Monday, December 14, 2015

The Oh No! Holiday Gift Guide

There's always that one person you forget on your gift list, right? I'm here to help with 4 ideas.

1. If you have time, but you don't have any $$$:
Write a letter, a short story or a poem.  Compose a song.  Draw a picture.  Create a 3-minute movie.  

We creators forget how remarkable our talents are, even to other creators.  Get a piece of paper and a pencil, turn the timer to 20 minutes and see what happens.

2. If you will have time in the future:
Time together.  We have friends who have everything.  We have close to everything.  We certainly don't need more stuff.  But we don't get to see each other as much as we would like.  We don't give each other presents anymore.  We do give each other a weekend together once a year.  Together we have explored the Hudson River Valley, Savannah, Georgia, the Chesapeake and this year, for more than a weekend, Scotland.  We know that we are extravagant, but you can go with an annual walk in the local park and you'll achieve the same result.  The gift is putting aside the time for each other, so it doesn't really matter where you do it.

3. If you have under $25
These are my top 2 favorite books these days.  Both are perfect for creators and non-creators.

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp.  Every creative person on the planet should own this book.  Actually every person.  Tharp, one of the greatest choreographers of our time, explains in great detail how she has thrived as a creator.  My favorite chapter is the one about failing.  Exercises included to get brains going.  This book changes lives.

Manage Your Day-To-Day:  Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei.  Here's another must-have for anyone who wants more creativity in their lives.  A series of essays on many topics, including how to manage your technology (including social media and email) and how to find time for creative projects.  Because of this book, I create first thing in the morning and read emails in the afternoon.  Buy it and find out why.

4. If you're rolling in the dough and willing to spend more than $50
Tickets.  Yup.  Tickets to concerts, plays, operas, art exhibits, museums.  Most arts organizations now offer gift cards, like this one to the Walnut St. Theatre here in Philadelphia.  In fact, if you buy THAT one, the lucky recipients could see me in Walnut's upcoming performance of Sister Act, or they could see the kid's show, Miss Nelson Has A Field Day, which I'll be directing.  How's that for self-promotion AND a great gift?

By the way, artists, those discount tickets you often get offered by the producers of your show?  They make great gifts.

Alright, these 4 ideas should get you started.  I'd love to hear your Oh No ideas.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Holiday Traditions The New Way

Once again, I've been distracted from Creatavita by an abundance of delightful projects, some of which revolve around the holidays.  To keep you in the creative living spirit, I'm pulling out this post from 2013.  Be well my friends!

So, this won't be a news flash to any of you, but while you weren't looking, the holiday season officially arrived. Oh boy. That annual mix of joy, dread and exhaustion. The expectations are high for all of us – peace on earth, good will to men and the presents better be perfect. Every last one of them. Well, guess what darlings. I am here to throw out this radical idea - you do not have to do everything this holiday season. You do not have to buy every gift, attend every party, and keep every tradition ever known to every generation of your family or your neighborhood. Yes, I am here to say - choose the traditions that matter the most to you.

Here's my personal example. Christmas cards. Who doesn't love Christmas cards? Me too. But at some point the act of writing the annual letter or choosing the best card for each of the 179 people on our list, adding one sincere sentence to every letter or card, addressing the envelopes, and even putting on the stamps tipped from being a pleasure-filled activity to drudgery. Friends, when the act of wishing someone Merry Christmas feels like drudgery, you know you've got a problem.

So I stopped. I didn't send any Christmas cards one year. The world didn't come crashing down and there were still presents for me under the tree. So I didn't send any the next year either. That might have been the year when I sat in my office one hot August afternoon and wrote a lovely letter in place of Christmas cards. Another brilliant idea born. And although I've been known to skip a year here and there, that's what I do now - I choose another time of the year and send out a greeting. Some years a letter, some years one of those snappy photo cards I create online. Some years a Valentine, some years a Spring greeting. You know what? People seem to love receiving a truly joy-filled greeting at another time of the year. I love sending the greeting at another time of the year, when I'm not stressed to the max with holiday musts, and when I know there's a good chance my letter is the only personally-addressed envelope showing up in mailboxes around the world. And in all of the years that I've bucked tradition, I've had three people say to me “hey, where's my Christmas card?” Or “Haven't heard from you in a while. Are you still alive?” Three.

I have an assignment for you.  The good news is there is no test.  I want you to contemplate the holiday traditions that have true meaning for you. Keep those. Then I want you to consider the ones that feel like drudgery. See if you can get rid of one or two of those. Then I want you to seek out some serenity. Because.

Note:  The photos in this post come from a holiday trip I took in 2008 to Bulgaria.  The final one is of Bulgarian Mummers.  Yes, there are Mummers in Bulgaria.