Creativ-Tea: How to Brew Fresh Ideas

I gave a short presentation at the Hera Hub Writers Lounge on generating ideas. Really it was an exercise in trying out the new Haiku Deck app, which lets non-designers make cool Power Point presentations. Then I took the slides and turned them into a video. Yes, all copy AND design by a freelance copywriter. If I can do it, so can you. You can see both below.

The new year unfolds with Instagram Cranes.

MP_craneAs an interactive copywriter, the expected holiday greeting is to send a witty, holiday themed email or video. But this year, I wanted to do something different, something precious. Something that people would keep out on their desks year round.

After several creative meanderings (most of which involved large amounts of chocolate,) I came up with Instagram origami cranes. (The crane is a symbol of prosperity and luck.) It's the ideal collision of digital and real world.  For my social media and marketing clients that I followed on Instagram, I designed customized square grids using their Instagram photos and then printed it on my HP printer.  I cut each square to size and then folded a crane. I attached a ribbon with a gift tag: "May the New Year unfold with peace and joy." Clients could hang their Instagram cranes on a tree or in their office.

The response was quite positive.

HM_crane SB_crane




A Year of Procrastination: Day 1

A copywriter procrastinates What's my creative project for the year? Simply to document my creative procrastination. (Let's just call it creative crosstraining – sketchnotes, illustrations, photos, and the occasional fold.) As an interactive copywriter, sometimes I do everything but write. So this is a formal documentation of those creative meanderings. But often, I find the answer I am looking for in my doodles rather than within the linear thought patterns of writing.

Can you accomplish a lot in 5 or 15 minutes? Not always. But after 365 days, there's quite a body of work.

The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life. – Jessica Hische

Sketchnotes from Interactive Day San Diego

Well, Interactive Day San Diego keeps growing with over 800 people attending this year. In my continuing exploration of how to blog an event without writing, I did more sketchnotes.

I attended two session on mobile marketing that dovetailed nicely with each other.


Then after lunch it was more creative territory. Yay! ______________________________ ______________________________ ______________________________ ______________________________ Of course, by happy hour I was no longer sketching.

What it takes to be a dream client.

Lee Clow, the creative mastermind behind Apple's Think Different commercials wrote this of Steve Jobs when he passed away: He was the most amazing person I have ever known. He was a genius. He was an innovator. He was the best client we ever had.

A new article in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell suggests that Steve wasn't the true innovator. He was actually a tweaker. He know how to encourage, influence or intimidate people to create what it took to fulfill his

vision of the perfect product.

That wasn't always the smoothest process. An exchange between Steve and VIncent, the copywriter on the first iPad commercials.

“Well, what do you want?” Vincent shot back. “You’ve not been able to tell me what you want.”

“I don’t know,” Jobs said. “You have to bring me something new. Nothing you’ve shown me is even close.” Vincent argued back and suddenly Jobs went ballistic. “He just started screaming at me,” Vincent recalled. Vincent could be volatile himself, and the volleys escalated.

When Vincent shouted, “You’ve got to tell me what you want,” Jobs shot back, “You’ve got to show me some stuff, and I’ll know it when I see it.”

I'll know when I see it.

Tools of the trade.

Over the past year, I frequently found myself visiting the site of Duarte Design. (Confession: usually at midnight with a deadline looming, an educational way to procrastinate.) Headed by Nancy Duarte, Duarte Design is in the business of telling stories, usually through visual presentations.

After watching all the great videos and reading all the wonderful blog posts, I finally bought Nancy’s latest book, Resonate.

Let’s just say Resonate resonated with me. Unlike a lot of business communication books, this book really shows what happens behind the wizard’s curtain. Great presentations start with “the way it is.” They then present “how it could” be. My favorite part was where Nancy maps the presentations of master speakers like Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King. She pinpoints where tension and contrast of “the way it is” and “what could be” adds drama and emotional pull to each presentation.

What can I say? It's totally transformed the way I work.

She also reviewed the creative process. While a lot of this part wasn’t new, she reiterated the easy of working with stickie notes. While I have always been a fan of hanging work up and and white boards, I’ve had several long format assignments lately (books and videos) where I could put this to practice. I storyboarded each assignment entirely with pen and paper. While it is easy to type a script on a computer, it’s too linear. Working with stickies, index cards and paper makes it easier to move things around, edit and kill your babies.

