Meaning-Making Books, and Giveaway

Meaning making is an important concept in my life–it is my life’s purpose. Fame, celebrity, happiness, or even a ton of money don’t do it for me, although I enjoy paying bills on time and meeting the mortgage. Past that,  the purpose of my life is making enough meaning to act each day in a meaningful way–and exactly what that is varies over time.

New World Library sent me two books to read and mention:

Life Purpose Boot Camp: The 8-Week Breatkthrough Plan for Creating a Meaningful Life, by Eric Maisel Ph.D.

Hop, Skip, Jump,: 75 Ways to Playfully Manifest a Meaningful Life, by Marney K. Makridakis.

Both of these books tackle meaning making in different (very different) ways. But both of them know that meaning-making exercises are important for your career, your personal growth and your peace of mind. If you want to skip to the giveaway, it’s at the end of the post.

51wHcDzsiUL._SL500_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-big,TopRight,35,-73_OU01_AA300_Life Purpose Boot Camp, by Eric Maisel, Ph.D. New World Library, 172 pages. Maisel uses the boot camp metaphor as a way to rally yourself to your own defense. Maisel was a drill sergeant at one point, and he uses this no-holds-barred, get-yourself-into-action voice throughout the book. After all, it is a boot camp, and it’s time to get up and get busy.

Maisel bases a lot of his logic thread on his “natural philosophy,” his term for the style of atheism he promotes. Some of this is reasonable–Maisel posits there is no “Universe” that blesses or curses you, your fate is in your own hands. So you must focus on what constitutes meaning making.

Maisel writes, “Many things that upset us, sadden us, or make us anxious may not be things that genuinely affect our ability to live our life purposes. If they aren’t, let them go!” The how-to guidance Maisel gives is “. . .to ask yourself, ‘Are these among the circumstances that I can improve?’ If you don’t regularly ask that question, you won’t give yourself the chance to positively affect those circumstances that would allow you to help yourself.” In my opinion, many people are mired in their own disbelief and would not know an honest answer to the questions. If they could answer the question, they may not know what circumstances they should create. But those problems are in the first 80 pages of the book, and the book does give advice.

Maisel also writes,”If one of your life purposes is to write novels, it matters whether anybody is publishing novels and whether anybody is reading novels.  . . . To imagine that we can live our life purposes independent of reality, is well, fantasy.” To keep your meaning together, Maisel suggests a “Meaning Repair Kit” containing a reminder bell, an evaluator thermometer, a personality tap, an aligner level, an investment planner and a reality tester. Again, I find the applications for these devices’ use devoid of soul. Which is exactly the benefit of the existential life Maisel promotes. Oh, and on page 94 he tells you what he wants your life purpose to be. Spoiler alert.

Maisel has a huge fan base and has received only positive reviews (five of them) on Amazon for his book.

Boot Camp Chapter Titles:

  • Creating Your Menu of Meaning Opportunities
  • Creating Your Mix of Meaning Opportunities
  • Upgrading Your Personality
  • Dealing with Your Circumstances
  • Naming Your Life Purpose
  • Creating Your Life Purpose Statement
  • Creating Your Life Purpose Icon and Mantra
  • Living Your Life Purpose

*    *    *    *    *    *
Hop, Skip, Jump, by Marney K. Makridakis. New World Library, 282 pages.51vi7Op-i3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

On the other end of the spectrum is Marney Makridakis, a peripatetic creative who specializes in play, games, puns, jokes, and staying in action through activities that seem like fun. Makridakis, in the introduction, says that manifesting something “you see as being part of your meaningful life” is the likely reason people would read her book. The beginning of the book includes a quiz to help the reader determine if they are hoppers, skippers, or jumpers–different “natural inclinations to manifest.”

In her 282-page book, Makridakis talks about the importance of play, particularly to adults. She includes trivia, haikoodles (haikus that invite doodles) and AcroWhims (acronyms in which existing word functions as a magical abbreviations for a message), and Manifestingrams (an anagram with manifesting powers.

Example of  AcroWhim: PLAY = Purposeful Love, Activating Yes.
Example of Manifestagram: MANIFEST = “Amen” fits!

