Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Fun: The Struggle is Real

"If you look at page 16 of your brief ..."

Want to see how corporate America designs a stop sign? Start here.

You might watch the video and think, That's funny, but it can't be true. Let me assure you: When I was a creative director, this was my life.

Thanks to Pat for sending me the link!

Monday, July 10, 2017

#MondayMotivation -- Thunder Thighs

There are times when we believe something is out of our control -- and it's not. Case in point: 

Thigh gap has never been an issue for me. When I was a child, I was chubby enough that my thighs rubbed together when I walked. If you've never experienced this kind of chafing, let me tell you right now: It hurts.

When I would complain, my mother would sympathetically tell me not to fret: "You just have the Eisen thighs," she'd say. "I do too."

Now, Eisen is mom's maiden name -- so "Eisen thighs" was our family's code for thunder thighs. And, while it didn't stop the chafing, it did make me feel better. There was nothing I could do about my legs. Clearly, I was genetically doomed.

I carried this concept with me for, oh, 55 years or so. As my weight and exercise levels varied over the years, it never once occurred to me that I could do anything re: those Eisen thighs.

So imagine my surprise one day when I got ready for yoga and realized that ... hmmm .... Mom was wrong.

Normally I wouldn't mention this at all -- much less in a blog post. Weight and health and exercise and body image are very personal and I try to tread this ground lightly. However, this example extends far beyond my legs.

As you start your week, stop for a moment and consider this: What "truths" have you carried with you for years without question? Are they still true? Were they ever? It's a new week, my friends. Don't let old ideas hold you back from new possibilities.

P.S. You don't even want to know how many photos were taken before Tom got one that I deemed acceptable and non-thunder-thigh-ish. I'm wearing single-digit-sized Lululemons and still struggling with how my legs look. We're awfully hard on ourselves, aren't we?

Monday, June 12, 2017

#MondayMotivation -- Embrace Your Structure

When I start a new job for a client, the first thing I do is create a header:
Draft 1/ Job Name/ Date

This will amaze you but, now and then, the first draft isn't the final draft. Yeah. It's true. When that happens, I change the draft number and the date as the project moves forward. The process helps with version control and communication with multiple clients/editors. 

That's great, but here's the primary benefit: 
Creating the header provides a structure that works for me -- it marks the moment my brain shifts from one client to another, from one job to another, from doodling copy in my head to putting words on paper. 

On the other hand, outlines don't work for me and they never have. When I was in school, and a teacher expected an outline before the full paper, I had to write the paper first and then create the outline from it. 

Now, maybe outlines work for you. Maybe thought clouds help you write. Maybe your desk has to be absolutely clean. Maybe you need to turn email off, or have music on. 

The right structure boosts creativity. This week, embrace your structure!

P.S. As it turns out, the Table of Contents for my book -- a necessary part of the book proposal -- feels like a damn outline to me. I'm now writing what I want for the book, and will go back when I'm done and structure it. Woot! 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Lost: One Creative Mojo

Dear Readers,

For the past year-and-a-half, I've been working with a book agent on the East Coast -- hammering out a book proposal. The project started as a longer version of my ebook and morphed into a real book, Thank God It's Monday! A week-by-week guide to banishing the Monday morning blues.

Unfortunately -- and despite the fact that several editorial boards liked the book and my writing -- the consensus was that I don't have the platform to sell 20,000 books. Basically, I haven't been on Oprah. I haven't delivered a TED talk.

The agent told me he was regretfully "throwing in the towel" on May 2. I sent the appropriate, and heartfelt, thank you note to him for all his work; we had a lovely farewell chat on the phone; he strongly encouraged me to finish writing the book and self-publish; I thanked him, hung up and gave up.

That's right. The creative instigator's creative mojo meter plummeted to zero. I told the family and a few of my closest friends -- and they were all wonderfully supportive and encouraged me to keep going; this was just a bump in the road.

I heard them, and I tried to believe them. Whenever I gave someone the disappointing update, I purposefully added encouraging comments about self-publishing.

"It's fine! It's all fine!"

But it wasn't. I couldn't even bring myself to tell everyone who knew about my work with the agent that it was over. I still haven't (so if you're on the "didn't know" list, consider this post your update).

One of the people I couldn't stand to tell was Jody Summers. Jody and I worked together years ago and have remained close. She's an incredibly talented writer, understands my writer's mind, and had been a huge cheerleader throughout the months of work on the book proposal. I knew she would be disappointed for me. I didn't want her to be disappointed in me.

Basically, I felt like I had failed at something really important and I just didn't want her to know.

