Facing Change

Hear the word “change” and you are likely to break out in a sweat. We like things the way they are. Even if we don’t like the way things are, it’s better than what we don’t know.

change-4-1imepycWhat makes change so awful?  One answer is that we are not up to the task of facing change. Feeling not ready is the inevitable companion to change. So is feeling awkward, ungainly, not suited for the task. What makes change so awful is the lack of adjustment time. . No chance to look chic and unsurprised. Change catches you by surprise, with your shoes untied.

Change throws us into a formal party while we are still wearing our emotional play clothes. Suddenly, what seemed appropriate for the emotional playground doesn’t fit into the serious polished-shoe environment we wake up in. We are caught off-guard. And off-guard,  without time to plan, we go back to old emotions, old ways of behavior.

My coaching practice is rooted in helping people survive change. Then thrive with it. But it’s not easy, and there can be a lot of tears first. Change is not always a friend.

When change whips around us, it’s a windstorm of confusion, decisions, and often paperwork—all within a tight deadline. You get laid off, and must choose a generous package with a non-disclosure signature or no package and a sense of righteousness. A loved one is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, the kind that destroys plans, futures, whole families. What decisions are right? What decisions are right now?

The second part of change we hate is the strong belief that everyone’s life should be easy and steady. A change that isn’t pleasant is a threat to security. We are rooted in the belief that life needs to be the same every day. And by “same” I mean sunny, emotionally fun, and upbeat. That’s an unrealistic expectation of any life. A big part of life is making it through rough spots and building up experiences.

Change doesn’t always mean bad news, but even good change can look like bad news. Teaching clients to deal with change often starts with learning how to stay calm. Harder than it sounds. But once you’ve learned that, you can see change as a tool, not as a result. And that gives you the power to build.

-–Quinn McDonald likes change. And that explains a lot.

Saturday Creative Stroll 3.22.14

Bricks are tough and have a lot of right angles. We think of them as ship ballast, East Coast buildings (from the ship ballast), and severe schools. Brad Spencer thinks of them as sculpting material.

spencersculptureAnd all of his sculptures are sinuous, rounded and three-dimensional in a way that makes your eyes blink. He starts with unfired clay, sculpts the brick sculpture in pieces and then assembles in it place on the day of an exhibit. Time, brick, and perceived movement–imagination at play.

Jane Perkins is a multi-media artist. That’s just the beginning. Perkins re-creates well known artworks in found objects–beads, plastic figures,

Most-Iconic-Nat-Geo2This is the iconic National Geographic photograph that Steve McCurry took of a young Afghan woman.

famous-portraits-recreated-from-recycled-materials-and-found-objects-by-jane-perkins-4And this is the artwork that Jane Perkins made, using the photograph as inspiration. You can see more on Perkins’ website, including the girl with the pearl earring and Albert Einstein.

The Olympus BioScapes International Digital Imaging Competition created some extraordinary photos of things we see every day. Sometimes they are made very big, sometimes just noticed.

2013-3-siwanowicz-desmids-mandalaA single-cell algae, called desmids. Image by Igor Siwanowicz.

2013-4-walker-lily-bud-large-fileAnd this is a cross-section of a lilly bud by Spike Walker.

Have a wonderful weekend seeing things in a new way!

-Quinn McDonald is amazed at how other people see the same world.

The Changing Measure of Paper

If you have purchased paper in the last five years, you’ve noticed more and more manufacturers are using gsm (grams per square meter) instead of weight in pounds. I’ve seen a lot of conversion scales, and I became curious how the conversion is made.

Then I became curious how we measure the pound weight of paper anyway. Here’s what I found (and why gsm is the more accurate way to know how heavy paper stock is.

Papers come in different weights–letter weight, cover stock, card stock. But there is more than use that describes paper–there is weight.  You’ve seen paper stock printed in three ways–in pounds (60-lb. or 60#),  grams per square meter (g/m2 or gsm), or points (pts).  There seems to be a big difference. There is. Even if you don’t love the metric system, you’ll find the gsm method more reliable.

