Friday, July 29, 2011

Creativity Tips: Be Kind

Part 4 in the Sophie Series:

On Feb. 12, 1966, my brother and sister and I gave this birthday card to our grandmother. Nanny liked it so much she framed it.

I was 10. (Go ahead. Do the math. Yes. I'm that old.) I'll tell you what, when I saw this card, in the frame, with my signature hidden, I was not a happy child.

I was, however, a well-bred child and I respected my elders, especially my grandmother. I didn't say a word.

Happily, I didn't have to. My grandmother was kind. As busy as she always was, she was never too busy to pay attention to those around her and pick up on their feelings. So, when she noticed my dismay, she took action.

She took the card out of the frame and asked me to sign it again. That's my signature, smooshed in-between Eva and Harry.

What does this have to do with creativity? Everything. One of the biggest barriers to creativity is fear. We don't want to look stupid, be laughed at, feel criticized. So we don't share our creative ideas, we wouldn't dream of showing someone our poetry, we diminish ourselves daily. I can't paint. I can't cook. You're so good; I could never do that.

We hide our truest selves. We become invisible.

But there are some people -- like my grandmother -- who are too kind to allow that. They see what others miss. They create environments where we feel safe to share, encouraged to be honest, inspired to do our best. Environments where we know our feelings matter. We matter -- no matter how old we are or what position we hold in a family, a company, a team.

It's easy for me to remember the importance of kindness; the framed card hangs in my office, right next to my desk. Because "Be Kind" is more than a creativity tip for me. It's the essence of who I strive to be.

P.S. Thanks to Leslie for the photos!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Creativity Exercise: Contradictions

I'm going to take a quick break from the Sophie Series for this:

Kate and I braved the 110 degree heat index this weekend to go to the Johnson County Arboretum. We lasted about 15 minutes, but it was long enough to get this photo and this exercise:

Today, do something creative built around the concept of contradiction. What do I mean? A photo of a door that says "No access." Sweet and sour recipes. A poem about industrial parks. Or one of my favorite contradictions: People who say, "I don't care," when they really, really, really care a lot.

Whatever. You choose the contradiction and the creative venue. Go! Play! Enjoy! And tell me what you do ...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Creativity Exercise: Give Me a Word

As promised, I followed my grandmother's sketchy recipe, CJ's explanation and the Big Bunny's suggestions (see comments on the post) and cooked up Pie Crust Cookies. I also made a couple of little pies -- filled one with dried cranberries and chocolate chips, the other with peach jam.

Here's the verdict: That recipe makes one heckuva good pie crust. Seriously yum, and I don't even like pie crusts. But with the right filling ... mmmm. I'm going to try it again for a cherry pie.

However, unless you really, really, really love pie crust, I don't recommend the cookies. Even doused with cinnamon sugar, it's crust with no pie. What's the point?

And my grandmother didn't do things without a point.

That being the case, we have a creativity exercise: If the P-- C----- in my grandmother's recipe stands for Pie Crust, what -- other than Cookies -- could the C------ stand for? Give me a word!

Friday, July 8, 2011

And yet another postscript ...

When I first launched my company, I thought about using "..." at the end of the corporate name, because I always have something else to say.

But I digress.

The "Fill in the blanks" post reminded me of this creativity tip on my rarely used but beloved Copy Crank blog. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Creativity Tips: Fill in the Blanks

Part 3 in the Sophie Series:

So, tell me, what the heck would I end up with if I made this recipe?

This is one of my grandmother's many original recipes. It's probably delicious -- or the start of something delicious -- but since I don't know what it is, I'm not likely to mix it up. Here's where we can learn from one of Nanny's rare creative mistakes. When it came to cooking, she didn't always fill in the blanks:
  • She didn't like people "underfoot" in her kitchen -- it's hard to learn if you can't watch.
  • Many of her recipes include only ingredients -- no instructions.
  • Some of the ingredients are identified by brand names. The brands no longer exist, so I don't even know what ingredient is required. (Spry?)
If I ever write a rulebook for creativity, one of the Top 10 will be this: Share your knowledge openly and happily. Let others take your creativity and build on it, adapt it, apply it. Let us enjoy it! Creativity is like my grandmother's yummy food -- always better when shared.

P.S. I was allowed in the kitchen because I sat quietly in the corner on a footstool. Some of the best memories of my childhood are sitting in that kitchen, watching Nanny cook. And just saying that reminds me of this ...

P.P.S. Nanny did share information she felt was critical. Her kitchen was kosher -- there was no mixing of meat and milk dishes, utensils, food. To make sure we understood what went where, she very clearly marked the inside of her kitchen drawers: MEAT and MILK.

P.P.P.S. Thanks to Leslie for the photo!