Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Newspaper Blackout Poems

My buddy Chris sent me a link yesterday to this artwork by Austin Kleon on the 20X200 site. Way cool. The art, the idea for the art, and the idea for the site.

Anyway, let's take it and run with it. Pull out the newspaper. Please don't tell me you don't take the newspaper. OK, fine. Find a dang newspaper somewhere. Find a story. Make a blackout poem.

If you create one you love, send me a PDF and we'll post it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Creativity Tips: Come Back Tomorrow

Here's the real tip: I'll never take cold medicine again while fasting*. At the very least, I won't take it repeatedly.

Stay tuned: I'll be functional again by Wednesday.

*Yom Kippur is a fast day. You're allowed to eat and drink if you're ill. Unfortunately, my biggest ailment is stubbornness.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Yom Kippur

I'm writing this a month before the day you read it -- I just finished proofreading the contemporary Yom Kippur service for my synagogue, and thought I'd share one of the readings with you. Give you a sense for what I'm doing on this Day of Atonement, the only day of the year when Jews participate in a confessional ...

For transgressions against God, the Day of Atonement atones; but for transgressions of one human being against another, the Day of Atonement does not atone until they have made peace with one another.

I hereby forgive all who have hurt me, all who have wronged me, whether deliberately or inadvertently, whether by word or by deed. May no one be punished on my account.

As I forgive and pardon those who have wronged me, may those whom I have harmed forgive and pardon me, whether I acted deliberately or inadvertently, whether by word or by deed.
No matter what or whether you believe, fresh starts and forgiveness are good. Happy New Year!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Fun: ThatWhichMatter

To wrap up yesterday's post, my favorite punctuation is ... wait for it ... the ellipsis. Which probably makes sense for a woman who can't let go of anything. Including a sentence ...

And, in keeping with our grammatical twist, today's fun is to point you toward (gasp) Twitter, and the ThatWhichMatter feed. And, if you have to be on Twitter to get there, and you're not, you can look here at the Lifehacker site, which looks pretty interesting on its own. Heck, check this out, and see why Al Gore might want to spend a little time worrying about his own personal environment. Hey, just sayin' ...

Thanks to Barb, who knows ThatWhichMatter most is giving me a steady flow of blog ideas. Happy weekend!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Punctuate This!

I am not an online expert and I don't play one on TV. Fortunately, I hang out with the right people. So, Mike keeps me updated on Twitter and all the social media I fail to grasp, and Leslie finds the perfect links for the CI blog.

Today, for example, we're celebrating National Punctuation Day! And, while you might think the exclamation point is my favorite punctuation, you'd be wrong.

Which brings us to our exercise:
  1. Guess my favorite punctuation mark.
  2. Tell me your favorite.

If you're feeling really adventurous, scroll down on the National Punctuation Day site and check out the baking contest. Let me know if you decide to enter.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Creativity Tips: Taking It On The Road

Change your scenery and you'll change your attitude. It's true. Changing your view is a fast way to recharge your creative batteries, whether you leave town or simply hang new pictures in your office.

Another creative battery booster? Teaching. There's no learning experience like teaching.

With both those tips in mind, I'm taking Creative Instigation on the road. For CI team members in NY, I'll be presenting in Rochester Oct. 8 at the 2009 PRSA NE District Conference and I'd love to see you there. CEO, adventurer and social media guru Peter Shankman is the keynote speaker.

If you belong to a group that's looking for speakers, remember my motto: Have creativity props. Will travel!

When I leave Rochester, I'm heading to Niagara Falls. Get that barrel ready!

P.S. That's a bad day at the falls in 1911. Surely you didn't expect me to go with the typical tourist shot. You do know me better than that, right?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Site Seeing: Lucy, I'm Home!

Want the back story on the creativity behind American TV? Look here: the Archive of American Television. Fascinating interviews with so many people -- from Walter Cronkite to Betty White. Makes me miss Meathead.

Look around and find your favorite.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Creativity Tips: Rehearse

Every year, my synaogogue conducts a special service to honor the Holocaust survivors in our congregation and their families. It's a beautiful service, with special songs and readings. Most of us who help lead it have been singing or reading the same parts for years. We could practically do them by rote.