As with all her books, she brings her whole life into the book–her family, her experiences, her ideas and her thoughts. When you buy one of her books, you get the whole package. You are not required to read the book front to back, you can skip around and find parts that appeal to you. As a sequential reader, I found that reading it from front to back has a purpose–to explore different approaches to fun, find the way that works for you, and manifest meaning through fun.

The book is divided into three parts: Hop, Skip, and Jump. Each have a particular meaning, which she describes in detail.

There will be giveaway and assorted deals on Marney’s website tomorrow, Tuesday, November 11, 2014. To date she has three five-star reviews on Amazon.

Some chapter titles (there are 75 chapters in all):

  • Playfully Pressing Your Reset Button
  • Hopping with Hope
  • Twenty-Eight Magic Minutes
  • Play with Creative Blocks
  • Improvisational Skipping
  • Manifesting Mood Rings
  • The Animation of Everyday Objects
  • Leaving Some of Your Toys Behind

*   *   *   *

The Giveaway: I’m giving away Eric Maisel’s Boot Camp book. It’s not a preference for his book,  it’s practical: I never limit my contest winners to the Americas, and it is easier for me to send the smaller volume overseas, if that’s where the winner lives.

Leave a comment to qualify for the book. The winner will be announced on November 16, Sunday. Check back then to see if you’ve won.

Disclosures: New World Library furnished both books for me to review. Eric Maisel was both an instructor and a coach of mine, both over 10 years ago.

—Quinn McDonald loves to read about meaning-making, including books that are strict, fun, or thoughtful.

Postcards with Brushos

Once you join up with iHanna’s postcard swap, everything becomes postcard fodder. So when my Brosho paint showed up today, I was off to make postcards.

Never heard of Brusho? Neither had I, until Glenda Waterworth, the genius behind Chocolate Baroque told me about it. Brushos are watercolors–in crystal powder form.

pcard2They arrived from Dick Blick in little cardboard containers, ready for you to punch a hole in the top with a ballpoint pen. (If you are a book artist, you’ll have an awl to use).

I’m a completely untrained watercolor artist experimenter, so I didn’t bother to see what others had done with these powder paints. All I knew was that they are non-toxic and that kids in the UK and Europe use them like American kids do fingerpaints. How could I not love them?

Brushos are intensely colored, a little goes a long way. They come in bright, saturated colors in both sets and in 15-gram containers.

Trying to paint a pear seemed like a good beginning. Brushos don’t require a lot of equipment. I pulled together

  • watercolor postcards
  • spray bottle of water
  • pencil
  • Pitt pen (size S)
  • small water container
  • fine watercolor brush, not an expensive one
  • Yogurt container lid as palette
  • papertowels
  • Deli paper (parchment will do)

pcard1I started by sketching a pear on a postcard with pencil, then using sketchy light technique to draw the pear in Pitt pen. I didn’t draw it in smoothly and completely to keep the pear from looking like a cartoon pear.

pcard3Highlights are added with a wax resist crayon. You can use beeswax or a candle, too. Journey (Peg) Cole introduced me to these, and I think of her every time I see the black and white harlequin pattern on the crayon.

pcard4Then sprinkle (lightly) the crystals in the color you want. I chose yellow and purple first.  You can move it with a brush, or just leave it to chance.

pcard5Protect part of the postcard with your hand, and spray the rest with water. Start small and see what happens. I overdid the purple, so I simply blotted with a paper towel.

pcard6Apologies to watercolor artists who think blotting is a travesty. I wanted to lift up the color, and it worked.

pcard8Having decided on purple and yellow, I added the darker colors on the other side of the pear, shielding the side that had color on it already. I sprinkled some brown in the lower left hand corner and spritzed a bit of water to create a shadow. Using the watercolor brush dipped in water, do some careful blending and add shadows.

It’s important to let the card dry before you add any more powder. You can layer effectively if you let the card dry between applications.

pcard9This is another card I completed. Not all of them worked out, but I’m experimenting and having fund.

pcard10Here are four more experiments. On the bottom right one, I used tape to hold the card flat and give it a tidy edge. I flooded the card with water and dropped the crystals from a brush. This created a sort of instant wash. It didn’t turn out blue-ribbon quality (more likely horrible mention), but again, I’m experimenting. Note the edge of the pear in purple and green. I mixed the Brusho crystals with water and used it as paint when the postcard was dry.

