Tag Archives: journal prompt

Creative Prompt: Lawn Care

Book Winner: Carla Sonheim generously donated a book to the winner of today’s drawing so I could keep the book–I was so pleased! But there were so many comments, I decided to give away my copy, too, so there are TWO winners!   Joy Moore and  Leah Boulet–Congratulations!

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Today we’re doing something different. If you are exploring your creativity, it’s always interesting to play with metaphors. Metaphors use one term to describe another, unrelated term. (Comparing a company to a ship and the financial futures as sailing on stormy seas, for example.) The kind of metaphor I’m talking about is an extended metaphor. (How the coming and going of tides affect the ship.)

Here’s your set-up: Phoenix is on the Sonoran Desert floor. We don’t have a lot of water to waste, and many people have xeriscaped yards–no grass, just crushed rock and desert plants. This is hard on some people who move here from someplace green and miss their lawns. Lawns really can’t be sustained in summer, so September is the time to replant your lawn, water it early in the morning, and hope for the best.

From greengardenaz.com

Creative Work: Think of your free time, and how you spend it. Are you fighting your inner geography and planting a lawn? Are you going with the ambient climate and keeping it simple? Report Back: Are you tempted to make changes in your creative time? Are you keeping it simple? Come back and tell us. If you have a blog, link back to it in your comment. (One link only).

Journal Keepers: Dive into your journals and work through a metaphor the lawn story suggests. For example,  Do you want to do work that is intense and may not fit the popular climate, or do you want to go with the flow and keep your work suited to an easy schedule? Or, do you want to create an environment that’s exotic for you or do you want to explore your nature as it is? Post a link to your journal page. (One link only, please).

Don’t want to post your blog? No pressure. It’s always interesting to see other people’s interpretations.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and a journal keeper.

Listening to Negative Self Talk (and a prompt)

When you sit down to write in your journal,  after morning pages, what happens? Does peace flood into your mind, stillness settle in, and the sun rises just over the horizon of your deep inner peace? Liar. It does not.

Pitt pen on watercolor paper. © Quinn McDonald All rights reserved. 2008.

Your head fills with yakking.  Monkey mind starts right up with the to-do list, “Right after this I need to go shopping, but before that I need to stop at the ATM and get some money, I don’t write checks anymore. Where is that checkbook? I haven’t written a check in months. You don’t need to do that anymore. I must have put the checkbook in my desk drawer, and I’ll bet it slipped back, so the desk drawer jams. Or maybe I need to wax the runners. . .” On and on goes monkey mind, hopping from topic to topic while you are seeking quiet.

More likely, your talk is not neutral, but damaging. Journaling helps the negative self talk crank up. The critic or the judge, one in a red velvet jacket and one in a powdered wig show up and start in on what isn’t right, what hasn’t been right, and why you don’t have talent, dedication or time. If they are really active, they will ask how you will ever make enough money to support yourself as an artist if you spend time writing by hand.

So now you are poised over your journal page, frozen. You try to push monkey mind and negative self-talk from your mind, but they persist. Of course they do. Instead of pushing them from your mind, sit down and listen to them. What, exactly do they have to say after the first sentence? Repetition. Endless repetition until you cave in and believe them. You will probably find that there isn’t an original though there. You’ve heard what they have to say from your parents, a mean teacher, a thoughtless sibling. Monkey mind and negative self-talk aren’t original, they are simply persistent. The more you push the thoughts away, the more they persist. Sit down and examine them, and they are not only not original, they are often spoken in voices from the past. And you are animating them. The voices in your head are yours. Your fear. Your insecurity. You make them up. And as evil parents in all the TV after-school movies say, “I brought you into the world and I can take you out.”

On your journal page, draw the slide bar you use to turn the sound up and down on your computer. Take your pencil, drag it down to where it’s silent and draw the bar right there. It’s a lot quieter in your head now, isn’t it?

Start writing.  .  . what is it that you don’t remember but wish you could?

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach. Her book, “Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art” will be published in July of 2011.

To-Don’t List

Join by adding your own to-don't list items.

