Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fabulous Phrases: Anne Lamott

Joy will always be the best makeup.
-- from Anne Lamott, closing a post on Facebook -- a riff on a line from one of her books.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Creativity Tips: There Is No Wrong

This is what I love about creativity: "Take a photo that illustrates recalculating" leads to this shot from Bud:

And this one from another reader:
And this from Kate:
And this from me. After much agonizing. Because when I had the exercise in mind, I saw recalculating everywhere I looked -- from books and thermometers to plants and kitchen appliances:
The creativity lesson? Recalculate your perception that there is a right way to do everything. Enjoy the times when there is no right. There is no wrong. Enjoy the fact that the world is filled with amazing, delighting options.

Go play.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Creativity Exercise: Recalculating

Ooops. When I said last Friday's post was the 1,000th post on the CI blog, well. Yeah. I lied. It would have been if I posted every day last week, but I missed a day. So, that means ....

Ta Dah! This is #1,000!

My mistake and a frequent admonition from my GPS combine to create today's exercise: Let's illustrate the infamous recalculating. (Does your GPS say that every freakin' time you make a wrong turn? And do you make a lot of wrong turns? Of course, in our house, we like to consider those turns the scenic route.*)

So. We're recalculating. Take your digital camera, your fancy phone, your Polaroid, whatever, and take a photo of something that symbolizes recalculating. If you want to email me your creative results, great!

*Do not, under any circumstance, ever ask my buddy Lynn about the scenic route to Canyon de Chelly. It is not a pretty story. Not pretty at all. Let's just say that a lesser woman would have recalculated our friendship ...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Fun: Village Shalom

If the Google stats are to be believed, this is the 1,000th post on the Creative Instigation blog. Woohoo! I'm thankful to still be writing -- and very thankful you're still reading!

One of the funnest aspects of creativity is that there's no age limit. Check out this video from Village Shalom, where my mom lives. They're celebrating 100 years of helping the aged live happy, creative lives.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Creativity Tips: Be Grateful

On this Thanksgiving Day, I'm going to share the prayer I say every morning when I wake up and dozens of times throughout the day. It's my brain's automatic response to the good things that happen in life and the bad things that don't. (You know. You're driving and some idiot almost smashes into you. It's the almost that matters. Not the idiot.)

My continual prayer/mantra of thanksgiving is incredibly simple:

Thank you G-d for all your blessings. Thank you very much. Amen.

Is it fair to title this post a creativity tip? Absolutely. I believe grateful souls -- whether they believe in any god or not -- have more space in their brains for creative thoughts.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Creativity Tips: Keep an Open Mind

Thanks to Lezlie for posting this video on Facebook! Keeping an open mind, seeing the good around us ... seems like an appropriate message for this blog and this week. (The link is on Facebook, so if you get this post via email and can't access the video or the link, you can always look at the blog online. Thanks!)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Creativity Tips: How to Write a Thank You Note

As we start the week of Thanksgiving, it's a perfect time for a primer on thank you notes -- and there is a test at the end, so sit up straight and pay attention. You'll thank me later.

How to Write a Thank You Note:
  1. Have stationery* on hand so you're ready to put pen to paper. That's right. Pen to paper. A quick email is completely wonderful to acknowledge receipt of a gift, but nothing replaces a note in the mail.
  2. Be prompt. Write the note within a day of receiving the gift, enjoying the dinner out, whatever. "Within a day" is not Emily Post etiquette -- I'm sure you have longer than that to still be correct. However, the longer you put it off, the less likely you are to write it. And, unfortunately, the longer you put it off, the more likely you are to approach it like a task rather than a genuine expression of gratitude.  
  3. Make it a genuine expression of gratitude. Stop for a minute and think about why this is nice, what the gift/event means to you, what the person means to you, etc.
  4. Don't worry about the salutation. Dear "Name" is always appropriate. Or, have fun if you want -- for example, Pattibeth! as opposed to Dear Patty. (Again, I am not Emily Post.)
  5. Don't worry about word count. Keep it short and sincere. You're writing a note, not a term paper. On the other hand, this is no time for a tweet -- Thanks a lot! is not enough.  
  6. Be specific. Mention the item or event and a reason or two why it is special. For example:
    Dear Mo,
    Thank you so much for the Anne Lamott book! I know you really enjoyed Help, Thanks, Wow and I look forward to discussing it with you after I read it. Lamott is one of my favorite authors -- and you are one of my favorite people!

