Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Creativity Exercise: If I Were a Rock Star ...

You know I think you rock. Now, it's time to show the world. Enter the "If I Were a Rock Star" giveaway.

The "Rock Star" giveaway is a 25-word creativity exercise with big honking prizes. Here's a related creativity exercise with no prize at all: Tell me why the copy on the page I linked to makes me crazy. And we're not talking crazy in a good way ...

The entry deadline for the giveaway is Dec. 15, 2010. There's no deadline for discovering my issue with their copy. Because I'm kvetchy now, and I'll still be kvetchy Dec. 16.

But I do think you rock.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Creative Inspiration: Bertrand Russell

As we start back to work, let's keep life in perspective. As Bertrand Russell once said:

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important.

And, once again, I'm glad to be a copywriter. Not a brain surgeon. Happy Monday!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Celebrate National Day of Listening

StoryCorps has started a great new holiday tradition: Listen to someone you love. Today.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I remember the last time I felt completely caught up, the last time my personal and professional to do list was clear.

It was 1987.

I was stretched out on the couch in our new home, which was spotless. I had finished the chores and was waiting for Tom. I was so bored, I invented a reason to be busy: I decided, right there and then, that we needed a dog. That decision led to Snowball; aka, RocketDog; aka, our first child. (I mean no disrespect to Kate. If you've had a pet, you understand that "first child" feeling.) I haven't caught up with life since we drove Snowball home.

Now, you may think this is the start of a lecture on wiping things off the to do list so you can enjoy the holidays. Nope. This is a reminder that, like me, you might love most of your list. And this is the perfect time of the year to embrace that wonderful fact.

For example, I love:
  • Standing in my living room, admiring the house after I clean.
  • Having the entire family home, even if just for one big meal.
  • Baking goodies. Buying presents. Wrapping.
Is creating a lovely holiday season time-consuming? Absolutely. And I hope you enjoy every single second. I'll see you back here on Monday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Creativity Exercise: Thanks!

OK, this is going to be fast, so look sharp:
  1. Get out a clean sheet of paper. And a pen. Or pencil. Or crayon.
  2. Write down five things you're thankful for this year. But wait! It's a trick question. You can only mention things that wouldn't have been on your list last year.
  3. If it takes more than two minutes to do this exercise, be thankful I don't expect you to devote that much time to it. I just wanted to get your brain working in a different direction.
Someone recently told me their family really does the old tradition -- they go around the Thanksgiving table and everyone expresses gratitude for something. Hmmmmm. We don't even sit around a table. The adults are in the dining room. The kids (and this would be anyone 55 and under) gather in the living room. The rest of our group (don't ask) lurks in the kitchen.

But the theory certainly does sound lovely ...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Food is Love: Nantucket Cranberry Pie

I know, I know. You expect the Food is Love feature on Fridays. Well, consider this a public service announcement for Thanksgiving: Make this pie. Ohmygoodness. I made it, took it to Mo's house yesterday, and the crowd went crazy.

I would take full credit for the deliciousness, but all I did was follow the Nantucket Cranberry Pie recipe from the Pioneer Woman.*

Buy the ingredients now. Bake it Wednesday. Eat it Thursday. Thank me later.

*I did use the entire bag of cranberries, which was more than 2 cups. But I'd do that again. Also, the pie overflowed, but I used a pie tin instead of the recommended cake pan. My bad. Fortunately, I had the pie tin on a cookie sheet, and the overflow crust became cookies. Really, it's that good.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Food is Love: Apple Brown Betty

There are people who can make pie crusts. I am not one of those people. Frankly, I burn the already made, just-place-it-in-the-pie-tin crusts. Fortunately, there's Apple Brown Betty -- one of my Thanksgiving staples. This recipe is from the classic Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. It's a "don't mess with success" recipe; perfect as is*. And easy.

