Category Archives: creativity

9 Book Recommendations from 2009

If you’re like me, you love to read but you’re so busy you don’t want to waste time and money with books that simply aren’t worth it. One of the things I love about my mastermind coaching group is that we share book recommendations.

I’m passing along 9 recommendations from this year’s reading. I read a lot more than 9, and I’m not putting out any academic reading suggestions. (You’re welcome.) 😉

Note, few, if any of these were actually published during this year. But they are all books that I read and was able to leverage. I’m ordering some books today to read after Christmas, you might want to do the same. These are listed in no particular order

1. Rich Dad’s Conspiracy of the Rich by Robert J. Kiyosaki. If you were caught off guard when Wachovia Bank collapsed, this will help you get what kind of financial shenanigans were going on at the time (and still going on.) Kiyosaki gives a great perspective on personal finances that can help you create total financial success, if that’s something that interests you.

2. The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield. This is a wonderful resource when you’re feeling a bit stuck, not sure what the next step is. It has a TON of information, but it’s organized so you can read just a little bit at a time. My favorite section is about the use of impeccable language.

3. Pop! Create the Perfect Pitch, Title and Tagline for Anything by Sam Horn. If you’re in business, especially marketing, you’ll want to read Horn’s tips for playing with words to create meaningful and catchy phrases.

4. The Blue Sweater by Jackqueline Novogratz. Wow. This one I got from Seth Godin and it really opened my eyes to what goes on with charitable giving in developing countries, specifically those in Africa. The best thing is that Novogratz proposes practical solutions to corruption, graft and waste involved in so much of what passes for “helping” people in need.

5. The Architecture of All Abundance by Lenedra Carroll. This author is known to many for being the mother of a singer named Jewel. I am totally ignorant of Jewel and her music, but what I really got from Carroll was the idea of structuring your life to reflect your own closely held values. She introduces the concept of “personal economy” which, in my own life, means placing a premium value on time with kids and alone, rather than only focusing on your bank balance.

6. Style by Kate Spade. This was a Mother’s Day gift and while it came out a few years ago, I really enjoy seeing Spade’s illustrations and reading her style tips. Her use of color is excellent.

7. Vein of Gold by Julia Cameron. This is Cameron’s sequel to The Artist’s Way. I have reread both books numerous times and get something new each and every time. Her mission is showing people how to live with more creativity and intention. Cameron is one of my all-time favorite authors.

8. The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. This is one I would have definitely not read had Christine Kane not recommended it so strongly. However, he really gets the reader to shift her paradigm about exchanging time and effort for money. Don’t let your boss know you’re reading this!

9. Make it Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. In essence, a great guide for communication. These brothers share great tips for making your message memorable, especially in today’s ueber-cluttered and chaotic environment.


Paradox and the Holiday Whirlwind

I think you should know that successful blog post titles are straightforward; titles like the one above are supposedly confusing to the gods of Google and we blog writers are well advised to avoid them. But as you know, some of us are slow learners and I like to play with words.

I’m thinking you probably had a pretty hectic Thanksgiving holiday. It is such a blessing to share with family, and such a delight to sleep in your own bed again. Or if you played hostess, you’re probably enjoying some peace in your house today.

On our drive to Atlanta, my teenage son played some CDs he made for the occasion. On one of them he had recorded a song, The Rhythm of Life, by Sammy Davis, Jr. It’s a catchy tune, and the lyrics remind me of how our lives hang on the rhythms of holidays, school beginnings, birthdays, and music recitals.


A life well lived certainly has a rhythm to it, and it’s full of paradoxes. Think about these:

Time for family and time for yourself.

Money to save and money to have fun with.

Playing with children and hanging out with adults.

Exercise and rest.

Thinking and not thinking. (And like Einstein, getting your best ideas in the shower.)

Being fashionable and wearing whatever’s clean.

Getting things done and leaving space in your life for getting nothing done.

Making plans and allowing serendipity.

Eating healthy foods and eating chocolate candy.

Connecting with others, connecting with yourself.

Speaking and listening.

I read this by T.S. Eliot, the incredibly cool English poet, Teach us to care, and not to care; teach us to sit still.

In the holiday madness that is both fun and exhausting, I wish for you time to enjoy it all.


What It Means to Respond Creatively

One of the things you learn in PhD-land is to begin a discussion by defining the terms. Remember former president Clinton’s public query into what “is” really meant. Such is the nature of intellectual work. 🙂 Yeah, right.

Going into your week-end, getting into the work that is not your job, I thought of putting out what it means to respond creatively to life. Creativity is not being artsy-fartsy, unless you really want to wear a beret and ripped clothing.
To respond creatively is to be open to new ideas, new people, and the world in general. It means letting go of some of your assumptions about everything. To be creative is to trust yourself a bit more and not to cling so tightly to being “right” all the time.
One thing I’ve learned is that you can do all the right things, and still not get the result you wanted. Doing the right things for the wrong reasons is a good way to experience major frustration. I used to be the kind of person who would go on a diet, and gain weight. I’ve learned to maintain my ideal weight, and haven’t been on a diet in decades. That requires going deeper than sticking to a particular meal plan.
The ancient Greeks saw creativity as presence of the Divine in humanity. That’s why a lot of teaching on creativity draws on spirituality.
People who practice creative living feel more alive. They experience life as leaders (not the ordained type, just real leaders) instead of victims.