    Dear John,
    Thank you for the wonderful lunch at Yia Yia's! The company was spectacular and the food was delicious. It was incredibly thoughtful of you to tell the hostess ahead of time that it was my birthday -- dessert is always a treat. As is time with you!
    All the best,
  7. Consider all these fabulous ending options: Thanks again, Cheers, All the best, With gratitude, In appreciation, Love, Sincerely, or the basic and perfectly lovely Thank you!
Now, for the test! (Hey, I warned you.) Look around and find a present someone gave you a long, long time ago. Something that you have kept, treasured, etc. For example, I keep a framed photo on my desk that mybestfriendintheworldsincefourthgrade sent me years ago -- a photo of us on vacation, in a frame that has special meaning. Did you find something? Great. Now write a thank you note to the person who gave it to you. Mail it. Make their day.

Naturally, there's only one way to end a post like this: Thank you for being part of the CI team!

*And keep a dictionary on hand so you can look up stationery vs. stationary.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Fun: "Nerd" is the Word

Today's Friday Fun is two for the price of one!
  1. In yesterday's entry, I mentioned that I had a "really important" post to write. REALLY IMPORTANT. Holy crap. I'm taking myself seriously. This is the first sign of insanity. I apologize -- feel free to laugh at me and with me.
  2. That nonsense aside, this is important! :-) I recently discovered the genesis of the word nerd -- the first person to use it was Dr. Seuss. Of course! That first nerd was a creature in the wonderful If I Ran the Zoo.
  3. Bonus! I said two and you get three: If I ran the zoo, all word nerds would be as wonderful as Cheri. Check it out.
Happy weekend! It's almost turkey time!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Creativity Tips: Know When to Stop

When you exercise creative muscles, you get stronger. I exercise my writing muscles daily, so it generally doesn't take me more than 15 minutes to write a blog post. Sometimes, the posts only take a few minutes. (And don't think I'm talking about the super brief posts. They can take the longest time.)

Given that, when I agonize for hours over a blog post, it tells me something: It's time to stop.

I have a really important post -- or two, or three -- to write about my newfound love for exercise and yoga and how the lessons learned in the gym apply to a creative life. However, I'm not going to post these tips until I love them. And I don't love them yet.

Whatever your creative endeavor, when it's just not working, stop. And don't worry -- your creative juices will flow again. Trust me. I'm a professional.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Creativity Tips: See the Miracles

When I was growing up, my family attended Beth Shalom synagogue. Throughout my childhood, we had one religious leader: Rabbi Morris Margolies. Rabbi Margolies, who died last Friday, literally towers over my memories -- I can still see him standing up on the bima, leading the congregation in worship.

When Rabbi Margolies read a prayer that began, "I am the Lord your G-d .., " well. I kinda believed him. He was a force.

I thought I had shared my favorite line from the rabbi on the CI blog before, but it didn't show up in a quick search, so let me share it now:

"The parting of the Red Sea is no greater miracle than the sea itself."

May his memory be a blessing. And may we all see the miracles that surround us, day by day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fabulous Phrases: Shumway's Law

Shumway's Law: The bleeding always stops.

Isn't that wonderful? I discovered Shumway's Law while reading Daryl Levings' column in Sunday's KC Star Magazine. Apparently it originates with heart transplant surgeon Norman Shumway.

The bleeding always stops would be a great line for a poem. Or it could serve as inspiration to create your own "law" based on your field of expertise.

Hmmm. I wonder what the Harness Law might be ....

Monday, November 12, 2012

Creativity Tips: Focus

Common wisdom tells us the biggest damper to creativity is fear. For me, it's another F word: focus.

