Hear Ye, Hear Ye: Announcement Time

Two quick things…

1. I’ve loved getting to know you, the readers of Creatives.

2. Because I don’t want to lose touch with all of you, I wanted to let you know this blog has gotten a facelift and has moved here. (www.zahndrew.com)

The new blog site (though same in purpose) allows for more creativity in design and more freedom in content posting options.

Most importantly, please subscribe and get fed creatively! Subscribe to the new blog.

See you there!

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Christmas Decorating for the Holidays: Creative Expression Do’s and Don’ts

As creatives, we appreciate design, order (sometimes disorder) and, at times, abstract thinking to express our creativity.

Enter holiday decor. A few do’s and don’ts for a successful decorating season…

Do Decorate. When it comes to decor, I love it, but don’t love doing it. Our first Christmas tree was a tropical style tree we got at Lowe’s, glittered and all. Pic below, in all its Charlie Brown Christmas Tree splendor.

It’s fun a fun little tree. We had a Lowe’s gift card and wanted a small tree. As Tim Gunn says “make it work!” We did. Ta da!

Don’t Apologize. “No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize.” Julia Child. Good advice applicable to creative works of any kind. Apologizing is often nothing more than a passive aggressive attempt for affirmation–and that’s just not the holiday spirit.

Do Enjoy Music Whilst Decorating. We picked this one up yesterday… and are enjoying Mr. Buble’s take on the classics very much.

Don’t Make Your Own Music. Unless you really know what you’re doing, this might end up happening…


Do (and Don’t) Ask for Input. All creativity, like it or not, is subject to critique. Some artists love it, some loathe it.

A good critique improves the work. Another set of eyes and ears is invaluable. Often we just have to suck it up, take the critique, and make a choice: fix it or leave it.

What about the festive decoration in the picture to the left? I recently saw this little wonder and it provoked a few questions in me…

“Who’s idea was this? Husband tired of decorating? Son/daughter who miss the tree that was recently cut down?”

“What were they going for? Gothic pillar? Pumpkin point? Spire of holiday spirit?”

A critique, in this instance, might’ve been helpful. Perhaps.

What are YOUR do’s and don’ts for holiday decorations?

5 Steps to Creating a Memorable and Effective Company Video

Corporate video.

Those two words might as well be substituted by other equally exciting pairings such as root canal, boring lecture, or chalkboard nails.

Most companies just need a creative, like yourself, to take some initiative. I currently hold the title of ‘corporate sales trainer’ at my organization, yet part of my job description now includes making monthly video productions for trainings, meetings, and even company parties. It’s a great way to express my creativity, get paid to do it, and create a corporate culture of honor, respect, and professionalism.

Corporate company videos are valuable tools that leave your audience feeling educated, appreciated, and (fingers crossed) entertained. Here’s a few steps to consider before diving into your first video project.

  1. Focus it. During the planning stage ask yourself ‘what do I want the viewer to feel when they watch this.’ Educated? Inspired? Appreciated? These emotionally connective words help you form your mission statement for the video. Meeting with one or two other employees for a brainstorming session may also prove helpful.
  2. Mission it. Write a mission statement for the project. Here’s a sample: the purpose of the company holiday party video is to show appreciation for each employee by featuring each department in an upbeat, entertaining format.
  3. Shoot it. With mission statement in hand, write two shot lists. The first list is chronological; it starts with the beginning of the video and works to the end, shot by shot. Next, compile a second list from the first list to determine the shooting order. Note: shooting scenes out of actual sequence can save much time and effort. Now it’s time to shoot it. You’ll need to make your fellow employees comfortable when you’re shooting it. Compliment and encourage!
  4. Edit it. Use a simple program like Apple’s iMovie or Window’s Movie Maker to compile the clips. Editing should take a while as it’s generally a several step process. The first edit is simply to remove all the bum clips and order the video chronologically. The second edit further hones the video by making needed cuts for clarity and pacing. The third edit introduces music, if needed, transitions, titles, and end credits for a polished finish.
  5. Critique it. Show the finished product to some trusted employees and/or your superior. Ask them for input. Take the criticism and make the needed changes. Remember, after working on this project over time there may be things that you may not even see or notice that are glaringly evident to a first time viewer.

I volunteered to make my first company video several years ago using my own camera, computer, and time. After my boss viewed it, he was so pleased that he provided me with all the equipment I needed to produce other videos for the company on a regular basis. Now, it’s a regular part of what I do, and it’s quite enjoyable.

What about you? Does your company have a need for your creative talents?

Why not go for it?

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Comfort Zone Creativity: Possible or Impossible?

Comfort zone. Creative zone. Are there magic recipes to create masterpieces?

I saw this simple drawing here and was given permission to repost it. [Update: the original post is here along with a ton of other gems! Check it out!]

Man I love this concept… and hate it.

Can we create in a comfort zone? Aren’t there ways we MUST be comfortable to create?

What’s been your experience you writers, actors, teachers, moms, pastors, trainers, and other miracle makers?