Image from BartCop

Image from BartCop

Pounds measure weight, no matter what the size. The pound weight of paper is set by the weight (in pounds) of a ream of paper–500 sheets. It doesn’t matter how big the paper is– cover stock is cut from a “standard” size sheet that measures 20″ x 26.” Text stock is cut from a “standard” size sheet  that 25″ x 38″–considerably bigger. But a ream of 500 sheets, regardless of size, is put on a scale and weighed.  That measurement is accurate, but very variable.

Points measure height, no matter what the size. The point size is a bit more reliable.  It measures the height of a ream of paper. A 10-pt card stock means a ream of paper (500 sheets)  measures 10 inches. In this case, the flat size of the sheet doesn’t matter.

Strathmore drawing paper: 24 sheets, 80-lb or 130 gsm.

Strathmore drawing paper: 24 sheets, 80-lb or 130 gsm.

To get a feel for the difference: Most business cards are 10-pt or 15-pt stock, the post office’s minimum measurement for a post card is 7-point stock. A point is 0.007″ or one-one-thousandths of an inch.  This is a better measurement for comparison, but it still doesn’t sort out heavy-bulk differences for paper that’s been compressed more.

Gsm measures the weight of a standard size paper.  Gsm is the reliable because it is standard across all papers. It measures the weight of a square meter of paper. That sets the size as the constant, and allows the weight to vary by heaviness of paper stock.  A square meter of  a light stock might be 90 gsm, and a square meter of heavier stock might be 140 gsm. In each case, the size is the same–a square meter.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach who loves paper.

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.

Tutorial: Bag Journal for Looseleaf Pages

Yesterday, I posted a tutorial for a box for your loose-leaf journal pages. Today, your journal is going to be made from a paper handle bag–the kind that better stores use. This tutorial will use two different bag, but the style is the same.

Book2Here is a photo of the outside of the completed journal. Below is the first steps, using a different kind of bag.

Bag1Start by looking at the size of the bag. There are two ways to approach the bag journal. First, you can measure and cut all of our pages ahead of time. I did that with this one. Second, you can use this method to bind a variety of page sizes as long as two sheets (four pages) are the full size of the journal.

The first step is to fold the bag flat, so the bottom portion is flat against the sides of the bag.

Bag2Next, crease the bottom of the bag, along the center of the bottom. This will become the spine of the book. If the bag has paper handles, trim them off carefully. If the bag has ribbon handles, detach them.

Bag3Cut along the sides of the bag, top to bottom, in the center crease, as shown. Cut down both sides of the bag.

Bag4(Now I’m switching bags). Fold open the bag, making sure you fold the edges down neatly.

bag5You will now have the journal cover. The center spine will be a mountain fold that faces you. Strengthen the inside of the bag (now the front and back covers) with a layer of decorative paper.

This is the time to measure the bag for page size. Measuring before this stage allows too much stage for error (at least for me). Wait until the bag is fully cut, trimmed and the cover is complete. The mountain fold allows you to place a signature on each side. It also allows for pages with a lot of inclusions and attachments, if you like that style.

bag6Fold the pages so that like-size pages all are folded down the middle. Pages that aren’t the same size can be folded with a stub (one side shorter) or down the middle. In either case, line up all the creases, and nest the pages together in the order you like.

bag7Flip through the pages to make sure you have them all oriented correctly and in the right sequence. (I mess this up frequently. This is a good time to fix it.)

Open up the signature (group of nested pages) you plan on stitching into the back of the journal (right side of mountain fold). This will be a 5-stitch pamphlet. Mark five dots in the crease: one in the center (top to bottom) of the page. This is #3. The ones above and below the center mark (#2 and #4) should be the same distance from the center. Marks #1 and #5 (the top and bottom of page) should be the same distance from the mark nearest to them.