I wander. I daydream. I'm easily distracted by shiny objects. I stop writing poetry to doodle on a novel and then put that down to pick up scissors because I have an awesome idea for a collage but I really need to paint a canvas first and I think I'm going to paint it black to make the colors pop and that reminds me maybe I should bake brownies for dessert.

You get the idea. And, yes. Painting the canvas black can remind me of baking brownies. If that transition doesn't make sense to you, imagine how poor Tom feels when I start my conversations mid-thought and don't know why he isn't tracking.


So, this week, my focus is on focus! I'm going to divide the days into 45-minute chunks and do one thing for 45 minutes. At the designated minute, I'll make an executive decision: Continue what I'm doing or mindfully switch.

What's keeping you from being your most creative? Think about it. Decide how to fix it. Then, do it!

I'll let you know how my attempt goes. But first ... I was about to start a sock monkey when I started writing this post ...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Fun: Gone With the Wind

Did you notice? I'm blogging again! And it feels like fun, so maybe I'll continue. My creativity sessions for the kids last week did more to energize me than them, I bet.

Anyhoo. Friday Fun! I read The Writer's Almanac every morning for my daily dose of poetry. Check out this one -- I like the poem, but what I really want you to do is scroll down and read about Margaret Mitchell and the story behind Gone With the Wind.

Classic. And, just for the record, her manuscript was as tall as I am.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Creativity Tips: Sample Asimov's Science Fiction

If you like science fiction, I have a great idea for you.
If you don't like science fiction, I have a great idea for you.

Buy the December issue of Asimov's Science Fiction. Then, immediately read the novella featured on the cover: Sudden, Broken, and Unexpected by Steve Popkes. It's wonderful. And it's a reminder to me that it's not the genre I typically like or don't like -- it's the writing.

P.S. Since Steve is an old friend of mine, this is also a Creative Instigation Shout Out to the cover boy! And by "old friend, " I mean ... well. We've been friends for almost 40 years. Whatever meaning you'd like to apply to the word probably works.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Creativity Exercise: Name Your Traits

My friend Eleanor inspired today's exercise -- one of her recent art projects involved listing a personality trait or characteristic for every letter in her name. The match I loved the most? N for Necessary. Isn't that wonderful? And accurate.

I'd like to steal Eleanor's word, but I'll show a little restraint and be:

or I could be:

Or ... well, you get the idea. Your turn! List your name and traits. Try to be nice to yourself. (One of the lists I came up with for Janet made it sound like I could benefit from years in therapy.) Keep in mind: Whether you have an N in your name or not, you are necessary!

*The dictionary is my friend. I also considered enamored and egalitarian. Easy was another option, but ... yeah. Too many potential meanings there.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Creativity Tips: This Is How You Lose Her

Want to be a great writer? Read great writing.

I am late to the table, but recently discovered Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz. I LOVE his writing. LOVE it. After devouring his new collection of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her, I have started his novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Here's a sampling that puts the title of the short story collection in context. I don't believe it's a spoiler. The narrator has been caught cheating after his girlfriend reads his journal:

"Instead of lowering your head and copping to it like a man, you pick up the journal as one might hold a baby's beshatted diaper, as one might pinch a recently benutted condom. You glance at the offending passages. Then you look at her and smile a smile your dissembling face will remember until the day you die. Baby, you say, baby, this is part of my novel.

"This is how you lose her."

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why I Do What I Do

Every once in a while, if you're very, very lucky, you get a reminder of why you stay with your partner. Why your kids are amazing. Why you live where you live.

Why you love your work.

I had one of those moments Friday. After presenting three Creative Instigation sessions at an elementary school, I received a lovely email from one of the students. I'm sharing part of it here, because it makes me want to blog again.

i had so much fun listening to u in class and i don't usually like listening in class, but u made it fun u helped me on a story I'm writing. thank u for telling me that writing is not weird because at first i was scared about what people would think. but now i don't care as long as i like it then that's all that matters.

And that, my friends, is all that matters.

So here's the question to start your week: Why do you do what you do?