Category Archives: Coaching

Creative people get stuck. Coaches get them unstuck.

Postcard Play

The busy and focued iHanna is doing another postcard swap. Having missed the last one, I signed up for this one. You can sign up till April 28, 2014.

Not being able to decide on one direction, I chose two completely different types of cards, and made about half a dozen of each. The requirement was 10, but making two extra gives me some choices–or two extra postcards to send to someone else. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know how much I love making and sending postcards.

Here are some of the chicken series. All these cards still need to be pressed flat.

card1This one is made from a constellation atlas. The red parts are Monsoon papers.

card2Another chicken collaged from hand-printed papers and a bit of Monsoon paper (the grass.)

card3The chicken body is made of suminagashi-printed paper. The beak, comb and wattle are hand-printed papers from a Gelli Plate. The grass is a section of Monsoon paper.

The other series are ink drops on watercolor paper. When they dried, I printed quotes on them.

card4The quote: “It’s hard to have a life of creation if you have created a life of maintenance.” –Barbara Winter

card5Another quote that speaks to the work of creativity. “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” –Roald Dahl

Quinn McDonald believes in magic and chooses the rockier life of creativity over maintenance. She is easily bored but also easily amused. She is the author of The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal.

Checking in on the Word of the Year

Moonrise over Houston. The bright full moon is caught under the wing, as we turn west toward Phoenix.

Moonrise over Houston. The bright full moon is caught under the wing, as we turn west toward Phoenix.

April is already half over and I haven’t checked in on your Word of the Year. Do you remember it? Is it serving you well? If not, you may find that putting it down and choosing a new word is just what you need.

“Scatter” is my word. It’s been very interesting. Some days, I do something from all parts of my life, some days I explore the edges of something I’ve done for a long time.

On the business front: I’m amazed at the people I sit next to on airplanes. So many people crushed by their own lives. Who flee into “busy” to give themselves self-worth. Who will talk to me about their lives although they don’t know me. Very interesting.

On the coaching front: I’m grateful for clients who recommend me. Very grateful. It’s a wonderful way to accumulate more gifted people who want to work on change.

On the creative front: I’m exploring collage again. Deeply. Collage with Monsoon papers and words. Always those words! And after returning to my Commonplace Journal, I’m thinking I need to teach a class that includes . . . . a lot.

On the identity front: I’m so interesting in how people perceive others. Now that I have identified as an outsider artist, I have found that I’m not alone. There are creatively hungry people out there. And yes, people who just like to mess around. Room for both!

On the art teaching front: I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Madeline Island class makes. The long, cold winter slowed class enrollment, so I’m holding my breath and hoping for a few more people who want to retreat into creativity, explore writing and art and make a journal –all in early June!

What’s your experience with the word you chose?

-Quinn McDonald is thinking of working on a plane-coaching model, because she seems to be doing a lot of listening to people’s stories.

Being Yourself

We want to work like a CEO, delegate like the managing partner of a law firm, produce wonderful art like whoever is popular right now and smile like a Orbits chewing gum commercial.

Become-who-you-areWe rarely want to be just like ourselves. Flawed, working hard, trying to be better is wonderful. It keeps us busy and mindful of change. But when we always aspire to be better, smarter, cooler, and other-than-us, we don’t get to be ourselves very much.

“Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself,” Miles Davis said.

It takes time to discover all the parts of you, sort them out, and make something of them. The best way to do that is to focus on the parts of you, instead of comparing the parts to someone else and falling short. Focusing on the you that exists already helps you discover who you are, what you like, what you want to do with your talent. Comparing yourself to others shows you what you are not, what you lack.

And lack is the home of the inner critic. Bring out The Assembler of the Pieces of You as an inner hero and celebrate all the parts of you that are marvelous.

Quinn McDonald is the author of The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal. She’s happy she wrote the book. It’s not a fast-riser on the New York Times best-seller list, but the reviews on amazon.com are amazingly thoughtful. People are being themselves when they comment. Nothing could be better.

 

You Do Have a Choice–and it’s Yours

“I didn’t have a choice.” It’s something I hear all the time, particularly in TV shows and on Facebook, as a shrug to the inevitable. Yet the person then makes some sort of choice.

Image from Favething.com

Image from Favething.com

We all have choices all the time. Good choices, not-so-good choices, really bad choices. All ours to own. All ours to make, evaluate and love. Or correct. Even if you think, “the other thing isn’t really a choice,” the other choice is a thing to reject, and that makes choosing easier. Without a bad choice, there can’t be a good choice.

Owning your choice is another important step. For the past week, I haven’t walked. Walking conflicted with early-morning classes, and my stalling in getting out of the house. Big mistake. If I don’t walk early, I don’t walk. Life begins to whiz by, calls need to be answered, and walking gets pushed later and later until it’s the time of day where I’m too tired to walk. That’s a choice I make.