We all have to-do lists. Just for today, I’m creating a To-Don’t list. Things I can let go of, not care about, not do. Ahhh, it feels better already.

To-Don’t

—Spend all day doing laundry instead of enjoying last of the cool, sunshiny weather.

—Dust all the blinds after the last few days of wind and pollen.

—Drop by other people’s blogs, leaving my website and blogsite so I can get their readers over to my site.

—Answer that angry email with an angrier email. That’ll show ‘em. Make ‘em feel sorry, too.

—Tell my best friend what she should have done in that confrontation with her boss; advise (unasked) my spouse how to look better for that first meeting at work; fix my client’s need for attention.

—Find other people’s mistakes and point them out, along with my expertise in these matters. Maybe snag a few clients by showing off what I know. Really put myself out there.

—Start six new projects, but with no idea why or what they are supposed to be.

That’s my to-don’t list for today–things I want to walk away from and not get involved with. What’s on your To-Don’t list? Leave a comment.

Creative Risk. Worth It?

Dangerous but passable

Roadsign: Dangerous but passable

This sign is on one of my favorite motorcycle rides. It seems so much more than a road sign. For me, it was an invitation to do some creative work. Dangerous? Well,  I could make mistakes, I could not like the finished piece. (It’s just a piece of paper.)  It also might be an interesting ride, if I can get over the fear. A little danger can be fun.

A lot of creative work is dangerous, but passable. the ride takes some skill, but that’s the fun.

Journal prompt: In your creative work, what seems dangerous to you?

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She runs workshops and seminars in raw-art journals.

Journal Prompts: Quotes and Notes

Theme Thursday, normally here on this day, is on vacation. You can see last week’s here; it has a list of previous ones as well.

This week, you’ll find some  journal prompts and a few quotes that you might want to use with your art, whether it’s raw art or your own favorite kind. Your journal becomes more precious when the pages are filled with meaning-making.

Balloon Man, Ink on paper, Q. McDonald © 2009

Balloon Man, Ink on paper, Q. McDonald © 2009

1. I went to college for a really good reason [fill that reason in here.] And right after college, I [put down what you did--got a good job, a crummy one, moved in with your parents, etc.] for this reason __________.  Looking back, I would _________.

2. When I was younger here is what I thought would make me whole and fulfilled: [make the list as long as you like.] Now that I’m older, here is what would make me whole and fulfilled. [Write this list next to the other one. See how many match up. What do you think that means?]

3.  Write your thoughts on this quote from Anne Lamott: “I got a lot of things that society had promised would make me whole and fulfilled–all the things that the culture tells you, from preschool on, will quiet the throbbing anxiety inside you. I got some stature, the respect of other writers, even a low-grade fame. The culture says these things will save you,, as long as you also manage to keep your weight down. But the culture lies.”

4. You can do this on a double page. On one side, write the headline, “My heart says. . .” and fill up the page with what your heart says. On the other side, write the headline, “My head says. . .” and fill up that page. See if you understand how come you have so many tugs o’ war with yourself.

If you’d like, post your responses or links to your blog posts with journal entries.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and raw-art journaler. She also teaches business employees how to talk to each other and get clarity.

Journals: Write to Forget, Write to Remember

If you keep a journal, you may well write whole pages to remember events or people. You had a wonderful reunion with a friend. You write it down so you’ll  remember that evening. In your journal are all the details, ready to remind you of the warmth of the reunion.

 Writing to Forget
Pouring emotions on paper lets you both capture the emotion and release it. Grab a strong emotion and wrestle it down on paper. Your feelings will pour out, you will see them on the page and leave them there, because there is no reason for you to want to hold on to the hurt. Writing is an act of healing, and the healing begins when you finish with your need to rehearse it over and over again and feel the pain all over again. Knowing it’s in your journal is reason enough to quit rehearsing the details.

How can journal writing do both?
How can writing help you both remember and forget? Writing is a creative activity, and the act of forming words carefully, with a pen, creates a reaction between your brain and hand that lets you think through the emotional impact while you are writing. Writing by hand slows down your thoughts and helps you concentrate. It doesn’t work that way if you use a keyboard.