Finally, two weeks after the talk with the agent, I put my big-girl panties on and sent Jod an email update. She immediately responded with kindness and encouragement:

Hi, Jannie:
They are wrong. It’s a great book idea and it deserves to be born. Want to schedule lunch?
This is only a step in the journey, Jan. Don’t give up. Get some time away from it, but don’t let it go.

My creative mojo meter inched up a bit. Jody still believed in me and the book. Everyone else I had told still believed in me and the book -- including the agent and several editors at prominent publishing houses. Maybe I should press on.

I went online, reviewed Amazon CreateSpace, and got to work formatting the existing copy. Heck, knowing that I had a lunch date with Jod (deadlines are wonderful), I even started writing new copy.

The mojo meter moved minutely in the right direction. I'd write, but then I'd chop it apart. The words weren't flowing. And my words typically flow.

Then, yesterday, Jody and I had lunch. I brought pages from the CreateSpace site as proof that I was doing something. But, God bless her heart, she wasn't concerned about the copy. She was concerned about me, my reaction, and whether I was taking care of my own creative soul.

And, since she knows me and knew the answer to that question, Jod also:
  • Gave me the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert to read for guidance. 
  • Reminded me of the value of morning pages -- I am always at my most creative when I do them every morning, and I haven't done them for some time. 
  • Suggested that I be kinder to myself, and go on solo artist dates. Alone time, in new environments, is inspirational. I know it. I forget to do it. 
The waitress brought our check nestled inside a book -- a hardback that guests can inscribe if they want. I wanted. 

I haven't started reading Big Magic yet, but I'll tell you what the magic is for me: It's you. It's Jod. It's everyone who reads my writing, and encourages me to keep going. You are the magic -- and you are the reason my creative mojo is coming back.

So here we are, my friends. I'm going to do the morning pages and take myself on artist dates. I'm going to read Elizabeth Gilbert's book -- and write my own, at my pace, when it's fun. I may finish it this summer, this year, or next year. But I will finish it. 

Why? Because I believe with all my heart that this book can help people. It's 52 quick chapters of stories and inspiration and ideas and exercises that can make life happier and help people regain the creative spark we all had as children. It's a wonderful reminder of our own wonderful potential. And I'm a damn good writer, so it will be a fun read. 

Lunch with Jody reminded me: One person can make a huge difference. Today, she was that person for me. With the book, I hope to be that person for many others. 

Hugs and happy day,

Thursday, June 1, 2017

#Creativity Tips: Instant (Creative) Gratification

When was the last time you went on a completely new creative adventure? I recently veered way off my usual path to take part in the first InstantlyKC Instant Film Workshop – and it was amazing.

I went with Kate, who takes gorgeous photos with digital and instant cameras. So, naturally, I started by telling the instructors – Leslie Adams and Anne Hollond – that Kate was the photographer. I was just there for fun.

Well, by the end of the workshop, I was singing a different tune. Turns out, with the right coaching and camera, I am a photographer. (And it is fun!)

After a brief introduction to different instant cameras and their features, Leslie and Anne took the workshop participants on a guided tour of the West Bottoms, a fascinating area in Kansas City, not far from downtown. The skies were gray and rain threatened, but the lighting turned out to be terrific for instant photography. As we wandered around (and you can wander, even with a guide), I took a few hesitant shots like this:

And then grew progressively bolder:

Not all of my photos were, shall we say, perfect, but I captured a few images I really love! This one is my favorite:

To top it all off, Anne and Leslie gave us wonderful little albums as a workshop keepsake.

I was going to wait and tell you about the workshop when they have the next one scheduled, but ... I’m all about instant gratification now. So I couldn’t wait. I’ll post again when the next InstantlyKC Instant Film Workshop is on the calendar!

For now, look around. Picture the possibilities. What can you do this summer that you’ve never done before? 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Fabulous Phrases: Pablo Neruda

"I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees."

-- Pablo Neruda

Thursday, April 27, 2017

#Creativity Tip: Tuck It

Ahhhhh. Proofreading is a wonderful art. But, I did mean tuck it in the headline -- not what you might have thought.

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day -- part of the National Poetry Month celebration. While I have been woefully remiss in celebrating on the blog this year, I am going to tuck a poem in my pocket today, and I hope you do too! It's a lovely reminder of the power and beauty of words.