PamphletBindingUse an awl to make holes in the pages and cover at the same time.  Measure a length of 4-ply waxed linen twice the height of the book. The above diagram is taken from Design Sponge, which has an excellent 5-hole pamphlet stitch tutorial.

In the first signature, I put the knot on the inside of the pages.

bag9Repeat the same stitching for the other signature. This time, I made the knot on the outside, and tied the signature stitching together. This keeps the center fold from opening.

bag8Glue the ties to the inside of the book, allowing them to dry completely before continuing.

bag10Cut the ties in half, and repeat the gluing process on the other side. Tie a square knot to hold the journal closed.

Book1A look inside the completed journal. There is no writing because this is a sample for the tutorial.

Book3Another inside spread, showing the center of the book. The spine looks like a stub page, part of the charm of shopping bag journals.

I love making different journals with different bags. Some bags have colorful lining already in them. Others have cut-out handles, and some elegant black bags can be changed with bright ribbons. You can also paint or stencil the bags, but I like using bags with writing or logos on them and leaving them recognizable as recycled shopping bags.

Quinn McDonald is an art journaler and creativity coach. She is teaching journal-making classes at the Minneapolis Center for Book Arts (April, 2014) and at Madeline Island School of the Arts (June, 2014).

Loose-Leaf Journal Box

Loose-leaf journaling is practical and fun; I’ve talked often about why. But when you make loose-leaf journal pages, you need a place to gather them.

box1Some weeks ago, I found a lovely box of stationery. The box was well designed and sturdy. Once the stationery was gone, the box was the perfect size for 5-inch x 7-inch loose-leaf pages.

Box2Using a piece of lavender ribbon, I glued it to the back, long side of the box and about one-third of the way across the bottom of the box, leaving the rest unglued.

box3Once the ribbon was dry, I placed the loose-leaf pages into the box. This happens to be a group of inner hero cards from the last month.

Box4The ribbon, because it is not glued to the entire bottom of the box, allows me to lift up all the cards easily. One or all can be lifted out without wearing down the corners or breaking a nail. It’s an easy way to carry the cards and a sturdy way to store them.

—Quinn McDonald has an ever-growing collection of inner heroes.

Saturday Creative Stroll (3.15.14)

Time for some creative leaps around the world. Today is the day the turkey vultures return to Hinkley, Ohio. They have come back on March 15 every year since 1957.  No one is certain why the buzzards come back or how they know when to come back. But they do.

Crows are birds that can learn tricks. They are also tool users and problems solvers. Here’s an amazing video of a crow that learned eight different steps to solve a tool-using problem:

Natsuo Ikegami has a big imagination and creates characters that seem to live in dreams or worlds that we have yet to discover.

Images by Natsuo Ikegami

Images by Natsuo Ikegami

These two are from a series called “To A New Land.”

A variety of artists work with books. The resulting art keeps books out of landfills.

r4i67ryjghjghbAtelier Bom Design creates lamps. Maybe because books are such bright ideas?

Gowri Savoor is an artist who uses seeds as an art medium. As someone who wears a silver seedpod as a totem necklace, this collection fascinated me.

seedbank2Savoor experiments with mixed media, fabric and wood, but the seeds inspire her. Born in Leicester, England, she now lives in Vermont.



The sculptures are largely geometric, but the series becomes more and more complex.

"Seascape" is made of pinecone seeds.

“Seascape” is made of pinecone seeds.

Savoor says, ““In themselves they’re very fragile. No matter what I do, the pieces will continue to decay. There’s a human sadness as well, that everything will eventually die.” (via junk-culture)

Have a creative weekend!

–Quinn McDonald is fascinated by artistic invention.



Tip: Use Highlighter tape

Highlighter tape comes three to a pack.

Highlighter tape comes three to a pack.

Sure, you can use it in your art journal, or your plain journal, but highlighter tape is saving the training side of my business this week.