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Recipe for Creativity: Willy Wonka, Jelly Belly, and Avoiding the Freeways

“Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it in dew,      

cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two?”

“The candyman. The candyman can.
The candyman can cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.”

Maybe I just love candy way too much, but those lyrics are brilliance. He ‘mixes it with love.’ Folks, he ‘makes the world taste good.’

Goodness. I’ve got to watch it. Thankfully, somebody took the time to put it on YouTube…

Grow down. Let’s take a few minutes and watch it together… (if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, at least watch around 1:58 when a little girl gets an unintentional uppercut by the countertop.)

Though most of us will never meet Mr. Wonka (or Gene Wilder), we may meet David Klein. He truly made the world taste good when he reinvented the jelly bean in the 1970’s with his famous brand Jelly Belly. Klein’s story is expertly told in the film of his life Candyman: The David Klein Story.

Quotes from Mr. Klein to feed your creativity…

“I always like to do things in new ways. Always.”

“I like to be as creative as possible in anything that I do.”

“I never like traveling freeways. I like going side streets because you’d see something different every time. You go on the freeway, you eliminate your choices.”

Quirky, childlike, and a bit of a salesman, Klein revolutionized a few simple ingredients and, yes I’m gonna say it, made the world taste good.

Isn’t that what we want as creatives? We want to take our creativity… our screenplays, our recipes, our sales presentations, our paintings, our teachings, our pottery, our books… we mix them with some passion and love, and we want to see a change in someone by what we do.

We want to enliven the senses of the world with our creativity.

For Wonka/Klein, they did it with candy through the five senses. They truly made the world taste good. I’m so glad they did. So glad, in fact, that I’ll most likely eat some candy in their honor today.

I’m curious. Why do you create? Why spend the time, the work, the energy?

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Friday Light Humor: Shameless Creativity

I love to laugh. So does my wife. We love to make each other laugh. That’s one of the reasons our relationship is so fantastic: we’re constant entertainment for each another.

One of our rituals. Just before bed, whomever is the last person to get in bed must turn out the light. Yes, I know we should get The Clapper so we can turn off our electronics via applause. Remember that device? Here’s the commercial. (If you watch it, notice the elderly woman in the last scene. I’ve always loved her acting choices. She’s in bed. Has the TV and light on and she’s just furious. Probably thinking ‘dang it all to heck, that durn TV is so fuzzy and I wanna just bang my hands together to turn it off and go to bed!” So that’s exactly what she does. Brilliance.)

But we don’t have The Clapper. We turn off lights the old fashioned way: by dancing our way to the light switch so the other person can enjoy a few giggles before bed. And folks, these dances rival anything you’ve ever seen on So You Think You Can Dance or Dancing With the Stars. In fact, last night I picked a random song on my iPhone to play for Sarah’s dance: the karaoke track of Billy Joel’s “She’s Got a Way.” And yes indeed, Sarah had a way about her. Go Sarah go. So fun.

Shamelessness. Another way we get a few laughs is to be completely foolish. Go with our gut. Try something new. Not be afraid to be a clown. I’m about 49% embarrassed by the video I’m posting below, but the 51% that is proud of this random act of silly cancelled out the 49% enough to edit this, post it, and hope that you smile, and perhaps even guffaw, when you see it.

This video is what happened a couple weeks ago when a freak Saturday morning snowstorm dusted central Pennsylvania with several inches of white just before Halloween… and yes, it’s basically improv.


How does this happen? It began at breakfast and the conversation went something like this:

She: Crazy that it’s snowing like this in October!

Me: For reals. The kiddos are gonna be trick-or-treating in the snow.

She: It’s like Christmas only it’s Halloween. What if we did a video and dressed up like we were gonna go trick or treating in the snow.

Me: And we’d sing Christmas carols too right?

She: Sure. I could be a cowgirl… kinda like Jessie from Toy Story. What are you gonna do?

Me: A Japanese geisha.

We left the rest of the bacon on the table and rushed to play dress-up.

What do we have to lose? Besides our dignity.

Speaking Fake English and Other Fake Languages

Have you ever tried to mimic a foreign language? As in: you don’t speak French, Chinese, or German but you attempt to sound like you’re speaking the language?

I’m guilty. I’ve done this on several occasions. This past weekend I made a baby giggle by performing my faux Chinese for him. He loved it. Best thing he’d ever heard in his less-than-one-year-old life. Giggles galore.

There are numerous You Tube clips of people speaking fake English. If you have a few minutes, watch this video. It’s a short film of actors doing a scene in fairly convincing fake English. Fascinating. Here’s one viewer’s comment…

Two other times in my life, I’ve publicly spoken fake langages.

Hotel in Des Moines. I was in high school at the time and was attending a function at a convention center. I don’t remember the function. I don’t even remember why I was there. I do remember my friend Jason and I were extremely bored. In our boredom, we masqueraded as foreigners in the opulent lobby by chatting in a quasi-something language as people walked by. The passers-by either thought “wow, they’re so foreign that I don’t even know where they’re from” or “what’s wrong with them.”

