Tag Archives: creativity coaching

Word of 2015: Ready? (and a Giveaway)

We are still weeks from the New Year. You are probably overwhelmed with cards and holiday planning. It’s about a week from the beginning of Hanukkah and two and a half weeks to Christmas. So why start thinking of the Word of the Year?

Words make the portrait. "Zappa" by konstantinek: http://bit.ly/1vDDdLq

Words make the portrait. “Zappa” by konstantinek.

Because you can’t come up with it overnight. It takes a bit of planning, thinking, and trying on a few to see how they fit before you choose the right one.

Here are some ways to start choosing words:

1. Write down words you like. You can like the sound or the meaning, or just feel attracted to the word. Write them down without numbering them, scattered across the page, not in any order: Torque, branch, flood, heart, live, thrive, shine. Any words that appeal to you. Do that for at least a day.

2. Around each word, write some words you associate with the word you wrote. Let’s use “torque” as an example. You might write “revolution,” “turn,” “twist.”

Decide if any of those words are interesting for you. Let’s say you like the idea of “turn.” So write a few phrases with the word you like. “Turn around,” or “turn your head,” or even “do a good turn,” and “a turn for the better.” Keep working on word groups and phrases for a day or so.

3. Try out a few words and see if they fit. Do any phrases strike you as important, even if you don’t know why? Do they feel like words you’d love to use a lot? Words that call to you require a fitting session. Write the word on a piece of paper and carry it around for a day. Every time you touch the paper, think if the word fits you.

4. Narrow your words down. Choose a few–no more than three.  Work from there. Talk to your friends about what they think when they hear the word. You might get new ideas. Type it into Google and see what happens.

5. Sleep on it. Put the piece of paper with the word written on it under your pillow. Any interesting dreams? Any ideas or association within an hour of waking up?

The final word has to be rich and deep–something you can chew on for weeks51wed0j1hTL and months.

The Giveaway. Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments, along with the word, when you choose it. You have some time–but not enough to put it off.  On December 15th, I’ll choose one of the comments to win Wild Mind–Living The Writer’s Life a book by writer and writing teacher Natalie Goldberg.

The book is a great addition to your head and heart–how to balance daily responsibility with a commitment to write, coming to terms with success and failure, and how to find time to write.

—Quinn McDonald is choosing her word for next year.

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.

Blooming Late and Loving It

Kids want to grow up fast. Do what adults do. Feel powerful. Unfortunately, most adults don’t feel so powerful. They feel helpless, burdened with responsibility but not so much authority.

A true late bloomer: this organ pipe cactus blooms at night.

A true late bloomer: this organ pipe cactus blooms at night. © Quinn McDonald, 2014

I skipped grades when I was younger, got out of high school early and college really early. It didn’t make any difference, of course.

Every job made me “start over” and “prove myself.” For years, I thought this was a lack of ability on my part to show I was smart and capable. It took years to figure out that all the proof rested on thorny cultural facets–that women deserve less pay, that women need to prove themselves more than men, that women as seen as weak and hysterical.

Worse, I was a late bloomer. The youngest in my class, and slow to develop curves, I had to use wit, humor and smarts to negotiate my life. Unfortunately, I was also impatient, perfectionistic and, well, angry at all this nonsense.  Why couldn’t employers just use my skills? That attitude didn’t help.

As I got older, I began to see the advantage of being a late bloomer. You draw different battle lines in different places. You waste less energy. You spend more time solving the real problem–the underlying problem, rather than the superficial drama. In fact, you don’t care about the drama so much any more. You’ve seen so much drama, little of it fresh, and most of it is not about you.

As a late bloomer, you give up the need to prove who you are by words, and focus on doing. What you do becomes your proof statement, and people interested in results begin to pay attention. People interested in externals still shrill loudly, but it matters less, because there are those results. (My favorite was the woman who looked at my generous hips and hissed, “If you can’t control what you put in your mouth, how can you control the people who work for you?” to which I replied, ” Not a problem, as I wasn’t planning on eating them.”)