Yet, every year, we rehearse. Why? Because we know this is a creative endeavor that matters. So we approach it wholeheartedly; we don't put it in neutral and coast.

Is there a creative task you've been doing for so long you could do it with your eyes closed? If so, this is the week to bring it back to consciousness. Why? Because it matters.

Whether you're writing a resume, reading a bedtime story or baking a cake, it matters. Otherwise, why are you doing it?

As long as you're doing it, here's my advice: Put your whole heart into it. You might even want to rehearse. (How do you rehearse a resume? Easy. Pretend you're the HR director. Now, pick up your resume. Ask yourself: What makes this stand out? Da-da! You just rehearsed.)

And if you decide to rehearse the baking, let me know ...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Fun: Twitteleh

With the Jewish New Year beginning at sundown, it's the perfect day for advice from your favorite Jewish mother: Forget Twitter. Try Twitteleh.

P.S. Thanks to Leslie for the link!
P.P.S. If you're Jewish, you're allowed to have another favorite Jewish mother. Maybe two. But that's it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Creativity Tips: Celebrate!

Never miss a chance to celebrate! I just noticed that we hit the 500 posts mark with yesterday's post. 500! Woo-hoo! Yakka-bakka and yadda yadda! The Creative Instigation team totally rocks!

We should also never miss a chance to say thanks. A big shout-out to Mike Brown for getting me started on this, back in 2007. It's been fun. And it still is!

(Really and truly -- these are creativity tips. Celebrate. And say Thank you. People do better creative work when they're appreciated and their work is valued. Besides, it's simply the right thing to do.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Creativity Tips: Be Nice to Yourself

For those of you who wondered why nothing posted on the blog at 4:22 a.m., here's the deal: I didn't have anything creative to say last night. I wasn't feeling well, and I went to bed early.

The lesson? That's OK. Nobody is creative 24/7.

As the flu and allergy season kicks in, listen to your body. Get your vitamin C. Have some tea. And when you need a nap, take one. Your friends will understand.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Honor Angus

This is just fun -- and an easy way to beef up* your creativity. Visit Honor Angus and write a two-word headline for a McDonald's billboard.

I'll take my holy hamburger with fries. And, of course, a diet Coke.

*Self amuse. It's a good thing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Creativity Tips: Fill 'er up!

This past Saturday, I was making plans to visit a friend who has been ill. I started the phone call by explaining I'd been to a parade to watch my daughter perform with the drill team, I was taking her to lunch, I needed to run a few errands, then check on my mom and take the dog for a walk.

"After that," I said, "I'll be over to see you."

"Your life is full!" she replied.

One short sentence -- and it stopped me short. I've never been a "glass is half-empty" type of gal, but I wasn't thinking my life was full. I was thinking it was freaking insane.

But she's right. My life is full. Wonderfully, astonishingly, fortunately, temporarily full. It's all a matter of perspective, and I'm changing mine.

Here's to creative perspectives, and a week filled with good friends and good work!

P.S. I wonder how many people reading the blog are old enough to understand the "Fill 'er up!" headline. I remember sitting in the back seat of dad's '62 Buick, watching some guy in coveralls washing our windows while he filled the tank ...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Fun: Make Someone Happy

You know what we're going to do for fun today? Nope. Not a game. Not a doodle. We'll get back to that next Friday.

Today, we're going to make someone happy.

Step one: Think about someone you haven't talked to in a while -- someone special.
Step two: Send happy thoughts to your someone.

I'll start. I'm sending happy thoughts to Amber.
And to you.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Creativity Tips: Think Little

I was just watching the Sex and the City movie, and Carrie Bradshaw wrote:


Then, she edited. And wrote:

Love ...

A little thing. Turn a period into an ellipsis. But what a difference it makes -- in meaning, in intent, in possibility. A period stops us. An ellipsis lets us go.

Today, change one little thing. The way you greet people, the route you take on your daily walk, the time of day you make that routine call home. It's your choice to make. And you never know where one change can lead ...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Creative Query: Let Me Utilize You

Can anyone give me one good reason why apparently articulate people would use utilize instead of use? Why are we making up longer words when we have perfectly wonderful short words to use?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Road to Plagiarism

Last week, I ran a guest column, something I've rarely done on the CI blog. The essence of that column -- and many of the exact words -- first appeared on Smoke and Meers, a blog by KC advertising leader Sam Meers. Unfortunately, Sam was not the author who submitted the column to me, nor did he receive writing credit.