Hello index card. Hello sharpie. Hello stickie note.

Analog, I love you. Again.

Wild Bears, Ponies and More: Five kick-ass call-to-actions for an email list.

Yup, an email list is still a great way to communicate with your most raving fans and fanatics. As an interactive copywriter, I'm always intrigued when I see an interesting call-to-action. So please, no boring “subscribe to our email list.” Give your would-be readers a tantalizing glimpse of what they’ll get in their inbox.


With a weekly feature called the Bitch Slap, Erika Napoletano tells it like it is and writes exactly what she's thinking about business, the web, and life.


Photojojo is a newsletter about "the best photo shiz anywhere." They feature fun photo equipment and fun copywriting, like, every day:  "We solemnly swear: No spam, not ever."

Chris Guillebeau

In the world of hack-your-life gurus, Chris Guillebeau stands out with great design and great writing in his Guide to Non-Conformity blog. Great call-to-action here.


Copylicious is a creative (and business-smart) copywriter. Can you tell?

Sarah J. Bray

Sarah J. Bray is strategic web designer who loves toast.  I love how she gives you the opportunity to sign up for just what you want.

Do you know of any great call-to-actions?

Why I do the co-working thang.

I had a work situation that many dream of. I owned my own business and could work from home and set my own hours. The work was fun and paid well.

The only problem was, I was going insane working at home alone.

I’ll admit it. I was lonely. I missed the camaraderie, creative brainstorming and design nerd conversation of an office.

That’s when I discovered co-working at the Hive.

The Hive bills itself as a flexible workspace for urban creatives. Here you’ll find a mixed group of small businesses. Start-ups. Photographers, PR folk. Social media. Non-profit. Web designers. Developers. And even the occasional interactive copywriter like myself.

Co-working was founded on the idea than even though cell phones and wireless internet liberates us from cubicles in corporate offices, the best human interaction still happens offline and in person.

Basically, if you're surrounded by new and interesting people, you will have new and interesting ideas and conversations.

Over the past two years, I have met so many inspiring and creative people, my approach to work has changed to be more open and collaborative. I have also broadened my client base and business has expanded with numerous referrals. Some exciting things:

  • Endlessly multiplying the number of people I team up with for projects.
  • Having my entire approach to work and creativity be challenged by an amazing individual who showed it’s possible to do good while doing good work.
  • Watching a young woman transform into a media powerhouse, conducting business on her own terms.
  • Laughing an entire afternoon while a designer tried to source local taxidermists for stuffed foxes and bears for a photo shoot.
  • Watching the daily ins and outs of a start-up as they grew, sought funding and changed their focus.
  • Savoring Tuesday morning coffees with friends, discussing life online and offline.
  • Learning how to be a connector, introducing people to each other so they can grow.
  • Witnessing a student evolve from a hard working intern to a much- in-design graphic designer.
  • Watch a solopreneur grow a successful online, learning to do much himself: social media, marketing, SEO, and sourcing manufacturing.
  • Watching an entrepreneur realign their work with their values.
  • Expanding my understanding of the creative process through a series of enlightening conversations with a successful illustrator.

If you Google “co-working San Diego” the Hive is right at the top.  But now there are several places where you can experience co-working in San Diego.

  • The Hive: Two locations in East Village. San Diego’s original co-working place.
  • Jelly: The co-working phenomenon that started it all. Jelly meets every other Friday at the Hive. Come by and co-work for free.
  • Hera Hub: Founded by Felena Hanson, Hera Hub caters to female business owners and entrepreneurs. Felana knows what women need (like bowls of M&Ms that I have to remove from my desk when I visit.) They’re moving to their new location this week.
  • 3rd Space: It's not a cult, yet. A 30-second walk from all of your favorite coffee-places. They hosted many TedX AFC follow-up events.
  • Co-Merge: I haven’t been here yet. But look at this patio: it’s to die for.
  • GravySD: It’s co-working for you North County Coastal peeps.
  • Kowork'n: It’s co-working for you North County Inland folk.