Start With What You Know–Now

When I saw the Sephora bag, I knew that it would make a cute hand-made journal.  The bump in the road—I haven’t hand made a journal in more than a year—didn’t bother me. Hey, I knew how.

The secret to producing anything decent is practice. But psssssh, I’ve made dozens of journals. Sure, I can still do it. Easily. Right? Maybe not. Without practice, the skill dulls. It doesn’t vanish, and I may know the steps, but the skill element dulls.

The Sephora bag, ready to be worked on. Until I cut my finger.

So does the knife blade. After I decided how to cut the bag, I pulled out my cutting knife, did not put in a new blade, and drew the knife down the edge of a ruler. The blade stuttered, the ruler jumped, and I cut my finger tip. Not a big cut, but enough to bleed onto the bag. And soak into the paper surface. Wiping it off made it worse. And my finger was still bleeding, so there was not one drop, but three. Then five. I stopped to get a bandaid.

Yes, the bag was ruined. It didn’t have to be. What I should have done was not start with building a book. As far as creative work, there were many creative exercises that would have made a great beginning. But I didn’t do that. I started with something I had not practiced for a long time. And I failed.

hand-paited bollard

Photograph © Quinn McDonald, 2018

Not because I’m a bad artist, not because I’m not creative, but because I started where I’d left off years ago. Instead of where I was now.

I learn by failing. And my figuring out how I failed and working from there. It’s a good method. It helps you grow better with practice. And that works.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and writing instructor. She is working on a book about putting down your screens and getting out to listen to the Speaking World in the Invisible, Visible World.

Being Creative, Being Different

Is being creative the same as being different? In a world of “there are many ways, but only one right way,” and “it’s either wrong or right,” the word “creative” has taken a beating.

There were the go-getters who tried to make “disruptive” a synonym for “creative.” The connotation of disruptive is often negative–an idea barging in, taking over, crashing the status quo.  But the disrupters were mostly being different, and not necessarily creative, which has the connotation of being visually interesting, but not necessarily practical.

Being different means daring to be creative.

Being different can mean standing alone. Being creative means being colorful while doing standing alone. Photo: ©Hans-Peter Clamann

Creativity carries the burden of explaining ourselves. Creativity is not necessarily a new invention, a new method, although creativity is required to create. Most of us really don’t want to be too creative. We want to think we are different, but not actually be different. Being called “creative” feels a lot better than being labeled “different.” We prefer being different enough to still be interesting, maybe eccentric, but accepted, rather than stand-alone different. There is fear in having to explain ourselves—and failing.

Creativity is often thought of as self-expression—visual art, singing, dancing, writing, are examples. But often creativity is thought of only in terms of monetary gain. “Will this add to the bottom line?” But that’s not the point of creativity.

We live in a world of image, driven by consumer values. Creativity includes pressure to be accepted, to fit in, to have supporters, successful Instagram “likes”, re-tweets. To hold back on wilder ideas in order to gather acceptance and “likes.” Building an audience can be a goal, but the goal of creativity isn’t building an audience.

Creative self-expression is more therapy for the soul than it is a tool for personal financial advancement. Of course you can sell your work, but if you want to be creative without selling you work, that is a  clear choice you have.  And a limitless one.

Once you turn creative self-expression into a business, you are trading creative limits for financial gain. It’s not a one-on-one trade, but it changes how you think of your creativity.

I’ve sold my work and made a living doing it. Right now, I’m working on creative self expression to reduce anxiety (there’s fuel for that fire in every minute of the day), self-growth, and self-care. I’ll never sell what I make, because it is not geared to popular taste. But I love this work, and I love not having to explain it to anyone. And I love the feeling of getting better at solving problems–in my art and in life. For me, at least, creativity is problem solving. Sometimes practical, sometimes imagined, but it clears a path ahead.

Quinn McDonald is working on a book, The Invisible, Visible World, on creative self-expression. She teaches creative thinking and problem solving. She also teaches writing.

 

Advice From the Sidewalk

We’d had a nice dinner, my friend and I. She had offered to help me with videos for a class I’m developing for the Invisible, Visible World book. She is a generous soul— something we all need more of in our life—generosity. Giving and getting.

I’m combining my creative site with my professional site for a new look and new ideas. (This site will remain right here.) But I want people who hire me to train their employees in writing or critical thinking or problem solving to know that I’m not the “read the PowerPoint” kind of instructor, that in my class, everyone speaks, everyone questions, everyone is invited to engage and participate.

It’s a risky step–there are a lot of companies that don’t want to hear a class laughing. I do. When adults laugh, they are ready to learn. They are eager to try out something new. And that’s the place I want to stand when I teach.

