Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Wish for You in 2014

May you have purpose. May you start the new year -- and every day of it -- with a healthy mix of gratitude and anticipation. May you hop out of bed without aches and pains. May you wake up to good coffee and good people.

May you be somebody's person. May you forgive and forget. May you move on. May you laugh until you cry. May you cry without shame.

May you enjoy what you eat. May you remember that everyone needs a little sweets. May your life be sweet.

May you read good books. May you play with your toys. May you look up. May you make eye contact. May you listen. May you be heard.

May you realize it's not all about you. May you realize that sometimes it is. May you know, wherever you go, that you are necessary and appreciated and loved.

May you learn that starting and stopping are one and the same. May you never be afraid to stop. May you always be eager to start.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Fun: Best Holiday Card Ever

Thank you to Pattibeth for the card -- and to Kate for the photo!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Creativity Tips: The Theory of Infinite Creativity

I believe there is an infinite amount of creativity in our amazing world.

I know my share of that creativity, on any given day, is finite.

A few weeks ago, I was blogging daily again and loving it. I saw blog ideas everywhere I looked and couldn't wait to get to my keyboard and write them up.
I wrote the above copy MONTHS ago and never finished it. Why? I used up my finite creativity writing for clients. By the end of the day, I had no mojo left for blogging. All I really wanted to do was play mindless games on my iPad or watch endless episodes of The Big Bang Theory. (Sheldon Cooper literally makes me laugh out loud.)

I'm finishing the post now because we're coming up on a new year, so it's the perfect time to remember the whole finite energy business. There's an unfortunate tendency to want to change the world ... or at least ourselves ... every January. We're going to lose 30 pounds, run a marathon and never curse again.

Hmm. OK. We'll lose the weight. And run the marathon. That cursing thing? It's really sort of a cute personality trait, don't you think?

But, I digress, damn it. As you look ahead to the new year, give yourself full credit for all you accomplish and consider what gives you energy.

For example, I recently left one of Shanna Haun's circuit training classes feeling like I could conquer the universe. What makes you feel like that? Could you do more of it in 2014?

And can we all agree to simply enjoy those moments of doing nothing productive? Rest is rejuvenating. Trust me. I'm right on this.

Monday, December 16, 2013

This is NOT a Hanukkah Bush: 8 Tips for a Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas

In our family, the girls and I are Jewish. Tom is agnostic. I grew up with Hanukkah gelt, latkes and eight nights of small gifts. Tom grew up with a Christmas tree, Christmas stockings and one glorious morning of gifts. Together, we have created holiday celebrations that honor our distinct childhoods and give Kate and Mary fun traditions and happy memories -- something their families can build on in the future.

If you have a mixed-traditions family, what works for us could work for you!
  1. Celebrate the similarities. Hanukkah and Christmas, as we observe them, are holidays of light and happiness, time to gather with the people we love. Put the iPads and phones away for a bit and focus on each other. Play a board game. Talk. Look at old holiday photos. Breathe.  
  2. Don't mush the holidays together. We have a Hanukkah menorah and a Christmas tree. We do not have a Hanukkah bush. That would offend my sensibilities. I realize my sensibilities might not make sense to you. I'm good with that. Leading us to ... 
  3. Accept that your holiday celebration will offend people. I'm waiting to see if my rabbi friends comment here or just let me know face-to-face how "wrong" I am and why a Christmas tree has no place in a Jewish home. Along the same lines, the fact that Tom and I have taken Christ out of Christmas undoubtedly and understandably irritates some Christian friends. That's the way it is and that's just fine.
  4. Let the children have a say. Early on, the girls decided they preferred to celebrate Hanukkah as a religious holiday and get all their gifts on Christmas. In effect, this has allowed us to celebrate Hanukkah in a far more traditional, non-American way. And it really boosts the gift count under the tree. 
  5. Enjoy the best of both worlds. Let's take food as an example. Latkes? Scrumptious. Big plates of Christmas cookies? Bring on the sprinkles! And we bake Christmas goodies for the neighbors. Tradition!
  6. Make your own traditions. We open gifts from Aunt Lynn and Uncle Paul on Christmas Eve. Then, the girls and I sleep in the living room, in hopes of catching Santa Claus when he comes down the chimney. This started when the girls were tiny. They still humor me with a Christmas Eve slumber party. And Santa Claus does a fabulous job of sneaking in with the big gift of the season.
  7. Decorate with abandon. You might choose non-denominational decorations -- snowflakes and snowmen, for example. At our house, the Santa Claus collection grows every year. I found my favorite dreidel in Israel -- instead of the traditional Hebrew letters signifying, "A great miracle happened there," the letters on this dreidel stand for, "A great miracle happened here."
  8. See the miracle happening here. When family and friends stop their crazy busy lives to share laughter and food; to create memories and traditions; to simply gather together and be -- this is a miracle. This is something to celebrate. 
Whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate, I wish you all the love and light of the season. And here's to a happy, healthy new year!

P.S. Yes. I did eight tips for the eight nights of Hanukkah. I didn't have enough to say for the 12 days of Christmas.

Every ornament tells a story.
"Nes gadol haya po."
A great miracle happened here!
Hey, Santa! I've been good this year. Despite the rumors ...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Fun: Ellen and the Haunted House

When my friend Terry posted this clip from The Ellen DeGeneres Show, she included a note that the video made her laugh until she cried. Being a skeptic, I had to watch.

You know what? I laughed until I cried. Happy Friday! Happy weekend! Boys, feel free to hide behind me anytime. Everyone knows how brave I am around the walking dead.
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Is a picture still worth a thousand words?

In yesterday's post, I wondered why Humans of New York really soared when the photographer added quotes to his photos. Here's the beautiful answer from Le Grand Lapin:


The quotes help break through the "image callus" that we have all grown over the past five or seven years. Since everyone on the planet now carries a camera with them at all times, individual images are cheap and easy to produce. The Instagram effect - instant "art" - further devalues images in general. The "decisive moment" has been eroded to include any moment, anywhere.

Words, however, can't be mass-produced and are still a valued commodity that require some level of effort to create, curate and publish. Intelligent words, describing a place in time, a feeling or a reason to be are so rare that combined with a photograph of the creator, they have the heft and value of gold.

P.S. from Jan: It's so wonderful to feel the power of a creative community -- to put a question out there and get an answer. Makes it seem far less solitary in my quiet home office. Thanks, Big Bunny!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Creative Inspiration: Humans of New York

No matter what kind of day I'm having, it gets better when a post from Humans of New York pops up. (For what it's worth, I "liked" the HONY Facebook page, so that's where I get my fix.)