If you want to see someone who is fluent in Brusho paints, check out the work of Joanne Boon Thomas. Now she is an expert in these and her images are wonderful. The image below is an example of her work.

Brusho work © by Joanne Boon Thomas.

Brusho work © by Joanne Boon Thomas.

See what practice will do?

—Quinn McDonald is a writer having fun with watercolors.

Creating Heart While Traveling

Being on the road is tough. Not whining, but opening the door of yet another anonymous hotel room, eating by yourself in another restaurant where the only thing on the menu that fits the diet and the budget is yet another Cesar Salad, and the reward after a day of teaching is driving two hours to the next venue–it makes you reach in deep and suck it up.

“Eating Bitter” is a Chinese expression of working hard for what you want, sucking it up and knowing that you chose this life and you are making meaning even if it is a lot more effort than you want.

One of the ways I get through the chore of eating bitter and find a bit of sweetness is creating routines–I make an effort to walk every morning, even if I am a thousand miles from home. When the world shrinks to classroom-restaurant-car, it’s important to have a camera. I photograph small moment that seem important and use them in my Commonplace Book. The photo is something that makes me smile, or that serves as a metaphor. I love doing this for many reasons–it connects me to a strange place and it is comforting to find some small shred of beauty in an everyday place.

From my most recent trip: photos and notes that I put in the Commonplace Book for further development.

cactus1Heart on a cactus. Look at that backlighting! Thorns make a halo. Combination of thorns and love.  Being tough can still work as soft. Being uncommon can attract the right thoughts.

cactusDamaged heart. Look at that texture! Damage is dramatic, but can be beautiful, if you look at it the right way. Even nature makes a collage of color and texture. A cactus will root months after the piece breaks off. Life after damage exists, can even thrive.

light1Love the texture on the mid-century lamp. It warms up the whole photo. The flatness of the photograph makes the cactus in the background look like it’s outside, but it is really painted on the window. Illusion of paint–make it work and you believe in it.

window1Even the very ordinary items in a hotel room can be given a new perspective. This is the bathroom window over the shower. The “grass” is a palm tree, and the light is from a passing car. The moment was fleeting, but perfect. Glad I was there to see it and catch it.

A lot of comfort on a trip is creating a piece of life that is comforting and interesting, no matter where you are.

–Quinn McDonald has made friends with the road.

 

 

Pace Yourself

poplars

Trees and the moon, Fort Worden, Washington. © Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved.

The long and winding road (including airplane aisles) has gotten the best of my exercise routine. If I’m getting up at 5 a.m. in Dallas, my body thinks it’s 3 a.m. I’m not going to push my luck and run on a treadmill.

When I’m in Flagstaff at dawn, I’m not walking in freezing weather in an unfamiliar neighborhood. But I’ve been home for three days, so it’s back to the discipline of to-do lists and travel laundry, chores that didn’t get done while I was gone, and answering accumulated emails. And walking.

When I started out this morning, my knees protested. They began to convince me that a short walk around the block would be enough. I told them that the airplane rides and teaching yesterday had been long, so they might be creaky today. Halfway around the park one of my knees began to send threatening messages–serious pain every step. I thought of turning back. And then I had another idea. I slowed down. Stopped. Stretched by standing on my toes. And began to walk slowly ahead.

The other knee chimed in, encouraging me to turn back, go home. I took another step ahead. Slowly. No longer in aerobic territory. Hardly classifying in the exercise category at all. But it was forward motion. I continued at this snail’s pace around the rest of the park.

Cloud stepping-stones. © Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved

Cloud stepping-stones. © Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved

At the intersection, I stepped off the curb. No pain. I walked deliberately across the street. Worked just fine. With each block I stepped it up a speed–first purposeful,  then stride, then arm-swinging walking, then aerobic walking. Letting my knees catch up with my determination had done the trick. No complaints from them for the rest of the three-mile walk.

When you face creative work, you may hear the same complaints from your heart–it’s too hard, you need a rest, it’s not great timing. Don’t leave the studio. Slow down, put hand to paper in an exercise, then begin to move slowly ahead. Push ahead to do some thinking about what you are creating, pick up the pace, and keep moving. Pushing ahead clears the road, and the mind. You can push through the frustration and reluctance. You can. If you leave the studio, it will be that much harder to come back to it.

