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!