The fascinating thing to me? Photographer Brandon Stanton started his blog with just photos. It became an international sensation when he added quotes. The words, the stories, added power to the pictures. My photography buddies might want to weigh in on why.

HONY touches my heart by giving me an intimate glimpse* into the lives of real people. I don't need to know all about them -- I don't want to follow them on Twitter or be their friends on Facebook. I trust Stanton to see the shot, hear the quote and share the story. I don't know if his greatest skill is photography or listening. But I love his work and think you will too!

*Can a glimpse be intimate? Ah, if you have to ask, you've never flirted.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Creativity Tips: TGIM!

Let me guess: TGIM! isn't the first thing you think on a Monday morning. Am I right? Yeah, I understand. It's not always my first thought either. But here's what I know. The attitude we take into the week helps shape our week.

Am I sure? You betcha. Heck, research shows that the simple act of smiling can improve your mood, and impact the moods of those around you. Attitude matters.

So, this week, let's go for smiles. Let's go for happy. Let's all stand up straight, clean up nice and march into the week eager to see what creative adventures await.


Friday, October 18, 2013

The First Rule of Communications

I woke up this morning, wandered into the kitchen and made a radical decision. I'd have tea rather than coffee to kickstart my day. Of course, it had to be the right tea. Not the sleepytime, fruity-tooty teas I drink at night.

English breakfast tea? Just the thing!
I boiled the water, brewed the tea and started sipping. I sipped. And sipped. And never felt that lovely jolt of, "I'm waking up and everything is possible with caffeine."

So I took another look:

Huh? Naturally decaffeinated? But it's breakfast tea!  
It's hard to see (and that's my point), but the label says "Naturally Decaffeinated." Why would Twinings make that hard to read? And why in the world would they think it's natural to take caffeine out of breakfast?

I don't care if you're writing, designing or talking with your beloved. Remember the First Rule of Communications:

Always think about your audience.

There isn't a single soul in England -- or anywhere else -- who wants decaffeinated breakfast tea. What we do want, at breakfast, is simple:
1. Respect for the fact that we're not fully awake, focused and functioning.
2. Packaging that doesn't require us to be fully awake, focused and functioning to read it.
3. Caffeine, so that we can be fully awake, focused and functioning.

Always think about your audience. Always. Who are you trying to reach? What do they know? What do they want? What do they want to know? What would capture their attention long enough to get them to hear/see/understand your message?

First things first, folks. It's not about you. It's about them. In this case, it's about me and my tea. See what happens when I'm deprived of caffeine? I start blogging again. Be warned. And feel free to make Constant Comments.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Fun: Think Purple

Today, or this weekend, do something creative with purple. What? Well, you could:
  • Create a new drink with grape juice.
  • Draw something that would typically be brown or blue or green.
  • List as many different shades/names of purple as possible. (This makes your mind work. Good for the brain cells.)
  • Look for purple when you're out and about.
  • Take a purple photo.
Or, you could come up with your own purple plan! Happy weekend!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mary!

This gorgeous woman is 20 today. Yep. My sweet Mary is no longer a teenager. Fact is, she can now curse almost as well as I can. Sigh. It was truly yesterday that she looked like this:
Actually, she cursed at this age too.
Good story. I'll tell you some time.
My first attempt at writing this birthday post for Mary included the line: She's brilliant, beautiful and beloved. Then, I decided that was lovely, lame and lazy. I can do better. Let give you two quick examples why she is brilliant, beautiful and beloved:
  1. When an instructor at K-State told a class -- as part of a leadership/inclusion lesson -- that he was gay, he was immediately hounded by some of the students and subjected to small-minded, "We'll pray for your salvation," responses. Mary both befriended and defended this instructor. She stepped up and let him know he was not alone -- that many students support everyone's right to be who they are and love who they love. I know, for a fact, that she was a godsend to this young man at a critical time.
  2. I periodically get stressed to the max. There are times when I crack. It's not pretty. One time, not long ago, Mary sat down, looked me in the eye, and gave me a good "talking to," as my mother would say. She also wrote a note to remind me:
    Take time for yourself!
    Is it really something to get upset about?

    I keep the note on my desk. It helps. A lot.
Mary is good-hearted, funny, artistic, kind -- you get the picture. I'm very, very proud of her. Always have been. Always will be. Happy birthday, baby! (And, as you know, you will always be my baby.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Creativity Tips: Why we remember Dr. King's speech

I was eight years old when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I have a dream" speech, and I can still remember it -- I still hear his voice in my head. Chances are, you do too. Heck, phrases probably resound with you, even if you weren't alive 50 years ago.

The question is: Why? Look at this program -- there were a host of great speakers that day.

Why do we remember Dr. King's speech? There are many reasons, from the political to the tragic. I encourage you to look here for the entire text, as we examine a few of the creative reasons why we remember. In his gorgeous speech, Dr. King:
  • Follows the "magic of three" rule when repeating key phrases: "One hundred years later ..." In a later paragraph, it's "Now is the time ..." a phrase he uses three times and then picks up again in the next paragraph, after a pause. Note that he also sets these phrases up: "There is no time to engage ...." sets up the "Now is the time" approach.
  • Shows rather than tells. He paints a picture: "...the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity."
  • Takes the universal and makes it personal. "I have a dream that my four little children ..."
  • Draws on the familiar. This crowd knew Biblical references. And Dr. King knew how to engage an audience with call and response.
  • Makes us think. Consider today's political rhetoric. Measure it against some of the words and phrases in this speech: "manacles of segregation," "the fierce urgency of now," "the whirlwinds of revolt." There are too many to list. Read the speech.
Dr. King's speech stands as testament to the power of words and the reality that brave, creative people change the world.

I generally keep my liberal politics out of the blog. However, I truly believe this isn't politics. It's a matter of what's simply, morally right: As a nation, as a people, we should share the dream. We should never be satisfied "until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fabulous Phrases: Talking in Bed

In keeping with yesterday's post, here's a gorgeous stanza from Philip Larkin's poem, Talking in Bed:

It becomes still more difficult to find
Words at once true and kind,
Or not untrue and not unkind.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Creativity Tips: Improve Upon the Silence

Every once in a while, I stumble across the following bit of wisdom. I've seen it attributed to Buddha and, oddly enough, Yogi Bear -- who was, indeed, smarter than the average bear.* Possibly smart enough to quote Buddha.

Regardless of the source, these are great questions to keep in mind as we go about life:

Is what I'm about to say kind?
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Does it improve upon the silence?

This week, let's be kind, honest and thoughtful. Let's improve upon the silence.