-–Quinn McDonald talks to her knees frequently. She keeps them in action pretty much the same way she encourages her coaching clients to stay in action.

Quotes for Writers

Every writer needs some encouragement, warmth and a reason to write. Here are some quotes, especially if you are involved in NaNoWriMo:

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I

Fencepost cactus flower photographed with iPhone, no flash. Illumination with flashlight. © Quinn McDonald 2014

Fencepost cactus flower photographed with iPhone, no flash. Illumination with flashlight. © Quinn McDonald 2014

hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”
Neil Gaiman

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
Benjamin Franklin

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”  ― Saul Bellow

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Anton Chekhov

“The first draft of anything is shit.”   ― Ernest Hemingway

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver

“To be nobody but
yourself in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”
E.E. Cummings

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach.

 

Sleep: Discipline is Needed

When I”m overloaded with work, the first thing I do is cut my sleep short. Waking doesn’t require an alarm clock in the summer,  cats know that first light means food, so lacking opposable thumbs, they wake me. The earlier the sun comes up, the earlier I get up, often at 4:30 a.m. Luckily, now that the nights are longer, the fur beasts snooze till I get up.

The heart is where the juice starts. © Quinn McDonald, all rights reserved.

The heart is where the juice starts. © Quinn McDonald, all rights reserved.

Trouble is, I’m a night person. I can easily work till past midnight, but not if I have to get up to teach, usually around 5 a.m.

I cannot burn the candle at both ends. Sure, it makes a lovely light, but a lovely light is no longer enough. I need combustion to fuel the day. So, I’m forcing the discipline of an earlier bed time. It rarely works, but it’s necessary. I’ve been through it before.

Self-discipline is rarely amusing or fun. But it is the heart of success, whatever your success might be. Without a good rest, without rich and complex dreams, we become shaky and weak. It’s harder to think, to plan, to appreciate, to imagine the future. It’s impossible to concentrate, to do good work without enough sleep.

Unfortunately, I’m not one of those splendid people who can live on five hours of sleep. I need seven, and eight is welcome.

Knowing what you need and giving it to yourself is not self-indulgence. It is a discipline you need for happiness and to thrive.

Check out these 10 signs of sleep deprivation.

—Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach whose energy drains without enough sleep. There is always a well that needs filling, isn’t there?

 

 

 

Not Hanging On So Hard

An article in The New York Times reports, “Most girls won’t admit this, but they’d rather you hit on their significant other than their best friend.” (New York Times, ST-2, October 26, 2014).  The article says the advice columnist Julie Klam says  (via the magazine Dame) “When she introduces two friends to each other who she thinks will bond, she says, ‘Now, you may not go off and be friends without me.’ And they laugh . . . and I say, ‘I’m not kidding. No shoppng trips or going out for a drink after work.’”

I read the story twice without believing it. And then I did. Of course, this is Screen-Shot-2013-03-26-at-12.41.36-PMfear-based thinking, which is driven by control. And if we lose control of our friends, no telling what will happen. We might be alone. Someone might have a better time than we are. Control is not the best foundation for friendship.

Friends come and go. Some last many years, some a few weeks. Friends are not obligated to check in with anyone to make sure they get approval of their lunch companions.

We don’t own our friends anymore than we own the trees in our yard. And that’s a great way to think of our friendship–like trees. Trees protect us from too much heat, and they require some care to thrive. They put down roots and allow us to stand on them to see the future. Trees change, and require work. So do friends. But we don’t own people anymore than we own the trees that other people see, enjoy and share the shade of.

Patrol your friends and you’ll spend your whole life watching for infractions, keeping spreadsheets on time spent and what it means. Friends don’t thrive all that well with rules, time-enforcing and feelings of ownership. They do better with understanding and introductions to other people in your life. Of course we all need to set boundaries, but a good friend will help you and understand you.

And that sounds like thriving all the way around.

—Quinn McDonald loves the trees in her yard as well as her friends, who have lots of other friends she doesn’t know. And that’s fine with her.

 

Nothing Personal?