If you looked in my pocket, this is what you'd see -- right after I smacked you for looking in my pocket:

Mother, in Love at Sixty
by Susanna Styve

Reason number one it can't work: his name is Bill. For god's
sake, he hunts. He has no pets, other than two doting
daughters, and his ex-wife is still alive. He's simply not my
type. Who wants to get married again, anyway? I'm too old.
I go South at the first frost. Plus, he's messy. Men are messy.
He could die. Then where would I be?

And in my back pocket, there's this -- from a poet I took classes with, years ago:

How Things Are
by Philip Miller

You asked me to tell you
how things are,
why we rarely speak, never touch.
Words won't come.
In the garden, yesterday,
the pampas grass turned silver,
whispered in the wind,
the edges of its leaves
felt sharp.
We were weeding petunias,
and I touched your shoulder,
spoke your name.
You jumped,
as if all afternoon
you'd been resting
sure you were alone.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Creativity Tips: Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Yep. Yoda was right: Do. Or do not. There is no try.

So I'm doing something new -- a bullet journal! Mary gave me a Moleskine (yes!) graphed journal as part of my birthday present, and I'm off and running on a new creative endeavor, learning as I go.

What have you been wanting to try? Do it! And remember my theory with creative adventures: You can't get better until you get started.

P.S. You know what's fun about being 62 instead of 26? I'm willing to share a work in progress, rather than waiting for a work of art.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Creativity Exercise: Don't ask. I tell.

There are some life lessons I learn. And forget. And learn. And forget. And learn. And ... well. You get the idea. For example:

People ask questions they don't want answered. 

You know what question tops the list? It's one we hear all the time: How are you?

Apparently, 98.6 percent of people who ask that question do not care about the answer. They are, I think, trying to be polite. And yet ...

Do me a favor today, my friends. Show up. If you ask a question, listen to the answer. And if you doubt the veracity of my lead-in line, look at the date on this post.

P.S. Thanks to Kate O'Neill Rauber -- one of the world's great listeners -- for the blog idea!

P.P.S. This post also reminds me of a favorite Yiddish proverb: No answer is also an answer.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday Fun: Be Amazed

Kate and I recently went on a fabulous mother/daughter vacation to Seattle and Victoria, B.C. Gotta say, it was close to perfect. Even the weather cooperated!

At the start of the trip, a friend who lives in Seattle took a day off work to drive us to Snoqualmie Falls.

It's gorgeous. After admiring the view from the top, we hiked to the bottom. Along the way, every twist and turn took us to another incredibly beautiful vista -- a fairy tale forest, complete with moss-covered trees, soaring in the sunlight.

Kate walked ahead, taking these pics, while I dawdled. And oohed. And ahhed. And repeatedly said, "It's so beautiful!"

After a while of this, our Seattle friend finally asked, "What is?"

"All of this," I said, astonished by the question. "All of it."

He looked around again and quietly said, "You're right. I forget to be amazed."

My friend is a writer, an artist. His world revolves around creativity. It doesn't matter -- sooner or later, we all forget to be amazed. This weekend, don't forget. Open your eyes. See the beauty, appreciate the wonder. Be amazed.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Creativity Tips: Treat Yoself

You know the feeling. You go to one of your favorite restaurants, and there's a new menu. It can only mean one thing: They've raised the prices. Right?

OR, in the case of Houlihan's, they've raised the bar on menu copy. Enjoy! Or, as they say, Treat yoself. And think of ways you could add some humor and interest to whatever you're writing today. 

FYI, the website is fun too. I don't know who's handling Houlihan's creative work, but I like it!

P.S. I snapped the menu pic while at Houlihan's with my wonderful Kate, and it's her birthday today! Happy birthday, Kate! You've been a sparkler since the day you were born, and every year, you shine brighter. I'm incredibly proud to be your momma. xxoo
All the love. All the time. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

#MondayMotivation -- Don't Quit. Denik.

When was the last time you had a fun customer service experience? You know, the kind that makes you feel like someone is actually taking care of you and values your business?

I was on the hunt for a specific notebook from Denik, a company that believes Art Can Change the World. The response to my first email was fast and friendly -- and offered alternatives, since the notebook was no longer in production.

Now, options are lovely. But writers can be a choosy lot when it comes to our notebooks. If I'm going to veer from Moleskine, I want what I want, not an alternative.

Then, the second response! While I was thinking about what to do next, the Denik Team searched again, found exactly what I was looking for, and offered to ship it to me ASAP. Yes!

During the back-and-forth emails re: the order, Melanie from the Denik Team was exceptional. Proactive, friendly, instantly responsive, helpful, courteous, informative -- everything you want in customer service and so rarely get these days.