Slogging 101 for Creative Multi-taskers

I you’re like a lot of Mixonian readers, you are a creative soul. You can do a lot of different things really well. Being an enthusiastic creator is a blessing, no doubt, but focusing on one big project, the one that can get your job description or your business to the next higher level, requires slogging.

What is slogging? Working when you don’t feel like it. Sitting down at the computer to write when you have nothing to say, or continuing to write when you ran out of inspiration a few pages ago. Sewing on the missing button.

In college, certified multi-taskers like to change majors. Sometimes they double major, double minor, or get a certificate in something else. The next degree is in another discipline, and then maybe another degree in another field is next on the menu. That course keeps life interesting, keeps things moving, and it may keep you from making the contribution of which you are truly capable.

These multi-taskers have a hard time deciding what it is they want to be when they grow up, even after they’re grown up.

It’s not that you need to narrow your life’s focus on one project forever. But you do need to finish the big project, get one big project under your belt to create momentum.

As many of you know, my first big big big really big project to get nearly done is this dissertation. And it has been painful to slog through at times. I have now finished a draft of the last chapter and I’ll turn it in this week. The project is still far from being finished, but I think the worst part is over. I expected to have the whole thing finished by May, 2008. It’s now January, 2009.

Now I could tell you that one reason it wasn’t finished on time was because of people and things outside my control. But those factors are ALWAYS present; you have to work around them. Those factors are your teachers.

The strongest temptation has not been quitting, although I’ve wanted to many times. My struggle has been all the other wonderful projects I want to do, I know I can do, and those projects may actually bring income, which a dissertation does not. That’s what happens to creative people in the midst of a big project: when it’s time to slog, there are so many bright shiny new projects out there, calling your name, and promising not be tedious, ever.

There are many tactics for slogging through; I’ll post these as a reminder:

1. Decide what the big project is. Choose one to finish, even if you have several items on your plate right now.

2. Set a deadline. You may have to change it, but set one anyway.

3. Set mini deadlines for sections of the project. In the dissertation, this was done by chapters. Other projects are broken down differently.

4. Make appointments to get the work done. Do NOT wait for inspiration to come before getting to work.

5. Before your work appointment arrives, preferably the night before, ask the source of infinite intelligence to lend you some of that; if it was available to Einstein and Edison, it’s available to you, too.

6. Show up to work.

Leaving projects unfinished diminishes self confidence and makes it harder to complete the next project. If you haven’t slogged on your project yet, it may not be a big enough project for you. You don’t have to relish slogging, just do it. It’s not painful once you make up your mind to do it.

The photo is from

How to Get Ideas and Write About Them

I get asked a lot how is it possible to write a fresh blog post every day, or almost every day. I always smile when I hear that question….that’s one thing I’ve never read about, I just do it.

A lot of ideas come from reading articles, blog posts, and books. Usually I find something that validates what I had come up with, so I go on and express my perspective on the topic, whether it’s style, creativity, making presentations, or de-cluttering. Sometimes I get inspiration from things going on in my life, a crisis of one sort or another, or maybe from those times of slogging through. Another way of getting ideas is that they appear in my brain, usually when that happens, I wake up with some hot idea and I rush to write about it.

There is a common thread from all of these sources. The commonality is that I seek and expect to find ideas. And I do find them and write about them.

The same thing happens with my dissertation. While I know a lot already of what needs to go into this tome, there’s a lot I don’t know how to structure, or how to connect the dots between the culture, politics, communication theory, rhetoric. I not only have to create a written product that’s academically acceptable, it has to be as interesting as that medium allows me to be.

If you want to generate ideas, or develop your writing, here’s the process:

1. Commit. Decide on a quantity of work you want to generate a day, or in a week and set aside time to sit yourself down to write.

2. Sit down. Either at your computer or with a fresh sheet of paper and pen. Sit yourself down to write. It does not matter that you have NO IDEA what to write. I deal with this all the time. You sit down and get ready to write.

3. Write something silly and/or stupid. Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather, accurately stated that writing is all in the re-writing. There may be times when sublime material emerges in your first draft, but that’s not usually my case. In fact my best blog posts are those I have time to work on over several days, but that’s not always possible either. I have committed to get 5 blog posts out each week. Some I like a lot, some I sort of like.

4. Polish. This is the step where quality comes out. Keep in mind, however, that you can edit a piece from today until the day you transcend this earthly experience. Polish all you can, within your deadline.

C S S P: Commit + Sit + Silly + Polish. It’s not a very catchy acronym, but that’s how you git ‘er done.

If you’re writing in a journal, for heaven’s sake omit the polish, just write something, even if it’s your list of things to do this week.
The photo is by Anna Cervova. I got it from public domain pictures.

