Monday, November 30, 2009

Creativity Tips: Change the World

My friend Shanna in Germany.
Different walls these days.
Change is good.

P.S. This post marks the end of National Blog Posting Month. Vicki and I both did a post every day! Whoo Hoo! We are now eligible for spectacular prizes, according to the official site. In keeping with the "every day for a month" concept, I'll keep up the Chronicle Books "draw them to me through Google" approach for one month. Then, if they haven't come to their senses, I'll stop.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Creative Shout Out: Harzfeld's -- A Brief History

Huge congrats to Joe and Michele Boeckholt on the publication of their first book, Harzfeld's: A Brief History. The press coverage has just begun! When you read the article, make note of the book signings scheduled.

Joe and Michele, you rock!

P.S. See, Chronicle Books. Publication, fame, fortune. It's all here at Creative Instigation.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Creativity Tips: What You Don't Know ...

Read this wonderful story in the NY Times about an actor with cerebral palsy learning to dance. Then, watch the video. The whole thing is amazing. And, for me, one of the most fascinating parts is the choreographer's decision not to learn too much about cerebral palsy: “That way I didn’t have any ideas about what he could and couldn’t do,” she said.

It's creative brilliance, unhampered by preconceived notions. I love it.

Thanks to Jon for the link.

P.S. I don't have anything new to say about Chronicle Books today. But, I know they want me. They really want me.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Fun: Personas

Check out Personas ... a fascinating computer art installation by Aaron Zinman. How does the Internet see you?

P.S. to Chronicle Books: Think of the money you could save on the book tour. I don't need media training. I do media training.

P.P.S. Thanks to Steve for the Personas link!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

You know what I'm thankful for? Possibility. Today -- and every day -- is stuffed with possibility. Enjoy!

P.S. Yes. I ended a sentence with a preposition. I'm a professional. I know the rules, so I can choose to break them.

P.P.S. The image is from FishbowlNY.

P.P.P.S. to Chronicle Books: You'd be thankful to have me as an author. Truly. My tens of readers would buy the book, I promise!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Do We Need More Words?

Thanks to Barb and Terri, one of the wonderful sister acts on the CI team, we now know the 2009 Word of the Year.

I don't think it's a word, but I'm not a dictionary.

P.S. Chronicle Books has an interesting list of dictionaries. (Hmmm. I'm starting to think this mentioning Chronicle Books every day may work out better for them than it does for me ...)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Creative Critic: Non-Sequitur

If you only read one comic strip, well, you're not reading enough comics. But, if I had to choose one, I'd choose Non Sequitur. I am an unabashed fan. I even have a signed original in my office. Wiley Miller is brilliant.

Now, he's giving you the opportunity for fame and fortune. Put your comic genius on display. For this week's creativity exercise, enter The Great Non Sequitur Sign-Off!

(And for goodness sake, after you check out the link and the rules, email your line to the address given. Don't post it for the world to see. Can't anyone follow simple directions?)

P.S. to Chronicle Books: Yeah, yeah. I'm promoting a Universal Press guy. But you know my heart belongs to you. And my book could ... if you'd only call.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Creativity Tips: Listen to Me

Make plans today to listen to someone Friday. It's the National Day of Listening and, as their site notes, all you have to do is "set aside one hour to record a conversation with someone important to you."

Why do I promote this every year? Because I think listening is a lost art in America. And we need to bring it back.

P.S. to writers: If you listen to clients, you'll hear the headline. You'll capture the voice. Works all the time.

P.P.S. to Chronicle Books: Are you listening?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Creativity Tips: Chronicle Books Wants Me

Pretty exciting headline, isn't it? It's not a statement of fact yet, but it will be. And, as part of the worldwide* Creative Instigation team, you're one reason I have faith in the prediction. We're too good to be ignored.

Several people from Hallmark have reviewed my material and independently suggested that Chronicle Books would be a good fit. I am working with an agent on a book proposal. However, that process keeps bogging down because she and I are both on overload with other work. (It's a good problem to have. We're not complaining.)

To keep things moving forward, here's my plan. I am going to mention Chronicle Books in every post. It won't be obtrusive, I promise. Probably just a P.S. mention. Then, when the PR folks or social media gurus at Chronicle Books do a Google search for the company, they'll find Creative Instigation. They'll love Creative Instigation. They'll publish Creative Instigation.

That's my theory, and I'm sticking with it. Chronicle Books, welcome to the team!

*Hey! Stop laughing. I've got the analytics to back it up. We are a global force for good and happiness.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Pick Three

Quick! Think of three things you're grateful for this year that you weren't grateful for last year.

(Can you feel those brain cells sparking? Very good!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Fun: Mystery Google

Ah, now here's the advantage of having the 19-year-old home this week. She knows about things like Mystery Google. Check it out.