*My buddy Vanessa is way smarter than the average person. I think she's the first one who mentioned this quote to me.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Fun: Jean Wender

"A Small Chaos"
by Jean Wender
Years ago, my dear friend Pat introduced me to a few of her favorite people. That was a lucky day for me and for you -- I've passed along Pat's favor via the CI blog.

For example, you've seen the amazingness that is The Big Rabbit. Look at those Missouri State Fair shots. My favorite, not surprisingly, is the big blue bunny. And, no, that is not a self-portrait of the artist. His feet are much bigger.*

Now, it's my great pleasure to point you toward the new website of Jean Wender, my favorite potter. Look at this gorgeousness. And this aberration. (Her word, not mine.) Then, read the beautiful Artist's Statement.

I can't think of anything more fitting for Friday Fun than enjoying art. Extend the fun! Go out there this weekend and see a new gallery. Listen to some live music. Take a walk without your phone. Enjoy! Happy weekend!

*Didn't I once have the reputation of being nice? Oh well ... the truth will out.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Creativity Tips: Take Another Look

So, it has been a month since I posted. During that time:
  • Mom fell, broke her arm and had surgery.
  • Mom was on Oxycodone for too long. Ugh.
  • The contractors started remodeling the master bathroom.
  • The contractors started remodeling the day after mom had surgery.
  • Mary went back to K-State.
  • Kate started getting ready for the move to her own apartment.
  • I had two clients come back with new assignments. One of the assignments was due in April. I got it last week. This is my life.
During the month, I didn't miss a single deadline. I did miss my blogging. Now, for what it's worth, I wasn't completely absent. Last week, I sat down and wrote:

The Theory of Infinite Creativity
I believe there is an infinite amount of creativity in our amazing world.

I know my share of that creativity, on any given day, is finite.

A few weeks ago, I was blogging daily again and loving it. I saw blog ideas everywhere I looked and couldn't wait to get to my keyboard and write them up.

Then, someone needed something and I was gone for another week. But it's a good start to a good post and I'll finish it at some point. Really! I will be back. I will be posting.

 In the meantime, look at this. And this. And then, throughout the week, take a long look at the people around you and realize they are so much more than what we see.

I hope more people really see you this week. I hope you pause long enough for eye contact. I hope it's a week that reflects well on all of us come Friday.

Happy Monday!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Fun: Color!

OK, here's your weekend assignment. Grab some crayons or chalk and color a picture. Use a coloring book or a scrap of paper. Or a sidewalk. Whatever. Only one requirement: There has to be a big sun in the corner shining down on you. (Does it have to be yellow? Nope. Make it whatever color you want.) Happy weekend!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Creativity Tips: Good Landings

The first few posts of this week stemmed from visual ideas others gave me. Today, I'm thinking of a gift of words.

Almost 40 years ago*, when I was studying at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism, I met Steve Popkes. Steve's folks, Earl and Opal, also lived in Columbia, so I had the pleasure of getting to know the whole family.

Opal was fascinating -- a writer and good-hearted woman with boundless talent and curiosity. We got along pretty well. On the other hand, I was never totally sure where I stood with Earl. He was hard for me to read.

One day, though, he said something to me that has helped -- repeatedly -- over the years. I can't remember what situation I was struggling with, but I know it had ended badly.  Earl listened quietly and then kindly said, "Jan, any landing you walk away from is a good landing."

Now, coming from most people, that might have been a dismissive cliché. But Earl Popkes was a pilot in WWII -- a Naval aviator who flew seaplanes. He knew a thing or two about landings.

"Any landing you walk away from is a good landing" has helped me handle a lot of moments, a lot of endings. A lot of landings. Maybe it will resonate with you -- or, maybe you had to hear it from Earl.

Point is, we never know when words will make a huge impact on someone. I always hope my words help.

*Is it really almost 40 years ago? Aieeee. How is that possible?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Creativity Exercise: Portraits without People

In keeping with the theme we have going this week, here's another idea from Hedy -- she found this fun site highlighting portraits without people.

Since art appreciation is personal, I'm going to admit that I'm not crazy about the portraits on that site. But, I love the idea, looked around and found this cool interview with Annie Leibovitz. Creativity leads to creativity.

In keeping with that, I decided to turn this into an exercise. What would a portrait of you look like without you in it? Here are two of my first attempts:

I collect old typewriters. Because I'm old. And I type.

This is a segment from one of my recent collage paintings.
Hmmm. I'm not sure I like either of them as self portraits. Too limiting. But, like life, this exercise is a work in progress. If you come up with a self-portrait you love, send it my way!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Creativity Tips: Writers and Designers Revolt

Here's the funny thing about writing the CI blog. The more posts I write, the easier it is to write them. Why? Well, for one thing, I just get back in the mode -- and then I start seeing blog ideas everywhere.

For another, the more I write, the more people read -- and then they send me ideas. Bonus! Yesterday's post was a gift from Hedy. Today, our creative amusement is courtesy of Pat. If you've ever worked in a creative job* at an agency, these posters will hit home with you. If you haven't, check 'em out anyway. This is the life we lead. No wonder we revolt.

*Pet peeve: Do not call writers and designers at an agency creatives. We are all creative. No need to start segmenting the fun.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Creativity Tips: Look, Listen and Laugh

To start your week off in happy creative mode, watch this fun AFI video and see how many of the classic movies you recognize. How many have you seen? I bet your local library has many of them on the shelf -- go get one and watch it tonight!

Enjoying the talents of others -- directors, actors, writers -- is a great reminder of what a gift your creativity is to those around you.

Thanks to Hedy for the link! And remember, "Life is a banquet! And most poor suckers are starving to death!"

Friday, July 12, 2013

My Prayer for the Bad Things

One of the great joys of being a writer is that you hear and see the world differently. Everything is potential material. So, as Nora Ephon's mom told her, "Take notes."

I take note of a phrase we commonly use at the beginning of Friday night services. Our rabbi will encourage us to "thank G-d for the good things that happened this past week and the bad things that didn't."

Years ago, I mulled that line over (how the hell do I know what bad things didn't happen?) and wrote this poem. I'm not sure I've shared it with you, so this is either a rerun or a premiere. Either way, happy weekend!

This is my prayer for the bad things
That didn’t happen.
The car accident we avoided
The baby born early and doing fine
The bottle rocket that missed the house
The night you drove drunk and still got home
The IED that exploded before your squad arrived
The middle-of-the night call that was just a wrong number
The policeman at the door for a mailbox knocked down
The surgery that uncovered the unexpected tumor
The job I didn’t get at the shop that went under
The turbulence that simply rocked the plane
The dog I didn’t see and didn’t run over

The love I thought broke my heart opened it for you.

