Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Hello, friends! I wanted to wish you a proper Irish blessing on this special day. There are many special sayings shared on St. Patrick’s day, and the one pictured above is my favorite Gaelic prayer.

I’ve always been a fan of St. Patrick’s day, and not just for the shamrocks, green beer, parades and pinching of any non-green wearing friends. That’s certainly fun, and I enjoy partaking in a pint of Guinness when I can, but the holiday feels deeply personal to me. In addition to attending St. Patrick’s school from kindergarten through 8th grade (no joke), I have deep Irish roots.

My maiden name is Clark, and my great great grandfather stowed away on a ship from Ireland. Legend has it he got into a fight with is school teacher and was frightened to face his family. So he headed for America to start a new life.

Clark Coat of Arms

This is the Clark family coat of arms in Ireland. Try looking up your own family’s coat of arms. It’s a great way to feel connected to your lineage.

For me, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day is a way to honor my heritage, as well as the patron saint and apostle of Ireland who was said to have driven all of the snakes out of the country.

Whether you’re Irish or not, I hope you find some fun in the day and enjoy learning about a beautiful culture.

Be sure to raise a glass and say “Sláinte” (pronounced SLAN-cha), which is the Irish word for “health” to celebrate. Your friends will surely be impressed.

I’ll leave you with another great Irish saying, because you indulged me while I talked about my heritage – and you’re still reading.

“May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.”

-Kate

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Trend Alert: SXSW 2015 Is in Full Swing

sxsw-interactive-logoIf you’re in the communications field, you’re probably well aware of the annual SXSW festival in Austin, TX. What started as a music festival in the 80s has grown to include wildly popular film and interactive sessions. In fact, SXSW Interactive has become a massive conference where the world watches to see what’s next in tech.

Companies like Twitter, Foursquare and Waze launched at SXSW Interactive.

Needless to say, there’s immense anticipation and a constant trend watch around this time of year. According to the official event site, “The 2015 event features five days of compelling presentations and panels from the brightest minds in emerging technology, scores of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders and an unbeatable lineup of special programs showcasing the best new websites, video games and startup ideas the community has to offer.”

SXSW

Here’s a snapshot of the entrance to the tradeshow floor. Always tons of excitement and people from all over the world.

It’s all pretty fascinating. I love it because I work for a communications firm (and have a little blog). So I try to stay tuned in to what’s on the horizon for all of us in terms of the way we communicate. That’s really what’s at the core of all of this…communications.

Everyone is looking for the magic pill (or device) that fosters the most real and honest connections with a generation that’s mentally overloaded.

Ironically, the more tech that’s introduced to society, the more essential the need to simplify. We need gadgets to organize our gadgets. There’s no going back at this point, though. So onward we march, learn, play and create!

The 2015 SXSW Interactive festival began yesterday, and it goes through Monday. I had the pleasure of attending in person last year, which is where I met Mindy Kaling and Seth Meyers. #starstruck

Mindy Kaling

This was a super fun moment meeting Mindy – aka Kelly Kapoor or more recently Dr. Mindy Lahiri

This year I’ll be attending via my social channels – and notes from my colleagues who headed down yesterday. Twitter is already exploding with news about this year’s conference.

Follow #SXSW2015 on Twitter for more news as it happens this weekend into Monday.

Who knows, maybe you’ll catch and act on a trend that will land you a session in next year’s event?  Here’s to having a tech-savvy day no matter what field you’re in!

-Kate

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A 28-Day Writing Plan

pencilHere’s a post for my writer friends out there. Yes, that’s you. I recently stumbled upon this 28-day writing plan by Paul Furiga and decided to give it a whirl. I was lured by the encouraging intro which stated:

“Writing doesn’t have to be hard – not for you, and not for the people who will read what you write.”

Amen. I’m in the choir this guy is preaching to. Writing doesn’t have to be hard, but sometimes it is. Especially when the inner critic rears its ugly head or the right words go hiding in the dark alleys of your mind. There have been times I’d rather clean my bathroom than sit and write an assignment. Yet, I still love writing. I’m a walking contradiction. So I decided to partake in this writing exercise to see what will happen. It’s free. In fact, the investment is only a few minutes a day for 28 days – a mere blip on the radar of my existence. It might even be half a blip if all goes well.

I’m not very far into the plan (week one), but it’s been enlightening. I’ve tossed the critics to the side and delved into the reasons I need to write. Other than the obvious motives of needing to write for work and the income, I’m discovering that writing is a powerful release for me. It’s something that has to happen – like a sneeze.

It’s not always good writing, but it always feels good to write.