Meanwhile, there's no mystery about the time of year: It's time to shoot a turkey. I played this game after a long, tough day. And I really enjoyed the sound effects. This is probably not a good sign ...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Seven Tips for Working with a Writer

My former Blades & Associates' boss, Barb Pruitt, knows how to get the best work out of a writer -- even if that writer is something of a creative diva. (Hmmm. Yes. Me.) Today, in honor of Barb's birthday, seven tips to help you wrangle writers:
  1. Be smart. When talking with you engages our brains, you get better copy. We stay amused, which helps us stay alert. And we generally write better when awake.

  2. Feed us information. Yes, many of us can pull copy out of thin air. We do it regularly. We prefer not to. Remember the old computer line: GIGO.

  3. Challenge us. Do not accept good when you know we can do great.

  4. Never assume we know what we're talking about. People tend to trust good writers. We're writers. We're not the ever-popular Subject Matter Experts. Check our facts. And for God's sake, if there are numbers involved, check the math.

  5. Start feedback with praise. We're like 2-year-olds. Except, "Good job!" won't cut it. We need more than that. Barb used to walk into my office, carrying my copy, and say, "Jan, this is brilliant! I laughed so hard I cried. It's totally off strategy and we can't use it, but it's brilliant! Now, let's talk about ..."

  6. Understand our priorities. This is especially important if you're trying to build a creative team. My priorities? My family comes first. My friends are family. And I don't work on Saturdays. When you understand what makes a writer tick, and respect that, we will go the extra mile for you. Always.

  7. Back us up. I was once in an agency meeting -- different agency, not Blades -- where I was so angry with an account person, all I could do was scrawl an obscenity over and over again on a piece of paper. I couldn't speak. The art director, Pat Stout, took over my portion of the meeting and presented my copy along with her design. I will write anything for Pat. (This is not a Barb example, but it could be. Barb always has my back.)

  8. Bonus tip: Let us go. When I decided to open my own company in 2002, Barb didn't try to keep me at the agency, even though she and I were a great team. Her encouragement helped make my entrepreneurial launch a success and her support continues to be a comforting mainstay. No wonder I love her, even if she is tall, blonde and gorgeous.

    Finally, a tip for short, brunette* writers who have to deal with tall, blonde, gorgeous bosses: Never, never, never stand next to them.

    *Fine. We all know this isn't my true hair color anymore. No need to rub it in.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Creativity Tips: Give Yourself a Break

Here's the deal. My daughter is home from K-State, sick with H1N1. I'm on deadline for three clients. So, I'm going to listen to great advice from Cory. I'm taking a day off from blogging.

I'll be back with creativity tips tomorrow. For today, to keep your creative batteries charged, look at Dispatches from Kansas.* You could pick any photo and write about it. Or, be inspired to take a photo. Or, you could just relax and enjoy the beautiful photos and words and stop this insane multi-tasking.

(Clearly, I can't stop. There's still hope for you.)

*Thanks for the lead, Big Bunny.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Creativity Tips: Freshen Up

One of the biggest creativity killers is the status quo. And the list of links on the CI blog has been "status quo" for way too long. I've been thinking about the list for a while now, but followed the sacred creativity rule: No deadline? No action.

Astonishingly, even without a deadline, I found incentive to act. Less astonishing -- the incentive came from Barb Pruitt. Barb pointed me toward The PRess Room from the Greater Kansas City Public Relations Society of America. I hope you'll subscribe to it and contribute. Or, as Barb says, "consider it your professional playground."

I've added The PRess Room to our list. What else should we add? Do we want biggies -- like The Pioneer Woman and Grammar Girl? Would you prefer less-known gems? Let me know. Post ideas, blogs, sites, whatever.

One given: I will continue to promote my buddies -- even if they do say Tall Chicks Rule. (I'm buying one of the T-shirts. I may be the only 5-foot-tall customer Kate has, but I'm a loyal shortie.)

P.S. If you haven't given me an idea for the VW license plate, what are you waiting for?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Creativity Exercise: This I Believe

At our monthly writers' workshop, my friend Teena read her beautiful This I Believe essay, which inspired me to go to NPR for more. Check this out: Edward R. Murrow, introducing the original series. Turn on your speakers and listen to him. Sigh ... the good old days.

And it's not just his sound. His words still ring true today:

We hardly need to be reminded that we are living in an age of confusion -- a lot of us have traded in our beliefs for bitterness and cynicism or for a heavy package of despair, or even a quivering portion of hysteria.

This week, write your This I Believe essay. Don't worry if it fits a certain word count; you don't need to submit it. Just write it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Name My Ride

Well, this is un-freakin'- believable, but apparently someone else has the license plate "BUGGY" and I've been told by the powers-that-be that I have to give it up.

Excuse me? I've been driving my 2003 VW Beetle with the BUGGY plate for six years.