©2010 Jan Sokoloff Harness


Thursday, July 11, 2013

10 Best & Worst Things about Being a Freelance Writer

The five best things about being a freelance writer:
  1. The work. I love to write and people pay me to do it. Life just doesn't get much better than that. I also love to edit. I have a deep and meaningful relationship with dictionaries and stylebooks. It's good. It's real good.
  2. My clients. THE BEST. I work with amazing, talented, good-hearted, generous people. Have I ever had a bad client? Yes. But not for long. Because I am the boss of me and I don't expect me to work with/for schmucks.   
  3. The hours. I make my own schedule, so I can stop writing to bake cookies during the day. Or exercise. Or do the laundry. I can also easily work on Sundays or evenings if I want. Whatever. My choice.
  4. Business casual has its own meaning here. Jammies, for example.
  5. The money. On a good month, it ain't bad.
The five worst things about being a freelance writer:
  1. The money. On a bad month, it ain't good. Feast or famine is an occupational hazard. (Knocking on my head here. I've been very fortunate.)
  2. Health insurance. I don't like making the decisions or the monthly payments. Out-freakin-rageous.
  3. The other job responsibilities. I don't like billing and purchasing. But I am the CFO and COO. To which I can only say, POO POO.
  4. No close colleagues. I keep this guy in my office for company. Sigh.
Sure, they all say the actual size is 12 inches.
Hmmm. It would appear that I'm one short on the worst list. Given my tacky Despicable Me joke above, I should probably say:
5. No editor. :-)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Creativity Tips: Simple Works

One of my favorite creative outlets is baking, so I'm typically asked to bring dessert to any special event. Fun! And I've now added a simple treat to my cake and cookie line-up. I bring fruit salad.
My recipe? Simple:
One fresh pineapple
One Granny Smith apple
One small carton of strawberries
A bunch of red grapes
One kiwi (Optional.)
One cutie -- those teeny oranges, when in season (Optional. And real oranges don't work.)

Wash it, dice it, stir it all up. You've got the perfect dessert. Or the perfect "chaser" for chocolate cake. Or the perfect base for vanilla yogurt and pecans and chia seeds -- my standard breakfast.

Simple? You bet. And people love it. Creativity -- in any area -- doesn't have to be complicated. Simple is simply refreshing. Give it a try. Simplify.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fabulous Phrases: Grief

Trying to remember you
is like carrying water
in my hands a long distance
across sand.

From Grief by Stephen Dobyns.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Of all the definitions of creativity I've seen, I like Einstein's the best:

"Creativity is intelligence having fun."
It's a new week. Be an Einstein. Go have fun!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Creativity Tips: Declare Your Independence!

Can you believe it's already July? The year is half over! Holy moly, how is that possible?

But, it is. And CI readers in America are getting ready for Fourth of July festivities. In honor of that, here's a creativity tip for all of us: Declare your independence! As you look forward to the rest of the year, free your heart and soul and brain from clutter and negativity. While you're at it, free up some space around you. That's right. Clean up the clutter. You'll feel lighter, free-er. I promise.

You know what happens when you clear up the psychic and physical space? Good stuff finds room to move in. (FYI, good stuff is a technical writing term.)

At this point in my life, midway through 2013, my life is filled with good stuff and I need all the room possible for more wonderful people, rewarding projects and restful, peaceful moments. I'm freeing up space -- inside and out -- for happy. Join me!

P.S. The Jewish momma warning: Be careful on Independence Day. Years as a radio reporter scarred me for life re: this holiday. Watch out for those fireworks. Don't drink and drive. Make sure your pups aren't outside and scared or hot. Got it? Good. My work here is done for the moment. Go outside and play!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Creativity Tips: Dreams Come True

Go to Amazon and do a search for my name. Go ahead. I'll wait. La-ti-da-ti-da-ti-da.

You're back? Fabulous! And you found it? Double fabulous!
Isn't it wonderful?!? I'm connected to a book that's for sale on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble and other places! It's a writer's dream come true.

OK, I will now get past myself, because I realize this isn't all about me. Hard to believe, because author Shanna Haun makes me feel like a star. And I'm not alone -- I've watched her in action. Shanna makes everyone feel acknowledged and appreciated. It's one of her many gifts.

With this post, I want to formally thank Shanna for giving me one of the greatest joys of my career -- instigating and editing her book. It was a completely unexpected and totally delightful experience. Thank you!

There are about 8 gazillion points I could make about this honest, well-written, life-changing book, but I like to keep these posts short and I don't like evangelists. Let me just say:
  1. The launch party is at 6:30 p.m. June 30th at Lululemon in Leawood, Kan. If you're in town, come see us!
  2. If you're not in town, Shanna will be talking with book clubs and other groups via Skype after the official launch, so let us know if you're interested.
  3. It's really fun to see the great reviews coming in. This one from the Raspberry Prairie blog ran in the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle too. Very cool. It's like sending your baby out in the world and having other people realize she's both brilliant and gorgeous.
  4. "I hope you believe in yourself. I hope you surprise yourself." Brilliant and gorgeous lines from the book.
  5. Shanna is right. Life is ALL a practice and perfection is not the goal. Why would we practice yoga and do Zumba? Why not practice Zumba? Why not practice photography? Why not practice writing? 
Right now, practice making your favorite creative instigator happy. Buy the book. Read the book. And be a happy practicer!

P.S. I practiced using different times to post the blog. I'm back to 4:22 a.m. It works for me. And that wraps this post the way we started ... it's all about me ... ;-)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Creativity Tips: The Jew and the Easter Ham

Once upon a time, there was a family that always had a big ham dinner for Easter. Sally, one of the daughters, liked to watch as her mother prepared the meal. She noticed that, every year, her mom cut a large slice off both ends of the ham before putting it in a big pan to cook.

"Why do you do that, Momma?" Sally asked.

Her mom looked up, surprised. And then turned to her mother, who was preparing the side dishes.

"Mom, I cut the ends off because you always cut the ends off," she said. "Why did you do that?"

"Because," her mother said, as she continued snapping beans, "Dad always bought a ham that was too big for my pan."

This Jewish momma is having the Easter ham moment. For years, I've scheduled the CI blog to post at 4:22 a.m. Why? Because years and years ago, it amused me to use my birthdate as the time. That was the only reason. There was no logic at all. (It did ensure that the post was waiting for email subscribers when they got up, but that wasn't a big deciding factor for me.)

So, yesterday, I posted at 8:22 a.m. It felt too late. This post is scheduled for 6:18 a.m. I may stick with that for a bit. We'll see what feels right.