Now that I own my business, I am grateful to have been a late bloomer. I know how to pace a project, I know how to separate “urgent” from “important.” I stay calm when others amp the histrionics, as I’m not interested in the attention. I get work done. I work with a better quality of people. Yes, many years were spent fraught and living in disappointment. But I’m a late bloomer and life is good.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She travels the Americas, teaching.

Listen to Your Journal

Note: Congratulations to Denise Huntington who won the book giveaway on my blog! Denise, send me your mailing address (to QuinnCreative [at] yahoo [dot] com) and Just My Typo will be on the way!  Many of you were generous and said April Lopez and her Dad should win the book. April, send me your mailing address and I’ll send you a book you and your Dad will enjoy!

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listen1Listening to your journal is a skill  often neglected by the very people who would benefit from it. We write a lot in our journals, but then we close the covers, put them on the shelf and forget about the wisdom we just wrote. We are used to writing, asking to be heard–praying for answers. But we often miss the answer when it shows up. And it will show up. That’s one of the benefits of  journaling.

For a while, all the writing is pouring out of you in an endless flow. One day, you will find yourself thinking about what you are writing–the words aren’t pouring out on their own. You are paying attention. And all of a sudden, you write something interesting. Profound. An answer to a question you had. You are now in a deep connection to your own wisdom or a wisdom of your Inner Hero.  You have tunneled deep enough to be away from the distraction, and you just dug up an important truth, courtesy of channeling your Inner Hero. Your Inner Hero gives you permission to dream up solutions.

Truth is surprising. We recognize it and blink. Sometimes we wish it were Quotation-Jonathan-Safran-Foer-music-love-listening-experience-Meetville-Quotes-59162something else. But the flash of recognition is the key. You will know. Maybe it’s not the answer you had hoped for, but maybe it’s exactly what you need.

Your pen may race on, while your mind chews on the answer. You may not want to listen, but you will. You will be drawn back to those words, that flash of recognition. It can be an answer, a key to an answer, or simply a truth you have not believed before. Because you could not.

And there it is, on the page in front of you. Underline it. Save it. You may have to finish your thought, your paragraph, your page, but the answer is right there.

You have created the start of a habit. A habit of writing and listening. And when you listen, you’ll find answers. You might have to write a long time to learn to trust yourself, but once you start to listen, you will hear your answers.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who has a lot to learn.

 

Checking on the Word of the Year

This time of year the time seems to pick up speed and race toward the end of the year. The days are noticeably shorter and we begin to become more focused on the end of the year.

A good time, then to check in with your word of the year. Is it still serving you well? Are you satisfied with your choice? How often do you think of it or consider what it means in your life?

Half-way through the year, I changed my word from “scatter” to “distill.” It was

It's not a painting; it's an open space in the wall, overlooking Arizona's desert. Beyond is the Bar-T-Bar ranch, with the San Francisco mountain range in the background.

It’s not a painting; it’s an open space in the wall, overlooking Arizona’s desert. Beyond is the Bar-T-Bar ranch, with the San Francisco mountain range in the background.

worthwhile. “Scatter” was what was happening to my life–too many open doors, too many choices to keep them all balanced. What started out as some far-flung ideas ended up as not getting enough of the right work done.

It was less of a paring down and more of a taking the essence of my work–distilling–that worked well. I’m glad I made the switch.

How do I weigh the choice? I write the word on random calendar days and see what has happened since the last time I considered it. Because I look at my calendar on the weekly view before the daily view, I see the word coming and going through the week.

Tell me how you remember your word and what it has meant to you so far.

-Quinn McDonald loves watching words make meaning, whether or not she changes them.

The Slow Work of Change

My thanks to everyone who participated in the last week of Writing Yourself Whole. And thanks also for your generous contributions. I was happy to see that so many people participated. Your generous contributions will help many homeless families in Phoenix have clean and safe drinking water. Thank you so much for that, too.

Now what? Taking a course online doesn’t really lend itself to community. You might have felt that you were falling behind by the second day. Maybe it was hard to concentrate, or when you sat down, your mind went blank. If you thought, “I need more time to write,” but didn’t get started, you have encountered the most common stumbling block to self-care through journaling.

