Tag Archives: Creativity

Creative type? No need to apply

It’s Throwback Thursday, and I’m digging deep into the archive to revive this post, originally offered five years ago for your reading pleasure. The problem tackled back then? Lack of creativity in the insurance world. The unfortunate news is, the names may have changed, but the tedium remains.

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I am constantly amazed at the general lack of creativity in the insurance world.

Some companies get a pass here: AfQuack, CuteLizard, FloInAUniform and Mr. Mayhem are actually clever characters selling the world’s most boring product. Everyone else? Meh.

My day today was filled with ADPD applications. Don’t ask. Knowing what the abbreviation stands for doesn’t make it more interesting.

My Beloved, being an independent agent, has access to all kinds of insurance carriers and sends his clients’ insurance packages out to a lot of companies in order to acquire the best pricing and save clients’ money. But naturally, every ADPD carrier demands the use of their own exclusive application form. Completing one of these applications requires liberal use of a calculator and Advil. No cutting and pasting allowed.

The boring forms flow from boring marketing, me thinks. The lack in creativity in company names does nothing for me. I’m a big fan of firms like Google and Starbucks. What is this, to google? What is a starbuck? They were nothing until Google and Starbucks made them something. They could have called themselves Big Search and Coffee Station, but that’s boring. Instead, they forged new ground.

But insurance companies? Noooooo. Combine any version of “risk,” “guard,” “point,” “core” or “dealer”  and there’s a company with that name offering ADPD coverage. No Shazzam or Whoopsie Insurance Companies here, no sirree.

So that was my day: Insurance application forms. Oh, and other miscellaneous paperwork. The insurance world loves paperwork as much as banks do. You know how it takes half a day to sign all the paperwork to buy a house? That’s banks, exacting their pound of flesh and a penny, too. At least half the paperwork performed in the insurance world is dictated by banks. Ever hear of a certificate of insurance? They are horrible, horrible things, these certificates, and the people who require them are masochists for certain, though I would classify a few of them as tortuous sadists.

But, and here’s the big but: I got a creative blog post out of it.

That’s something.

And you thought insurance has never inspired a poet, huh?

pauls gig

I admire an innovative busker.

Like Paul, for instance. Paul writes poetry.

I met Paul earlier this spring on a trip to Orlando, Florida. I didn’t go there for the Mouse; I was lured there by an all-expenses-paid trip offered by one of the companies for which my Beloved sells insurance.

paul typingOn our last morning there after we enjoyed brunch by the lake, we watched Paul set up shop. When I realized what he was up to, I loved everything about him: His tie, his neatly combed hair, his old-fashioned typewriter–and he was a writer! Who doesn’t love a writer? Certainly another writer appreciates one of her own kind. So I loved his hustle.

So I asked my husband what topic we should give him. “Something hard,” I said. “We gotta make him work.”

So to heck with love or puppies or lakeside views! I walked up and asked him what he charges for a poem.

“They’re priceless,” he said.

“Free?” I said, incredulous.

“Well, you can pay me whatever you think it’s worth.”

“OK, I’m in. Here’s my topic. It’s a hard one, OK?”

“Sure, I like a challenge.”

“Insurance.”

Paul seemed nonplussed. Apparently he’d had enough with writing about puppies.

He said he needed a half hour or so, and I told him I’d be back in an hour or two.

Off I went to watch the movie “Life,” a chronicle about death on a space station. I returned to Earth, and to Paul.

He wrapped up the last stanza (he doesn’t write boring old limericks, nosiree, he writes 16-line poems!), and pondered a title. He finally settled on a dedication to my Beloved, the insurance salesman.

pauls poem

Paul cleared his throat and performed his poem for me and a small crowd of fans (OK, maybe they weren’t fans of anything more than the cool lake view, but they were fans nonetheless).

To be honest, I don’t think it’s very flattering to insurance salesmen. But Paul didn’t promise purple prose–he promised poetry about insurance. Which he delivered.

So I handed him $10, and he bid me well, eager to get on to his next creation: About puppies.

paul on the lake

Follow Paul Felker on Instagram #paulspoems and #paul_felker.

She stuck a feather in her cap and called it macaroni

Be creative is my mantra for 2017.

cre·a·tive /krēˈādiv/ relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work

That’s me this year. A regular fountain of original ideas.

But it’s tough to be creative when one is preparing paperwork to have the taxes done or packing, say, every single thing you own. Paperwork and packing are boring.

But I’m sneaking in a little originality when I can.

So today, I’m cleaning out the pantry.

(Any good native of Minnesota starts every story with “so”).

Anyway, I’m cleaning out the pantry, and I find a plethora of pasta.

I didn’t exactly “find” it. I knew it was there, haunting me in my dreams. I’ve tried to think up ways to eat it up, but there was just so much. Or more precisely, so many. Lots of packages, mostly half empty (or half full, depending on your perspective on the world).