I didn't have to wait. I didn't feel like a number. I didn't get lost in the shuffle. And I'll be back for more Denik goodies in the future.

This week, be extraordinary. Be Denik. If you don't have an answer, if you can't find what someone wants or needs immediately, don't quit. Look again. Look a little harder.

Art Can Change the World. And so can you. Happy Monday!

This is not the notebook I was looking for, but isn't it great?
They still have it online!
P.S. Want to be a Denik designer? Start here.

Monday, March 6, 2017

#MondayMotivation -- Start Happy!

Want to kick your creativity up a notch this week? Start happy. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh.

What? You don't have funny people around you? Well, then:
1. We need an immediate intervention.
2. I'm going to loan you my incredibly talented friend, Kate O'Neill Rauber.

Yes. I mentor her. 
She's a cutie, huh? And, in a post that takes about 25 seconds to read, Kate explains the sartorial splendor -- and you get a laugh to start the week.

And there's more! Get inspired. You may not change your work wardrobe (not everyone can pull this look off), but while you're on Kate's site, check out the theory behind her 15 and 5 posts. Creative instigation in action.

By the by, since Kate is elegantly tall, strongly slim and totally gorgeous, I would just like to go on record as saying we wear exactly the same size Snuggie.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Creative Community: Blessing for the Dark Times

True fact, as opposed to any other kind: My Facebook feed isn't nearly as enjoyable as it was before the election. But, I do see some fun news from friends amidst the political updates. And, because many of my friends are writers, I sometimes have the pleasure of a poetic post. I hope you enjoy this one from the very talented Linda Rodriguez, who notes that she was recently reminded that the artist's job in such times is to offer healing and hope.

Creator reminds us daily 
through the fragrant winds,
the re-leafing trees,
the dark-of-morning bird chorus,
the taste of rain on upheld faces,
that this world was built in beauty,
made for harmony and wholeness.
We must remember
it is we humans
who break what is shining and whole.
It is our species that creates dark times.
We must learn to live
in tune with creation once more. We must sing
balance back into this bountiful earth.
As we work together
to mend the broken world—
against the forces among our own kind
choosing destruction over grace—
may we keep in our imaginations
the ancestral memory
of this world as it was created to be.
May we will it into existence
again. May we move always toward healing
and wholeness. May we never forget
the force of willed action
and words of power.
May we create a blessed light
in these dark times in which we find ourselves.
May we know
deep inside our bones
that, no matter how broken,
our world is always
worth the labor of mending.
© Linda Rodriguez 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Creativity Tips: Read Like a Reporter

I received my Bachelor of Journalism degree back when dinosaurs roamed and social media consisted of notes we passed in class or chain letters.* However, the passage of time and the evolution of my career hasn't changed my love for journalism and my respect for the First Amendment.

Knowing my history as a reporter and news director, several people have recently asked me about social media stories that creatively pass as fact when they are fiction. How can you tell the difference? Read like a reporter.