Rehearsal for a Play. A director once had the idea to have the actors focus only on the intent of our lines without using the lines themselves. She told us to use gibberish instead of our actual lines; our communication limited to nonsense sounds and physicalization. It’s a decent idea… until you start cracking up while trying to communicate frustration, joy, and other emotions while looking into your fellow actor’s eyes as he says “gerdarbul ferndig blarstic. Blarstic! Narful blads tog infel daldig rerg. Gowtow.”

Langauges fascinate me. I’m always amazed how humbled and awkward I feel when I’m in a foreign country where everything, including the language, is different from my normal. It’s refreshing to learn again. To communicate in broken sentences. To push through all those mistakes and uncomfortable moments.

Isn’t that what we do each and every time we create? We find our legs again and we start from scratch. We seek to communicate using our chosen language: written words, paint, ingredients, presentations. Sometimes we feel foolish. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes our message may seem like gibberish.

But sometimes we bring a smile. Sometimes our seeming nonsese makes someone laugh. Sometimes we change something in someone. All because we spoke the language that only we can speak.

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24 Hour Plays: Lessons in Fear, Control, and Joy

Why dive into a creative process involving fear, anxiety, the unknown, the uncontrollable?

The payoff is incredible. 

This past weekend, my wife and I participated in an event called 24 Hour Plays. Here’s the rundown of the events that transpire in a mere day at one of these creative explosions:

It’s an exercise in organized insanity in which writers, directors, and actors put their skill sets to the test: writing a short play, casting the play, directing the play, and performing the play in the time span of a mere 24 hours.

+Perfectionism. Most creatives are prone to it. It’s rarely helpful. For some of us, it keeps us from ever producing or sharing our creation. Within the time frame of 24 hours, perfectionism cannot dominate. There’s just no time to belabour the minutiae.

Bye bye non-friend.

+ Camaraderie. My creative process at my job usually involves training people to sell remodeling products to homeowners. It is creative, but I didn’t realize how much I’d missed the process of putting up an actual show. I marveled at the fact that the pros we worked with all spoke the same language. We understood the basics of each of our job functions and treated one another with respect. There’s such pleasure in rubbing shoulders with other like-minded creatives.

+Fear. 24 Hour Plays is skydiving. My mind’s conversation with myself went something like this: “8:30 AM. Here’s your script that was just written last night. You’ll play James. We’ll rehearse it today, have it memorized tonight for the show. By the way, we’re sold out. There’s gonna be people here asking for a show. So you gotta get this right. Did I say it has to be memorized? It does. Have fun!” When my wife and I were deciding if we should/should not do this, we realized the only reason we wouldn’t do it was because we were terrified. Not a good enough reason. We’re so glad we pushed through that fear.

+Payoff. Rachel Stevens, a former producer of The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices summarizes it well.

You always see the most incredible personal and professional growth take place in the artists involved.  There’s great confidence to be taken from realising that, if you can do this project, you can do pretty much anything.

Agreed 100%.

I’d do this whole experience all over again for that very reason. It exhilarating to do something that, initially, seems impossible and slightly terrifying.

What’s stopping us from doing that thing we’ve always said we’d do? Why not push the envelope this week and write that piece, finish that project, or call that person?

Someone needs your creativity today.

Friday Light: Slightly Embarrassing Quirks and Inappropriateness

At times I want this blog to be notable. Regal. Intellectual. Thought provoking.

But that can also be boring. Hence, the reason every Friday post blends in a little humor, and today’s shares an extra dash of embarrassing quirks from childhood. Quirks volume one here.

+Earthworms. After it rained and the earthworms littered the ground, I’d don my rollerskates and ‘save’ them, tossing them back into the soaked earth from which they sought to escape. I don’t do this anymore. OK, maybe I did once or twice in the last year.

+Hot Dogs. I didn’t eat hot dogs for about five years durning my elementary school days as I’d been told they were made of earthworms. I save earthworms, not eat them = childhood logic.

+I Pledged Allegiance to a Christmas Tree. Real Christmas trees always adorned our home, but one year it grew, even in it’s little tree stand. It actually got taller. I felt badly that the poor guy would be tossed into our woods behind the woodpile. It was growing, after all. So what makes a Christmas tree feel better? Singing to it. Christmas carols. I promised the tree that I’d never forget all it had done for us. The odd ritual only lasted a week or so, but that tree died a slow death while being saranaded by a nine-year-old. Kinda like The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstien. Only not really.

+Inappropriate Nicknames. As a kid, I often went for the laugh in most circumstances. Still do. I think I was simply going for the laugh when I called my third grade art teacher a prostitute. Something like ‘oh yeah, we’ll you’re just a prostitute.’ Hmmmm. I’d never been removed from a classroom faster than I was on that day. I honestly had no idea what a prostitue was, though I imagine when I first heard the word used by others, their audience laughed so I thought I’d give it a try. Bad idea.

There’s more. Oh, yes, there’s plenty more. But that’s a start and you can read quirks volume one here.

In the meantime, please tell me I’m not alone. What kinds of crazy did you do when you were a kiddo? Leave a reply below so we can all get a chuckle…

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