More thoughts on creativity from Daphne Gray-Grant in this month’s “Tell Your Story Newsletter”

March 2021 Vol 3 Issue 3

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling
Let me tell your story!

Welcome Mid-March, 2021!
As spring is on the horizon in Saskatchewan, we long for more of the sunshine of last weekend but less of yesterday’s gusting wind! No Saskatchewanian ever dares to call an end to winter in March!

But longer daylight hours (and our province’s wisdom in not having accepted Daylight Savings’ Time), bring welcome relief!

Although the late phases of the Covid pandemic are wearying, I was relieved to test negative for the virus recently, after developing some troubling symptoms. I’m grateful to colleague and friend, nurse Laura Van Loon, for assisting me with getting tested. And I’m happy to be on-the-mend!

Despite these self-isolating, pandemic days, may the growing light and warmth of this month (even if limited to a balcony or back yard) bring you a return to or renewed good health, accomplishment in what you do and gratitude for the blessings (people, projects, books and more) that grace your life.


Storytelling Communications



ARTICLE 1: More thoughts on creativity from Daphne Gray-Grant
STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: Bryan Garner and the origins of “milquetoast”


Article One, on Entrepreneurial Wellness: More thoughts on creativity from Daphne Gray-Grant

Readers of this newsletter will recall that I’ve often discussed the concept of creativity and how we can enhance creative thinking processes, as entrepreneurs. Recently, Vancouver writer and writers’ coach, Daphne Gray-Grant, recommended 10 ways we can all improve our creativity.

Unlike writers Elizabeth Gilbert (Big Magic) and more in the vein of Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird), Gray-Grant stresses that creativity is “not a special gift, reserved for a limited few,” but is “a skill that anyone can learn.” Do her following 10 tips resonate with you?

(1) Get enough rest: Gray-Grant reports that most of us need between seven and nine hours of rest, nightly, and yet very few of us reach that target. She questions while we feel shame about needing sleep and argues against subordinating our need for sleep to anything else.

Most sleep studies “confirm that creativity is better after prolonged sleep”
( Right-brain centred, verbal creatives may fall asleep later and sleep later than those who are visually creative (i.e. artists) and definitely from left-brain, science thinkers.

An article on the US National Institutes of Health website tells us that sleep is needed to flush out metabolic waste from the brain that accrues when we are awake. Sleep helps to restore our thinking and creating capacities (reasoning, problem solving and attention to detail) and to store memories, as

(2) Creativity can improve if we allow for boredom. Because of foolishly overusing our smartphones, we never allow ourselves to be bored. When we’re waiting for a bus or at the supermarket, we surf YouTube or social media.
Gray-Grant says that instead allowing our minds to wander is healthy. She suggests: “look at the other people in the same space as you—notice their appearance, think about what makes them tick, imagine what their lives are like. You can look at the physical space [near you]. What are the
colours? What re the objects like? What makes it pretty? Or ugly? Or boring?”

This kind of mind wandering allows for creativity, since your mind can “go in any direction it likes. “Doing the same old activities does not allow for creativity.” And “noodling” on one’s smartphone is the mental equivalent of eating junk food, says British psychologist Sandi Mann.

When people are bored, they engage in deeper thinking, create games, amusements, diversions. I recall the great English actress Emma Thompson saying in an interview years ago that when she was a new mother, she coped with periods of creative underwork (e.g. a film project that lost its funding)
by daydreaming and developing far-away thoughts that bore no relation to the present.

(3) Gray-Grant says that it’s a mistake to try to write or create in a silent space and that this is why many writers work in coffee shops. She recommends seeking sound in the “70-decibel range,” like some soft living room music, which will not be too distracting; something with consistent rhythm
and tempo, such as Baroque composers; music that you already know and that does not have lyrics (which are distracting). Writers like me who dislike hearing music when thinking, can use a soundbox that quietly plays the repetitive sounds of rain, the surf, running water, wind and singing birds.

(4) Exercising regularly helps our brains, because it encourages the growth and survival of new brain cells (in the hippocampus). Writers for centuries have spoken of walking as a stimulant for better thinking (e.g. Virginia Woolf’s famous essay on “Street Haunting.”), since physical movement
can also promote mental activity.