That odd little phrase. . .”It’s not personal”

Of course it’s personal. If it weren’t personal, no one would waste breath doing Godfather_09the setup. Distancing. Pushing responsibility back on the listener. Acting as if what is about to be said is somehow not coming out of the speaker’s mouth and not causing a painful reaction in the person being talked to. Because, honestly, have those words ever been spoken in praise or admiration?

We all take our work personally. We all put emotion and effort into what we do to make a living. We want to take pride in our work. When someone starts a sentence with “Nothing personal, but . . .” it is a shortcut to being OK with saying “I am about to attack you and I expect you to sit and take it, and oh, you may not cry or fight back.”

We pretend that business is objective and logical, but it is not. Someone can understand your plan, but unless they have emotional buy-in, they won’t take action. The very expectations of business–taking favorable action–is emotional.

It’s so much easier to hide behind the thin veneer of logic and objectivity.  We want it both ways–deliver a gut punch and look objective.  It doesn’t work that way. Passive aggressive is as passive aggressive does. Own up to your emotions and opinions. They are yours. But “It’s not personal” does not free you of the responsibility of hurting someone else.

seth-godin-personallyTo avoid confusion, let’s be clear about using “It’s not personal.”
—Back to basics: If you wouldn’t want the phrase that contains INP said to you, don’t say it to the other person.
—If it’s about anything the other person said, did, drew, wrote,  or created in any way, don’t use INP.
—Replace  INP with “In my opinion. . .” and stand behind your words.
—If you want to point to a flaw, mistake, or gaffe, make sure you speak to the person in private. Ask for permission to point out the flaw. Have a suggestion ready for how you would fix it, but don’t offer it till you are asked.

“It’s not personal” almost always warns the listener about the slap that’s coming. Put it down. You have better phrases then that.

—Quinn McDonald hears a lot about what goes on in people’s lives. It’s not always good or helpful.

Notes from the Commonplace Book: Success

Note: If you don’t know about Commonplace Book or Journal, you can read about what goes into one, what mine looks like, 10 things you can put in yours if you want to start one, or the difference between a commonplace and visual journal.

Mine commonplace book is stuffed with notes and today, I thought I’d take the string of notes I have on success and put it here. Un-edited, just ideas I’ve jotted down on success. Some may resonate, some may sound completely wild or untrue to your experiences.

Comment, head off to your own journal to rant, or just think. It’s Friday and Halloween and I know you are busy.

Fear of success takes several forms
1. If I become successful, will it be enough? Don’t I have to become more successful then, and more after that? Too much work, don’t want all that.

2. Success breeds responsibility, like this:  If I become really successful, I’ll have to hire people—a bookkeeper, an admin—and what if I can’t support them? What if my income is reduced too much in the effort of supporting them? Gasp, choke.

3. Lack of definition of success. “Success” is a faraway goal. Here’s how my coaching clients tackle this thorny problem:  I can always run toward success and enjoy the chase. But if I catch it, like a dog chasing a car, what do I actually DO with it?  If I actually succeed, what if I don’t please my parents or get accepted by my friends? Most people want enough money to live on, but wealth isn’t what looks like success or happiness to them. And if they claim to be successful, their neighbors and friends will point out how ridiculous it is to call yourself “successful,” because you aren’t obviously wealthy. So it’s easier to avoid success.

I think of myself as successful because I’ve had a business for 12 years and have always managed to pay the bills, really love the variety of my work, meeting new people with different ideas, and being able to say No to those whose core values don’t line up with mine. But few people would agree that I’m “successful.” My success is based on my happiness and the ability to take some very strange talents I have and make a living from them, rather than celebrity or piles of cash.

4. Our consumer culture has a lot to do with “permission” in people’s lives. More of us look to the people around us–at work, mostly, where people are also in competition with us–for validation. No one who is in competition with you is going to help you be successful unless it also helps them.

5. Deserving success. This is very tied into #3 above, but it is for people pleasers who cannot define success for themselves. They don’t trust their gut, so they allow people to define success for them. So, of course, they are never successful. If you are, people may be jealous or hate you, and that’s not success. This is a really vicious cycle, but important.

—Quinn McDonald coaches people who fear success.

Gallery

Pebeo Paint Artwork

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Pebeo paints has two new (to me) paints–Fantasy Moon and Prisme. Today I took the afternoon off (seeing as how it is one of the three days I’m home this month) and spent time in the studio. The paints are … Continue reading