Whatever. You can fight City Hall, but I don't have the time or the energy. I do have you -- and that means I have a whole bunch of creative minds who can help me come up with a new license plate. We do have to play within the box: No more than seven letters, numbers or spaces. Dashes or symbols are not allowed. Letters, numbers or wording cannot be profane, vulgar, lewd or indicate any indecent meaning. (You can see why I'm having trouble coming up with an idea by myself.)

My daughter Mary named the car six years ago, so I need to break this bad news to her and see if she has any ideas. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to your ideas! Post away.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Fun: Blog-4-Cause

Let's wrap up the week with a few fun things.

Fun 1: Thanks to a suggestion from Leslie, I'm a contributing author to Blog-4-Cause. The e-book has raised more than $1,000 so far for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. One donation, and you receive the Blog-4-Cause e-book, and a bonus book. Such a deal. Leslie, good thoughts heading to you and your mom with this one!

Fun 2: Amber update. She's up! Our little CI team member is making great progress. She'll hopefully be out of the hospital soon and regaining strength for the next round of chemo. Yes!

Fun 3: Since I'm playing along with National Blog Posting Month, I'll be posting over the weekend. And, one of my posts will deal with my VW bug. So, it's only fitting that we play Beetle Bomp. I hope you're better at it than I am ...

Here's to a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Hard to believe, but today marks two years of Creative Instigation. Some of you have been on the team since the early days, and I'm sending special thanks your way.

The Google Analytics for the blog are interesting. About 4,400 people have stopped by, for more than 13,000 visits. Our visitors have been from 93 countries/territories -- literally, from Argentina to Zambia. I think that's amazing and cool. I wish I could say gracias to all of you in your native language, but I only speak English, Spanish and a bissel Hebrew. (I'm using Yiddish to quantify my Hebrew. After all, this is a creativity blog.)

A few months ago, CI team member Richard sent an email that fits with today's celebration: If I remember right, did I read that you went to the Iowa Writers Workshop? I’m just curious why you write.

I have gone to the summer festival for the Iowa Writers Workshop several times, and I highly recommend it. And, after giving it lots of thought, I can tell you why I write. I have no choice. Literally. I am a writer. It's who I am. It's who I've been since I was little.

I write in my head continually. I don't know what other people do with all their words.

With this blog, what I write matters -- because I'm writing for you. And there's no way, no language, no words, big enough to express my gratitude.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Site Seeing: How to Write a Great Novel

I was snooping around on the Internet, doing research for a project, and stumbled across this article in the Wall Street Journal: How to Write a Great Novel.

Fun to see what keeps writers writing ...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Creativity Exercise: Follow the Big Bunny

On a blog post last week, I linked to a video of Dan Savage and suggested that if the video offended you, don't watch it.

A comment re: that post by Le Grand Lapin reminded me of why I love a good creative team -- it keeps you honest. Here's what the big bunny said:

I think it's extremely important to look at what offends you, look at what you don't believe in, look at what you don't understand. Otherwise, to paraphrase Bill Moyers, you're jogging in an intellectual cul-de-sac.

The bunny is right. And he has given us our creativity exercise for today: Get out of the cul-de-sac. Look at a site, a book, something that offends you. Consider the world from a different perspective. I may get a Rush out of this assignment ...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Creativity Tips: Laugh

I'm sure there are some folks who are massively creative when depressed. I am not one of them. So, for those of us who are most creative when happy, here's a laugh to start the week: Taylor Swift's Saturday Night Live PSA on bad driving.

All I can say is guilty, guilty, guilty. Love the getting something out of the purse bit ... and telling family secrets ... and searching for the cell phone ... and ... yeah. Don't drive with me.

Thanks to Angela for the idea!

If the link doesn't take you directly to the clip, click on the one where she's wearing the full mouth brace.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Creativity Tips: Google is Fascinating

I was just online, writing tomorrow's post, and noticed that Google is now running medical ads on my blog since I had two posts re: cancer. Last week, Google was running ads for creative writing programs on Creative Instigation.

It's an interesting lesson in targeting your copy to your audience -- something all writers should consider. If you want an audience. And you may not.

The Pro Does Pro Bono

I am heading out the door this morning to a session re: a pro bono project, a session where a committee will edit my copy.

Committee copyediting. A fascinating concept.

Copy can always be improved, but you so rarely see five or six people standing over plumbers, suggesting what wrench they use. Do firefighters hear: "Your boots look really great. Really. And I hate to criticize, but I just don't like the way you're holding that hose."?????

I could go on, but I must go ...

P.S. I'm posting on the weekends as part of the National Blog Posting Month exercise.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Good News!

As promised, the update on Amber. Yesterday's surgery went well!