Writing helps you forget, because you can vent on the page, examine your motives and reactions, and decide what to take with you as you move on. You learn from your hurts, as long as you don’t nurture them to feed anger and thoughts of retribution.

In the same way, writing down a to-do list allows you to forget, because you have the items written down. No need to keep rehearsing the list in your mind. Keeping a to-do list reduces anxiety and feeling overwhelmed because you no longer repeat what you haven’t done yet over and over.

When you write down to remember, something different happens.  You write to enforce a memory, to recall more details, to bring a full range of emotions to the top of your mind. As you feel an enjoyable emotion or physical pleasure, the words you write create a path to feel that pleasure again, in full measure.

Keeping a journal is both a creative act and and act of healing. It can do both at the same time. Visit your journal often and allow your creativity to fuel healing.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. Her book, Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art helps people enjoy their art journals even if they can’t draw.

Image: Forget/Remember. Ink and resist pen on paper. ©Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved.

Journal Prompt: Negative Self Talk

When you sit down to write in your journal,  meditate or write morning pages, what happens? Does peace flood into your mind, stillness settle in, and the sun rises just over the horizon of your deep inner peace? Liar. It does not.

Your head fills with yakking.  Monkey mind starts right up with a to-do list, “Right after this I need to go shopping, but before that I need to stop at the ATM and get some money, but before I do that I have to balance the checkbook to make sure I have enough money to take

Gremlin of Negative Self Talk, Pitt Pen on paper (c) Q. McDonald 2009

Gremlin of Negative Self Talk, Pitt Pen on paper (c) Q. McDonald 2009

out. Where is that checkbook? It was in my desk drawer yesterday, and now it’s not. That desk drawer jams, maybe it’s the checkbook. Or maybe I need to wax the runners. . .” On and on goes monkey mind, hopping from topic to topic while you are seeking quiet.

More likely, negative self talk cranks up. The critic or the judge, one in a red velvet jacket and one in a powdered wig show up and start in on what isn’t right, what hasn’t been right, and why you don’t have talent, dedication or time. If they are really active, they will ask how you will ever make enough money to support yourself as an artist.

So now you are poised over your journal page, frozen. You try to push monkey mind and negative self-talk from your mind, but they persist. Of course they do. Instead of pushing them from your mind, sit down and listen to them. What, exactly do they have to say after the first sentence? You will probably find that there isn’t an original though there. Monkey mind and negative self-talk aren’t original, they are simply persistent.

On your journal page, draw the slide bar you use to turn the sound up and down on your computer. Take your pencil, drag it down to where it’s silent and draw the bar right there. It’s a lot quieter in your head now.

Start writing.  .  . what is it that you don’t remember but wish you could?

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach. She teaches writing and journal writing through QuinnCreative. (c) 2009 All rights reserved.

Sun, Moon, and Stars: Journal Prompt

Tonight the full moon rose in the sky like a silver charger–huge and bright. The moon won’t look that large again for many years. It made me think about how often we see images of sun, moon and stars in our lives and notice them.

Sometimes we recognize them, sometimes not. Often, we aren’t in touch with the natural images around us, and we don’t feel the importance of the connection between our hearts and nature.  Grab your journal and write about your connection to nature. Do you notice where the sun is when it rises? How at this time of the year it is in the Northeast, but starts to move more to the East? How many stars can you see in your night sky? When was the last time you were out at night and not walking toward your car?

Sun

Sun

Moon

Moon

Stars

Stars

Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach.

Magic Words: Journal Prompts

Words, the sound of them, their meaning and even their letter shapes, hold endless fascination for me. I collect words. It’s a collection that is constantly evolving and I never have to worry about running out.  To keep track of words, I write them down. Not on long lists, but on the backs of the tickets that say “admit one” that you use for video arcades or drinks at charity events. (You can buy them cheaply at Staples.)

Word ticket. Admit to anything you want.

Word ticket. Admit to anything you want.