Choice is based on priority–what is important, what is on deadline, what needs to be done. The choice you make today may not be the same one as tomorrow. That’s fine. Situations change. But even between a rock and a hard place, there is a choice. Don’t hand your choice over with a shrug and a helpless feeling. Even a bad choice is a learning experience worth living through.

-–Quinn McDonald is going back to walking. Her brains seem to be connected to her feet.

 

 

Reading Isn’t Believing

As a blog omnivore, I read a lot of advice, thoughts, and beliefs of other writers and artists. It’s a big world, populated by writers of every emotional and spiritual stripe (and rant).

Smart-is-when-you-believe-half-of-what-you-hearThe last two days, I’ve been reading about other people’s success stories about blogging and book promoting. (I have a tendency to read about what’s on my plate). Interesting what happens in my brain (maybe yours, too) when we read something new that we don’t agree with. The other person must be smarter. Particularly if we don’t know them. Because no matter what our experience is, surely the other person is smarter, richer, wiser, and a better all-around human being. (Inner critic alert).

I’m amazed at my own gullibility. “Content is no longer king,” says one blogger, and I gobble up his article, afraid that one of my basic truths has vanished. “The reader is king!” he proudly proclaims, “content doesn’t really matter.” Oh. And what is King Reader reading? Content. And why will King Reader read the content? Because it is interesting to King Reader. So, finish the circle, content is still king.

“If you are still doing book signings, you are over 60 and a dinosaur,” says another blogger. Her idea is that everything is virtual, and social networking is the only action that sells books.

I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure people buy books for lots of reasons, and a good reason is to meet the person who wrote it and talk to them if they are available. And that means I want to make myself available. Because people who are satisfied tell others. (Not as many as people who are unsatisfied, which is motivation enough.) But can’t I do both? The Inner Hero book had two launches (one in California and one locally in Phoenix) and is having a fun run on several people’s blogs.

Before you believe everything you read (I call this “the last person I talked to is an expert” syndrome) run it through your value-meter. I’ve been writing for a long time, and content matters. If an article is cheap starchy filler, I leave faster than a barefoot pedestrian crosses a freshly-tarred street.

imagesMy value-meter knows that meeting people face to face and hearing their stories is what made me write my book in the first place. I heard so many people say, “I’m not really good at anything” while hungering to make meaning in life,  it was impossible for me not to write the book.

Of course, I also learn a lot from reading blogs.  I’m happy to explore new ideas, and I’m a big fan of change. But change for change’s sake rarely sticks. Change is fueled by current failure, pain, or general misery.  What makes change possible is that the current plan isn’t working.

What works for someone else might not work for me. And if it doesn’t match what I know to be true from my own life, it’s probably not true for me. My life is a big circle, and I invite a lot of people in. But it doesn’t mean I have to follow them around in circles.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach whose coaching practice is based on working with deeply-held values and, well, change.

Easy, Cheap, No Work

” I want the eight hour class, but I want you to spend no more than half a day. And I don’t want you to lose anything. Can you do that?”

Postcards“The two day class seems like a lot of work. Can you cut out some of the exercises without losing any of the learning?”

“My group really is scared of complicated classes. What can you do to make the topic simple so no one has to ask any questions or see a demo?”

I hear these questions at least twice a month, both about my art classes and my business writing classes. Fun, easy, simple classes are wonderful. Many things that are easy and simple are valuable and worth learning.

From Lisa Loves Learning

From Lisa Loves Learning

But there is value in complicated. Struggle with something and conquer it and you have two valuable outcomes–you’ve learned something new and you have learned that you are strong enough to stick with something worthwhile.

Sadly, challenges are getting a bad name. If something is hard, it is the teacher’s perceived job is to make it easy. I’ve seen the title workshop become “playshop” because, you know, work is hard.

Teachers are not meant to hand people pre-digested solutions to solve problems or to complete a project. Part of  personal growth is in the struggle, is in finding solutions, is in completing the work. No one loves failure, but it can be part of a larger success. A life that has no challenges, whose answers come supplied by others does not add any significant learning or meaning.

Struggle for the sake of struggle is not useful. But working hard for what you want brings rewards independent of winning. And rewards are worth working for.

Quinn McDonald draws out the brave in people. She admires the brave meaning-makers far more than winners.

 

Being Enough

If you have friends, you have been sent one of the TED Talks of Brené Brown, the story-teller researcher who works on slippery topics–vulnerability, shame, being enough.

