Monday, May 31, 2010

Creativity Tips: Run With It!

OK, gang, the blog is in your hands! Can't wait to see what you post. I'll be back online Monday, June 7. (Yes. That's right. I can turn my computer off for a week. Try it. You'll like it. But not until after you post.)

Party on, people!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Fun: Stop

Every now and then, it's fun to recharge your creative batteries by stopping. Full halt. Off the grid. Call it what you want, I'm putting down the pen*. Next week is my annual summer blog break.

Now, I have almost three years of blog entries here, so I could rerun some "classics." Fortunately, I don't need to. Why? Because I also have you -- the dazzling CI team, including some wonderful new members.

Next week, the blog is yours. I'll put something up on Monday, and you can post comments all week long. Creativity tips. Sites to explore. Creativity exercises. Quotes, poems, pictures you find inspirational. Or, just point us to what you're doing and brag a little! Here's my theory: If you take the time to show up, it's ok to show off.

Before I go, let me give you a few examples of what I'm talking about:
Bernie sent us a garden. Just click on the black and smile.
Melanie provided the perfect cure -- a Dose of Creativity.
The big bunny introduced us to Tom, a codgernaut.
Barb pointed us to Word. Check out the meeting cost calculator. Love it!

Clearly, you're in good hands while I'm gone.

P.S. Many of these are perfect Amuse Amber links! FYI, she's two weeks through her current three-week chemo treatment in the hospital and the doctor is very pleased with her progress. I'll keep you posted.

*Ooooh. I winced when I wrote that. I can't think without my pen. But, I don't think I need to think next week. What do you think?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Creative Inspiration: Child of Mine

Most of the "Creative Inspiration" posts I've shared have focused on poetry. Here's something different -- Carole King's Child of Mine. This song says summer to me. Why? Because summer brings the college Child of Mine home. And I even have the 16-year-old Child of Mine around now and then.

It's good. They're good. I'm lucky. And I know it.

Speaking of children, a poem I wrote about helping Kate with a term paper on Dante is included in From the Heart: A Collection of Stories and Poems from the Front Lines of Parenting. Proceeds from book sales will benefit children's charities. Check it out.

If you order now, you get the special pre-sale rate. And I'll give you my autograph for free. :-)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Creativity Tips: Stay in Touch

In a world filled with change, it's really important to stay in touch with your creative team. Even if it requires a bit of effort.

What brought this to mind? Mike Brown. Since we're not working together daily, we don't team up as much as we used to. This is unfortunate, because Mike inspires me to get off my tush.

At lunch recently, he told me I need a new phone for BlogHer. For some reason, he thinks a speaker at a social media conference should be able to access social media. From her phone. Hmmm. Probably not a bad concept.

So, my phone expert hubby is now researching and I will soon trade the reliable old phone for something that has email and Internet capabilities. By the time I hit BlogHer in August, maybe I'll even be comfortable with it.

Mike expects live Tweeting. I'm not sure he's that inspirational. Ya'll know how I feel about Twitter ...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

You know you're a writer if ...

  1. You hear an NPR reporter say, "brickmaking in Pakistan," and you think: Wow! That would be a great title for a book. "Brickmaking in Pakistan."

  2. You notice grammatical errors on billboards.

  3. You want to fix grammatical errors on billboards with red spray paint.

  4. You hear the woman in front of you at Starbucks say, "no love lost," and you think: Wow! That would be a great title for a poem. "No Love Lost."

  5. You think in copy. (If I need to explain this, subtract two from your final score.)

  6. You think of Thomas Wolfe when someone says, "You can't go home again."

  7. You understand literary references even when the people who make them don't.

  8. You hear a child at a funeral say, "I have tears in my heart, but I just can't get them to my eyes," and you write that down immediately, because it's perfect.

  9. You can write it down immediately, because you always carry a notebook and pen.

  10. The notebook you always carry is a Moleskine. (You get two extra points for this. And you get three extra points if you notice that I just messed up the parallel structure of my numbering by not starting this with You ... )

    There is no special reason for this post. It just wrote itself in my head during a long drive in the rain last week. I think in copy. I think in headlines and paragraphs. I think in book titles.

