Tag Archives: creativity coaching

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.”

Get It Done: Book Review (and a Giveaway)

What better day than Valentine’s Day to love yourself enough to give yourself the creative help you need to finish your work? Creative people are wired differently and see the world a bit differently–but the one thing they have in common with every other person is a lack of time to work on projects that are due, projects that sound like fun, and projects that need to be explored.

SamRt443-199x300Sam Bennett created the Organized Artist Company and she wrote a book that is part coaching, part time management, and part kick in the butt. Get It Done, from Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day is a book with suggestions, how-tos, and clever ideas to help anyone (but especially artists) choose their work, get their work done in a time frame (by working 15 concentrated minutes a day), and complete their work.

Here’s are some chapter titles:

  • Procrastination is Genius in Disguise
  • Which of Your 37 Projects to Tackle First
  • Overcoming Perfectionism
  • How to Do Your Could-Do List
  • Where Will You Find the Time?
  • Organizing Your Space
  • Why Is It So Awful When Everyone Thinks You are So Wonderful?
  • Do You Quit When You’re Almost Done?

When you read Bennett’s book, you know she is an artist, has been in your shoes, and can teach you how to dance in them–backwards–to success. Her worksheets are realistic, her steps doable and her process powerful.

sambennett-412fab8b-eff5-4bda-bf24-8f7aa46f6602-v2The book is a fast read but one you will want to concentrate on to overcome perfectionism and the destructive procrastination that goes hand-in-hand with it. She’s knows art is important to culture, supports the necessity for excellent work, but won’t let you ruin your success with senselessly chasing perfection.

It’s 204 pages that are packed with good advice, success stories, and real help.

Giveaway: I’ll be giving away this copy. so leave a comment for a chance to win. The drawing will be random. And the winner will be announced on Monday’s blog. Stop by and see if you were the lucky one!

Disclosure: The book was sent to me for review from New World Library. I did not purchase the book I read. However, I did purchase one after I read it, as I’m giving away the original.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who will be using some of the ideas in this book in combination with the ideas in The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal.

The Powerful Placebo of Creativity

Say the word placebo and people’s noses wrinkle up. A placebo is a pill that doesn’t do anything, doesn’t cure anything, contains no drugs. And yet, between 35 percent and 75 percent of  people who are given placebos experience the same cure as people in the group that were given the real drug. If the doctor who hands out a placebo is optimistic and assures the patient the pill is the real thing, the cure rate is on the higher side of the statistics.

How do placebos work? They trigger the powerful body-mind connection we all have. They give the mind permission to do the healing work, and the body follows along. Not bad for a blank pill.

When I do book signings, I sometimes ask the people in the audience to make permission slips. I bring blank watercolor postcards, pens, colored pencils, markers, and glitter glue. As we make permission slips, I encourage people to give themselves permission to be creative, to let the housework slide, to take time to daydream.

Some people ask me to sign the slip. I encourage them to sign their own slip, as each person needs to give him- or herself permission to let go of their old beliefs. The Inner Hero is not a new person–it’s the authentic you, the person you wish you might be someday. But you already are, but have trouble admitting it. Heroes have a lot of responsibility.

Occasionally, I do sign the permission slip. I look the person in the eye and say, “This is powerful, and you have to work an hour every day to make it work.” I’ve begun to hear back from people, who have discovered that their permission slip has power.

Like a placebo, the permission slip takes away excuses and replaces it with possibility. The chance that ideas will come, that creativity will flicker and catch pushes reluctance aside, and leaves space for acting as an Inner Hero. When success gets breathing room, it expands.  The people who write me to say their permission slip worked–they always were creative. What they needed was the permission to believe it and act on it.

What would you like to take a pill for if it gave you what you were hoping for?

--Quinn McDonald is the author of The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal.  She will be signing books and encouraging people to discover their Inner Hero on February 20 at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, Arizona. 7 p.m. Come join in!

We’re all Stitchers

In art, all materials are grist for the mill. When I was at SAS Fabric Superstore the other day, I saw some sage burlap and decided it had potential. I’ve seen over-dyed pink and yellow burlap, but the sage color was new, so it came back to the studio.