I wonder if it’s how bees feel about flying? They’re not exactly the most graceful beings in the air, and I imagine it’s pretty hard work carrying their weight with such small wings. But they have wings, and so they fly. I have ideas, and so I write.

I imagine you have ideas, too? Let’s get them out of our hearts and heads and onto paper. Let’s take someone on an adventure, share a helpful tip, or leave a quiet legacy.

Week two of the writing plan is about “get in shape” exercises. The author says, “Success in any physical endeavor requires consistent discipline in executing the training plan. The same is true for writing.” Perhaps you’ll slip into your writing gear (whatever that looks like?) and join me!

Be sure to share some of your experiences. Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram by tagging me @Katejandersen or using #CreativeTipTues.

Have a creative day and write on!

-Kate

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Tips for Aspiring Writers

I’ve recently had a couple of people ask about advice for aspiring writers. I was honored they asked for my thoughts, and I decided to dedicate a post to the response. This is such a broad topic, so I’ll focus on the writing process for now.

Kurt Vonnegut

via

This might sound crazy, but I love everything about the writing process: the creativity, the solitude, the right word, the research, the procrastination, the blocks, the breakthroughs, the editing…all of it. It’s a constant journey, and one I am proud to travel. I’ve been writing since the day I could hold a pencil and form letters, but I’m not the most well-known or perfect writer. I’ve come to realize that isn’t always the point.

Sometimes you do things because they make you feel alive. Writing isn’t always glamorous or joyful. Notice “procrastination” and “writing blocks” included in my description of writing? If we didn’t have these frustrating moments, the breakthroughs wouldn’t feel as important. Each part of the process has a role, and it should make you feel something deep inside. It should remind you you’re human and blessed to even be breathing.

Whatever you choose to do as a hobby or profession, it should make you feel alive. That’s when you know you’re on to something.

If you’ve chosen the path of writing, here are a few thoughts to help inspire the writer within:

Sit and write.

Writing quote

via

One of my favorite quotes from Steven Pressfield is “put your ass where your heart wants to be.” If you’re a painter, then paint. If you’re a chef, then cook. If you have a passion for words and connecting with people, writing is the perfect conduit for you. So stop organizing your sock drawer or scrolling through Pinterest for more recipes you’ll never bake and get to writing. Put yourself in front of the computer, because the page is waiting for you to show up.

Believe in your voice.

Writing Quote

via

I’ve heard countless people say they’re not enough. They don’t feel creative enough, original enough or good enough with grammar. My response to that is you are always enough. If you feel inexperienced at writing, remember you are experienced in life. Write about things important to you. Tell stories that only you have lived. There are people who can help you edit when it’s time. Until then, be gentle and true to yourself. Speak up and be heard. You are important, and we need to hear what you have to say.

Edit when it’s time.

Once you’ve developed a habit of showing up and writing daily, there comes a time when you need to edit your work and share it with others – perhaps even a publisher. If this is an area where you feel insecure, reach out to that friend or co-worker who is meticulous about grammar and ask for help. If you have kids, get to know his/her English teacher and trade baked goodies for a proofreading session. Get creative about the areas where you don’t feel confident. If you want to brush up on your skills, take an English class at the local community college or subscribe to the Associated Press Stylebook. What you don’t want to happen is let the process of editing keep you from introducing your beautiful work to the world.

Listen to feedback with an open mind.

Editing quote

via

If you’ve shared your work and the feedback includes pages of red ink, don’t get discouraged. If you’ve been turned down by countless publishers, don’t stop writing. Try to find common themes from the feedback and make adjustments. While the writing feels incredibly personal, remember that it’s the story being reviewed – not you. Separate your emotions from the work. When you can do this, and be objective about the mechanics of your writing, you give your work a chance to become stronger.

Read.

Reading

via

One of the best ways to become a good writer is to read good writing. Pick up a novel and immerse yourself in the storyline. Once you’ve read the book, conduct a mini review. What worked and what didn’t? How would you have changed the ending? Did you like the dialogue or was it forced? What emotions did you have, and how did the author engage you? Dissecting a book is a sure fire way to inspire a story of your own. If all else fails, read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg or Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. They’re two of my favorite resources for writing.

Let me know if this was helpful! I’d be happy to share writing tips specifically for bloggers if there’s interest. Just let me know in the comments, on Twitter, through email – however you like to communicate. All of my info is listed on the Contact page.

Have a creative day, my friends, and go write something awesome! #CreativeTipTues

-Kate

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Perfect Pancakes!

Pancake PicIt’s officially Pancake Day! In our house that means it’s brinner time (fixing breakfast foods for dinner).