    I think I'm not alone.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Happy Monday!

You all totally rock. The names and stories on Friday's Name the Monkey post made me happy, happy, happy.

So, you get a reward: a gold star and a giggle -- now there's a great start to the week! With all respect to George Carlin, please direct your attention to The Seven Words You Can't Say to a Sock Monkey. (And the voice reminds me of Richard Pryor ... who used to make me laugh until I cried.)

P.S. Thanks to the hubby for finding the link!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Fun: Name the Monkey

This sock monkey cracks me up*. Lynn, my bestfriendinthewholeworldsincefourthgrade, uses it as her profile pic on Facebook. Yet another reason why I love her.

If you're looking for a creativity exercise today, name the monkey. I have a few names in mind, but I don't want to post them until I see what you have to say.

If you're not looking for a creativity exercise, just laugh at the monkey. And, speaking of laughter, it's time to keep Amber amused! Vicki sent this link and she recommends the Grow games.

Here's to a great weekend, filled with laughter!

*If this photo doesn't make you smile, you are working waaaaaaaaay too hard. You need the weekend. Take it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Creative Inspiration: Dorothy Parker

One of the first poets I loved was Dorothy Parker. I even did a research paper on her in high school. While I have moved past my Rod McKuen period, I still love Dorothy Parker. I can quote her poems from memory ... including:

Indian Summer
In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please,
And change, with every passing lad,
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!

I liked that when I was 17. Sorta scary, in retrospect. If you haven't read any of her work, I strongly suggest it. Wonderful poems, great short stories. And her Constant Reader book reviews for the New Yorker are classics.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Creativity Tips: Books Make a Difference

You know one of the best ways to get a creative boost is to read a good book. I'm betting you have a book close at hand right now. That's wonderful! And it's a joy you can help a child experience.

Check out this BlogHer post on Books Make a Difference. Leave a comment, and BlogHer and BookRenter will donate a book to a child in need -- we're talking up to 1,000 books.

1,000 kids. Reading. That's my kind of cause!

(Why have I posted an image of Cherry Ames, Student Nurse? Because the Cherry Ames series helped me realize women could have careers. Seriously. We're talking mid-'60s when I read them. I was eight. And very impressed with Cherry Ames.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Creativity Tips: Don't Be Responsible

My 16-year-old daughter Mary recently got her first job -- she's a hostess at a local restaurant. Last night, she was scheduled to work from 4:30 - 9:30 p.m. She realized -- a little late in the game -- that if she worked that long, she wouldn't be able to study for finals.

"I'm going to call and tell them I can't come in," she said. "I'm going to tell them if I go to work, I'll fail all my finals."

Now, it was almost 3:30 p.m. when she had this revelation. My gut reaction was, "You're doomed. They'll fire you." But, I didn't say that. I didn't tell her to suck it up and go to work -- or yell at her for not studying more over the weekend. I simply suggested she call the manager and explain that she couldn't make her shift and leave it at that -- no reasons, no excuses. Then I walked away.

You know what happened?
  • The manager told her it was fine, as long as she found a replacement.
  • She made a number of other calls -- and found a replacement.
  • She came running down the stairs to tell me, big grin on her face. She's 16, folks. Running down the stairs to talk with me is a VERY BIG DEAL. Big grin? Also a VERY BIG DEAL.
What does this have to do with you and creativity? Simple. When you're on a creative team, there will be times when the "pups*" have a challenge. Maybe you can solve it. Maybe you can't. Doesn't matter.

Give them advice, if they ask. Then walk away. Let them handle it. We learn by doing. We learn by doing things wrong. We learn by fixing.

And here's the wonderful thing: When you hold someone responsible for their own actions, you give them the opportunity to take pride in the results.

* This is what I call my younger team members. It is not politically correct. But it is always said with love. Of course, they may use a female dog term for me the moment I turn my back ...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Creativity Tips: Forget Your Phone

This past weekend, I was rushing to get somewhere and left the house without my cell phone. By the time I realized it, I was too far away and running too late to go back.

You know what happened? The world continued to spin. Astonishing, I know. And I'll tell you a secret: My multi-tasking brain breathed a sigh of relief.