Apple Brown Betty
4 cups sliced pared tart apples (They say you can also use 1 1-pound 2-ounce can of pie-sliced applies drained, but I always use the fresh apples.)
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Dash of salt
1/2 cup butter (Unsalted, because I say so and it's my blog, gosh darn it.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mound apples in buttered 9-inch pie plate; sprinkle with orange juice. Combine sugar, flour, spices, and salt; cut in butter till mixture is crumbly; sprinkle over apples. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or till apples are tender and topping is crisp. (I always put the pie plate on a cookie sheet, to protect the oven from run-over drips.)

Serve warm with cream. Or cold with ice cream. Or just bury your head in the pie plate and slurp. This is not recommended if you're sharing.

*I did change the name. BHG calls it Apple Betty. I've always called it Apple Brown Betty. You'll just call it delicious.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Creativity Tips: Don't Say It

I'm pretty dang direct. I like to consider that part of my charm.* But this poem by Joyce Sutphen is so wonderful, it just might inspire me to try subtle.

*Hey! Stop laughing. It could be charming. To someone. Someday. It's possible ...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Creativity Tips: Expand Your Team

You know the whole right-brain, left-brain discussion? I have trouble remembering which is which and how they know. I think right brain is creative; left brain is strategic. I don't care enough to look it up.

So why am I babbling about it? Because there are amazing, wonderful people out there who use both sides of their brain all the time. And you need at least one of these talents on your creative team.

Take, for example, Cory. He's a numbers, strategic, business guy at his day-to-day job. And he writes like this.*

It never pays to pigeonhole people. Trust me on this.

*Note to Vicki: If this makes him difficult to live with, I apologize. :-)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Creativity Exercise: Perspective

Here's your exercise for today: Tell me where I was standing*, in relationship to the boat, to take this photo. Or, tell me why you can't tell me. Post a comment or send an email to jan@sokoloffharness.com

*For the smart alecks on the team (and this will astonish you but we do have one or two), I was standing at the St. Augustine Lighthouse with Lynn and Will and Wanda. But that's not what I'm asking ...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Creative Inspiration: Isak Dinesen

Since many of you don't visit the blog to read it (isn't technology wonderful!), I'm going to share the new Quick Quote with you:

"The cure for anything is salt water -- sweat, tears or the sea."
Isak Dinesen

I think that's beautiful, accurate and I wanted to share. The photo is a shot from Amelia Island, possibly my favorite beach of all time.

Happy Monday! And to start the week off right, visit Leslie's blog and enter her giveaway!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Food is Love: Pumpkin Bread

Can you believe Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away? Time really does fly ... whether you're having fun or not.

Right now, I'm having fun planning for the big meal. My grandmother's pumpkin bread is always on the menu. It's yummy. And this recipe makes three good-sized loaves. Or two loaves and muffins. Mmmmm. Pumpkin muffins. They even sound delicious. Enjoy!

Sophie's Pumpkin Bread
3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
1 16 oz. can of pumpkin
3 1/2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix together all ingredients. Pour into loaf pans and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. More or less. Size matters, so consider the size of your pans and check as you go. (My grandmother's note says she used the 3x7 disposable pans and this made four pans. The note also says she took it to the May 3 potluck. I love old notes.)

FYI, I generally put about 1/3 or 1/2 cup of raisins in just one of the loaves. I like raisins, but not everyone in the family does. This recipe gives you so much batter, you can please everyone. Happy people, breaking bread together. I'm always thankful for that!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

After a lovely trip to New York and Florida, I'm back in Kansas. Enjoy the song. And don't make me tote my old 44.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Creative Inspiration: Will I Be Pretty?

Consider the power of just one word -- pretty -- on a child's self image. On a mother-daughter relationship. On life.

This video of poetry slammer Katie Makkai is making the rounds on Facebook ... I think it's worth a listen. As she might say, it's pretty amazing.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Creativity Exercise: United Wayward

What's wrong with this picture?

Leslie found the mistake ... giving us today's exercise and two lessons ...