As a little background, Pancake Day is also called Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, which is the last day of feasting before Lent. It represents a tradition of eating rich foods before fasting begins.

To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to share some creative ideas and helpful tips for making the most perfect pancakes – regardless of when you choose to flip your cakes.

Tips for the Tastiest Pancakes

This is my favorite recipe because it uses buttermilk, which makes a difference in the flavor and fluffiness of your pancakes.

If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice with 1 cup of milk and let sit for 10 minutes.

Williams-Sonoma Vanilla

Source: Williams-Sonoma

No matter which recipe you use, adding a dash of vanilla to your batter will truly enhance the flavor. Using a high-quality vanilla, like this one from Williams-Sonoma, makes a difference, too.

Fix the Fluffiest Pancakes

One of the most helpful tips for the fluffiest pancakes is to be sure and not over stir the batter, which makes your pancakes tough.

pancake batter

Source: Say Yes

Letting your batter rest, separating and whipping your egg whites, waiting until you see bubbles and flipping only once are other super helpful tips. See more details on this post.

A No-drip Tip

Use plastic squeeze bottles to pour your batter and keep the clean up to a minimum!

Plastic Squeeze Bottle

Source: Amazon

You can find condiment bottles like these online or in most grocery stores. You can also recycle and clean out a ketchup or salad dressing bottle for the same purpose!

Get Creative

Add a little creative flair to your hot cakes and try one of these recipes tonight. It is a holiday after all!

Nutella and Mini Pancake Kabobs

Nutella pancake kabobs

Source: Tablespoon

Stuffed Pancakes

Stuffed Pancakes

Source: Prepared Pantry

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Pancake Pops

pancake pop

Source: Number 2 Pencil

Rainbow Pancakes

Rainbow Pancakes

Source: I Am Baker (Nothing says “Mardi Gras”, which is actually French for Fat Tuesday, like a stack of bright-colored cakes! These might be the winner for our dinner tonight.)

Regardless of how you stack ’em up, I hope you have a happy and delicious pancake day!

-Kate

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Random Acts of Kindness

I’m a fan of “national” days, and there’s pretty much one every day. For instance, yesterday was National Pizza Day and last week contained Doodle Day and Bubblegum Day. Not even kidding.

When I heard about this week’s national celebration, I was compelled to write a post because it falls near and dear to my heart – it’s Random Acts of Kindness Week. Not just a day, but an entire week!

Act of Kindness Art

This darling art project can be found at Lil Blue Boo.

Have you ever had someone do something nice for you totally out of the blue? Maybe they let you merge during rush hour, stood and held a door a little longer to let you through, or let you step ahead in the checkout lane because you only had a few items? This is the week to celebrate and share more of these acts of kindness.

You can make an important impact on someone’s day – and ultimately their heart.

If you haven’t seen this ad about Random Acts of Kindness, you need to. And grab your tissues.

I’ll never forget the time a lady paid for my lunch in the Chick-fil-a drive thru. Her message to me (via the window clerk) was “she just wanted you to have a good day.” What?! I was shocked, and happy, and wanted to cry all at the same time. How nice was that?

Here’s a printable list of 40 random acts of kindness you could do this week.

I created this list when I was turning 40-years old and feeling unusually reflective. I decided to spend my birthday helping others. So I wrote down 40 ideas, mapped out my plan, gathered supplies and money, and spent the day spreading joy.

One item on my list was sharing the idea of “giving” with my kids, so I checked out my son from school and had him join my journey. We had the most memorable day surprising strangers, seeing new parts of town, and learning about the needs in our community. Here are a few snaps from our top 40 list…

Coupons

Evan and I left coupons and happy notes in the diaper aisle to help out a family.

Kind notes

We typed kind messages and put them on random cars in parking lots!

Free stamps

We gave away free stamps to someone standing in line at the post office. 🙂

Free toy

We left coins on top of a toy machine in the grocery store to brighten a little one’s day!

Laundry Machine

We filled a few machines with coins at the local laundromat.

Ducks!

We shared our “good” bread with the neighborhood ducks. They quacked with joy.

Evan and I also had a lot of fun. At one point, he rode around the block in a fire truck – after we dropped off fresh brownies and lottery tickets at our local fire department. Apparently they love homemade treats.

I highly recommend trying a few (or all) of these ideas. Wouldn’t it be cool to see what would happen if each of us took a minute to be intentional about helping others? I honestly think we could change the world.

Here’s an added bonus for today’s post. The first five people to comment will receive a random act of kindness directly from me!

