Saturday, February 26, 2011

Creativity Tips: Get the Party Started!

It's the weekend! And, thanks to this link from Lezlie, we have just the thing to get your party started. Watch this video of a young conductor and ask yourself, "When was the last time I put my whole heart and soul -- and body! -- into a creative endeavor?"

If you can't remember the last time, no worries. That's what today is for!

Think your creative outlet doesn't lend itself to physical input? Think again. You can write standing up. Painting? Totally physical. Photography? Change your physical angle and you change your shot. Heck, even cooking is physical. We might as well dance around the kitchen!

P.S. to Lezlie: The new site looks great!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Creative Inspiration: No Longer A Teenager

I read poetry every day, which no doubt makes me an oddity in the world at large. Why do I read it? Because now and then, I find a poem that expresses exactly what I feel. "No Longer A Teenager" by Gerald Locklin is one of those poems. It's beautifully simple and simply beautiful.

No Longer A Teenager
Gerald Locklin

my daughter, who turns twenty tomorrow,
has become truly independent.
she doesn't need her father to help her
deal with the bureaucracies of schools,
hmo's, insurance, the dmv.
she is quite capable of handling
landlords, bosses, and auto repair shops.
also boyfriends and roommates.
and her mother.

frankly it's been a big relief.
the teenage years were often stressful.
sometimes, though, i feel a little useless.

but when she drove down from northern California
to visit us for a couple of days,
she came through the door with the
biggest, warmest hug in the world for me.
and when we all went out for lunch,
she said, affecting a little girl's voice,
"i'm going to sit next to my daddy,"
and she did, and slid over close to me
so i could put my arm around her shoulder
until the food arrived.

i've been keeping busy since she's been gone,
mainly with my teaching and writing,
a little travel connected with both,
but i realized now how long it had been
since i had felt deep emotion.

when she left i said, simply,
"i love you,"
and she replied, quietly,
"i love you too."
you know it isn't always easy for
a twenty-year-old to say that,
it isn't always easy for a father.

literature and opera are full of
characters who die for love:
i stay alive for her.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Creativity Tips: Do You See What I See?

This past Sunday, I went out for brunch with three friends. We walked into the small restaurant and:
  • Laurie noticed new artwork on the walls.
  • Karen was impressed with the daily specials on the whiteboard.
  • I saw the Christian literature nestled among the condiments on our table.
  • Sue pondered what impact the inside waterfall would have on the heating and cooling bills.
It took all of us some time to see the big white cross by that waterfall. And, yes, I was the one who saw it first.

Perspective is an amazing thing. It's so simple to forget, as we go through our days and creative endeavors, that no one sees the world the way we do. We walk in the same door, but we view the room with different eyes and different prejudices.

Laurie had been to the restaurant before and knew the ownership had changed. She was prepared to notice changes -- her favorite waiter was gone, the photos on the walls were different.

Karen was really hungry.

I'm Jewish. I pick up on yellow-highlighted evangelical materials mixed in with the salt and pepper.

And I have no idea why Sue was fascinated by the waterfall's impact on utility billls. Trust me, I could have sat in that restaurant for the rest of my life and NEVER wondered whether the humidity from the waterfall would lower the restaurant's utility bills in the winter and raise them in the summer.

Here's the great thing: By discussing what we saw, we all came away with a new perspective -- a bigger picture. As a diverse creative team, we enjoyed a far more expansive worldview of that little portion of our world.

This week, don't assume the people around you see what you see. Ask questions. Expand your creative vision. Look around familiar rooms with new eyes. Then, be brave enough to share your vision.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Creativity Tips: How to Write a Valentine

A few of my grumpy friends have been muttering about Valentine's Day ... not a real holiday, retail promotion, expensive, ridiculous ... you get the picture. This is what happens when the bulk of your friends pass 40. Sigh.

Naturally, you know how I feel. Every day is the perfect day to express your love. Valentine's Day is simply a reminder. And there's no need to spend money. Write your own Valentine! Not sure where to begin? Start here:

Put pen to paper.
If you wake up on Monday and realize it's Valentine's Day and you're not going to see your loved ones and you absolutely, positively have to send an email, well. OK. Other than that, pen to paper.