Lasagna noodles, soba noodles, egg noodles. Rotini, cavatelli, gemelli, fusilli, elbow macaroni, skinny elbow macaroni, spaghetti, angel hair spaghetti, quinoa spaghetti, supergrain spaghetti, multi-grain spaghetti, ready-cut spaghetti. And stelline (for your chicken and stars soup, you know).

Seventeen packages.

Yes, I know. Please don’t heap any more guilt on me. Why did I buy so much? Why haven’t we eaten it? Why did I keep it?

So I came up with an ingenious way to get rid of it without just throwing it away.

I posted the following on the local Facebook classifieds page:

Do kids today still do macaroni art? I’ve got 17 opened boxes and bags of various kinds of pasta that would work for a daycare or preschool. Yes, 17 — don’t judge. I can’t give away to the food pantry because it’s open, but the waste of dumping seems extravagant. FREE — all you’ve got to do it pick it up. Anyone interested?

As any good marketer knows, presentation matters. So rather than post a picture of a messy pile of half-empty pasta containers, I got creative. (Do you feel like you’re listening to a Lake Wobegon story yet?)

macaroni-art

This is me. Looking at you.

Hey, it worked! Someone’s coming for my leftover pasta on Monday.

The Island of Unfinished Craft Projects

One of the scenes in the 1964 “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” features Rudolph paying a visit to the Island of Misfit Toys.

Such a poignant scene, that.

Eventually in that stop-motion animated Christmas special, Rudolph redeems the unloved misfits by finding the perfect children to love the train with square wheels, the water pistol that shoots jelly and Charlie-in-the-Box.

Too bad the Island of Unfinished Craft Projects can’t have a similarly happy ending.

While combing through closets and drawers preparing my house for sale, I kept running across trends to which I no longer subscribed.

embroidery

Cross stitch, anyone? Sadly, my grasp exceeded my reach (“Kay,” by the way, is my sister’s name — apparently I was thinking emoji-esque thoughts about her decades ago). I also found this incomplete gem:

love-my-cat

I haven’t owned a cat for more than 10 years.

bead-collection

This mess represents hundreds of dollars worth of beads, wire and tools to make jewelry. Talk about misfits, though. Half of these pendants don’t have holes through which to string a chain:

pendants

They’re pretty in their imperfect way. And like the cat cross-stitch, I found these unassembled earrings, lacking only their hooks and enough finishing work to hide the weaving thread. The instructions are long gone.

earrings

More recently, I started and couldn’t finish a wine cork wreath. I even have the glue sticks but, alas, not the stick-to-itiveness.

wine-wreath

I tried in vain to unload these odd collections on a couple of Facebook marketplaces to which I belong (because they’re hardly worth the gas to drive across town let alone postage to mail across country). But either I didn’t price them correctly or other folks have dark corners in their homes filled with unfinished projects haunting them because I had only one nibble which fell into the same black hole where my creativity was lost.

Now I am faced with throwing them away, which pains my frugal Midwestern soul, or packing them up for a rainy (snowy?) day that may never come.

Head Elf: Now listen you: You’re an elf, and elves make toys. Now, get to work!

[whistle blows]

Head Elf: Ten minute break!

[Hermey smiles, but then the Head Elf confronts him]

Head Elf: Not for you! Finish the job, or you’re fired!

 

 

 

Soliciting ideas for spending my five-spot

Have you heard of Fiverr?

It’s a cool and clever website where you can hire service pros of all kinds for five bucks. (Yes, it has two Rs. I don’t know why. Perhaps someone else who gets it can explain it.)

I’m redesigning my Beloved’s business website, and he needed a new logo. I had no real idea of what I wanted — just the words — so I hired a woman in the United Kingdom to throw out five ideas for five bucks. Five bucks!

She came back in 24 hours with five amazingly clever concepts. For a few bucks more, she provided our favorite in color, black-and-white, on a white background, on a transparent background,in high resolution and in low resolution.

It was so easy!

Now I’m working with a man from Pakistan to program my website design ideas (that’s costing more than five bucks, but that’s OK — I’m willing to spring for the whole kit and kaboodle for a multi-page website).

Fiverr is great no matter what kind of service you might need (except a haircut — that might be tough — although you can get full professional beauty consultation for five bucks).

Because I hired the logo designer, I earned five bonus bucks in some Fiverr promotion or another, so now I have five bucks to spend. On anything! And I’ve got to do it before March 1. I want to do something fun, but I can’t decide. Maybe my loyal readers can help me figure it out.

Should I have someone rewrite my “about the author” blurb? How about a one-week personal workout program? I could have someone cast “an extremely powerful Kabbalah spell.” I could invest in “a rhyming poem, snarky letter, or back-handed hallmark card type comment” worthy of shouting from the rooftops. I could have someone write a message on their lips or in cappuccino froth and take a photo for posterity. Or maybe something even more bizarre and creative.

Heck, I could even have someone write a Minnesota Transplant blog post for me!