Lesson #1: Proofread, proofread, proofread. Then have someone else proof it again. Then, and only then, print 80 gazillion copies to be distributed around the country.

Lesson #2: It's not brain surgery. Editing errors rarely kill. And if there's one thing we're all United in, it's this ... we all make mistakes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Creativity Exercise: Smile

Do I want you to smile? Absolutely. It's good for you. But we're going beyond your beautiful grin.

In the next two hours, I want you to do something specifically designed to make someone else smile. Like what? Well, you could compliment a barista. Really listen to a kid. Mail a note to someone you miss. Bake an unexpected cake for the neighbors. Post a nice comment on my blog.*

There are a million ways to create happiness. Find one in the next two hours.

P.S. What's the longest word in the English language? Smiles ... there's a mile between the first and last letter. (Did that work? Did you smile? Cool!)

*No, it's not all about me. But your comments do make me smile.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Fun: Rest

Want to have a great weekend? Start well rested. Find a place to sit and breathe. You don't need to read. You don't need to do anything. Simply sit.

After a minute or two, feel your body start to unclench. Do you know how much time we spend -- every day -- tightening our muscles for no particular reason? It's ridiculous. And we're doing it to ourselves.

So don't tell me you work on the weekend. Don't tell me you don't have time to sit. Whatever schedule we follow, we deserve a few minutes of every day. To sit. Breathe. And just be.

FYI, I took the photo when Tom and I arrived at the Mountain Sunrise cabin. And then I sat.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Celebrating Creative Collaborations

I'm in Troy, New York, today ... hosting an all-day creativity room at the PRSA Northeast District conference. Very fun!

And, very inspirational. Every group I've spoken to recently has asked if I have a book to sell. I don't. Following my initial brilliant business model, I have a book to give away. Please. Download. Read. Instigate.

But, about that whole "selling" thing. This time, when PRSA asked about a book, my wonderful creative collaborator -- Leslie -- kicked me into merchandising gear. Using the fun photos she took for my business cards, Leslie produced Creative Instigation postcards.

That good idea grew. We're now selling creativity kits too; the folks in Troy are the first to see the goodies.

The cards and the kits make me happy -- just looking at them makes me feel official. And I wouldn't have them without the PRSA prompt and Leslie's talents at photography, production and prodding! Creative collaboration. It's a wonderful thing.

P.S. My grandfather, Issie, was a merchant. He would want me to tell you this: A set of four postcards is $8. The creativity kit -- which includes the four postcards, Groucho glasses, a Groucho magnet, finger puzzle and other goodies -- is $15. Shipping in the U.S. is included. Placing an order is easy: Send an email to jan@sokoloffharness.com

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Video Creativity Tips: I Can Be Taught

Did you know that people use video online? Yep. It's true. I guess there's this whole YouTube thingie and people put videos on blogs and everything. Wow.

So, here we go on the next Creative Instigation adventure! I now have a channel on YouTube and will periodically share video posts. My first attempt comes to you from Steel Creek in Arkansas. I'm going to embed it here and link to it -- hopefully, one way or the other, you'll see it and enjoy. Get out the popcorn, kids!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Creativity Exercise: Just Use It

Today, create something useful.
You define useful.

P.S. Between Facebook, email and the blog, we had about 40 entries in last week's contest -- the final BlogHer giveaway on our blog. Deb A. is the lucky winner of the 1-800-flowers.com giftcard! Enjoy!

P.P.S. Thank you all for the wonderful poster ideas from yesterday! I may have to make several posters ...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Creativity Exercise: Give Me a Slogan

Tom took this photo of me on top of Whittaker Point in Arkansas. I love it. From this distance, and compared to the bluff, I almost look thin. :-)

I want to make this into a poster, because I'm modest like that. However, it clearly calls out for a quote, a slogan, some brilliant copy. You know, not cheesy, as my friend Kara says. But fun.

Your assignment? Provide the words to go with the photo. Be nice. And if you can't be nice, be amusing.