Friday, November 9, 2007

A Creative Twist to Memorable Holiday Gifts

It's a challenge we face every year -- what to do about gifts for Christmas. Our loved ones and friends need some TLC, but how best to show it? Creativity and innovation expert Gregg Fraley put together some fun and thoughtful ideas for everyone on your gift list, items that are great for even the thinnest of budgets and more meaningful, too.

Fraley said, "It's daunting; it's complex; and it is often something we find hard to be inventive about. Panic, procrastination, and, yes, fear get in the way of creative thinking. You don't have to buy something awful just to cross someone off your list; there is no heart or creativity in that."

He adds, "First, get out of panic mode and start thinking creatively by writing down some facts and feelings you have about each person. Keep a little notebook for your creative gift project. Jam ideas at every odd moment of the day, look to those facts and feelings for inspiration. If you continue your personal brainstorming for a few days, you'll get breakthrough ideas. Finally, take action on those ideas and you'll get through the season without last minute hysteria."

Fraley's approach offers some creative ideas to address the Christmas Challenge. It's not about money; it's about creative thinking! Following, in no particular order, are 23 creative ideas for this year's holiday gifting challenge, for more details on each idea, visit Gregg's blog, www.

1. Write Something Personal in a Well-Selected or Handmade Card. Why not make a card a very personal and meaningful gift? Don't just sign your name, write a real note. If you have time, make a card yourself.

2. Send Pictures. Pictures are personal and make meaningful gifts. Find, or create, a really good photograph for your inner circle. The web makes it easy to post pictures for sharing, and you can do that (if you do, try; it's so easy), but an old-fashioned printed photograph is something that is treasured.

3. Create a Cool Package of Themed Stuff. Combine several small gifts into a cool package designed around a person's interests. For instance, how about golf themed package with balls, tees, glove, and markers?

4. Give Fine Art. Museum shops are great places to find small gifts with class. Find out the favorite artist of your gifted. A coffee table book or a pack of cool Monet thank you cards are useful and personal gifts.

5. Give Art Supplies. An under-rated place to shop for Christmas gifts is a good art supply store. I mean, who couldn't use a nice fancy pen? For kids, there are a lot of new-fangled art supplies like Crayola's Model Magic – a hipper and easier sculpting media than Play Dough.

6. Help Decorate the Tree by Giving Christmas Ornaments. It's rare that they come as a gift; people usually buy their own. It's a nice way to participate in someone's Christmas every year!

7. Christmas Tree Surprise Party, or, Put up a Tree. Whacky idea, but many people don't have time to put up a tree. If you know somebody who would like one but is short on time, sneak into their pad and put one up for them, and keep it simple!

8. Make Your Own Ornaments. Go back to that art supply or crafts store and pick up some unique supplies and create something highly artistic and individual.

9. Donation in Their Name. Many people have everything they need, and, in truth, gifts are pouring gravy on potatoes that are already swimming. Find out their favorite charity and make a donation in their name. Find or make a nice card and let them know.

10. Create a Quilt for a Sick Child. Sewonderful Quilts will provide you with free fabric (very beautiful sample material otherwise destined for the landfill) and instructions. Go to for more information.

11. Give Time. Many of our best friends and family pine for our company. Why not gift a juicy chunk of time, an afternoon, or a whole day? Wrap up a small box with a clock inside and enclose a note suggesting a day and do something you both like.

12. Write a Poem. A poem about someone you know is a highly personal and special thing, so get out the pen, get reflective, look into your heart and just write it. Take some care and package your poem well, maybe combine it with candles and a reading.

13. Write a List of Acknowledgements. List 10 things you love about somebody It's hard to go wrong when you say out loud what you almost never do, but honestly feel.

14. Gift a Special Meal. And make it special and all about them. Use your imagination and go the distance with favorite types of flowers, wine, deserts, music – everything.

15. Give a Florescent Fish. Beta fish are beautiful and easy, only need to feed them once a day. Put together a friendly fish package of a small fish bowl, food, fish, and some decorations.

16. Share Your Favorite Recipes: Put together a fave recipe compilation for a personal gift. The more love you put into it, the more it will be appreciated.

17. Share Songs. On the low budget end, you could record a song on your computer, using a free audio package like Audacity (see ) and email an MPG file. You can even gift a favorite set of songs, a playlist.

18. Share an Audio Book, a Movie, or a Favorite TV Show. iPods playback audio books, movies, and TV shows as well as songs that would make nice gifts. It's easy; go to for help.

19. Say It with Flowers. We don't normally think of flowers as a Christmas gift, and yet, why not? Don't rule out a nice potted plant, or even a bonsai. It's all online.

20. Give Fairly. There are several websites out there with unique Fair Trade gifts from craftsman all around the world. See also these sites: and

21. Give Your Heritage. For the older folks reading this maybe this is the time to pass along that ring your great grandmother wore to a younger generation, or that hand-carved butcher block your grandfather made himself.

22. Hand Write a Miniature Book. Buy a blank notebook and fill it with whimsical thoughts you are having around the holidays, or thoughts you have about the friendship or love you have with someone. I can practically guarantee that you'll be the first and only giver of a handwritten book.

23. Gift an Historic Tree. I ran across a nursery that has trees that are offspring of Apple trees that Johnny Appleseed planted, Oaks from Elvis's Graceland, etc. A tree is a gift that keeps giving for generations, providing shade, fresh air, and beauty. Here's the site address: .

Author Gregg Fraley works as an innovation expert and new product development consultant to Fortune 500 companies and does keynote speeches and workshops on creative thinking, innovation, problem-solving, and new-product development. Fraley had his first book, Jack's Notebook, published this year. The book is a fast-paced, inspirational story that reveals the principles of a proven process for deliberate creative thinking – CPS (Creative Problem Solving). He is also a partner in The Innovise Guys, a creativity and innovation podcast with a humorous edge. The Innovise Guys are blending classic problem solving methods with comedy improvisational tools. Fraley is currently working in Great Britain as an Artist in Residence, but resides permanently in Three Oaks, Michigan.

More of Gregg Fraley's musings can be found on his website and blog at

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