  1. Approach all stories with a healthy dose of curiosity. Keep in mind, curiosity is not the same as cynicism. But ask yourself the five basic "W" questions: Who wrote this? What publication ran it? Where did it first appear -- in the "News" section or the "Opinion" section? When did it run? (I have seen stories presented as current that were published years ago.) Why is this in my social media feed? (Is it from a trusted news source? Is it from Uncle Jerry? Is it a post someone has paid to distribute?)
  2. Consider the source. Andy Borowitz is satire, dear hearts. This particular Borowitz column brings up another red flag that we see in non-satirical fiction online these days: Inaccurate information. Unfortunately, the cutbacks in news rooms across the country have led to fewer editors and fact checkers. But facts that are this blatantly wrong would be captured before publication at a valid news outlet. Think as you read. (Example: If you're thinking, you realize I just stated as fact the info re: the news room layoffs, and I didn't give you any supporting data to back it up.)
  3. Consider the source again. Along these same lines, remember that anyone can put "News," "Report" or "Daily" in the name of their post and make it sound legitimate. This could be the Kansan Daily News, rather than the Creative Instigation blog. How long has the news source been around? Have you ever heard of it before?
  4. Get information from multiple legitimate sources. If you think The New York Times leans left and The Wall Street Journal leans right, then go for the center. I've started following the Associated Press and Reuters. I relied on the Associated Press as a reporter, and still find their information factual and non-biased.
  5. Look for attribution when you see an adjective. If the story says: Jan and Tom Harness have two daughters, the "two" is an easily provable fact and does not need attribution. If the story says: Jan and Tom Harness have two brilliant daughters, the "brilliant" needs attribution. (Even though it is a fact and we all know it.) The correct approach for that would be: According to Jan Harness, both daughters are brilliant. An attribution would typically be from one person or source -- people don't say exactly the same things, even when they are married. And, when tackling this topic, the question I ask myself is: "Can you prove it?"
  6. Read critically. Reporters know that the concept of "two sides to every story" is wrong -- there are typically far more than that. But, in a news report, look for both sides, look for multiple and differing opinions. Reading critically also means separating fact from opinion -- per tip #5.
  7. Remember that photos and videos can be edited. Case in point: A video "showing" Anderson Cooper laughing uncontrollably at Kellyanne Conway got a gazillion hits. It was an edited clip. If you have questions about the nature of a photo or video -- or story -- Snopes is a great resource. 
  8. Question hyperbole. If you see a story with a number like "a gazillion" in it, ask yourself if that's a fact or if the writer (in this case, me), is stretching the facts to make a point. And because she (the writer, in this case, me) is too lazy to look up the accurate number of hits. If I did look it up, I would need to qualify it: A video "showing" Anderson Cooper laughing uncontrollably at Kellyanne Conway had received 1,333, 291 hits at the time this story was written. Or: A video "showing" Anderson Cooper laughing uncontrollably at Kellyanne Conway received more than 1.3 million hits. 
  9. Check the spelling and the grammar. If the story includes misspelled words and poor grammar -- especially in the first paragraph -- chances are it is not from a reliable news source. Do reliable sources make mistakes? Absolutely. But most mistakes will be caught by an editor.
  10. Back away from vulgarity. Respected news media do not use obscenities in the headline unless they are quoting someone. Consider the publication's style preference, but all caps can be another giveaway that you're seeing a creative take on a story, rather than a news report. With the headline below, using all caps with the vulgarity only provides two immediate clues that you don't need to read this story. 

One of the biggest journalistic dangers today is the same danger I dealt with years ago -- in our rush to be first on the air with a story, there was always the risk that we would move too fast, not check every fact, and make a mistake. There are times now when I see breaking news, and go to check it at the Associated Press or The Washington Post -- and they don't have it. Later, they will. They may not be the first to report the news, but I'm comforted by the idea that they are checking to make sure it's accurate before publication.

If you want to separate the wheat from the chaff, read like a reporter, my friends. Reporters, by nature, question. Now, more than ever, you need to do the same.

*If you're too young to know what a chain letter is, think of a Facebook message that warns you will lose a valued appendage if you don't forward it immediately to seven other people.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Valentine Week: God Says Yes To Me

Friday is typically the day for the Friday Fun feature on the CI blog -- and nothing is more fun, or more fitting, than wrapping up our Valentine Week celebration with a special poem for Lynn, my bestfriendinthewholeworldsincefourthgrade. I'll tell you what, that first day of Mrs. Mansker's class at Boone Elementary School, when Lynn and I met -- well, God said yes to both of us.

God Says Yes To Me
by Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish 
or not wear nail polish 
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly 
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is 
Yes Yes Yes

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Valentine Week: For Sale by Shel Silverstein

Our Valentine celebration certainly wouldn't be complete without Frank Sinatra singing My Funny Valentine

And, speaking of funny Valentines, here's to all the brothers and sisters in the universe! I heart you, Harry and Eva. I really do. Sure, there were moments when I would have sold you, but ... 

For Sale
by Shel Silverstein

One sister for sale!
One sister for sale!
One crying and spying young sister for sale!
I'm really not kidding,
So who'll start the bidding?
Do I hear a dollar?
A nickel?
A penny?
Oh, isn't there, isn't there, isn't there any
One kid who will buy this old sister for sale, 
This crying and spying young sister for sale?

Eva and the tickle monster.
Harry, the hero!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Valentine Week: Love Lost

We don't always have a Valentine on Valentine's Day. Today's poem is geared toward those moments. It's also the only one of my poems I'm sharing this week.

First, let me explain: People tend to think all poetry is biographical. It is not. My love life didn't inspire this poem. My love of words did. I heard someone say, No love lost, and I thought, Well. That's not quite right

After signing the papers

I heard someone say
"No love
lost between them.

No love lost."

And passing by, you
then walked away.

You and I 
know love lost. 

Love lost. 

-- Jan Sokoloff Harness

Yes! Let's all go buy some candy. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine Week: Windchime by Tony Hoagland

Happy Valentine's Day! Let me just start by saying publicly to Tom: You're the One. You're still the one. (This is the 38th Valentine's Day we have celebrated together. How ONEderful is that?)

