Tag Archives: creativity coaching

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.

 

 

Saturday Creative Stroll: April 19, 2014

Diego Fazio is known online as DiegoKoi. His artwork is frequently mistaken for black-and-white photography. The work, which he does only with a pencil, is hyper-realistic.

hyperrealistc-portraits-with-a-pencil-by-diego-fazio-diegokoi-6Before he did the portraits, he was a tattoo artist in Italy. He started drawing in 2007. It takes Diego hundreds of hours to finish a piece.

Jason de Graf also does hyper-realistic art. The Canadian artist, born in 1971, uses acrylic paints to create paintings that look like photographs.

hyperrealistic-still-life-paintings-by-jason-de-gaaf-2Above: Aether, acrylic on canvas, 27″ x 44′

Of his paintings, he says, “Many of my paintings are about the relationship of light with reflective and transparent surfaces and my journey to understand those qualities and convey my sense of wonder and intrigue over them. In all of my paintings the subject matter is a springboard and a means to explore my ability to communicate something unique to the viewer.”

Seattle artist Bing Wright spent the last 10 years experimenting with black-and-white photography, and has recently returned to color photography. But not just ordinary color photography.

broken-mirror_evening-skyagfacolor-by-bing-wrightHe photographs sunsets, projects the photograph onto a broken 14″ x 11″ mirror in his studio, and re-photographs it. The result is a stained-glass effect of rich color and startling line.

Whether you celebrate Passover, Easter, or just love Spring, have a beautiful weekend!

–Quinn McDonald loves dedicated and focused artists who create outsider art.

 

 

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.

Geli-Plate Fun

Experimenting with my Gelli-Plate, I discovered two new ways (well, at least to me) to use this monoprinting technique. As a collage artist, I always need interesting papers, in every color or texture I can imagine.

Mono_StencilOne of my favorite techniques is to cut out shapes (heavy paper or overhead projector film) and use them as masks (to block paint printing) or as a stencil (to create a pattern with the paint.

The resulting pieces pick up paint and become quite interesting in themselves. After they have served as masks or stencils several times, they can be used as collage elements.

Another technique is to prepare the plate with a background, lay the elements on the plate, and photograph the plate before you print.

Mono_HouseThis gives you an image to print that looks quite different from the print itself, but can also give you more detail and color. You can then choose to create the collage by gluing the elements down over the printed piece or add color with a brush.

This also works for fabric–chose a fabric background, then attach the paper pieces on top of the background using fusible webbing.

Mono_PlantThe final experiment was to enhance a ghost print. Once the first print is lifted, remove all the masks from the plate. Then lay another piece of paper (in this case a piece of multi-media paper) over the plate and use a brayer to roll over the monoprint plate to pick up a ghost image of the paint the masks had protected. The plant and sun are clear, but the background picked up only partially.

I used Tombow Dual Brush markers to enhance some of the color. These markers are watercolors, so let the paper dry first. After the color is put down, I used a brush dipped in water to blend colors and create an abstract landscape.

On Tuesday, April 1, I’ll be demoing these techniques at the monthly meeting of the Scottsdale Art League. We’re going to have a busy night because I’m going to do an Inner Hero exercise, and everyone will leave with a hand-made Inner Hero Postcard. And two lucky people will win the prizes: a copy of the Inner Hero Art Journal and a Gelli plate donated by Arizona Art Supply.

Upcoming classes using Gelli-Plate techniques: I’ll also be teaching Gelli-Plate techniques on April 26-27 at the Minneapolis Center for Book Arts and the week of June 2 at the Madeline Island School of Arts, where you will make a whole book of different art and writing techniques. Come join me in exploring!

-Quinn McDonald is typing this with paint-colored fingers, and an ink-stained heart.

 

 

 

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.”