the sally sisson blog


March 13, 2011

March Madness: celebrating creativity + the (sometimes maddening) creative process

image from John Kelly's "Procrastination" video

Get inspired

Anyone else out there been in a slump this winter? Here’s a great collection of video clips from 99% to shake the cobwebs from the cranium. Check it out:

10 Awesome Videos on Idea Execution + The Creative Process

Spring forward

This coming week I’ll be covering creativity in my blog and would love folks to contribute thoughts, ideas, doodles, random musings or guest blog posts. Whatever you like.

Battling creative block

Last spring I posted the following three pieces to give myself a kick-start:

Here Comes the Sun: Overcoming creative block (part 1 of many)

Overcoming Creative Block (part 2): Writing, procrastination + keeping a sense of humor

Overcoming Creative Block (part 3): Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity

Tell me:

When it’s cold and gray (or when it’s hard to come up with something creative to draw, design, write or say), where do you look for inspiration? How do you break out of a slump and get back in gear? If you’re stuck in a long and tedious project, how do flex your creative muscles on the side? I’d love to read your comments below. Thanks!

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February 1, 2011

Extreme Content: How is web writing like extreme winter weather?

Ready Classroom 2

A: You’ve got to be prepared for both.

When a client needs web content, sometimes it’s just a home page or a few headlines. Sometimes it’s the whole thing – 1st, 2nd and 3rd level pages plus links and special features.

Light to moderate to heavy

For the Ready Classroom website, Discovery Education needed the whole package: research and writing for a dozen categories of extreme weather and natural disasters, customized content for each of the 50 states, copy to cross-reference it all, and creative standards-based lesson plans for different grades ranges for K-12.

On top of that there were different strands for three different audiences. All content had to be run through Discovery Education as well as the Ad Council and FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), their partners for this particular project.

blizzardsatful

Stock up. Hunker down.

Web writing involves a range of skills: research, writing (both copywriting and long-form content), editing, organization, planning, critical thinking. It also takes time, especially a job of this size. It can be enjoyable to dive deep into a topic and stay holed up for a while. The key is to be be prepared (clear your schedule, line up childcare), stock up on supplies (decent snacks, decent coffee, case of coffee filters), and prepare for a couple all-nighters. Note that it’s good to come up for air every once in a while, whatever the weather.

Toolkits, checklists and survival skills.

We’re getting pretty hard hit with winter weather this year, some parts of the country worse than others. Just this morning I consulted Ready Classroom to check my own family’s state of preparedness for this week’s monster storm. According to FEMA, the Red Cross and my own trusty tips, we still have another trip or two to the hardware store before ticking all the boxes on our Disaster Preparedness Checklist.

Check out the site and see how you stack up. Are YOU prepared?

The calm after the storm

Judging by the broken flashlight and half-empty box of kitchen matches by my side, I would not win many Girl Scout badges for preparedness. However, the content I developed did score some points: Ready Classroom won a 2010 BESSIE (Best Educational Software Award), which made those days and nights in my underground bunker all the more worthwhile. Read more here.

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January 24, 2011

The Life (and Death?) of STORYTELLING: Ten top posts of 2010

image from getstoried.com
image from getstoried.com

Once upon a time… storytelling was the domain of kindergarten classrooms and creative writing courses. Over the past decade it’s found its way into advertising, marketing and business consulting, and countless articles on all of the above.

Stories inspire and connect us. From ancient cave paintings to Super Bowl commercials to transmedia storytelling, they illustrate, resonate and—when done well—stick with us for a long time.

Here are some of my top picks on the topic. Instead of synthesizing what’s already been written so well, I’ll let these speak for themselves.

1. Harvard Business Review: The Power of Storytelling

In a conversation with HBR, Robert McKee, the world’s best-known screenwriting lecturer, argues that executives can engage people in a much deeper—and ultimately more convincing—way if they toss out their PowerPoint slides and memos and learn to tell good stories.

2. Copyblogger: How to Captivate Your Audience with Story (From America’s Greatest Living Playwright)

There’s been a fevered interest in the art of storytelling among the marketing crowd recently. We are told that story—applied to salesmanship, preaching, advertising, conversation, marketing, songwriting, and blogging—contains the power to deliver the world to the deft storyteller’s door. But what is a well-told story? Take a lesson from David Mamet.

3. Chris Brogan: Storytelling for Business

Stories are how we learn best. We absorb numbers and facts and details, but we keep them all glued into our heads with stories.

4. Smashing Magazine: Better User Experience with Storytelling

Our information…has become watered down, cloned, and is churned out quickly in 140-character blurbs. We’ve lost that personal touch where we find an emotional connection that makes us care. Using storytelling, however, we can pull these fragments together into a common thread. We can connect as real people, not just computers.

5. Ten Ways to Story Your Business (or Product or Brand)

Nine wise tips, plus #10: Remember that if you don’t tell your story, your story will probably get told for you—in a way that may damage your business.

image from semanticstudios.com
image from semanticstudios.com
6. Content Rules: What Does Business Have to Do With Storytelling?

The idea of storytelling as it applies to business isn’t about spinning a yarn or fairytale. Rather, it’s about how your business exists in the real world: how people use your products—how they add value to people’s lives, ease their troubles, help shoulder their burdens, and meet their needs.

7. Mark Levy: Telling the Same Story Differently

An insightful post inspired by Matt Madden’s ingenius cartoon book “99 Ways to Tell a Story.”

8. Transmedia Storytelling: The Psychological Power of Story

The ultimate mashup of ancient traditions and new communications models.

9. Harvard Business Review: When Storytelling Isn’t Enough

Fast Company founder Alan Webber says storytelling is overrated and declares, “Content isn’t king, context is king!”

10. Bite: The Death of Storytelling?

“We are all striving to tell stories. But are we making more noise than news?”

What do you think?

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