Earlier this week, I was teaching a business writing class. There were students of different levels, and more material in the book than I could cover sensibly. On Day2 of the class, I had to choose what had to be covered, what could be covered if I had enough time, and what I could skip.

The instructor’s manual is heavily written in, and one more insert or note was going to get lost. How to make the material sound smooth and well prepared? Highlighter tape to the rescue.

Goes on easy, comes off clean. No, that's not the workbook, it's a copy of Raw Art Journaling.

Goes on easy, comes off clean. No, that’s not the workbook, it’s a copy of Raw Art Journaling.

I purchased the tape from The Container Store in Scottsdale, Arizona. It comes in a small square case containing three transparent colors–green, yellow, orange, so I can color coordinate– green for items I must cover, yellow for items I can mention if I have time, but can also skip if a discussion or exercise runs long, and red for portions that can be skipped entirely if time doesn’t allow for a closer look.

The tape sticks to a page, but can be lifted off cleanly, without a residue. It’s as wide as a line of type, so I can pinpoint material. Each tiny roll has a cutter in the box, so I can tear off as much as I need.

Three fluorescent colors make it easy to navigate the page.

Three fluorescent colors make it easy to navigate the page.

It’s brightly fluorescent so I can find it easily. It doesn’t damage coated or uncoated pages and won’t peel off color or ink. It’s a great tool. All I have to do is make sure I peel off all the evidence before I return the instructor’s manual.

The tape has no manufacturer’s name on it, other than highlighter tape, and the item number 128.

I recommend it highly for other uses as well–cookbooks, sewing/knitting/crocheting patterns, weaving instructions, sheet music (to mark your part), library reference books, as well as design elements on cards and gift wrap.

If you want to use it in art journaling, I’d suggest putting it down, rubbing it with a bone folder, then covering it with matte medium, so it doesn’t curl up over time.

The tape was an impulse purchase, but every time I use it, I save time. When you don’t know how many questions are going to be asked, it’s also great for speeches that have a time limit.

–Quinn McDonald is an instructor who always wants to add just one more idea. Sometimes that impulse needs to be stopped.

Drafts: Zero to Three

The client was terse. “Your copy did not hit the mark, I will write the copy myself.” And she did. I suppose she was unhappy because the first draft didn’t mimic her own ideas. Or maybe she had forgotten my request that a first draft would be a start, and her feedback would be a way to get to the heart of the matter.

page1“If you can’t get it right the first time, you aren’t much of a writer,” she said. I thought about how that would look if we applied it to the rest of life.

To a toddler: “Just one step? If you don’t get up and run 26 miles, you aren’t much of a marathoner.”

To a calf: “You are still drinking milk? If you can’t produce milk yourself, you aren’t much of a cow.”

To a seedling: “Just one leaf? If you can’t produce an apple, you aren’t much of a tree.”

Writing is an art of iteration. Of drafts. Of writing long and cutting it down. I’ve never seen a first draft that was perfect. I’ve seen lots that aren’t very good but that get better with each draft. It’s funny that clients think that if you need more than one try, you aren’t talented.  Thomas Edison tried 6,000 different materials until he found one that worked as a light bulb filament. James Michener’s boss told him to quit thinking he was a writer, instead, he should keep his eye on doing his job as an editor or he’d be fired. This was months before Michener won the Pulitzer Prize for South Pacific. He went on to write 40 other titles, including Hawaii, Chesapeake, and The Drifters. Each one went through several drafts.

Julia Child cut up piles of onions before she felt competent wielding a knife. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger had been flying airplanes for more than 30 years before he put the U.S. Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson so that all 150 passengers could stay alive. Bet he couldn’t have done that the first time he stepped into a plane.

So, alas, I lost a customer. I did not shed a tear or spend more than two deep breaths mourning the loss. Good writing takes drafts. Good writing takes cutting and feedback. And if you don’t think it does, you’re getting bad copy.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and coach. She has a practice and loves practicing.