It could be a book, pretty stationery, a gift card…any surprise. It will happen sometime over the next few months – when the mood strikes (hence the “random” part). My only request is that you pay it forward and do the same for your friends. Here’s a blurb for you to post on your Facebook page:

  • I’m participating in a ‘Pay it Forward’ initiative. The first five people who comment on this status with “I’m in” will receive a surprise from me at some point during this next year (2015) – anything like a book, homemade treats, a postcard…absolutely any surprise! There will be no warning. It will happen when the mood comes over me and I find something I believe would suit you and make you happy. These five people must make the same offer on their Facebook status. Once my first five have commented with “I’m in”, I will forward this message to you privately, so you can copy and paste it, and put it on your status. That way we can form a web of connection of kindness. Let’s do more nice and loving things in 2015, without any reason other than to make each other smile and show that we think of each other. Here’s to a more enjoyable and friendly, and love filled year!

Here’s to an awesome day of kindness! Be sure to tag #RAKweek2015 to join the conversation online.

Much love,

-Kate

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Doodles and Droodles

DoodlesDoodling is awesome, and it does wonders for your creativity. Scientists say that as you doodle, the left side of your brain (that’s the logical, A-type personality side) begins to relax. Your mind drifts and opens to new possibilities – like busting down a door with one kick. It can be a small, but effective way to get ideas while you’re in a meeting or feeling stuck about what to write, say or create. Just pick up a pen and let loose on that paper.

So this is pretty interesting…I found out doodling is not only good for creativity, but also a special cause. Tomorrow happens to be National Doodle Day, which is a fundraising event to help Epilepsy Action over in England. Feel free to check it out, enter the online contest and doodle for some good!

National Doodle Day

If you want to step up your doodle game a bit higher, I challenge you to try droodles.

Droodles were first introduced to me by one of my beloved creative directors, Nick Nicholson. He would draw droodles on a white board and challenge the creative team to “solve” them. What the heck is a droodle, you might ask?

The simplest explanation: Droodles are part doodle, part riddle.

I did a little Wiki search to find a more formal answer, as well. Droodles were trademarked in 1953 by a cartoonist named Roger Price. Apparently they were all the rage in the 50’s and 60’s. The general form is minimal, usually a square box containing a few abstract lines or squiggles. The cartoonist would develop a humorous explanation of the picture’s description. It’s also a bit of a Rorschach test, where readers could interpret their own meaning and share in the humor.

Here are a few examples.

Droodle 1

Possible answer: A bear climbing a tree.

Droodle 2

Possible answer: A spider doing a handstand.

Droodle 3

Possible answer: A ship approaching the tip of an iceberg

Okay, friends. Take a whack at some of these. What do you see in the pictures above? Leave a comment so we can share in your creativity and wit.

Have a great day, and here’s to drawing oodles of doodles!

-Kate

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Inspiring Lessons from The War of Art

The War of ArtIf you haven’t had a chance to read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, I can assure you it will be worth every special minute of your time. It’s incredibly motivating – like the kind that kicks you in the couch potato pants and gets you moving in the direction you were meant to travel.

In fact, this is one of my favorite passages that inspired me to write today’s post:


Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.

Do it or don’t do it.

It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer, write a symphony, or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you, and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”


Talk about motivation. I don’t know about you, but that last line is a bone-chilling challenge. Let’s accept. What do you say?

If you’re a painter, paint. If you’re a teacher, teach. If you’re a leader, lead. If you’re a mom, mother. The people in your world need you.

For those who aspire to be writers or artists, and who fall near and dear to my heart, here’s an added challenge.

  1. Accept you’re a writer or artist. Another brilliant quote from Pressfield suggests, “If you find yourself asking, ‘Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?’ chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” The more scared you are about a calling, the more you can be sure you need to do it.
  1. Get started. Grab your computer or paper and pen. I’ll wait… Okay, now start writing and don’t stop until you’ve hit at least 1,000 words. What should you write about? Anything. It could be about a crappy day you had, your best friend in grade school who always made you laugh, or your obsession with Snicker’s bars. Need more inspiration? In the movie “Finding Forrester” the character played by Sean Connery, who is a reclusive writer, asks his student to take an existing piece of work as a starting point. The student transforms it into something unique. You could try that, too. Take lines from your favorite song and create characters and a storyline around their relationship. You may surprise yourself with where you end up. The goal isn’t necessarily in the masterpiece. What matters most is that you’re writing – and doing what you were put on this earth to do. If you’re an artist, do the same exercise, but draw or paint for at least 30 minutes. Do this every day, and the great masterpiece will be your life.

