Tag Archives: creativity coaching

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.

Confronting the “Turn Back” Critic

QUNN’S NOTE: This is Day 7 of  a 7-day Write Yourself Whole journaling class to discover your Inner Heroes and name them. It’s free, but if you want to donate something because you like that idea, there is a donate button on my website.

Previous posts in this series:  Day 1: Getting Started details here.
Day 2: Distort and Shrink Inner Critic.
Day 3: Perfectionist Inner Critic.
Day 4: You Are Not Enough Inner Critic. 
Day 5: The Story Inner Critic.
Day 6: The Danger Everywhere Inner Critic.

The Scene:  Your Inner Critic has a lot of company among your friends and family. If you are like most people, you will recognize this Inner Critic quickly.

Change-the-way-you-look-at-things-smYou have decided to make a change. Eat more healthy foods, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, stop gossiping. The work is hard, and slow, but it’s paying off. You are feeling better and your friends and family are noticing the change. The next thing that happens surprises you.

The Tactic:  Your friends and family begin to give you Change-back signals. “You were more fun when you weren’t so picky about what you ate,” they’ll say. “Let’s go for coffee and a cinnamon roll, you can go back on your diet tomorrow.” Or, “Don’t be such a goody-goody, we aren’t gossiping, you know it’s the truth.”

It’s hard to stick to your plans when your family or friends ask you to change back to the way you were. When you change, you automatically require your friends and family to change. You are different and you behave differently toward them. You also want to be treated in the new way you are working on. But your family and friends don’t want to make the same effort.  So they try to get you to change back.

Your Inner Critic loves this. Your Inner Critic shows you how much more fun it Judgement20would be to go back. To have your friends back the way it was. To have your family approve of you again. It’s tempting.

Write Yourself Whole Journaling Prompts:
1. Write down the decision you made to change. Add a list of the steps you took to make the change work. Spend 3 minutes writing how proud you are of your achievements.

2. Think of some things to say to show your family how important your changes are to you. (3 minutes). Listen carefully to their answers. If they aren’t supportive, you are learning a lot about them. You already know about yourself.

3. What did it take for you to change? That’s the name of your Inner Hero. It might be a simple name like “Steadfast” or “Certain.” Or you might want to make it more complex, like “One who stands strong in the face of opposition.” Or, if you are more casual, “One who knows poop from pearls. And chooses pearls.”

Moving Ahead:  Switch-Back messages are easy to spot. It’s a bit harder to not to feel alone when you get the messages to “come back to the way you were.” Remember your goal. Look at how you reached it. The people who don’t want to help you are not as strong. They are afraid of change. You have already changed.

You may lose some friends, but the ones you keep will be the worthwhile friends. Once you know who they are, support their change, too.

—Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer. She knows it is hard to make change work and how lonely that can be. But not as lonely as not changing. Quinn is a writer, trainer, creativity coach and author of The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal.



Confronting the “You Are Not Enough” Critic

QUNN’S NOTE: This is Day 4 of  a 7-day Write Yourself Whole journaling class to discover your Inner Heroes and name them. It’s free, but if you want to donate something because you like that idea, there is a donate button on my website. You can read Day 1 Getting Started details here.   Day 2–Distort and Shrink Inner CriticDay 3–Perfectionist Inner Critic.

The Scene:  Maybe you’ve saved a little money for something important. Maybe you have a chance for a new job, found the right car or something you really want. Whatever it is, someone or something special has come into your life, and the relationship feels fresh and special.

Glass-half-full-webYour inner critic shows up, maybe along with your parents, a disapproving sibling, or your boss and looks at the great chance and says “Do you really think you can make this work? You? Sure, maybe for a while, but in the long run, you just don’t have what it takes.” Often they mention someone else who is more likely to be successful,  or would be their first choice.

What was certain just a few minutes ago is now wavering, like a heat mirage in the desert. You aren’t sure. Maybe you are not enough or don’t have enough to make this work. And certainly not to make it a big success. You were just fooling yourself.

The Tactic: The inner critic’s favorite attacks are lack and fear. “You aren’t enough,” “You don’t have what it takes,” “You aren’t strong [or smart or experienced] enough.” Whatever the task needs, you just fall short.

And in less than 10 minutes, you are pretty sure they are right. You were sure,im-not-enough but now you aren’t. Maybe this isn’t for you. You are the black sheep of your family anyway, right?

Write Yourself Whole Journal Prompts:
1. Who tells you that you are not enough? Be specific–who was the first person to give you that idea? Who did it most recently? Did the words feel the same? Did it feel familiar? Write about this for one minute)

2. How do you know you are not enough? Be specific. No shrugs, no thinking someone else is better. No thinking “everyone knows. . .” Be specific about what you are not. Is this thing you are not crucial to your continued growth? Is it true? Is it always true or just this time? (If it’s just this time, it needs a lot more examination. You may be fooling yourself.) (One minute).

3. If you had even a short feeling of pride or joy in your original thought of success, go back to that feeling. Write down what you felt. Connect it to what you know about yourself.  You may need a few minutes to remember what you know about yourself, because you might be overwhelmed with fear of your own success. Give the feeling of pride or success a name. It might be something like “Trust” or “Intuition,” or it might be more complex like, “One who knows when to call on her skills.”

Moving Ahead. Read the following passage and write your reactions in your journal:  You have skills and talents that you must admit to and embrace to become a whole person. Skills have a responsibility, and you might be afraid to admit them. Maybe they need practice, but it’s unlikely you would deliberately choose to do something way out of your range. Practice finding the crack in your imagination that trips you up. That spot where “This is great! I can do this!” turns to “Maybe X would be the better person to do this.” Explore that spot. Do you need more practice? Courage? Encouragement? Discover what you need and how to invite it into your life.

 —Quinn McDonald knows it is hard to believe in yourself and knows if you don’t, no one else will. Quinn is a writer, trainer, creativity coach and author of The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal.

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.


“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.