Am I using any creative logic this time? You betcha. At 6:18 a.m., the post should be waiting for email subscribers in the morning -- while automatically posting to Twitter and Facebook at a time when humans are awake and might see it.

Yeah. The ham in me does like the idea of more readers.

What are you doing just because you've always done it that way? What change could make it better? Give it a try!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Creativity Tips: Let the Sun Shine In

As a writer, these are the kind of world-altering questions that take up space in my brain:
Is it Let the Sun Shine In? or Let the Sunshine In?

In Hair,* I believe it's Let the Sunshine In. Here, it's Let the Sun Shine In. Why? Because that's my plan for you this week. I want you to look at your busy calendar, pull out that "to do" list and see where you can schedule 30 minutes to let the sun actively shine into your life.

The "rules" are pretty simple: Sit outside -- in your backyard, a park, a pool or somewhere near work that feels peaceful and safe. Don't read, don't text, don't think. Just be.
Remember when you were little and every picture
you colored had a sun in the corner, beaming down?
A sun the color of Mary's overalls?
That's what I want for you this week.
A summer sun, beaming down.
* If you click on this link, you will see what my friends in college looked like. I miss that look. It was probably incredibly conformist to be so non-conformist in the same way, but still ....

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Creativity Tips: Read Someone New

Years ago, I discovered the beautiful poetry of Stephen Dunn. But I only recently bought a book and really delved into his poems. They're gorgeous. No wonder he won a Pulitzer Prize.

Sweetness is a great example.

Summer is the sweetest time to expand your reading horizons. Wander through a bookstore or library. Flip through a few books by authors you've never heard of, or authors you've never read. Find one that looks intriguing. Find two. Oh, heck. You've got time. Find three. Three is magical.

Then, enjoy! Remember, if you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write. Another Stephen said that ...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Creativity Tips: Even If It Is Broke

There's a great old saying: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Well, I need a variation on that: Just because it is broke, don't mean it's my job to fix it!

Last week, a colleague shared a challenge with me. Then, a friend wanted to discuss a problem. Then, a client called with a personal dilemma. Each time, I went into Momma Fix-It mode. Each time, I was gently told:

"Jan, I'm not asking you to solve the problem."

For those of us given to fixing things, it's important to remember that part of creative problem solving is talking it out -- situations look different in the light of words. When you're open to listening, people are willing to share. Let them. Let them talk. Then, let them fix. They can do it. We don't need to.

And, yes. I plan to take my own advice. Argh ...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Creativity Tip: Take Another Look at Yourself

I was out last week with a friend who is absolutely beautiful -- not to mention smart, kind, all of that. We were talking about body image and I asked what she thought her best feature was. And this wonderful woman couldn't come up with anything nice to say about her appearance. Nada. Zip. Doodah. She was completely stumped.

When pushed (Who? Me? Pushy?), she finally said something nice about her posture.

Then, it happened again with a different friend later in the week. Once could be an oddity. Twice, and I'm sensing a trend.

So, now I'm out with you. I know you are beautiful because all my readers are brilliant and funny and brilliant, funny people radiate good looks. It's true. Go look in the mirror. And, after you look, come back here and tell me what your best physical feature is.

I'll start. Probably my smile. Maybe my blue eyes. A man might come up with something else ...

P.S. Why is this a creativity tip? Because a creative genius can always take a fresh look at a familiar subject. And what better way to start the week than with a fresh look at ourselves?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Creativity Tips: Just Say It

One reason I opted for a degree in journalism rather than English lit is because understanding deep, hidden meanings is not my strong suit. If you say "The sky is blue," then I think you're saying the sky is blue. I don't automatically assume that you're really saying the world is happy and gay. As in cheerful.

In comparison, journalism seemed far more black and white. Stories were built on facts. (Hey, they were in my day.) And if you wanted to quibble about the sky, you better attribute the comments.

That said, imagine my surprise when a friend recently revealed that Evite answers aren't always what they appear to be. Yeppers. There's a hidden RSVP meaning that I've been missing. Apparently:
Yes means maybe.
Maybe means no.
No means no.

Okey dokey. I'm not going to fight it. I'm just going to curl up with my AP Stylebook and call it a week. Here's to a great weekend! Perhaps one where we say just what we mean ...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How to Write a Father's Day Card

I remember what it was like to go into a Hallmark store and struggle to find a card I thought was appropriate for my dad. Ugh. Not fun. So, to help you avoid that sinking feeling, here's a quick tutorial on how to write a wonderful Father's Day card. You'll find specific card concepts at the bottom of the post, but I encourage you to play. Let your creative genius shine!

1. Make the cover fun:
    1. Draw a picture.
    2. Make a collage from words/pictures you cut out from magazines.
    3. Find a photo of you and him and paste it on the front. Or, a photo of just you. Or just him. Or the whole family. Whatever. Doodle around the edges. It's not rocket science; it's a Father's Day card.
    4. Google "Father's Day coloring pages" and print out one of the sheets. Voila! Instant cover art. Relax. All you have to do is get out the crayons.
2. Keep the inside message short, sweet and sincere. Consider:
    1. It's your day! Enjoy!
    2. I really appreciate everything you do for the family!
    3. You're the tops, Pops!
    4. It's not easy being a father. Thanks for all you do!
    5. For all you've taught ... for all I am ... thank you!
3. Go the other route. Don't keep it short. Write a letter and tuck it inside:
    1. Choose one special memory and tell Dad how you hold it in your heart -- the time he took you to the park to fly kites -- just you, none of those pesky brothers and sisters. The first time he let you drive. The time you fell off your bike and he came running. He'll never know how much those memories mean unless you tell him.
    2. Write a list letter, listing out what you love and/or appreciate about him. Be specific. Details matter.  
4. Not happy with my words or yours? No worries. Use a quote. If you want, you can add a payoff line -- something that plays off the quote. (See example below.)

5. Sign it with Love. Or Hugs! XXOO! If none of those feel honest, how about: Your daughter, Janet.  Adding the Your daughter or Your son before the name makes it far less harsh than just a name.

  • Cover art: HFD!
    Inside copy: Happy Father's Day! I Hope it's Fabulous, Dad!
    (Option: Come up with your own ideas of what HFD could mean. Keep it clean.)
  • Cover art: "My father used to say that it's never too late to do anything you wanted to do." -- Michael Jordan 
    Inside copy: Here's to a day filled with all you want!
  • Cover art: Two hearts
    Inside copy: One heart knows another. Happy Father's Day!
  • Cover art: BBQ image (You can find one online if you don't want to draw it.)
    Inside copy: Dads like you are rare!
I hope that helps! And, let me send a special virtual hug to all the CI readers who are dads. It ain't an easy job. Thank you!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Creativity Tips: Step Away from the Computer

Do you remember the pure joy of summer? That "I don't have to do anything" feeling, spreading out before you in June?