Today, give your brain a break. Forget your cell phone. Let your creative cells regenerate in the silence.
All right. I can't resist. My inner old person is coming out:

"When I was young, we didn't have cell phones. We had one phone in the house, it was in the hallway, and you sat there and talked. That's all you did. You sat, you talked, you listened. You paid attention: You didn't walk around the house, picking things up. You didn't check Facebook while your friend was talking. And long-distance calls were special because they were expensive."

Whew. I feel better now. I'll go put on my bifocals and read a book.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Food is Love: Extreme Eggplant

According to a story in the Kansas City Star this week, "In Turkey, the mark of a good cook is whether he or she knows how to make more than 40 eggplant dishes."

Isn't that fascinating? Creativity, talent ... it's all so relative. Heck, you can be the best cook in Kansas, and not know more than, oh, two eggplant dishes. But you better have at least 40 cookie recipes ready to go!

I have one eggplant recipe, and it's a riff on Eggplant Parmesan II from Print that recipe then ...

For starts, I didn't know what to do with eggplant the first time I made the recipe. Peel it and cut it in thin slices. Then, salt the slices and let them stand, sideways, for about 40 minutes in a colander. Blot dry.

I didn't have Italian seasoned bread crumbs, so I used Caesar croutons, crushed and mixed with some flour. And, I didn't use the basil. The result? Very yum. It did take a long time, but I'm notoriously slow with prep work.

One eggplant recipe down. Another 40 or so to go!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Amber Update

Several of you have asked lately about Amber, my niece with the heart of gold who's kicking cancer in the tush. Good news: That last intensive round of chemo shrunk the tumor in her stomach!

That means: We're moving ahead. Amber goes back to the hospital today and will be there for a few more weeks for another chemo treatment.

Before she headed off for the hospital, Amber asked me to tell you how grateful she is for all the "Amuse Amber" links we sent last time -- and all the good thoughts.

So, how about it, team? Got any more fun sites for Amber, to keep her amused while she's in chemo isolation? I'll start. We can Fuel the Fun at the Skippy site. That's right: Nothing more fun than playing with peanut butter.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Creativity Tips: Celebrate Children's Book Week

What's your favorite children's book?

As a child, I loved the Bobbsey Twin series. My buddy Lynn and I still refer to each other as the Bobbsey Twins.

As a mom, my favorite is Dinner at the Panda Palace by Stephanie Calmenson, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott. Both of the girls loved it:
No matter how many,
No matter how few,

There will always be room

At the Palace for you!

Every child should be a reader. And every adult. You're clearly a brilliant and discriminating reader: You're here! So give yourself a present: Make the Children's Book Week 2010 Bookmark for yourself!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Creativity Tips: Find a Cheerleader

When I got my hair cut short a year or so ago, my friend Brenda called and left a fun voicemail telling me how adorable I looked. She doesn't know this, but I saved her message. So, every 21 days, I have the pleasure of hearing Brenda's enthusiasm pouring through the phone.

Cheerleaders are wonderful. We all need them. So ask yourself: Who on your creative team leads the cheers? Who notices when you -- or someone else -- does something brilliant, great, innovative?

If you don't have a cheerleader, find one. And don't stop there. Take a lesson from Brenda: Be one!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Creativity Tips: Be More Like Betty White

One of the many lessons I learned from listening to Ben Zander speak years ago was this: Don't take yourself so damn seriously.

Betty White brought that lesson to life when she hosted Saturday Night Live. One of my favorite parts was the monologue. If you missed it, here it is.

Happy Monday!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Food is Love: Drink is ...

You have two choices. You can be a creative wizard and complete the "Drink is ..." sentence in the blog headline.

Or, you can skip the writing and go right to the reward. Visit my good friend Jenn's TeaMoka store and order some of the best tea ever. Consider Caribbean Sun. Brew it, pour it over ice, go outside, sit in a comfy chair, sip your tea, breathe the sunshine.

Ahhh. Now we're talking love.

Speaking of love, here's to Mother's Day. And for team members who are missing their moms, your Jewish mother is sending an extra hug your way.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Blogger Blogs of Note: Whimsy!