This isn’t a vocabulary list, I simply write down words I like. China. Sideways. Torch. Bay. Vine. Indigo. The left  side of my brain wants me to separate them into piles of verbs and nouns, adjectives and adverbs.  Or put them in different envelopes marked “abstract nouns,” “colors,” “comfort words.”  The right side of my brain won that argument–I can do a lot more piling them all together.

What do I do with the words? Sometimes I simply sift through them to see what interesting combinations I get, quite by extraordinary coincidence. Star grass. Silver lantern. Poem leaf. Lightning root. They make great journal prompts. “Lightning root: The cause of lighting, the first tiny frzzt that leaps larger and jags across the sky.” Or, another one: “The place in the earth burned

The word book box

The word book box

by the lightning strike. It’s tap-root deep, and next year it will grow a transparent dandelion.” I never tire of these imagination games, and reading back over them has sparked many an idea.

Sometimes I draw three tickets and they represent the past, present and future. Today I pulled ‘Hope’, ‘Spin’, and ‘Comfort’ for the past, present and future, and spent a happy 20 minutes deciphering what it means, recording it all in my journal.

For years, I kept words in a bag, but a few days ago I found a box shaped like a book. It seemed the perfect place for the words.

The word book box, open

The word book box, open

I’ve been a word collector for a long time. When I was about eight, I noticed that ‘live’ spelled backwards was ‘evil.’ I thought that was very important, mysterious, and special. That was enough to get me started.
When I got to the moody part of teenage life, I turned to anagrams and came up with the idea that ‘live’ could be changed to ‘vile,’ which is how I thought of my life.
Later on, of course, ‘lives’ became ‘elvis’ and after that, Elvis lives.

In high school I discovered anagrams. While math was not my strong suit, I discovered that ‘Eleven plus two’ is an anagram of ‘Twelve plus one.’

In college, I anagrammed ‘dormitory’ to ‘dirty room.’ My favorite that year was “the eyes= they see.” ‘ Silent’ morphed to ‘Listen’. Still one of my favorites.

I use the tickets to think about words in different ways. “Bay” can be a part of the sea, a place where the truck unloads, a window, a color, and a sound. That’s one rich word.

If you choose the words randomly, they create a kind of poetry. You can always add the words that are missing. Before you know it, you’ll be playing with words and discovering their secret meanings that you’ve always known, but never noticed. Your journal will never be at a loss for writing again.
–(c) 2007. All rights reserved. Quinn McDonald is a word collector and a certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com

Journal Prompt: Understanding Words

Journal Prompt: What do you remember about learning to read?

What I wrote: We were the only family in town with a library in the house. When the carpenter put up all the shelves in the combination dining room/library/office for my Dad, he asked, “You opening up a grocery story or what?” When we told him it was for the books, he grunted and said, “Past the Bible and the Sears catalog, don’t have much use for them myself.”

The room was soon filled with books, top to bottom. I learned to read early, and after I mastered the comics in the newspaper, and the Betsey McCall section of my mother’s McCall’s magazine, I began to read National Geographic.charcoal mouse

One day, I considered all the books in our library and asked my father if I could read one. (It wold not have occurred to me to simply take a book without asking. Different times, very different upbringing.) My father told me, kindly, that I wouldn’t understand them.

“Why not?” I asked. “I can read English.”
My father smiled and handed me a physics book. “Read this, then,” he said.
I worked through the introduction, getting the words right, but with no idea about the ideas in the book. At 5 years, physics isn’t a familiar concept.

I remember the mix of awe, anger and concern that I could not grasp the material. It was English. I knew how to read English. Why couldn’t I understand this English?

Slowly I came to understand the difference between reading and comprehension; between seeing and knowing. The complex relationship between seeing words and understanding concepts came slowly to me, but I began to read more, eager for the ability to link words to concepts.

There are still many books I don’t understand, and many I don’t try to understand, but the joy and mystery of reading can fill me with a joy that few other things can reach. I hope the love of reading doesn’t fade away, replaced by electronic pastimes. Reading was my comfort, excitement and cure for loneliness. It still is.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches others to write through training programs. See her work at QuinnCreative.com Image: Mouse, charcoal on paper. Quinn McDonald. (c) 2008 All rights reserved.