The Trap of False Dichotomies

Dichotomies, or black and white thinking, are of enormous value in life. I think the whole computer world operates on the 1 or 0 dichotomy. However, many times thinking in dichotomies is limiting your choices unnecessarily.

In The Wealthy Spirit, Chellie Campbell writes, “As I work with people to help them reduce their financial stress, I look at the choices they’ve made that put them in a financial position that isn’t viable. One of the problems that seems endemic is the mental habit of considering only two options before making a decision” (138).

For example:

Do I quit my job and pursue my dream, or I do remain a slave to the corporation…or the university?

Well, you could pursue your dream occupation part-time while you continue saving money, making more contacts to support you financially, in the future.

Should I buy generic or brand name?

If what you’re buying is really important to you, like maybe coffee, buy the brand you like. If it is not so important, buy generic. And you can always look for branded items on sale, especially these days!

Do we meet at your house or mine for coffee?

We could meet at The Tipsy Teapot instead.

That’s why creative thinking is soooooo important. But to come up with the best solutions, you’ve got to realize that there are plenty of options out there, you just need to invest the time to think them up.

That’s where brainstorming is useful. Develop as many possible solutions or alternatives as possible, knowing that most of them are not viable. But you can’t get to the right one until you’ve worked at it for awhile.

I tell my students that their writing is like the faucet at the old house at the beach. You have to let the brown water run out, before you get to the sweet, clear water.

Why Gratitude Makes You Happy and Wealthy

By Christine Kane

Gratitude is more than being thankful one day a year. Gratitude is a practice. For some, it’s a way of life.

Why do some people swear by this practice? Why do these people seem to live happier and more abundant lives than everyone else?

Because gratitude is about presence.

It’s about waking up in this moment and being here – really being here – and noticing what’s around you. Most people are so busy thinking about the next thing, or about their horrid past, that they don’t wake up and look around at their present moment – the only moment there is.

Because gratitude is about honoring your life.

Do you ever compare your life with someone else’s? Do you ever wish your life were better and more like [Insert Famous Person’s Name]? Sometimes we can lose ourselves in wondering how we “measure up” to some standard set by our families or by the media. Comparison is the mind killer. And the antidote is gratitude.

Gratitude requires you to validate your own life. (And you really don’t have any other life, do you?) It forces you to say YES to the gift that is you. The choices you’ve made and the changes you’ve gone through – they have brought you here. Even if here is a place that needs a little adjustment, that’s okay. There are always gifts in any present moment.

Because gratitude is about attracting.

It’s difficult to attract abundance and joy if you are constantly saying “no” to what IS. You say no each time you focus on the future or past, or when you criticize something that is in your present moment.

Attraction is about saying Yes. When you say Yes, you shift.

Gratitude says, “Yes, I love this!” And then more of this is attracted, because the this is what you’re focusing on.

Because gratitude is about choice.

How you translate any situation is the situation. What you choose to see is the truth (for you).

This isn’t proposing that you live in denial or phoniness. It’s reminding you that your translation of any life situation is your own choice. We’ve all heard stories of people who have ignored others’ translations of their talent, their projects, their art, their looks, their lives. These people chose their own translations and succeeded. You always have a choice when it comes to how you look at things. Choose to choose gratitude.

Because gratitude is about wisdom.

I think people believe they’re being smart if they criticize, complain, and focus on the problems of the world around them.

Smart? Maybe.

Clever? Sure.

But not wise.

It is wise to look for and find the knowing place in your heart. It is wise to choose joy. It is wise to honor your riches. It is wise to focus on and grow the blessings of your life.

Because gratitude is about recognition.

Use your power of focus to hone in on beauty and on what makes your heart sing. Recognize the spirit in your life. It’s all around you waiting to be noticed. In the words of Franz Kafka, “It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

Because gratitude is about receptivity.

Gratitude makes you receptive. It makes you concave. It makes you a vessel, waiting to be filled.

I carry a tiny notebook with me everywhere I go. In it, I write down song ideas. I write down quotes I hear. I write down ideas for stage stories. As I do that, I become more receptive, and more ideas and songs come to me. It’s a tool that says to my subconscious, “Send more my way!” And the subconscious always responds.

Gratitude is the same way. It says, “I am receptive! Send more!” And more arrives.

Because gratitude is about creativity.

Creativity is really all about attention. (So is genius.)

When I write a song, I build a relationship with that song. I spend time with it. I get to know it. I pay attention to it. Artists do the same thing with drawings. They spend time in rapt attention and the drawing is born.

Gratitude is how we Live Creative. It is a creative act to notice and pay attention to the moments of your life. Some days it’s an enormous act of creativity to find things for which to be thankful.

Start today.

And have a Thanksgiving of presence, creativity, and gratitude!

Performer, songwriter, and creativity consultant Christine Kane publishes her ‘LiveCreative’ weekly ezine with more than 4,000 subscribers. If you want to be the artist of your life and create authentic and lasting success, you can sign up for a FRE*E subscription to LiveCreative at