Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's a Big Day!

OK, it must be said:
How is it possible that my little girl is 21?

So here's my favorite Kate story -- and it even has a creativity lesson in it. I was driving Kate home from a visit with the grandparents. She was about four or five, sitting in the front seat of our van. (It was legal back then.)

Suddenly, a bird fell down on the street in front of us. Splat. Dead. Kaput.

I looked at Kate's little face. She looked at me. I knew I had to say something, so I did the best I could.

"I think the bird's OK," I said.

"Mom," Kate said, gently but firmly, "the bird is dead."

And that has become a Harness family classic. You'd be amazed at how often the correct response turns out to be, "Mom, the bird is dead."

The creativity lesson? Never underestimate your audience. And remember: You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time. But don't mess around with Kate.

P.S. You know what I think of when I look at a birthday cake like this? 1. It needs candles for a birthday wish and 2. Kate is my wish come true.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Creativity Tips: Free Writes and Morning Pages

Now that I've been "assigning" you free writes for a while, it occurs to me that a visual example might be useful. Even a really dark visual example. :-)

Free writes are babbling on paper. Unedited, no punctuation required. No paragraphs. Use them if you want to -- but I find they slow me down and make me think, when the whole purpose of a free write is to write really fast and clear your head.

Basically, let your mind wander and hope your fingers keep up.

I first started using free writes years ago, when an agency I worked at incorporated The Artist's Way at Work into our corporate culture. In the book (buy it! read it! use it!), Mark Bryan, Julia Cameron and Catherine Allen promote morning pages -- three handwritten, single-sided sheets of free writing done every morning.

In their words:

In the MPs, anything goes. This means they will be scattered, often trivial, frequently negative, petty, self-doubting, angry, and seemingly pointless. They are not.

All that mental debris is the clutter that comes between us and our creative potential. We often call the pages brain drain because they are designed to siphon off poisonous attitudes, the "pond scum of the mind."

Now, here's a revelation that may astonish you: I lack discipline. (I hear the collective gasp of shock. Thank you.) I haven't been faithfully doing the morning pages since I left the agency. However, I can give you another visual example to show you how powerful the process can be. During my Artist's Way period, I painted this Winnie the Pooh. Freehand. And I could do it because the pond scum that tells me I am not an artist had been siphoned off.

The "pond scum" link is from 2008, so the presentation I reference in that post is long over. But Mike and I are still out there talking to groups, and we love to hear your stories.

Spring cleaning can start in your head. Write those cobwebs out!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Creativity Tips: Happy Spring!

Inspiration is everywhere. And Spring is the perfect time to open your eyes and see it.

Take, for example, this excerpt from the March 20 email of The Writer's Almanac:

Today is the first day of spring. The vernal equinox occurs today, the time when the earth's axis is not turned toward the sun (summer, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), or away from it (winter), but is aligned with the center of the sun. The word equinox comes from Latin: aequus means equal, level, or calm; nox means night, or darkness. The equinox, in spring or fall, is a time when the day and night are as close to equal as they ever are, and when the hours of night are exactly equal for people living equidistant from the equator either north or south.

As close to equal as they ever are. Do you hear the rhythm in that? Beautiful. It's a poem waiting to be written.

If you don't want to write, there's other inspiration here: Take a few moments to consider who and what you're aligned with. Who you're turning toward. Who away. You're in the driver's seat, my friend. Turn in a new direction.

Happy Spring!

P.S. Click the link and check out Ted Kooser's poem.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Creativity Exercise: Fortunes and Free Writes

Let's start the week with our creativity fully engaged! Here's how it works. I broke open a bunch of fortune cookies we hadn't eaten ... part of my periodic "clean the kitchen and throw out useless calories" routine. You choose one of the fortunes, write it at the top of a clean sheet of paper, and use it as the start of a three-minute free write.

No deep thinking required. No editing allowed. Just choose a fortune and write! (Alternate exercise: Choose one fortune as inspiration for a photograph or drawing.)
  • Land is always in the mind of the flying birds.
  • You will receive unexpected support over the next week. Accept it graciously.
  • It would be best to maintain a low profile for now.
  • Flowers would brighten the day of your close friend.
  • Every production of genius must be the production of enthusiasm.
  • Failure is the virtual way to prepare you for great responsibility.
  • Dessert CAN make you happy.
  • Man is born to live and not prepare to live.
  • Money is not everything. You can buy a doctor but not health.
  • Your best investment is in yourself.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ogilvy Asia: TC Bank-Dream Rangers

There are times when a commercial is more than a commercial -- it's a mini-film. This is one of those times. Beautifully creative. Enjoy!

Thanks to Patty for the link!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Video Creativity Tips: Paul Mesner Puppets

My daughter Kate is a reporter and videographer for Manhattan Matters this semester. I'm sharing her feature on puppeteer Paul Mesner with you because there are so many creativity tips inherent in the story. (I suggest clicking on the "her feature" link above to watch the video. I couldn't figure out how to get it centered here so you could see the full frame. Hmmm. I need to work on that.)

Lessons from the puppets ... no strings attached:
  1. Someone else suggested doing a story on Mesner when he performs in Manhattan later this month. Kate took that idea, gave it a twist, and came up with this fun feature. Asking yourself, "What else could we do with this?" is a wonderful creativity spark.

  2. Kate realized after she did the interview that she didn't have one backstage shot that would be really important. She went back and got it. Review your work. Edit your work. Make it as good as possible before you turn it in -- to an editor, a client or a professor.

  3. Kate's original piece became better when she worked with her teacher, Andy Nelson. Take advantage of the expertise all around you.

  4. As Paul Mesner says in the clip: If you're the expert, step up. Give direction. But never forget there's much to be learned from those around you.

  5. Never get too old to enjoy a puppet show. Or a puppet video!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Creative Shout Outs: Angela and Elizabeth Rock!

Two quick hurrahs for members of the CI team:

1. Angela's wonderful Recipes from My Mom is moving up in the list of Babble's Top 100 Food Blogs. Go vote for her -- it only takes a second. As I publish this, Recipes from My Mom is on the second page. (Let's get it on the first page!)

2. Congrats to a new CI member: Elizabeth is a National Merit Finalist! Yay you! That's a fabulous, door-opening accomplishment. As she says, life is sweet.

And isn't that a nice thought to keep in mind as we start the week: Life is sweet. L'chaim!

*Random, if you follow the l'chaim link: I saw Zero Mostel perform that in St. Louis years ago and then snuck backstage with a friend to meet him. He bellowed at us ... asked if we intended to come over and say hello or just stand there and stare. Such fun. Life is sweet.