The secret to a long marriage? Laughter. 
Today's poem may surprise you -- I was looking for different poems, something you might not have read and something that captured married love. And I found this beauty. It's written by a husband for a wife, so a bit backwards for me to share it. But ... the feeling is universal:

by Tony Hoagland

She goes out to hang the windchime
in her nightie and her work boots.
It's six-thirty in the morning
and she's standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,

windchime in her left hand, 
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she's trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.

She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it -- the wind blowing
through the sound the windchime
wasn't making
because it wasn't there. 

No one, including me, especially anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving -- 
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands upon the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth
with the nail in it. 

P.S. Some of us do still have faith in the whole "till death do us part" part ... Happy Valentine's Day! 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentine Week: To a Daughter Leaving Home

This week, we're going to celebrate lots of love in lots of ways! 
Breakfast in Bed by Mary Cassatt
I remember holding my sweet Kate when she was a baby, and my heart was beyond full, beyond happy. The immensity of the love I felt gave the word wholehearted new meaning. And, as I sat there rocking her, I suddenly realized that the way I felt about Kate was exactly how Mom felt about me.

With that in mind, here's our first love poem of the week, with special hugs to Kate and Mary:

To a Daughter Leaving Home
by Linda Pastan

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
with distance, 
pumping, pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter, 
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving

And here's a link to one of my favorite parenting songs: Child of Mine by Carole King. Enjoy!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Fun: Make a Valentine!

Yep! It's part of my visual journal. So MUCH fun. 
Remember when you were a kid, and you'd fold a piece of paper in half and cut a heart? I bet you can still do it. And this weekend is the perfect time! In just a few minutes, you can make a Valentine for someone you love.*

It's easy peasy** -- I promise. Just go to your craft closet, choose your paper and play!

Sigh. I heard you. You don't have a craft closet. Fine. Here's the beautiful part about making Valentines. It doesn't matter. Grab a magazine, wrapping paper, the newspaper, a grocery sack. You can be creative with anything. And, once you have your heart all ready, write from the heart.

Happy weekend, peeps! I hope it's filled with love.

*I made this one for myself. Because I'm cute like that.
** Is peasy a word? And, if so, how do you spell it?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Rule of Three: Nevertheless, She Persisted

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been in politics a long time, so it's no surprise that he delivered a powerful statement when shutting Sen. Elizabeth Warren down Tuesday night. 

He followed the magical rule of three:

McConnell made other comments leading up to this literary triumvirate. However, the power was here, and -- most specifically -- in the final sentence. "Nevertheless, she persisted."

He didn't intend to give the opposition a rallying cry. He didn't intend to shine a spotlight on Coretta Scott King's letter. And he certainly didn't intend to give me a post. 

Nevertheless, he delivered. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Creativity Tips: Creative Rewards Create Results

When I was a chubby little girl, mom would now and then suggest that we go on a diet together -- the idea being, it's easier to diet with a partner. So, we'd buddy up, eat right, and lose a few pounds.

Then, as a reward, we'd go out and get an ice cream sundae.

Mom was absolutely right about the partner part. Her reward approach? Maybe not the best.

Let me share my new take on using rewards to support healthy habits -- what's working for me and Tom might work for you! Or, it might give you an idea ... 

Tom and I started the year determined to exercise every day. There's really no reason why we can't. He's retired. I work at home. Our schedules are flexible enough to accommodate daily exercise. And yet ...

To get over our inertia, we agreed on a creative reward system: We'd use a daily journal to track every mile on the treadmill, bike or walks. We'd give ourselves mileage points for exercise classes -- 2 miles for every circuit class I take, 1.5 miles for every yoga class. Then, at the end of the month, we'd add up our collective miles; look at a map; choose a site within the circumference of our mileage that we had never seen before; and go see it!

This past weekend, we put the reward plan into action. After adding up our January miles, we decided to visit the Walter Cronkite Memorial in St. Joseph, Mo., at Missouri Western State University.

It was fabulous -- and I'll post more about the visit, probably later this week, because getting out of town is a real creative boost for me. For now, full disclosure: I have not exercised every day this year. Almost, but not quite. On the other hand, Tom has exercised every single day this year. Every single day.

At home or at work, with spouses, colleagues or kids -- the right reward works wonders. And that's the way it is ... 

Monday, February 6, 2017

#MondayMotivation -- Be The Boss

My Facebook friend Garland posted this link on Sunday, and I love it -- it's a clip of Bruce Springsteen demonstrating why he is The Boss.

