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!