I remember. And I want to recapture a bit of it. My fabulous clients all know I'm not working on Fridays this summer. Now, I'm taking it to the next step. I'm not going to be online on Saturdays or Sundays and I won't be tethered to my phone*.

The computer I can completely ignore. The phone I'll check now and then.

Why? Because it's summer! There are hikes to take and books to read. And, if I remember correctly, people to look at eye-to-eye. Conversations, waiting to occur. New recipes to be tried and shared.

Unplugging is my way of unwinding. What would work for you? What summertime change would make you feel refreshed and happy?

Whatever it is, include time outside. It's good for you. Just remember: Wear sunscreen.

*Is it a coincidence that we call them "cell" phones? I think not. And isn't it funny that I feel more tethered to a phone that has no cord than I ever did to my old landlines?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Creativity Exercise: The Delight is in the Details

Happy week! We're going to kick it off with an exercise to get your mind back in gear after a relaxing weekend of summer play.*

  • Think of a favorite place. Any old place at all. Or any new place. Just some place that makes you happy.
  • Write 10 details about that place. You don't have to do to this longhand, because coming up with 10 details will keep you focused no matter how you're writing.
For example, I'm thinking of my grandmother's kitchen. And the details are:
  1. The kitchen was in the back of the house.
  2. The house was at 5721 Holmes.
  3. The kitchen was long and narrow, with lots of cupboards.
  4. If you entered from the formal dining room, the sink was on the right and the stove was on the left. There was an eat-in area at the back, by the steps to the basement.
  5. Windows over the sink opened onto the driveways between my grandmother's house and the next door neighbor's house.
  6. My grandmother wrote "Milk" and "Meat" inside the cupboards and drawers so we wouldn't accidentally mess up her kosher kitchen.
  7. There was a poem from Dear Abby or Ann Landers posted in the kitchen. I can't remember the entire poem right now, but the gist was, "Please stay out of my kitchen. And when I am invited to your house, I promise to stay out of yours." Nanny didn't like interlopers in the kitchen. She didn't want help. This was her space.
  8. She didn't mind me in the kitchen, because I sat on the handmade stool in the corner and just listened to her talk and watched her cook.
  9. Toward the end of her life, when she didn't have enough energy to stand at the sink and do food prep or wash dishes, she pulled up a tall stool and did it sitting down.
  10. She twinkled.
Now, here's the wonderful thing about this exercise. I knew, before I started the list, that I would talk about the structure of the kitchen and the poem and my stool in the corner. I had no idea about #10. Because, until I got there, I had sort of forgotten how Nanny twinkled.

And that's not something I want to forget.

Yep. My grandmother. No bull.
OK, I'm ready for the week! Now, your turn!

*You did have a relaxing weekend, right? I'll be talking about that tomorrow.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Creativity Tips: Housekeeping Happens

When I do "Voice of God" announcements for clients, we always have the housekeeping list -- here's where the exits are, here's where the bathrooms are, turn the damn cellphones off. That kind of thing. Said, of course, in a far more genteel way.

I now need to do blog housekeeping. Pretend you can hear me saying this in my most authoritative voice:

If you read the CI blog in Google Reader, you probably know this, but ... Reader is going away July 1, 2013. So, now would be a great time to sign up for the blog via email! There's a handy-dandy little button thing on the blog where you can do that. Or, if your email is already overwhelming (I'm with you), there are no doubt other wonderful options out there. My buddy Steve has been trying Netvibes.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming.

P.S. I was writing for a tradeshow in Vegas once, just working backstage. The official Voice of God got drunk or something and didn't show up. Soooooo, the producer came over and said:

Producer: Weren't you in radio or something?
Jan: Yep. Radio.
Producer: Then you can do the Voice of God announcements.
Jan: Well, I wrote 'em. Guess I can read 'em.

So I did. Really, really challenging. I told the ladies and gentlemen to take their seats. You know what happened? They took their seats. And I heard the producer's voice in my headphones:

Producer: How the hell did you get them to move that fast?
Jan: That, my friend, is the Voice of Mom.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Creativity Exercise: Adult Swim

Remember when you were a kid and you went to the pool and EVERY HOUR the lifeguard made you get out for the dreaded "adult swim" time?

Remember perching on the side, wondering if the lifeguard would EVER let you go back in?

Remember the pure joy of the cool water when it was FINALLY your turn?

Now, with that back-in-the-water moment in mind, here's how I want you to start the week. Choose one of these three exercises:
  1. Take a photograph/draw/paint/doodle an illustration of anticipation.
  2. Write one sheet, longhand, about your favorite summer memory.
  3. Think of one activity that would make you feel eight years old again. Do it.
Did you make your choice? Perfect! Now, listen carefully. That's right -- you just heard the lifeguard's whistle!

All in!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Fun: Bizarro

This was from last Sunday but I just saw it and it made me laugh. Bizarro cracks me up. Go visit. Sign up for the blog.

And a big THANK YOU to Dan Piraro for cheering me up when I was feeling grumpy. You never know when you're going to be or do just what a person needs.

Now, what I need is a bouncy house -- and I'm betting I can find one. Happy weekend!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It is impossible to say just what I mean

After all these years of blogging, I don't believe I've shared one of my favorite poems with you -- The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot.

There are lines and stanzas in this poem so beautiful that they immediately embedded themselves in my memory, and come to mind unbidden now and then. Just happened, so I'm sharing:

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
     "That is not it at all,
     That is not what I meant, at all."

You can read the entire beautiful poem here.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Creativity Exercise: Memorial Day Pondering

Here's something to think about today:
How would you like to be remembered?
Got it? Good.
Now, what are you doing to make it happen?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Creativity Exercise: You Have a Dream

You have a dream -- and NPR wants to hear about it! Here's info straight from NPR's Facebook page:

This summer is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Michel Martin of NPR's Tell Me More wants to know about YOUR dream today – for the world, your family, or yourself.

Email tellmemore@npr.org, and describe for us the speech you would give.

Be sure to include your name and contact information and we might feature you and your speech on the air for a special summer series leading up to the big anniversary.

You do have a dream, right? Remember the old song lyrics: You gotta have a dream, if you don't have a dream, how are you gonna have a dream come true?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Creativity Tips: Meander

Did you miss me? Tom and I spent the last week in Miami, with a one-day jaunt to Key West. Very fun. Very relaxing. We were right on the beach, and it was gorgeous.