Use pretty paper. Or, decorate plain paper.
Fold it into a heart shape -- it doesn't need to be perfect. If you're writing on white paper, use red ink. Handmade Valentines don't have to be a huge creative endeavor with heart-shaped cutouts and special glue and archival stickers. Little things show you care.

Jazz up the salutation.
Instead of Dear Kate, make it Dear wonderful Kate. Dear funny Kate. Dear best-first-daughter-in-the-world Kate. If your Valentine has a nickname, use that. Instead of Dear Mary, make it Dear Mary Moo. If it's more special to use their full name, do that. Dear Mary Nell. (If that sounds like the name you only use when you're yelling at the person, don't do that.) And, yes, it's OK to replicate: Dear best-baby-daughter-in-the-world Mary.

Start with a word more unusual than Dear.
Let them know right from the start that this is special. Beloved is a gorgeous, ancient word. It would be a beautiful salutation all by itself.

Make your Valentines specific.
Instead of a generic I love you. Happy Valentine's Day! give them something to treasure. Think of what they value in themselves. I love the way you always take care of your friends and make them feel special. I see the woman you are becoming and I am so proud. Think of what they're insecure about. I know you're worried about (blank) and, on this Valentine's Day, I want you to know I believe in you, I have faith in you and I support you.

Don't start every sentence with "I."
Oddly enough, this is not about you. It's about your Valentine. You work so hard for the family and always put our needs first. Thank you for being such a supportive husband and father!

Enclose a surprise.
A photo of you and your Valentine. A coupon for a date night, with the date and place spelled out. A vintage Valentine. Or, attach the Valentine to something special. A plate of scones. Or cookies. Or brownies. Or chocolate. A good bottle of wine. Mmmmm.

Make the sign-off sing.
I remain your adoring (whatever) ... With love and gratitude ... with all my love and all my heart ... thank you for today and here's to tomorrow!

Be old-fashioned.
Gals, put on the red lipstick and smack that envelope. Guys, if you don't want to do the lipstick, you can always write SWAK. Or SWALCAKWS. (Bonus Valentine points from me if you know what that means.)

Deliver your Valentine with love.
Hand the Valentines to your Valentines. Make eye-to-eye contact. Whoa. Listen to them. And give them a good, strong, long hug -- nothing like a hug to make you feel loved!

I hope Valentine's Day makes you happy -- and that you spend it making other people happy. Even if you're typically grumpy. And over 40.

Thanks to Leslie, one of my favorite Valentines, for the photos!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Creativity Tips: 18 Ideas for Your Next Snow Day

In Kansas City last week, we had a few snow days. Snow days! The perfect excuse to stay home and ... do what?

Apparently, answering that question was a problem for some people. They got bored after the first day. To which I say, ridiculous. There are 80 gazillion things to do on a snow day. I'm going to get your creative juices going with the first 18 that come to mind:
  1. Build a fort.
    I know. I know. You don't have a kid. Did I say you needed a kid? No, I did not. All you need is a sheet and a couple of chairs. And nothing has changed since you were a kid: The world still looks better while sitting in a fort.

  2. Read a book.
    Gasp. Yes. A real book. Step away from the computer, walk to your bookshelf, pull something off and read. It can be done.

  3. Crank the radio.
    Turn up the music -- radio, stereo, the annoying little earplug things, whatever. Dance. If you want to be productive, dance while you dust. Remember that being productive is highly over-rated.

  4. Try a new recipe.
    You can step back to the computer and visit Angela's wonderful new site, Recipes from My Mom. I guarantee you'll find a recipe to love.

  5. Draw a picture.
    Grab your crayons and doodle. If you're really tired of snowy days, draw a picture with sunshine and flowers and trees. (And if you don't have crayons to grab, we need to talk. Seriously. No wonder you're bored on snow days.)

  6. Sit and breathe.
    It's a day off. You have time. You can take five minutes. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Your brain and your lungs will thank you.

  7. Call an old friend.
    Pick up your smarty-farty phone and call a friend you haven't spoken to in a while. I mean voice-to-voice. Not a text. Not an email. A real call.