Here’s what I learned when I explored Brown’s ideas of being enough.

enough_1When my coaching clients tell me they have no dreams, no goals, no ambitions they often present it as a fact that has always been true and will always remain true. When I peg that as the “I’m enough” baseline, they get nervous. Unhappy. Because they often feel they aren’t enough. What would it take to be enough?

enoug_2We often allow other people to determine who we are.  Among our friends, winning is getting the envious looks at the size 4 figure, the Prada bag, the BMW, the wealthy spouse. We define ourselves in the eyes of others. Nothing wrong with the Prada and the BMW, as long as you know they aren’t you, and that if you lost them, you would still have the essential you. (Reality check: if you lost the Prada, the spouse, the BMW, would your friends stay?)

enough_31It’s easy to lose sight of, then forget, our own values, our own dreams, our own goals. We replace what our heart yearns for with the prize we want right now.

enough_51The harder truth to cope with is that we are enough every day. Everyone fails, everyone does dumb things, everyone wishes they could take something back. The real success stories belong to the people who brush off their values and won’t allow rationalization to tarnish them. Who push themselves to grow every day. To be enough every day.


enough_6Your “enough” can grow. That’s the point. A real trick is to allow your friends to be Enough today and grow to be Enough tomorrow, too. Not your Enough, their Enough.  If last week’s Enough feels tight, you have outgrown it. Luckily, Enough can grow with self-awareness.

Quinn McDonald is a life and creativity coach who helps people deal with change and re-invention. In other words, who helps people grow into their personal “Enough.”

Patience, Failure and Angry Birds

OK, I’ll admit it: I still play Angry Birds. And I still like it. Unlike some games, which require only luck, or only persistence, Angry Birds has taught me some interesting thinking patterns that apply to daily life.

Angry-Birds-HD-Wallpaper1. What’s the point, here, really? Different game sections in Angry Birds demand different strategies. Some require using the least number of birds to complete the game, others give more points for collapsing more of the scenery. You won’t get three stars until you figure out the underlying winning factor.

That’s also true of clients and your supervisor at work. Different supervisors (or clients) have different goals and ways they like to tackle goals. Your star will rise and fall based on your ability to figure  out if you are being asked to think like the leader or supply a coordinating tactic.

Angry-Birds2. Practice is similar to failure, and it’s a step to winning. Part of the thrill of Angry Birds is figuring out how to use each bird to its best advantage. That isn’t always obvious. Sometimes firing the bird at the closest object seems to make sense. Other times, topping a structure in the middle causes a collapse of all the surrounding structures more effectively. But you don’t know that unless you try. In Angry Birds, failure is a step in success. It’s a learning step, and in real life we call it practice.

Practice is almost non-existent in the business model, except in a few industries such as software development and science). For creative folks, it’s an absolute necessity. If one thing doesn’t work, it’s important to figure out why and try something else. Problem solving can’t be left to computer models alone. Computer models are programmed with what we already know.

Angry-Birds3. You have to know what the bird does to use it. The little round red birds don’t do much, but they can weaken a structure. The yellow ones get a burst of speed when you tell them to, but timing is everything. The orange ones expand, which is useful only if they are in a tight spot. The Tucan-like ones reverse course, but often not the way you want them to.

Use your strength in the right way. If you hate any type of confrontation, you may not be best at negotiating.  If you are very intuitive, you may not be good at research to prove your points. It’s good to learn what you don’t know, of course, but half of being smart is knowing what you are bad at and not leading with that.

—Quinn McDonald learns slowly, so she learns anyway she can.

Checking in on Your Word of the Year

It’s time again. How is your word doing? Is it directing you? Helping you? Slowing you down? Do you remember it? Do you wish you had chosen another word? There is no rule that says you can’t. If you can’t remember your word, or wish you had chosen something different, try that. A word that is not serving your creativity is a word that needs to be updated.

Your creativity needs to be nurtured and encouraged. With words, with actions, with the best help you can give it.

This is the banner of  's blog: http://thepowerofwordsonpaper.blogspot.com/  Be sure to read her review of The Night Circus. Link is below.

This is the banner of Morigan Aoife’s ‘s blog: http://thepowerofwordsonpaper.blogspot.com/ Be sure to read her review of The Night Circus. Link is below.

 

My word for the year is “scatter” and I’m doing it. If all went well, I am flying home after filming the DVD this week. I wrote blog posts ahead of time, so if I came home tired, I could rest and not beat myself up for not posting a fresh idea.

I’ve never done a DVD, and I did it in support of the Inner Hero Creative Art Journal book. I was hesitant. But writers have an obligation to live what they write,  so I had to stand up and support my own inner heroes and support others in the creation of their own inner heroes.  If I don’t create a tribe around the book, no one will be able to warm their hands by the fire of creativity.

I’m also creating a new class for my corporate clients. I rarely talk about my life as a corporate trainer, but it’s a big part of my life. And I’m stepping up and creating a class on innovation and change. I see the need for it when I teach business writing. So I’m creating it. Gulp. Will it sell? Will clients ask for it? Is it risky? Well, sure, but if I chose “scatter,” I better try the risky things.

How is your word doing? What are you doing with it? Does it need to be changed, updated, brought back into your life? Leave an answer; you’ll help others.

-–Quinn McDonald remembers that her mother-in-law used to say, “Do it now. You are a long time dead.” So she’s doing it.

I’m reading The Night Circus, which is how I found Morigan Aoife’s blog on the book. It’s interesting.