Tonight, I decided to work with it–no expectations, no project in mind. Just working to see what I can do with it, using what I know how to do.

burlap1Digging through my stash, I found some thread and some embroidery floss that worked well with the burlap. I cut a piece about 10 inches by 4 inches. To make the edges even, I pulled some of the woven threads out to create a fringed edge. Eventually, the edge will have to be sewn so it won’t unravel, but that’s not now.

burlap2Threading the blue embroidery thread, I followed a thread across the fabric, weaving under and over, adding a thread to the loose weave. It’s quite easy.

Another piece of embroidery thread is run through, this one is joined with a piece of orange thread. The blue thread was put in first. Then I used a double thread and wove it on either side of the blue. Because the space is getting filled, I pull out a burlap thread to make room for the weaving.

I continued doing this, making sure that I don’t try to do very precise patterns, because burlap isn’t a precise materials.

burlap4To give the piece more interest and a less stripey look, I pull some pearl cotton mixed with orange thread through in the other direction.  I love this look, because it has a lot of potential. It’s geometric, and fun.

We are all weavers of our own lives. Our lives are seldom tightly woven, complete when we get them. And if they are, they fray and wear, until there are holes in them. Older folks remember the darning egg. We dropped it into a sock or elbow of a sweater and carefully wove back and forth, weaving from the edges to the center until the fabric was whole again. The patch would show, but that was all right. It was wearable. That’s what we do with lives. Take what we have and mend it to cover the bare spots. Or use a needle and decorative memories to make the loose weave pretty.

This might be a journal cover. Or just a reminder of a life that’s still loose enough to be decorated.

As always, I’m open to all clever suggestions.

Quinn McDonald is having fun with non-paper materials. She’s astonished at herself.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Risking It

The clamor has died down about the drug overdose of Philip Seymour Hoffman. The fact that keeps repeating in my head is that he was clean for 23 years and then, in 2012, began taking pain pills and then more.

the_butterfly_effect_by_artfactotum-d4kffb5-o7e3kw-300x200The risk of every recovering alcoholic, drug addict, or person who controls a restricted diet through willpower is a single motion of hand to mouth. A single drink, a quick pill, a forbidden food can change a life. And the lives around that life. It’s the Butterfly Effect of evil.

It seems trivial, but one of the difficulties of my choice to lose weight and stick to a strict diet is that there is no medicine at hand if I eat something I shouldn’t. My only choice is not to eat the foods I should not. No mistakes allowed. Despite the urgings of friends and strangers with assurances that “everyone needs a little treat,” or “you have to have one day that rules don’t apply,” for me they do.

There is a risk of failure. But there is also the possibility of success. Each day without medication is a day away from the debilitating effects of long-term medication. The trick, of course, is not to put the hand to mouth, filled with the wrong stuff. That’s always the point, isn’t it?

In the distance, I hear the flap of a butterfly’s wing.

Quinn McDonald’s creative manifesto starts with self-care. It’s less fun than she imagined. On the other hand, she will teach at the Minneapolis Book Center in April.

Throwing Shadows

Note: This post first ran two years ago. I don’t expect people to dig deep into my old blog posts, so from time to time, I re-write and re-post one I liked.  I’m also recuperating from my right eye lens implant and need some shut-eye. Literally.

* * * * *
V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendos,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

—Wallace Stevens, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

An abstract of shadows on a cement wall.

An abstract of shadows on a cement wall.

Shadows are wonderful art. They are both the object and a color. They have more possibility than the object itself, because everyone gets to fill in their own idea of color and size. Yet they are completely dependent on the angle and the amount of light.

A shadow is not the object, but it identifies the object. The shadow is never far from the object, and can be more beautiful and meaningful than the object.

shadow3

Sometimes shadows bring understanding. What we cannot grasp in three dimensions and color becomes clear in black and gray, stretched out before us.

Bonsai and its shadow

Bonsai and its shadow

Shadows give dimension, add depth and occasionally a completely different perspective of our own opinion.

However you see them, shadows belong in your life, your journal, your photographs and your art journal. They will never bore you.

-Quinn McDonald would like to cast a long shadow across the earth, but still requires growth to accomplish it.