Every morning, I went out for a power walk on the beach. Great exercise. Of course, I was disappointed that there weren't more shells, but I found a few shells and some coral, and I played:
I made a flower. Pretty, no?
Finally, near the end of the week, I decided to meander down the beach. And you know what? When I slowed down, I saw all the teeny-tiny beautiful shells I was missing.
Let's say the wine glass is there for perspective.
Yeah. That works.
I enjoyed the power walks -- I really did. But I am glad that while we were still there, I took the time to slow down and look down. There is so much beauty in the world, just waiting to be seen. I hope you see it. I hope you meander.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Creativity Tips: A Lesson from Ted Kooser

Every morning when I check email, I have delightful offerings for the ULTIMATE CAMI! and aids that will CURE SNORING! and at least one or two URGENT tracking notices from a fake FedEx.

On the bright side, I also find a legitimate email from The Writers Almanac, a delightful service that sends me a poem every morning along with fascinating literary tidbits.

Yesterday's email included a story on Ted Kooser, the U.S. poet laureate who flunked out of graduate school and spent 35 years working in insurance. I'll pick up the almanac story from there -- Kooser is speaking:

"I worked every day with people who didn't read poetry, who hadn't read it since they were in high school, and I wanted to write for them."

Every morning, he got up at 4:30, made a pot of coffee, and wrote until 7. Then he put on his suit and tie and went to work. By the time he retired in 1999, Kooser had published seven books of poetry, including Not Coming to Be Barked At (1976), One World at a Time (1985), and Weather Central (1994). He resigned himself to being a relatively unknown poet, but he continued to write every morning. Then, in 2004, he got a phone call informing him that he had been chosen as poet laureate of the United States. He said: "I was so staggered I could barely respond. The next day, I backed the car out of the garage and tore the rearview mirror off the driver's side." As the poet laureate, he started a free weekly column for newspapers called "American Life in Poetry."

When you really, really, really want to do something creative, you do it. The question is: How much do you want it?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Creativity Tips: Happy Birthday, Crayola!

A rose is a rose is a rose, but a crayon is not a crayon is not a crayon. I know. I've bought the cheap versions. They ain't Crayolas. So I always keep a big box* of Crayola crayons on hand. After all, you never know when you might want to draw a work of art.

Given my lifelong love for Crayola, this post is a natural for me -- even though I must tell you right upfront that the good folks at Crayola sent me info, asked for a post, and will reward me with a box of crayons. That's right. That's my price. Give me a box of one of my all-time favorite creativity tools and I will write about you.

In my own defense, this isn't just any box. I've been promised the 110th birthday pack! Because Crayola is celebrating its 110th anniversary. So, if you're counting, they're even older than I am.

To get the party started, follow my lead, go to their Facebook page, and enter for the chance to win a trip to the all-new Crayola Experience!** Hang out with Green this spring. Party with Orange, the color of creativity. You might even get close to Red.

Speaking of Red, I love the crayon's favorite quote: "It's kind of fun to do the impossible." That's from Walt Disney, who knew a thing or two about creativity. And, as I discovered looking around the site, Red doesn't like Visine. I'll let you figure out why.

*BIG BOX. Always buy the BIG BOX. Life is colorful.

** You win. You take me. It's pretty simple.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Creativity Tips: Celebrate You

It's my birthday! I love birthdays. OK, that's not exactly right. Let me try again.

Yeah. That's better. And here's my birthday wish: Celebrate yourself. Celebrate this very moment and the unarguable fact that you are here and that every day of life is a day overflowing with possibilities for joy and happiness and love and all the wonder that so easily gets lost in the day-to-day noise of life.

Sure, there's shit. Shit happens. What of it? Fun happens. Good happens. You happen. Celebrate!

This is a pic of me and Eva, about 38 years ago. I thought I was fat. Seriously. Look at me. I thought I was fat. So here's the birthday gift I want from you: Do NOT waste a moment of this precious day being harsh to yourself. Promise me. Promise? Good! Now, if you want, go have a piece of birthday cake in my honor and enjoy every bite.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Poetic Response to Boston

One of the biggest advantages of being a writer is having an immediate way to vent emotions. I had planned to take this poem draft to my writers workshop last night, but the workshop was cancelled. So, you can be my workshop! Let me know what you think, if there's something you'd change, whatever. Thanks!

For Jaleeza, at 33rd and Troost

She watches TV, sprawled on her tummy,
on the floor. Mommy says it’s safer
than the couch. That’s all she says
but Jaleeza knows
stray bullets fly high.
She hugs the floor and worries.
Her mom, on the couch,
her brother in the kitchen.
Where’s the baby?
She tracks their movements.
You never know. You never know.
Jaleeza watches the news
prostrate on the floor.
She prays Martin wasn’t scared
before the bombing.
He was 8. Same as her.
She stares at Boston’s finish-line panic,
over and over, wondering why
those people didn’t know
crowds are dangerous, strangers will kill you,
and the world is a marathon of terror.
© Jan Sokoloff Harness, April 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Creativity Tips: Perception is NOT Reality

You are more beautiful than you think.

And the world is full of good, kind, caring people. In Boston. And in Baghdad.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Creativity Tips: Father Knows Best

When I graduated from the University of Missouri, my father gave me a note with this quotation from Calvin Coolidge:

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

I woke up this morning and thought, "Daddy was right."

It's so easy in today's instant-gratification world to expect immediate results, and be disappointed when we don't get them. But the wonderful thing is, with persistence, we can realize amazing results.

I'll give you a personal example tied to the lessons learned from my two years of exercising. Time matters. I am seeing dramatic shifts in my appearance, strength and flexibility -- and it feels like they just instantly happened! Last week, I didn't look like "this." Today, I do.

Of course, it didn't happen instantly. It took years. It took persistence. Who'd have thought?

Same thing with creative endeavors. I haven't written my Great American Novel yet because I haven't had the persistence to stick with it. Heck, I haven't even been persistent with my poetry -- publishing takes time. You have to look up names and contact info, send it out in the right form, send it out again. And again. And again. I want a quick email and YES!

Yet, I know, the world is full of writers who sent their manuscripts out hundreds of times before hearing YES!

So, here's the thing. Unless -- until -- you stick with it, whatever it is for you, you have no idea what you might achieve. No idea how incredible your accomplishments can be. Start today by embracing the concept that you're in it for the long haul. Be persistent. Be determined.

Press on, my friends. Press on.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Fun: Make Your Own Trading Cards

Baseball season is on! Perfect time to make your own trading cards. For sports. Reading. Famous people. Infamous people. Your people. Abstract concepts. Abstract art. Whatever!