There's only one word for it, plagiarism. Let me make this crystal clear: Plagiarism, in any form, is wrong. Good intentions are no excuse.

I have known the man who submitted the column for years, and have never had any reason to doubt his talent or integrity. He read Sam's column and used it as inspiration, adding his own true experiences. He included Sam's word-for-word pay-off paragraph on balance -- which he originally attributed to Sam. Unfortunately, he deleted that attribution line before sending me the copy.

In his words: I thought I had tweaked it and changed it up enough to fit our order of events that I -- when trying to shorten my version -- deleted that attribution line. I ovbiously never went back and compared it with the original.

He was wrong. He has apologized to me. He will apologize to Sam. I sincerely apologize to Sam, and to you.

So, what have we learned?
  1. Inspiration is good. Plagiarism is bad.
    When I talk about "stealing" ideas, I am talking about taking something as inspiration and making it your own. For example, my friend Linda wrote a sestina. I am taking that idea, and the words you provided, and writing a sestina. The idea came from Linda. The six end words came from you. The poem will be mine.
  2. Think before you hit "send."
    My first reaction to Sam's email informing me of this unfortunate situation was an inappropriate, knee-jerk, "how dare you think I would plagiarize copy" response. The immediacy of electronic media is dangerous. As my brother's old poster used to say, "Make sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear."
  3. Ask for help.
    I asked two valued members of my creative team for help. I sent them the materials, and my suggested response, considered their input and changed my copy. Thank you for always being there.
  4. Mistakes happen. And reputations matter.
    I respect the words and reputations of other writers. I also value my own words -- and my reputation. In this business, in this town, reputation is a "make or break" factor. Part of my reputation is built on being Mama Bear. This time, one of my cubs made a big mistake. It's a mistake he's not likely to make again.
Many, many years ago, I did something my mother-in-law thought was wrong. She told me how she felt, and why she felt that way. She also told me she would never mention it again.

She never mentioned it again. Lesson learned.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Fun: Typer Shark

Finally! A game I can do!!!! Welcome to Typer Shark.

(I knew typing skills would eventually come in handy. You know, for something other than earning a living ...)

Enjoy the long holiday weekend! I'll be back -- hopefully with the sestina you helped create -- on Tuesday.

I really need to stop with the exclamation marks. Really!!!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What a Team!

Wow! Thank you for the great response to yesterday's post. I have more than enough words for two sestinas!

For this first go-round, the winners (drawn from a hat) are, in no particular order:

To give you a feel for how the six words get incorporated into end words for six stanzas, and then included in the final stanza, check out Sestina, by Elizabeth Bishop. There's also a rhythmic structure, but I'm not going to worry about that for my first time with this poetic form. I will post the poem as soon as I have it written. Don't expect it today.

While you're waiting -- with baited breath, I'm sure -- you can play along. Try a sestina, or:
  • Choose one of the words, and write for 90 seconds about it. Don't think. Just write.
  • Choose one of the words, and draw it. (What would silence look like?) Click on silence ... it links to a gorgeous, short poem.
  • Choose two of the words, and include them in a haiku. (3 lines, 5-7-5 syllables)
Isn't it fascinating how structure plays such a vital part in creativity? And people think it's all messy desks, and flashes of inspiration. Not so much ...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Creativity Exercise: I Need Words

At our last writers' workshop, Linda shared a great sestina she had written -- it's a structure poem, built on six words. As you know, I love structure, but a woman can only write so many haikus.

Help me get going on a sestina. Post one word. If we have six posts at the end of the day, I'll have the start of my sestina! If we have more than six posts/words, I'll write them all down, and pull six out of a hat. Honest to Pete. And I'm very trustworthy.

Keep in mind, I have to use each word as an end word in six six-line stanzas, then use two of the words per line in my final three-line stanza. Confused? So am I. It will all be clear once it's done.

Ready, set ... give me a word!