Here’s to you and your amazing talents. Now go get ’em!

-Kate

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Creative Habits

IMG_5301Habits are a funny thing. Sometimes we want to kick them and other times we want to form them. I’m always in fluctuation between the two. Right now I’m desperately trying to drink more water during the day. I religiously drink coffee every morning, so you’d think remembering to water myself would be a cinch.

Water on Head

More water!

Just like anything, there are good and not-so-good habits when it comes to creativity. Keeping a sketchbook and people watching (a favorite pastime) are fun habits and can do wonders for creative thinking.

Sketchbook

Sketching is awesome!

Other habits simply make you lazy and turn off your brain. That’s not exactly the recipe for developing imaginative ideas. For instance, I have a habit of driving the same way to work, which literally keeps me from seeing new sights. Remember the scene from National Lampoon’s European Vacation when they keep driving past Big Ben? That’s me…constant loop.

national lampoons

Look kids, Big Ben!

It’s easy to fall into routines. When you do them long enough, you create a well-worn path that deepens into a rut, making it harder to get out. I never want to be the kind of person who “phones it in” when it comes to offering creative ideas.

So I’m in the process of assessing my habits, and I’ve decided that instead of kicking stale habits, I’m going to shake them up. (Thanks for the motivation, T. Swift.)

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Rotate artwork and photos in my office. The family pics don’t have to rest on the desk. I can move them to a side table and bring a fun piece of art from the living room into my office. It’s gettin’ crazy up in here.
  2. Sit in the visitor’s chair. My office has several chairs reserved for guests. Why not become a guest in my own space? I wonder what new ideas I’ll think of from the other side of the desk?
  3. Use a different restroom. Since “bio breaks” tend to be the only times I actually leave my seat (another bad habit), the least I can do is head to the next closest bathroom in the building and potentially run into new people along the way.
  4. Take a short break (other than going to the bathroom) and talk to someone new – on purpose.
  5. Listen to a new station on Pandora. This means giving up Blind Pilot and JT for a while, but I’m okay with that. I have a feeling there are a few country singers out there who have a lesson or two about life I could use. Consider this student “present”.
  6. Pull out a sketchpad instead of the laptop. I enjoy sketching, but when it comes to thinking of ideas for work, I tend to lean on the computer – literally. I’m going to kick it old school and sketch my next round of thoughts. Sketchnoting, here I come.
  7. Use different color ink. Black and blue are for bruises. I’m going to mix it up with orange or green and just see what happens. Maybe nothing, but at least my notes will be prettier.
  8. Go outside and park it on a bench for a few minutes. Nothing beats stale ideas like some fresh air and new surroundings. It seems simple, but I don’t get outside nearly enough during the day. My Fitbit would agree with me, too.

I hope you’ll join me in trying some of these ideas or thinking of a few new ones yourself. Please share!

In the meantime, have an enormously creative day.

-Kate

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Five Must-Read Creative Books

creative booksIf you have a shred of desire to be more creative and leave a beautiful or thought-provoking mark on this earth, I believe it’s essential to always be on a path of trial and knowledge. And some of the most necessary fuel for exploration and learning is found in books.

As a busy mom, I don’t always have time to sit and read. The growing stack of books on my nightstand is enough to prove that point, but there are certain books that come along and change things. They help shift priorities and feel worthy of an all-night reading binge.

Here’s a list of five books that fit this description, and what I consider must-reads for creative types.

These are in no particular order and include a few of my favorite excerpts from each.

{ONE} Creativity, Inc.Creativity Inc“Always take a chance on better, even if it seems threatening.”

“Ultimately, what we’re after is authenticity…You’ll never stumble upon the unexpected if you stick only to the familiar. In my experience, when people go out on research trips, they always come back changed.”

{TWO} Imagine: How Creativity WorksImagine“In fact, the only way to remain creative over time, to not be undone by our expertise, is to experiment with ignorance, to stare at things we don’t fully understand.”

{THREE} The War of Artwar of art“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

“Put your ass where your heart wants to be.”

{FOUR} Steal Like An Artiststeal like an artist“You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.”

“Be curious about the world in which you live. Look things up. Chase down every reference. Go deeper than anybody else–that’s how you’ll get ahead.”

{FIVE} The Creative Habitthe creative habit“Creativity is the product of preparation and effort, and it’s within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it. All it takes is the willingness to make creativity a habit, an integral part of your life.”

It’s your turn! What’s your favorite book on creativity? How did this book help you? Tag and tell me on Twitter or Instagram @katejandersen.

Have a creative day!

-Kate

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