(5) Gray-Grant recommends allowing ourselves to be “more childlike,” by which she means to allow oneself to have more fun in life—by questioning the status quo; by speaking our own simple truths (without white lies meant to spare others’ feelings); by “approaching the world with open hands and
open hearts,” instead of selfish egotism; and by not allowing discouraging things to burden you, by looking for positivity elsewhere.

(6) She also recommends taking more frequent breaks. Taking rests from work and not chaining oneself to a 80+ hour work week allows mental rest that increases one’s productivity in fewer hours.

(7) Seek the company of others who are creative, or, when that isn’t possible, read about creative people. I blogged years ago on creativity as discussed by Twyla Tharp and Elizabeth Gilbert’s books on the topic. Gray-Grant recommends Just Kids (Patti Smith) and Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)
and The War of Art (Steven Pressfield), amongst others.

(8) Know that being and thinking creatively “isn’t easy” and can be messy. “It’s not about playing with paints . . . on a sunny day. Instead it’s about sticking with your program when you’re discouraged with it and frustrated.” She recommends “set[ting] up routines and practices.”

(9) Do creative work, “just because,” and not always for a specifically defined purpose. Creativity can be “for fun” or because you “feel like doing it.” These are worthwhile motivations.

(10) Allow yourself time to be creative, practice it as part of a routine, so you become used to allowing time and energy for it. Gray-Grant says that while we can’t simply turn on a creativity tap, we can get used to developing a routine that encourages it.

And now it’s your turn: do you already use these recommended activities to increase your creativity? What does or does not work for you? Please share your experience on my “Contact” page. I’ll be delighted to hear from you.

STORYTELLER’S CORNER: Words, Stories, Riddles and Jokes on Writing and Editing . . .

This month: Bryan Garner and the origins of “milquetoast”

Etymologist Bryan Garner recently wrote in his “Usage Tip for the Day,” that the term “milquetoast” is derived from Harold Webster’s early-20th -century American comic strip, “The Timid Soul.”

The popular cartoon featured Caspar Milquetoast. His surname (then and now) refers to a “weak, timid person who is easily led” by others. The character is meek, overly sensitive and paranoid of offending others.

Webster had his character speak the following, which was reprinted on a Christmas card in the 1950s: “If you won’t think it presumptuous of me I’d like to -uh-er-wish you a merry-or at least as reasonably pleasant-a Christmas as we are entitled to, things-uh-er-being what they are.”

Garner says the word is now so commonplace that it should not be capitalized. Today, we might call someone a “milquetoast” if, for instance, after many years of political correctness, the person becomes unable to speak assertively about anything.

The name is derived (as sources including Wikipedia remind us) from “bland and . . . inoffensive food, milk toast, which, light and easy to digest, is appropriate food for someone with a weak or ‘nervous’ stomach.”

The cartoon started in the 1920s, resurged in the 1930s and continued for one year Webster’s death in 1952.

Do you have a story, riddle, cartoon or joke on any aspect of communications? Please share it with me; I’d be delighted to use it in an upcoming issue.



I’m taking a needed few days off from my usual writing and editing activities, so am happy to delve more deeply into my stack of unread books.
Maybe Middlemarch or Tristram Shandy will finally get their due . . . .?
I’ll be delighted to return to editing Praxis School of Entrepreneurship (PSE) colleagues’ blog postings and to develop their website copy, as part of the staySMART, pandemic-friendly program.

The program will be renewed in 2021, so stay tuned to join in! Meantime, it’s always wonderful to work with fellow alumni. I’m grateful as ever to PSE Chief Visionary Office Monica Kreuger, group coach and facilitator, Deanna Litz, and Elaine Mantyka and the PSE administrative team, who developed this work for me and other service providers.
Special acknowledgement to those of my readers who in recent months have lost beloved spouses or family members, whether due to Covid or other illnesses. You are on my mind and in my heart.
And deep thanks to those who continue to provide support via the province’s Healthline (811) and at our Health Region’s Covid-19 Testing Centre.
Finally, thanks and prayers to those who care well for seniors in these trying times, providing necessary stimulation, support, good nutrition and other basic needs, even when the pandemic limits our activity.

Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now teach English as a second language that helps new and economic immigrants to secure better jobs; I write communications documents that help SMEs to close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I write ebooks and chapbooks that help major companies share their legacies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant
website (

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!
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