dictionaries. We all define things differently -- from infidelity to creativity to love.

So don't just laugh at the question. Ask it. How do you define ... ?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Kiss a Bubble

My sister Eva will be happy to tell you that I am the creative one in the family. My sister Eva is wrong.

Here's an idea she stole from someone (creative theft, the sign of a creative genius), and gave to me: When you're blowing bubbles with kids, encourage them to kiss the bubbles. It adds an entire new layer of active fun to the game.

(What? Did you say you never blow bubbles? When did you stop? And why?)

Fortunately, even without bubbles, this is still a great creativity exercise. Take something you do all the time, and change the sensory experience. Add music, a touch, a taste, a smell. A kiss. You figure it out. I'm going to blow bubbles.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Votes are In ...

And Groucho Jan wins!

Hey, laughter burns calories.

But, if you're really looking for poll results: #3 scored the most votes, followed by #1. Laughing #2 got a few votes. No one chose lonely #4.

Thanks to Bud for the wonderful photos, and to all of you who voted! Special thanks to Paula, who sparked the idea of using the Groucho photo. Teamwork. It's a good thing.

P.S. Since I received more emails than posts, let me mention that you can always email me a comment. I'm glad to hear from you here on the blog, or one-on-one. And, since I know some people have trouble posting, I am also happy to post for you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

This Bud's for Me!

True story: My mother would look at my school photos, give me a hug and say, "Don't worry, sweetie. Beautiful people never photograph well. Models really aren't that attractive when you see them in person."

You gotta love Mom. But, since leaving Boone Elementary School, I've met a few models and a few mirrors. And yet ... Bud Simpson has done the impossible. He created a photo shoot that was fun, even for phot0-phobic me. The result? Proof that all of us can photograph well, if we choose the right photographer.

But, now I have a new problem. I can't decide which shot to use as the new Creative Instigation blog photo. So, I'm calling on the team. Tell me, here, which one you like best. Or, email me at and I'll keep a tally.

Just say 1, 2, 3 or 4. Let's go for "1" on top. (Yes, I know that line opens the door to bad jokes. I trust you to have some self control. Puh-leeze people ...)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Fun: Leapin' Lizards!

As a recovering broadcast reporter, I think this is priceless. Especially when the guy tries to become Mr. News again. Keep your eye on the lefthand side of the screen for Mr. Lizard.

Thanks to Jody for the clip! (And, no, I will not be doing animal videos every Friday.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Site Seeing: New Friends

It's been a bit since I sent you site seeing, so here are several places to visit!

Sarah Daly is a new copywriting buddy I met the old-fashioned way -- mutual friends introduced us, and we got together for coffee. You know, face-to-face. You remember face-to-face contact, right? Sarah is a social media expert, who understands Twitter, Facebook, etc. Putting her way ahead of me.

However, I did meet Emma Alvarez Gibson via Twitter, so I'm not completely old-fashioned. There's hope. Check out her blog, complete with the April 3 post on 5 Tips for Twitterers. I can be taught.

And, someone I've never met, but whose work I have long admired -- Joe Posnanski, who brings you two blogs, including one on the future of newspapers. Joe is one reason I continue reading the KC Star, now a one-cuppa-coffee feat.

The joy of reading different writers is hearing how they write, and learning from each one. Have fun!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Creativity Tips: Give Yourself a Break

This is a photo of my basement. This was my secluded haven away from the open spaces of our house. It is now a basement with a huge, extremely expensive hole.

I won't go into the home repair nightmare -- but I will use it as a lesson.

I don't have a creativity tip for today, and that's OK. I've got a guy with a jackhammer in my basement, and workers with a backhoe outside. I can't be expected to be creative 24/7, no matter what the circumstance.

And neither can you. There are times when you won't feel creative. Don't fret. When you exercise your creative talents as much as we do, the mojo will be back tomorrow!

Hmmm. Did I just disprove my "I don't have a creativity tip for today" comment? And is "disprove" a word?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Creative Inspiration: Steve Wozniak Rocks. So Does Eva.

Laugh if you want, but I love Dancing with the Stars. And Steve Wozniak, who was voted off last week.

Wozniak isn't a great dancer, but he is a great competitor -- and sets a fine example. Here's a quote from professional dancer Derek Hough, on Wozniak's goodbye:

"For a guy who pretty much invented the computer, he hand-wrote us all letters, which is amazing. A little over two pages for each person," Derek says.

Steve Wozniak is now the apple of my eye. Put your pen to paper, pals. It really makes a difference.

P.S. Happy birthday to Eva!!!! The best sister in the world!!!!
And, yes, I have sent this wish to her in handwritten form, too. You all are such cynics. No wonder I love you.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Creative Inspiration: National Poetry Month

Sorry, T. S. Eliot. The world may feel like a waste land these days, but April is not the cruellest month. It's National Poetry Month! Let's celebrate with the New York Review of Books.

Thanks to JP for the idea!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Another Look

Here's a different look at Mary's ketchup painting. (Original is in the post below.)

Perspective is an amazing thing. And editing ain't bad either.

Creativity Tips: Admire Your Work

I've been told modesty is a wonderful thing. I wouldn't know. I've never been afflicted with it.

Apparently, this is a genetic trait. My daughter Mary "painted" this with ketchup, and insisted that I stop what I was doing to come over and admire her art.

This is so cool, she said. It looks like fire.

It does, doesn't it? And Mary's right about something else -- ketchup art is very cool. So is she. And so are you. So, beginning today, really appreciate your own talents. And don't be afraid to welcome someone else into your artistic glow!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I Quit

You know what? I'm out of ideas.
Got nothing creative left.
No tips. No exercises.
No inspiration.
I'm done.

(April Fools! And now let's all go put sugar in the salt shakers ...)