  8. Listen to Robert Frost.
    I've mentioned this before. I'll mention it again. What a joy to listen to Robert Frost read his poetry. Here's a good site. But there are others. Explore. Take the road less traveled by.

  9. Watch TV.
    It's a snow day! You're watching the weather forecasts anyway. Take an extra 30 minutes and find some silly comedy. Watch five minutes of reality TV. Just think of the cocktail party conversation you'll have ready.

  10. Plan a cocktail party.
    When was the last time you threw a party? Consider the options. Who would you invite? Would there be a theme? What would you eat? Would there be cocktails? What are all the possible meanings of BYOB?

  11. Exercise.
    So. Yeah. I shoveled snow this week. As a matter of fact, I shoveled the driveway and sidewalk three times on Tuesday. And, each time, I came inside and said, "That's no big deal. I don't know why people call that exercise." I could hardly get out of bed Wednesday. Exercise. You need it. I need it. We all need it.

  12. Clean out one drawer.
    Come on, you know it's there. One drawer filled with junk. I'm not asking you to clean the entire kitchen or bathroom. Just one drawer. Think of the satisfaction.

  13. Make hot chocolate.
    My friend Chris insists that we wouldn't enjoy hot chocolate (or sweaters, or fireplaces, or hot toddies) without cold weather. So make the hot chocolate. Wrap your hands around the mug. Savor the smell with every sip. And remember that Chris is from Canada.

  14. Redecorate the living room.
    Move the couch. The chairs. A table. Take that picture that's been hanging in the same dang place for so long you don't even see it anymore and move it. Yes!

  15. Wrap yourself in warmth.
    Before you take your shower, throw your towel in the dryer and warm it up. Nothing like wrapping up in a warm towel on a cold day.

  16. Wrap yourself in other warmth.
    OK. There is something else like wrapping up in a warm towel. Figure it out.

  17. Explore Pinterest.
    Leslie got me started on this fun site, and I haven't had a chance to really explore it yet. I need more snow days! (The pic on this post is from Pinterest.)

  18. Write a haiku.
    Hey. It's me. You didn't expect me to make it through a snow day without haiku, did you? 5-7-5. If you need a prompt, use the words I love snow days in it. Somewhere. Not all together. Unless you want. It's your haiku.

    Wow. This may be my longest post ever. See what happens when you tell the Chief Creative Instigator you're bored? And I didn't even mention TED. You could spend an entire week with TED. Consider that the extra idea. You know, like the extra candle on your birthday cake. The one to grow on ...

Creativity Exercise: Lean on Me

When I attended a summer session at the Iowa Writers' Workshop a few years ago, I had the joy of meeting Donna Vorreyer, an incredibly talented poet. Donna's blog includes a great Saturday feature, the Poetry Tow Truck, with writing prompts. Check it out!

Oh, random otherness. There was a column in the KC Star this morning about people bored by snow days. Seriously? I have my fair share of issues, but being bored in my own home isn't one of them. Naturally, nag that I am, I feel a post coming on re: the creative response to snow days. Have ideas you'd like me to include? Just send them to

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

And the winner is ...

We're going to go with the Blizzard of Oz. I realize this is very Kansas-centric, but I live in Kansas and it's my blog. So, there you have it.

You know what tipped the scale away from Snowmageddon and all the others? Leslie found the perfect Blizzard of Oz treat!

Now, if you could click your heels three times and be magically transported, where would you want to go?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Creativity Exercise: Name the Blizzard

Before I get to today's post ... three things:

  1. The stats on Google Analytics indicate readership of the blog has gone up since I stopped posting every day. I just think that's funny. (Did I already tell you that? I can't remember.)
  2. Thanks to input from the team and my own creative refresh, I have more ideas for posts than time to write them. Yes! Good stuff ahead.
  3. By the time I shovel the sidewalk and driveway, the sidewalk needs shoveling again. Seriously.
Now, down to business. Here's the exercise, as suggested by Leslie:

Name the blizzard.

I'll start by giving you a few current favorites:
My friend Pat came up with Snowmageddon 2011. (Love the rhyme.)
Cory posted The Big Snowbowski, Snowperman, and The Bourne Snowpremacy.

What have you got?