At his concerts, Springsteen likes to take a request from the audience, even if the request is for a song the band hasn't rehearsed recently, or even played for years. That's a fun change of pace, in these days of lip syncing. At this 2013 concert in Germany, the selected song was a Chuck Berry classic: You Never Can Tell.

As you watch the video, keep an eye open for creativity lessons that can help you be The Boss this week! For example:

  • Springsteen isn't afraid to veer off into new territory, knowing he has a team that will keep him on track. (No, Bruce, not that key. Not that guitar.)
  • He lets others shine, and their solos are amazing.
  • The entire E Street Band works hard. They're having fun, but they're working. Sweat the details, my friends. Details make the difference. 

You'll find other lessons too. For now, as we start a new week, let's put that first idea to work -- and try something new! What could happen? You Never Can Tell ... 

No, Bruce. Seriously. You're gonna hurt yourself. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Creativity Tips: Practice the Art's of Salesmanship

Life is good. I walked into a local grocery store yesterday to pick up some salsa and a few other things for a new recipe. Now, you've never gone grocery shopping with me. It's not pretty. I am one of those shoppers who slows down the minute I walk into the store, and then wanders the aisles, looking at every single option. (Yes. I know how annoying this is to those of you in a hurry. I consider the grocery store a sanctuary. And I do try to move out of your way.)

But I digress. As I was standing there, staring at the 2,000 options, a man came up with a box of salsa and chips and other goodies and quickly restocked his area.

"You know what you want?" he said. (And it was a statement, not a question.) "You want Art's Mild Salsa. It is the best! The very best in town."

It was, of course, what he was restocking. But he was happy and friendly and sincerely enthusiastic about his company and their products.

"It's the best, huh?"

"Absolutely! The very best! And our chips and tortillas are the best too -- you won't find any better."

"What's the difference between the hot salsa and the mild salsa?" I asked, immediately willing to buy Art's and give it a try. I mean, how do you say no to super salsa enthusiasm? "Is the hot extra hot?"

"No, no! Not too hot. It's great!" He finished stocking the tortilla chips, stood up and grinned. "Tell you what, I'll pull the truck around in the parking lot and give you some samples. If you like 'em, you tell your friends!"

I like 'em. I'm telling my friends. Buy Art's.

Yes. He gave me all this stuff. 
I haven't tried it all, but what I have tried is delicious. 

Want the creativity/business tip portion of the post? The man is stocking grocery shelves. You may not consider that the most glamorous job on the planet. But he saw an opportunity to talk with a potential client and he seized it. And, in less than a minute, he turned that opportunity into future sales. Engaging, enthusiastic communication -- in print or in person -- works creative wonders. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Creativity Tips: What Would Du Do?

I know what Du would do if she read that headline. She'd laugh.

Duana Linville-Dralus had the best laugh. She was a completely irresistible, throw-your-head-back-and-roar kind of woman -- one of the best people who ever walked this planet. And she was my mentor, which makes me one of the luckiest people who ever walked this planet.

Feb. 1 was Du's birthday, so today is the perfect time for me to cherish the memory of that laugh, and share three of my favorite answers to the question I still ask myself: "What would Du do?"

  • If you can help someone, help them. Whether or not they can help you in return is completely immaterial. (Du helped me before she knew who I was or what I did. I was just a young woman in serious need of assistance.)
  • Be true to yourself. (Du was the first woman leader I knew who was wholeheartedly who she was all the time. She wasn't a different person in the boardroom than she was in her kitchen.)
  • Do something nice every day. (One of the nice things Du did was simple, but powerful: She kept money in her pocket. That way, she was always ready to give to people in need.) 

When Duana's cancer came back full force, people would periodically ask her, "Are you going to die?" (That is not an alternative fact. I was there when it happened. Several times.) Her response was always the same, "Yep! But not today. Not today. So, let's do something!"

Today, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to open the bottle of champagne I keep in the fridge, because she believed in always being ready for a celebration. I'm going to toast Deb and Doug, for sharing their mom with me. I'm going to toast Maureen and the rest of our group, for being part of an amazing sisterhood. And I'm going to toast Duana, a remarkable woman whose memory is now, and shall always be, a blessing.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Creativity Tips: Blankety Blank!

Good lord, I love the Internet. I write a headline: Blankety Blank! And then I think, "I wonder if everyone knows what that means." So I Google the term, and Merriam-freakin'-Webster pops right up. Blankety blank: damned.