Go play! Happy weekend!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Creativity Tips: Step Away from the Scale

How do you measure success?

My whole life, I've measured physical success by numbers on the scale. Gain a pound or two? I'm a huge and hideous failure. Lose a pound? Yes! Time to celebrate.

But then something happened. I started exercising. Regularly. With Shanna and the most fabulous group of women imaginable -- supportive, encouraging, diverse, smart, friendly. Great people. And over the past two years:
  • I lost numerous inches off various body parts.*
  • I lost two dress sizes.
  • I didn't lose an ounce.
Wow. I look better, stronger. I feel better, healthier. And the damn scale hasn't moved AT ALL. So I did the most creative thing I could do: I changed my mind. I stepped away from the scale.

What's that mean to you? Simple. How we measure success matters. And your measurement tool has to work for you.

Maybe your father wanted you to have a C-level title. Maybe your mother wanted you to marry a wealthy man. Maybe you're a CEO married to Mr. Moneybags. So, the folks are thrilled. That's not the point.

Are you happy? Do you feel successful? Do you remember the last time you were proud of yourself?

Consider your definition of happiness and success. If it's working for you, great! If not, get creative. Measure better.

* No. Not those parts. For some reason, I never lose inches off those parts.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Fun: Things that Make Writers Laugh

And, on a completely unrelated note -- but totally related to me -- Happy Birthday, Kate!!! And happy weekend to all of you!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Creativity Tips: Take a Balanced Approach

Take a quick look at this post from Shanna on balance. Go ahead. I'll wait. La-ti-da-ti-da-ti-da.....

Back so soon! Oooh. You're a fast reader. Very good. Now, to Shanna's point, I can't count the number of times I hear people say, "I'm not creative." Truly. I hear it all the time. All. The. Time. I used to always launch into a big, positive, creativity-affirming speech. Now, I do the speech if I'm in a good mood. Other times, I just roll my eyes.

But for you, today, I'll be good. Listen up, my dear: You are creative. Just as we are all excellent at practicing balance, we are all excellent at practicing creativity.

Heck, I can prove it to you:
  1. Think of a great story from your childhood or teen years.
  2. Tell the story to someone.
What's creative about that? What's not?!? Deciding on the story and the audience are acts of creative selection. How you tell the story -- the words you choose, the inflections you use -- all creative acts. Storytelling itself is one of the most creative practices in the world.

Do I believe I'm creative? Absolutely. Do I believe you're creative? Damn straight. And I believe that's a balanced approach.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Creativity Tips: In Praise of Boredom

When was the last time you were bored? For me, it was in a meeting. And my mind did what it always does when bored -- wander. I doodled. I came up with a few poem ideas. I wrote opening lines for a novel while smiling and nodding dutifully at the meeting leader.

If familiarity breeds contempt*, boredom breeds creativity. Release the need to fill every moment with activity. Relax. Be bored. See what happens!

*Reminding me of the ever-popular take on this: Familiarity breeds.

P.S. for any clients who might read this: No. It was not your meeting.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Creativity Tips: Write a New and Improved Profile

Writing a post at 11:30 p.m. after watching Les Miz for three hours could be dangerous ... I may get up Monday morning and see a thousand typos. But, I'm in the mood to write, so here goes a quickie:

Look at your profile on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or wherever. When was the last time you updated the info? Are the verbs active? Have you trimmed extraneous words? Does every word, every character count? What are you calling yourself? What have you forgotten? Are you a speaker? A blogger? A mentor? An instigator? Are you a volunteer? A yogi? A singer? A poet? A jim-dandy-cracky snow shoveler?

Consider what you do that makes you really proud of yourself. Too humble for that? Sigh. Fine. What do you do that would make me really proud of you? Is that listed?

Update, people. You're evolving all the time. Your profile should too.

I may even follow this advice myself this week. Although, truth be told, I'm much better at giving advice than taking it. I'm a mom. It's my job.

Happy Monday!

P.S. No, I did not mean that kind of quickie. Seriously, people. What are you thinking?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Fun: God Hates Kittens

So, for those of us who welcome the Sabbath on Friday evening, it's always nice to kick the day off speaking directly for the Big Guy:

Does your God hate puppies? Ponies? Bunnies? No problem. Just visit godhatesgoods.com
Now, before you get upset, God Hates Goods is poking fun at the Westboro Baptist Church and its infamous God Hates Fags placards. (I will say this. The signs are most often spelled correctly, since the words are short.)

Unfortunately, since I live in the Sunflower State, I have to admit that Westboro is a Kansas phenomenon. However, on the bright side, so is this.

Happy weekend! Go play with a God-forsaken chipmunk for me.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

In Honor of John Mark Eberhart

Kansas City's literary world lost a great talent and an enthusiastic advocate this week with the death of former KC Star reporter/books editor/poetry promoter John Mark Eberhart. In his honor, look here for my favorite poem re: cancer from Raymond Carver. And an equally beautiful "response" from Carver's widow, the poet Tess Gallagher.

I think John Mark would have liked both poems.

Rest in peace, John Mark.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Fun: Paper is Not Dead

Because it's Friday. Because print is not dead. Because paper is definitely not dead.

Thanks to Maureen for the link!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Creativity Tips: Something There Is ...

Paterae by Jean Wender
Jean Wender's show at the Kansas City Artists Coalition's Underground Gallery does exactly what great art should do: It stops you in your tracks and makes you reconsider your view of the world.

Jean's pottery is not glazed. It's not raku. It's something beautifully different. I consider it pottery poetry ... so this post from Jean describing her work makes perfect sense to me.

"Something there is that does not love a wall."
These words of Robert Frost beautifully express my rejection of putting a glaze on my pots. I love working with clay: the yielding fullness of clay in its raw state; its suppleness on a potter's wheel; the subtle sheen of a burnished surface. My hands have coaxed this entity into existence in a series of almost ritualistic steps. To encase a piece in a layer of glass strikes me as a betrayal of this precious relationship. Much better to leave the surface open and porous, receptive to the marks and colors that result from a saggar or a sawdust firing, open and receptive to the touch of a hand.
--- Jean Wender, 2013
Go see Ceramic Work by Jean Wender at the Underground Gallery, Kansas City Artists Coalition, 201 Wyandotte, KCMO 64105. The show closes March 29; gallery hours are Wednesday - Saturday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

P.S. Full disclosure: I love Jean. She is one of the kindest, gentlest, smartest, funniest, honest people I know. But that's not why I'm promoting the show. I'm promoting the show for the art, which -- in this case -- naturally reflects the beauty of the artist.