Possible @Quinn McDonald, 2019

I was leaving the restaurant when I noticed writing on another restaurant across the street. It was a great idea, almost glowing in the evening light. It made me smile. And ready to learn.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing, thinking, and creative expression.

Be an Expert, Be a Learner

Artists and writers are always pushing ahead–pushing their boundaries, pushing themselves to learn a new technique. That’s growth. But there is also a time for being an expert and sticking to what you know.

First, sketch the raven. Then, cut out words and letters about ravens and glue them in place, using tweezers. Tiny, fiddly steps. There is no worthwhile project that doesn’t require time, attention, and practice. © Quinn McDonald, 2018

I’m learning how to create and run an online class. I’ve been teaching for many years,but it’s always been face-to-face. Online is a new medium for me, and a new medium always brings a learning curve. I don’t always love steep learning curves.

While creating a course (The Invisible, Visible World will be an online class as well as a book), I began with a brain dump of all the things I wanted to do in a four-week class. I had so many great ideas! But then I began to cram them into the modules. Either just a taste of an idea, or too many to finish in one class. Stop!

I backed up and looked at what I had a lot of experience in. I narrowed down the content, because too much information is just passing on my feeling of being overwhelmed.  The modules are simple and leave time for practice. Practice bring out expertise.

With less to learn and more time to practice, I see a better course emerging.  I hope so.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and a trainer in business writing topics. The Invisible, Visible World is a book on what we miss.

Lawn Ornament as Art

Here in the desert, we often don’t plant lawns. They get shriveled by May, and need too  much water. We use rocks instead.

This lawn had a big chunk of brown glass. I’ve never seen such a large piece of glass. (About the size of a shoebox.) But the sun was at the perfect angle. The glass looked as if it were on fire.

Sometimes is just a pile of rocks, sometimes its a piece of art. Up to you, always.

Quinn McDonald is writing a book about the invisible, visible world. She is a writer and creativity coach.

The Beauty of Destruction

Building, making, and creating are wonderful. But there is also great beauty in things that are old, damaged, or worn. Wabi sabi is the Japanese phrase for honoring the worn, the old, the damaged.  I’ve had a long-lived love affair with wabi sabi.

A few days ago, Phoenix had a hard freeze and stucco’d walls will often pop off the stucco. This wall is on the way there. I found the shadow work on it really beautiful.

You can see the lifted stucco as well as the line where the bricks are joined. It forms a map of its experiences, just as the lines on your face tell your story, too.

–Quinn McDonald is writing a book on the Invisible, Visible World–seeing things in new ways with fresh eyes.

2018 Sinks Below the Horizon

How was 2018 for you? Probably a mix of tough and good.  Either way, in a few hours, it will be 2019. And you can choose what to take with you and what to leave behind. Yes, you can. This is not up to your partner, or your parents, or what happened in 1994. It’s your choice.

Sunrise, New Year. © Quinn McDonald, alcohol ink on Yupo, 2017.

Letting go means not dragging the worry and tension with you into a new year. Letting go means exhaling and waiting to pull in new air into your life and lungs.

In their book, Writing—The Sacred Art: Beyond the Page to Spiritual Practice, Rami and Aaron Shapiro explain (my paraphrase): The story you tell is your story. Your parents may have told you a story about yourself and you may have believed it, or felt you had to believe it. But, in the end, it is your story. We are not born to be one, specific thing. We can create different selves, but it is hard.

So we often take on the story that someone else made up for us and decide this is who we are, rather than the person we have chosen to be. We are what we create. If I am the story I tell, and the story isn’t right, I am free to invent another story.

Invent a story that lets you breathe. Invent a story that lets you step into the person you want to be. Let go the images of you that drag you down. Leave to 2018 the ideas, the anger, the resentment  that aren’t useful. Leave behind thoughts that drag you down. Resentments that hold you back.

You get to choose priorities. You get to name what it important to you. No one can decide for you. You can’t claim it is important and then turn your back on it. Then it wasn’t important enough.

One year from now, you will not remember if you started the year with a fresh bullet planner or clean floors, a smaller waist, or a put-away tree. You bring it all with you, but you don’t have to. You can put down those resentments, that anger, and write a new you into being.

You may be afraid that without your anger, your control, your resentment, you won’t remember who you are. That may be a good thing. Be someone new. Someone with wonder. Someone who laughs at mistakes–your own, mostly. Learn. Grow.  Start to let go of what doesn’t make you eager, alive, wonderful and awake. You have a few hours to start.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She teaches writing, creative problem solving, and working with difficult people.