Damned. That's exactly how I feel when someone gives me a new journal and I look at that first, blank page. What am I supposed to do with that sparkling clean page? What do I have to say that's worthy of an unspoiled journal?

This, of course, is not the reaction gift-givers want me to have.

Case in point: Mary recently visited The Pioneer Woman Mercantile and bought me this amazing gift -- a cookbook repurposed into a journal. Two of my favorite hobbies all rolled up into one -- cooking and writing. I loved the journal and the thought behind it.

And yet ... aieeeeeeee! Blank pages.

Well, new-journal nerves be damned. This is now my visual journal. I'm going to doodle, do quick collages and maybe create To Do lists with stickers. (Yes. My children are 26 and 23. Yes. I still have a drawer full of stickers.) I'm going to play with the blankety-blank thing.

There are all kinds of blank pages in life -- and they can be intimidating. But fresh starts are filled with possibilities. And possibilities are filled with hope. It's your day. Fill in the blanks.

Monday, January 30, 2017

#MondayMotivation -- Back to (Monkey) Business

Do you work better when you feel encouraged or when you're frightened? Are you more creative when you're happy or when you despair? Do you feel healthier when you're relaxed and focused -- or stressed and stretched?

I'm a writer. I can't function, I can't be my most creative, when I am 24/7 angry/terrified/horrified/etc. So, this week, I am officially getting back to monkey business.

Now, let's make one thing perfectly clear: Being a writer doesn't negate the fact that I am also a liberal Jewish momma. I will continue to call, write and visit my legislators; donate to good causes; and attend protests and rallies.

But I will also take to heart a wise remark from my friend Hedy: "It's important to show up for rallies! And it's important to show up for each other, too."

She's right. And the way I show up for you -- and for my clients and for myself -- is by being a happy voice and a positive creative instigator.

With that in mind, I'm going to focus most of my political commentary on Twitter (you'll find me @sokoloffharness), but I'm getting back to creativity tips on the blog and more goofy posts about Mom and the girls on Facebook. Will political posts pop up? Undoubtedly. The problems aren't going away and neither am I.

But people depend on me to be creative. And that means I need sock monkeys and crayons and silliness in my life on a daily basis -- along with my daily protests.

Let's start now! No, you don't have to make a sock monkey. You could pick up a crayon and doodle. And if you don't have a crayon handy, just do this: Close your eyes, take a deep breath and think about what you need to stay energized this week. What do you need to stay energized for the long haul? Take care of yourself. And we'll all take care of each other.
Leslie Adams took this photo years ago. Still one of my favs.
(Is Leslie still one of my favs? Or the photo
Incomplete sentences only work if they're clear.)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Fun: Color Inside the Lines

Happy Friday! If you're a long-time CI team member, you know how I feel about coloring inside the lines. It's fine -- if it's your choice.

These days, it's my choice.

In December, I was in a creative slump. Then, Kate and I went to a holiday mart and saw an artist drawing on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pen.

"Hmmmmm," I said, drawing on my own brilliant way with words. "I could do that."

I can -- and I do! After a long day of writing, I now pull out my new iPad Pro and color. Typically, within the lines*. It's one step up from mindless, and it's fun. It's also useful. Exploring new media and methods recharges creative batteries.

Here's to a happy weekend -- go color!

*When I use an incomplete sentence, I'm writing outside the lines. By choice. Party on.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The World Doesn't End Today

I know, I know, I know. Many of us are bereft to see these eight years end -- not because a Republican is taking office; there are many wonderful Republicans. But, as the majority of Americans agree, the man who's taking office isn't on that list.

(Fascinating how I hate to mention his name. Words have power and his name alone makes me cringe.)

Since he-who-must-not-be-named has said he doesn't really start work until Monday, I'm going to take a leap of faith and say the world won't end today. I'm praying it won't end during the next four years. And, with that in mind, here are three ways to help us move forward:

Keep the hope alive. The Obamas are leaving the White House, not leaving America. Sign up here for updates on post-presidential activities and the Obama Foundation.

Speak up. Show up. Call your senators and representatives. Attend protests and rallies. Now is the time to speak up. My mom says everything happens for the best, and I truly believe the best thing about this administration will be the unstoppable force of positive power we unleash together.

Take care of you. I've experienced this, and I know others have too: The combination of personal stress and political insanity becomes overwhelming. There are times when you need to turn off the tweets and step away from the news. You can't run on political anger non-stop for the next four years. You'll run out of steam. Breathe in, breathe out. Enjoy the goodness all around us -- it's still there, my friends. Then, come back refreshed, and ready to continue the battle.

We the People are here.