Archive | September, 2005

Imagination Prompt Generator

Like you, we have been relatively glued either to the radio or TV (and some blogs) trying to get our “feet back under us” from the news of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

After making donations to friends in need, and doing what we can to help from across the country, I still find that putting my focus on creative projects is what is most healing for me now.

Beyond that, the only thing I can think to do is to keep in touch with friends and let them know we care. That seems to do some good for them … and for us.

In the meanwhile, here’s a wonderful kick-start for some of us who have stalled out during these tough days …

I got this from Life, who got it from Creativity Portal…

The Imagination Prompt Generator:

Creativity can be tough at times and I know exactly how hard writer’s block can be. Sometimes you’ll try anything to get yourself an idea.

The Imagination Prompt Generator, from Creativity Portal, is a nice little Web application that will prompt you with brain teasers to get you thinking, and hopefully writing. A few examples:

Why is creativity important?
Make up a new word and then give it a definition.
Is the media manipulative?
My favorite movie was about…

As you can see, some are better than others and some might be more relevant to you and your writing. However, a new one is just a click away and anything to get you thinking is a good thing.

Hope this helps you out a bit…


25th Annual West Coast Songwriters Conference

Dates: September 10-11, 2005
25th Annual West Coast Songwriters Conference
Foothill College
12345 El Monte Road
Los Altos Hills, California (near Palo Alto, just South of San Francisco)
Contact: WCS Executive Director, Ian Crombie:
Phone: (650) 654-3966 or (800) for-song.

Both John Braheny and JoAnn Braheny will be teaching THIS weekend along with guest speakers, teachers and music business professionals from the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles, Nashville, Boston and beyond. Conference schedule.

Traditionally, the conference draws about 300 songwriters, mostly from California and environs … writing and performing all styles of music, some more seasoned than others. It’s definitely one of our favorite events, because there are plenty of opportunities to hear new songs (yours!) and meet new songwriters, as well as visit with annual returnees.

Unique to this conference are private “listening sessions” where you can perform your songs (live!) for just one or two music industry pros at a time, who will critique your performance, as well as the quality of the songs. A most valuable experience…

Also, you can pitch songs to the participating music publishers and producers, so don’t forget to bring your cassettes, CDs, and lyrics sheets. Check the schedule to see who is looking for what kind of music (all genres).

Marcus Barone will present his superb class (also looking for music) for TV and Film. And if you’re into children’s music, you’ll want to go to Michael and Patty Silversher’s class. (By the way, they are the esteemed founders of the organization.) Steven Memel is a not-to-be-missed vocal coach, if you’re looking to improve your singing chops. And Pat Pattison is one of the nation’s best lyric-writing teachers (and author), coming from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. If you’re looking to improve your networking techniques, you’ll love Dan Kimpel (Music Connection magazine) who has “done it all” and is happy to share. Yes, there will be information about how to market your songs (and make money) and how to be your own publisher, etc. Actually, there’s not a class that I can’t highly recommend.

John Braheny will present Basic Songcraft, to get you past what you already know instinctively about songwriting, to provide the tools which separate the amateurs from the pros.

JoAnn Braheny (that’s me!) will present a Goosing Your Muse class, with insights on how to tame your Inner Critic, design a workable career path for yourself, and learn tips for smoothing feathers between you and your collaborators.

It’s a very special event (and we’ve been to most around the country), so I hope to see you there. Wear comfortable shoes!



We are finally back from our one-month-long, cross-country songwriters seminar tour. That’s why I haven’t been posting much lately. Too much to do on the road. But now I’m glad to be back and to write to you again. (I’ll post about about tour at a later date.)

And now … with all the horrible news about Hurricane Katrina, our wish is to help others through these difficult times. John’s brother, Kevin Braheny, brought this beautiful article to my attention, written by noted author, Rachel Remen. It helped me to re-read it…as I hope it will do for you too.

Rachel Naomi Remen

Noetic Sciences Review
Spring 1996


In recent years the question, “how can I help?” has become meaningful to many
people. But perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider. Perhaps the
real question is not, “how can I help?” but “how can I serve?”

Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality; it is not
a relationship between equals. When you help you use your own strength to help
those of lesser strength. If I’m attentive to what’s going on inside of me
when I’m helping, I find that I’m always helping someone who’s not as strong as
I am, who is needier than I am. People feel this inequality. When we help we
may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we
may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity and wholeness.
When I help I am very aware of my own strength. But we don’t serve with our
strength, we serve with ourselves. We draw from all of our experiences. Our
limitations serve, our wounds serve, even our darkness can serve. The wholeness in
us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in
you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between

Helping incurs debt. When you help someone they owe you one. But serving,
like healing, is mutual. There is no debt. I am as served as the person I am
serving. When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction. When I serve I have a
feeling of gratitude. These are very different things.

Serving is also different from fixing. When I fix a person I perceive them as
broken, and their brokenness requires me to act. When I fix I do not see the
wholeness in the other person or trust the integrity of the life in them. When
I serve I see and trust that wholeness. It is what I am responding to and
collaborating with.

There is distance between ourselves and whatever or whomever we are fixing.
Fixing is a form of judgment. All judgment creates distance, a disconnection,
an experience of difference. In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that
can easily become a moral distance. We cannot serve at a distance. We can
only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing
to touch. This is Mother Teresa’s basic message. We serve life not because it
is broken but because it is holy.

If helping is an experience of strength, fixing is an experience of mastery
and expertise. Service, on the other hand, is an experience of mystery,
surrender and awe. A fixer has the illusion of being causal. A server knows that he
or she is being used and has a willingness to be used in the service of
something greater, something essentially unknown. Fixing and helping are very
personal; they are very particular, concrete and specific. We fix and help many
different things in our lifetimes, but when we serve we are always serving the same
thing. Everyone who has ever served through the history of time serves the
same thing. We are servers of the wholeness and mystery in life.

The bottom line, of course, is that we can fix without serving. And we can
help without serving. And we can serve without fixing or helping. I think I
would go so far as to say that fixing and helping may often be the work of the
ego, and service the work of the soul. They may look similar if you’re watching
from the outside, but the inner experience is different. The outcome is often
different, too.

Our service serves us as well as others. That which uses us strengthens us.
Over time, fixing and helping are draining, depleting. Over time we burn out.
Service is renewing. When we serve, our work itself will sustain us.

Service rests on the basic premise that the nature of life is sacred, that
life is a holy mystery which has an unknown purpose. When we serve, we know that
we belong to life and to that purpose. Fundamentally, helping, fixing and
service are ways of seeing life. When you help you see life as weak, when you
fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. From the
perspective of service, we are all connected: All suffering is like my suffering
and all joy is like my joy. The impulse to serve emerges naturally and
inevitably from this way of seeing.

Lastly, fixing and helping are the basis of curing, but not of healing. In 40
years of chronic illness I have been helped by many people and fixed by a great
many others who did not recognize my wholeness. All that fixing and helping
left me wounded in some important and fundamental ways. Only service heals.

Reprinted from Noetic Sciences Review, Spring 1996


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