This is so cool. Leslie's blog, Whimsy, was chosen for the Blogs of Note list compiled by the Blogger team! Congrats!!

Creativity Exercise: Fun with the Phone Book

Bernie, one of our great CI team members, sent an email last week celebrating his friend's first-place finish in the Hays Public Library's Annual Poetry Contest. And, as you know, I am all for celebrating success!

Check out the poem. Then, be inspired! How can you use a phone book to instigate creativity? The question will make sense when you read the poem.

For example, I could stand on a phone book. Or two. Why? Because it would change my perspective, and that's always good for a creative boost. Heck, if I stood on three phone books, I'd be dang close to normal height. (Barb, I hear you laughing at me. Stop it. We can't all be tall, beautiful blondes.) We can all be creative -- so get to it! Pull out a phone book and let me know what happens.

Thanks for the idea, Bernie!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Make Your Own Kind of Music

One of my Facebook friends posted this YouTube clip of Mama Cass. I'm just sharing ... always liked this song. And it goes with the blog ...

Creative Inspiration: 'Roid Week 2010

I'm a word person. So, I have to start this by saying, I don't much care for the title, 'Roid Week. I mean, seriously, would it be too much effort to spell out Polaroid?

But, I digress. Title aside, the week is instigating beautiful creativity. Look at Leslie's shot -- she has captured one of the reasons I love the Midwest. This is spring in my part of the world. Sigh. And then sit back and enjoy the 'Roid Week slide show on flickr.

Isn't it amazing how many different views there are of the same world?

Oh, let me digress one more time. While we're sharing, check out the Big Rabbit's day trip. I am especially fond of the last shot. Sorry ... closed. If you're looking for a quick writing exercise, just choose any of these day trip photos and write three paragraphs. Or, make me really happy. Write a haiku. 5-7-5. (If you use Sorry ... closed in the haiku, you're almost done with one line.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Creativity Tips: Branding Lessons from K-State

On Monday, my daughter Mary and I attended Junior Day at Kansas State University. In more than 30 years* of communications, I've never seen a better spokesperson for an organization than Dr. Pat Bosco, K-State's vice president of student life and dean of students.

Here are a few quick lessons learned that apply to any brand:
  1. Be consistent. Dr. Bosco used "my" every time he referred to the student body. "My freshmen ..." "My students ..." "My kids ..." This personal approach is a direct reflection of the K-State brand and attitude. It's also a reminder of how much every word matters.

  2. Tell a great story. Sure, you can walk the talk. But can you drive the jive? Dr. Bosco drives a purple Jeep. I know, because he told us a great story: When he's backing that purple Jeep out of his garage, he continually hits the Jeep roof on the garage door. Why? He's so eager to get to campus, he can't wait until the door is all the way up. He used this to illustrate the importance of doing something you love. Forget branding -- there's a career lesson we can all take to heart.

  3. Invite feedback. After the high school juniors left the auditorium, Dr. Bosco talked briefly with the parents -- explaining that his presentation to the juniors was new and asking us for feedback. He wanted to make sure it hit home. It's another reflection of the K-State brand: Learning is essential. Don't be content with good. Go for great. What can we do bettter?
Since my daughter Kate goes to K-State, I can also tell you that Dr. Bosco gives his home phone number to the parents of incoming students during Freshmen Orientation. He doesn't want us to use it. He just wants us to have it, because emergencies happen. We might need it. We might need him. And he's there for us, just as he's there for the students.

Would you give your home phone number to a customer? Just in case they might need it?

Disclaimers: I don't bleed purple. I didn't go to K-State. I'm a proud MU grad and spent eight fun years in University Communications at UMKC. Nonetheless, I'm glad we've become a Wildcat family.

*Good grief. I'm old.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Creative Inspiration: Abraham Joshua Heschel

I know a lot of you receive the blog via email or through a reader, so you don't see the weekly quotes I post on the blog itself. I don't want you to miss this week's quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel:

There is happiness in the love of labor; there is misery in the love of gain.

As we start the week, look at your calendar. It's your schedule, my friend. Make sure you're not so crazy busy you miss those labors of love. Because there's no time like today to be happy.