Before they went in, the surgeons told Cary and Amber that it might be simply an exploratory surgery. They weren't sure what they would find, and weren't sure they'd be able to do anything once they made the incision and looked around. Fortunately, they were able to work wonders. Thank God some people grow up and want to be surgeons. I can't imagine ...

One of the biggest problems -- an obstruction in the small intestine -- was removed. They were able to take the mass out and reconnect the plumbing. Excellent news.

They couldn't remove all of the tumor in her abdomen because of its location, but they got a good portion. And, more good news, the mass is shrinking and appears to be dead. Chemo works.

For the next couple of weeks, Amber needs to rest and start eating again; the obstruction in the small intestine prevented her from eating. She's thin to begin with and lost 10 pounds, including muscle mass, so she needs to build up her strength for the next round of chemo. But she'll be able to go home with Cary! Yes!

Thanks for the prayers and good thoughts. Keep 'em coming! We're counting on a complete recovery for this cutie!

P.S. Literary sidenote: Yes. There are a whole lotta exclamation points in this post. The purists can gasp, but I feel exclamatory.
P.P.S. There actually is a creativity tip in this post too. Consider your subject line when you're sending an email or writing a post. By saying, "Good News!" in the title, I immediately let CI team members know Amber is OK.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Stand Up 2 Cancer

As those of you who read the CI blog regularly know, most of my posts are personal. This one is very close to my heart.

Amber, the beautiful young woman here, is my nephew Cary's sweetie. She's wonderful. She's 25. Today, if her blood counts look OK, she'll be undergoing surgery for cancer we thought she had kicked last year. It's back and it's bad.

This leads me to three things:
  1. If you could send good thoughts zooming through the universe to Amber, that would be great. She appreciates it.
  2. Amber supports the Stand Up 2 Cancer site, so you can check that out here.
  3. Cary is giving us updates on Amber's condition through a wonderful site called Caring Bridge. I hope you never need it, but if you do ... it's here.
Thanks! Enjoy the weekend and hug the people you love. Heck, hug someone you don't even like. I'll post an update on Amber over the weekend.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Site Seeing: Atheist Media Blog

This clip with Dan Savage may offend some of you. If you're offended, don't watch.

If you do watch, there are several lessons to be learned, including this: There are many ways to interpret the same work of art.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Creativity Tips: Embrace Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is a wonderful thing. It's energy sparked with hope. Our response to enthusiasm makes a world of difference with the people on our creative team. For example ...

When I was a kid, my family drove to California on vacation. I had never seen the ocean before, so this was a very big deal to me. By the time we got to the beach, I was jumping-up-and-down excited. I had never seen anything so wonderful.

Being a kid, I wanted to run right into the waves, fully dressed. But, being a good kid, I didn't. I asked Mom for permission.

She could have responded to my enthusiasm by reminding me that I wasn't wearing a swimsuit, I'd ruin my clothes, and I needed to have a little patience. She could have said, "Sure, honey, go on in." She didn't do either of those. Instead, she took my hand and we ran into the waves together.

When someone approaches you with unbridled enthusiasm for an idea, a possibility, a half-baked thought, what's your response? Do you squash the energy with logic? Do you encourage them to take their concept to the next level? Or do you grab hold of their enthusiasm and run with it?

Today, let's run.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Creative Critic: The Idea Book

I'm not sure how the folks at found Creative Instigation, but I'm glad they did -- and delighted they provided me with a review copy of The Idea Book. The book is great, and the marketing is inspirational.

First, the book. The Idea Book is a fast, fun read. I'd suggest throwing it in a backpack or briefcase so it's handy when you have a few extra moments.

The idea behind the book is simple -- it's a combo book/journal, filled with brief creativity lessons and activities, interesting stories, fun quotes and lots of blank pages. "150 pages about ideas. 150 empty pages for your own ideas."

Now, the marketing. The book is written by Fredrik Haren, but you wouldn't know it by the cover. There's no name on the cover, because Haren wants this to be your book. And those blank pages you fill up to make it yours? Well, as the PR materials explain, "Because The Idea Book is now filled with personal ideas, people do not lend their copy to others, thereby generating more sales and more happy readers."

Don't you love it when marketers are frank? Honestly, that's enough right there to make me a happy reader.

Creative Critic review: If you're out of ideas re: holiday gifts for business colleagues, don't panic. Buy The Idea Book.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Creativity Tips: Say No In November. Again.

This being the first work day of November, I am morally obligated to pull out my soap box, jump on, stretch to my full five feet, and shout:

That's right, kids. It's time to turn down every project you don't want to do, party you don't want to attend and present you don't really and truly want to reciprocate. Reclaim the holidays. Stop the insanity. Say No In November!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Adding Ads

After writing the blog for almost two years, I've decided to try a little harder to make money off it. As a baby step, I'm adding Google ads. We'll see how it goes. If you have any strong response -- pro or con -- please let me know.

Thanks to Vicki for the instigation!