Like anything else, journaling takes practice. Writing down your thoughts and looking at them is hard. You want to avoid some hard thoughts. Pema Chodron, in her book, When Things Fall Apart, tells us to lean into the sharp points, but who wants to do that?

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”

Journaling is hard work. It is not always fun to know our weak spots. It’s certainly not fun to work on the weak spots. But the effort itself can be invigorating, and the effort is always worth it. Stick with deep journaling and you will learn what you need to learn about yourself. You will begin to accept yourself and those around you. Your life will become brighter, and you will begin to enjoy the happiness you build.

Journaling takes practice. You don’t have to delve into yourself every day. There are other ways to journal–and you can mix them up any way you like. Tomorrow’s blog will help you with some ideas about journaling.

Keep building inner heroes. You are filled with sparks of joy and healing. With flashes of understanding and beauty. Gather them to you and build a fire that keeps your heart and soul warm and that lights your path.

—Quinn McDonald has returned to journaling with many emotions. She’s glad she did, though.

Inner Hero Blog Class Starts Sept. 13

We all need inner heroes. Not all of us know how to find them. We are far more familiar with our inner critics. I want to help people find their inner heroes, even though it is not always easy. The class is about Writing Yourself Whole, gathering up the parts that don’t fit, that may be broken and finding a way to get to your strength through your journal.

Starting on this coming Saturday, I’ll be teaching a week-long class on this blog. YehudaBergQuoteIt’s about finding yourself in your inner hero, claiming your strength, knowing when you run off the rails by listening to your inner critic and all the people who mimic him. Naming your inner heroes help make them real, usable.

Each day you will be introduced to an inner critic you are probably familiar with.  Some you may recognize, some are facing you daily at work or at home, in your family or friends. You’ll then be given several prompts to use in your journal. The prompts will help you explore different ways to climb over the obstructions that block happiness, satisfaction, and contentment.

This is not an art journaling class. It’s a bone-deep writing class. You can make it into an art journaling class if you want, but this time, it’s about the writing. The connection to yourself and your strength. Through your fears and doubts. Doing some hard writing, deep writing.

The class is free. Some people will want to pay anyway. Some will find value and want to account for that. I am leaving it up to you–if you want to pay, you can. If you want to take the class for free, you are welcome to it. Here is the link to my site that allows you to donate any amount or get a gift for donating certain amounts. Again, the class is free; you don’t have to pay unless you want to.

(If, for any reason the buttons don’t work, please contact me at QuinnCreative [at] Yahoo [dot] com. They have been cranky today.)

I’m hoping that you will want to take the class and that it will help you find out the wonderful parts of you that are your inner heroes.

--Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and the author of The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal

 

Books for a Creative Life

wimd-34If you want to live a creative life, you’re going to need some help. Books are my first place to start. Here are some books I’m reading now that are a great help for your creativity.

Writing is My Drink by Theo Pauline Nestor. Simon and Schuster, 2013. Love this book that helps you discover who you are through writing. A good story by a woman who knew she was a writer, but just couldn’t write. Till she took some risks.  Each chapter has writing suggestions at the end.

Become a Life Change Artist by Fred Mandell, Ph.D. and Kathleen Jordan, bookPh.D. Penguin Group, 2010. These two Ph.D.s teach you seven creative skills to reinvent yourself at any stage in life. And they do it by breaking down how creative people do their work and then applying it to your life. The seven skills are:

  • Peparation
  • Seeing
  • Using Context
  • Embracing Uncertainty
  • Risk Taking
  • Collaboration
  • Discipline

Building Your Business the Right-Brain Way, by Jennifer Lee, New World Library, 2014.  OK, I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on my desk. I love the idea that right-brain strengths can be applied to a traditionally left-brain activity–building a business.  Again, business is considered an art (good idea if you are an entrepreneur), and you need some of the same skills to be successful as left-brained people. You’ll learn about taking a stand and making an impact and attracting clients–the right ones.