What do you think? How should I spend my fiver?

Seven things I’ve learned in seven years of blogging

Congratulations to me! Today is the seventh anniversary of writing a blog. I posted my first entry exactly seven years ago today when I wrote rather plainly about a visit from Mom and Dad and the end of autumn.

blogging lessons

On this auspicious occasion, I’m sharing seven things I’ve learned from this exercise:

1. Think hard about your brand before you begin.

I spent a lot of time in the month before beginning my blog settling on a name. I finally went with the blog title you’ve come to love because I thought it vague enough to permit me to write about a lot of topics, yet specific enough to describe my world view. And thus was born Minnesota Transplant.

2. Know why you’re writing.

I haven’t gotten rich in seven years, at least not in terms of financial windfall. But like a true writer, I can’t not write. I am compelled to create. And this is the forum in which I can be creative.

The purpose of my blog, first and foremost, is to record my daily doings for the people I love who now live two states away, primarily my parents and sister. Writing a post is a little like writing a letter, and I know my long-distance family gauges my well-being by what I post. Fortunately for me and my ego, a lot of other friends and acquaintances have found a place in my audience, too (see those stats over there in my sidebar? 1,813 followers and 127,318 hits and counting to be precise).

3. Playing small ball pays off. Eventually.

In seven years, I’ve written 1,845 posts here. Plus, I wrote 116 posts on Monica Lee, my author and writing blog, and another 116 entries on Clickago Storywerks, the blog about my photo organizing business (not subscribing to those? get thee over there to remedy that situation). On average, that’s 299 posts a year, or nearly six posts a week.

Pretty impressive. At least to me.

In order to write that kind of volume, I subscribe to the motto “Showing up is 90% of success.” I know that not every post is stellar literary fodder. But once a week or so, I write something really great, and I do that by trying to write something really great every day.

 4. Don’t conform.

This is a personal blog, not a business blog, so this lesson definitely doesn’t apply to you money-makers out there. But one rule I break every day is staying on point. I write about literally everything from books to fitness and recipes to aging. Even when I participate in WordPress’s weekly photo challenges, I write a lot of words to go along with my photography. Because I can. I’m in charge, and I enjoy thinking outside the box. And that freedom is what keeps me coming back to the keyboard.

5. There’s no accounting for taste.

I’ve written some amazing bits in seven years — stuff I love for the writing and the meaning. But my popular posts have been a book review of In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, a recipe for Who Hash and an analysis of what teachers are paid at my stepson’s high school.

Apparently, those posts have answered big questions for people living with covertly aggressive people, cooks who are also fans of Dr. Seuss and taxpayers (or possibly student teachers).

6. Be nice.

I know some angry bloggers might get a lot of attention, but I don’t need any more meanies in my life. Early on, I posted something depressing and pissy. My father encouraged me to rethink that attitude. The world is filled with enough pissiness without me adding to it. So when I’m angry, at least I try to be clever. But most of the time I try to count my blessings, and an attitude of graditude makes my blog — and my life — richer.

7. Blogging preserves time.

If there’s one life change I’d like to experience from writing my blog, it’s a book deal (I mean, who wouldn’t?), but I’ve already gotten a gift. The very act of thinking about a topic cements it into my memory banks. I rarely feel like time is slipping through my fingers.

Like a diary or journal, I can look back on blog posts and remember small events in my life. And that’s what life is made up of: Small things.

So, there you go … seven years of blogging, seven lessons. And today marks the beginning of another seven years. Yay, me.

Improvisation, also known as winging it (with panache)

Sometimes you just gotta work with what you got.

Dinner began with the concept: “No more chicken.”

I had ground beef, and my Beloved suggested chili.

Chili. Good. Except I didn’t have diced tomatoes. And the only beans I had were Great Northern, which would have worked but we like black-eyed peas in our chili.

Hmm.

At quick look at Google revealed a concept for Frito Pie, and a little digging revealed a Frito Pie recipe using salsa verde instead of tomatoes.

I didn’t have Fritos either. But I had Takis!

[What are Takis, you ask? Ridiculously hot, ridiculously red rolled-up corn chips. Volcanic in nature, they are an ingredient one can’t ignore.]

Besides salsa verde, the recipe called for canned green chilis.

Yup. Fresh out of those, too. But I had a half a sweet red pepper. How ’bout that?

Damn recipe also called for corn. Who shows up about then but the Schwan’s man! He sells frozen corn! (He also sells a lot of other complete dinner options, but I was committed to using that hamburger now.)

Well, a little bit of simmering coordinated all my flavors. Green Takis Pie with ground beef and Great Northern beans was even better topped with the very sharp cheddar cheese I found in the back of the cheese drawer (no mold, thank you very much) and dollops of cool sour cream. We had lots of sour cream.

Delicious.

From inconsiderable beginnings come impressive results.

“Measure not by the scale of perfection the meager product of reality.”

~ Friedrich von Schiller