The Right-Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee, New World Library, 2011. art-books-highlight-261x199This was Lee’s first book, and it shares a lot of design elements with the second book: tips, success stories, worksheets, and a friendly, approachable format.

I bought all these books in the paper-book format. I do love ebooks, but when I’m reading for research (and all of these books are for becoming a better coach), I like to take notes on paper. In this case, I’ve put those convenient #8 shipping tags in the books as bookmarks. I take notes on the tags, keep them together with colorful binder rings, and can flip through them to find the notes I need. And yes, I do color-code them.

Now, here’s a question for you: If you were to take a week-long creativity course, one that focuses on writing, but not on one style or genre of writing, what would you want included? List as many items as you want. Some ideas to get you started:

  • Comments can include topics you want covered (memoir, poetry, fiction, non-fiction)
  • How you want to spend the day (traditional teaching lessons, writing and reading your work, critique,)
  • How important it is to write in class and get personal feedback
  • How much you want to read your own work or hear the work of others
  • Special topics you want covered (why write a book? Collaborative writing)

And yeah, I’m creating a class. Might as well get feedback from the smartest people I know. My idea right now is that the class will have an online component and an in-person component. You can form community and start working on a project online, then meet for the in-person class. You can also experience each part separately. Don’t ask me how I will do this yet. I’m just thinking.

—Quinn McDonald is creating a new kind of class.

 

 

In the Middle of Turmoil

My coaching client sighs. “I think I need to take a break from coaching. I’m so stressed at work and at home, I feel like I’m swimming in a riptide. Once I’m back safely on shore, I can have more ground under my feet and continue.”

I never force anyone to continue coaching, but when I hear this, I am hearing a need for coaching, not a break from it. I feel like saying, “There is no shore; your whole life is a river.” (I realize I shifted the metaphor from ocean to river.)

rapids_mountain_river__images_desktop_wallpaper-widePart of the need to “feel ground under your feet” is the word we use to describe someone stable and balanced: grounded.

We associate balance with control. With knowing what will happen next. But that’s largely an illusion driven by hope. We are always in the middle of something–a project, a crisis, a celebration, a decision, a career, an identity. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan, but it does mean that plans change, shift and become impossible without much warning.

Life is a river, and we are always floating, swimming, paddling. There is not a time when everything is suddenly perfect and the world stops so we can enjoy floating blissfully.

whirlpool-1-300x224Grabbing enjoyment when you recognize it is a skill that coaching teaches you. So is adapting to a fast-paced life and dealing with change without falling apart.

Coaching works in the middle of turmoil–because it mixes support with accountability, and courage with action. Coaching works best when the client is open to life and change, but it can help people adjust when the world is not stable under their feet. If it’s stable now, don’t expect it to stay that way. You won’t be surprised when change shoots under your feet.

-Quinn McDonald has had her share of change.

 

On the Worktable

I’ve been working on a series of collages that are minimal. It’s been fun returning to collage, and the Monsoon Papers that slipped between shelves in the bookcase I’m unpacking have been put to good use. The collages don’t appear completely straight in these images, because the pages are slightly curled.

collage3

“Night Falls on the Mesa” (above) is a mix of Monsoon Papers and Gelli Print papers. The saturated color is unusual for me, but I like it.

When I first started making collages, I used nothing but text, numbers and diagrams in black and white. I decided to try that technique again.

collage2“The Ten Percent Truth” is a summary of my fears and doubts about flying. Travel is my way of life right now, and having been in more than one airline accident over a lifetime of travel,  I work hard to appear perfectly calm when on an airplane. Self-discipline practice is not always fun, but making this collage was.

collage1“Give Spiritual Direction” is an exploration of math, science and belief. As in the one above, there is a bit of color in the piece, to lead the eye around the elements, which include pieces from a math book, a clockwork design, and the earth showing different equinoxes. The title of the black-and-white pieces always come from print included in the piece.

These practice pieces are fun and helping me think about the structure of collage. It was David Addix (whose class I took in Tucson) who suggested filling large sketchbooks with collages to improve color and composition skills. It’s a great exercise.

-Quinn McDonald is having fun with collage while struggling with the floating paper tide in the studio.