Dreaming as Art

Growing up, we were not encouraged to dream, neither day- nor night. Night dreaming might be mentioned if it was scary or taught a lesson. Anything else–the mysterious, flying, living a wonderful life–was dismissed as a waste of time. And day-dreaming was no better. You could have been learning, cleaning, studying, or making yourself a better person.

As the only American-born member of my family, this did not seem strange. My parents had not ony gone through the hard-time 1930s, but they went through World War II in one of the countries that lost. Rail-thin and almost without hope, they grabbed the offer that brought them to America. My father was in his late 40s, not the ideal time to start a new life. My mother was younger, but not resilient, having sustained the kind of emotional and physical war damage that one does not spring back from–ever. My two brothers could not remember a time they had not been hungry or warm enough, or had more than one item you could call a toy. Life was not for dreaming, it was for surviving. My parents were serious, life was serious. Sure, we laughed, but it seemed to be mostly from relief, not just because something was funny.
As I grew older, the temptation to dream was constant. I wanted to write. Even then adults said, “Write what you know.” I had a pretty good idea that no one wanted to read what I knew. I wanted to write what no one knew. What didn’t exist, what might exist only in my head. I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to be a writer. I knew better than to express this wish. But I dreamed about it.

And that is exactly why dreaming is so important. It leads us away from the past with the “no” and the “can’t” and the “we don’t have those careers.” It opens the door to “Why not?” and “see what happens,” and “try it and find out.” Dreaming leaves us open to possibility. Success. Adventure. Daydreaming is as important as dreaming at night. Daydreaming solves problems. Creates hope. Stokes the ember of creativity into a flame.
Dreams heal. They heal hurts, a stifled imagination, a crumpled spirit. Dreams can heal the world. True, they are not real, but they can be made real. When I was seven years old, I wrote a short story set in a family that was not mine, in a house I had never seen, with a figurine that we didn’t have. When the figurine turned, a bookcase opened into a world filled with sun and fruit trees that held  mulberries, cherries, watermelons and pecans–all at once. It was a science fantasy story. The heroine was an artist who could see things no one else could. It took a long time to write, and while I don’t remember most of the story or what happend to the spiral notebook it filled, I will never forget the joy and satisfaction it contained.

I sometimes recall that joy and satisfaction now when I am stuck on a project. Sometimes I see things no one else can, and then I feel like the artist of the story. Yep, the dream of a 7-year-old can stoke the hopes of an adult. Reason enough to keep on dreaming. Reason enough to work on possibilities.

–Daydreaming has its own values for the soul. Don’t know how?  You can learn how to daydream.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach. Visit her website at QuinnCreative.com

How Long Till Life Coaching Changes My Life?

The first time a client asked me, “So, how long will it take till my life is changed by coaching?” I laughed. I imagined myself in an old-movie green eyeshade, plotting charts and graphs, then saying, “Hmm. 17.5 weeks.” And the client nodding, waiting for life to change 17.5 weeks in the future.green eyeshade

The Goal of Coaching is To ‘Graduate’
Now I realize it’s a good question. One that every coach needs to keep in mind, and every client has a right to ask. The purpose of my coaching practice is to “graduate” clients. Because each client comes with different needs and goals, the answers vary. I’ve had some clients for years, but I also pride myself in “booster-coaching” in which a client comes back for one session every now and then to stay on track.

images-1.jpegChange is Inevitable. Growth, Optional
Coaching is about change. Most people don’t like change. They want something different without change. They want someone to give them lots of choices and then choose something easy and POOF! life is better. I’d like that, too, but it doesn’t work that way. Otherwise I would be slim, sleek, firm, and famous. Oh, and rich, while I’m dreaming.

In real life, coaching (from my point of view) is about walking a hard road with a client until the clients are able to handle the incline themselves. Along the way, the client learns how to use some tools that make the journey easier. To stick to the metaphor, a good pair of hiking boots, a supply of cool water. Ideally, the ability to enjoy the view today, instead of thinking the view will be spectacular in an hour or next week.

No Advice in Coaching
Clients call me because their lives are not what they imagined. They want something different. I lose a fair amount of clients when I tell them that I don’t give advice. I learned the idea from my mother, and had it confirmed in coaching school. My mother would pose a problem to me, and I’d give her a way to solve it. She’d bat it out of the way as too hard, too cumbersome, too complicated. I was then obliged to toss out 47 more choices till she found one she liked. When she couldn’t make the solution work, it was my fault. After all, it was my solution. Exactly.

So my clients don’t get advice. First we figure out what the goal really is—maybe it’s a new job, maybe it’s recognizing that being an “individual contributor” is a dead-end in the company, but being OK with that. Maybe it’s finding a great hobby to fill out the life. It could be as complex as starting all over again from scratch, writing and publishing a book, or learning how to work deeply at an artistic work and change your life.

Heading Toward a Goal
Once the goal is set, we explore different steps to get there. Small, do-able steps. Each week there is homework. And a chance to get a big view again. And then, one week, I’ll say, “Do you think we are almost done here?” Almost everyone says “NO!” But once we look back at the path traveled, and see that we have walked up a long, twisting path and that the view is pretty good from here, the client knows it’s time to review the tools and how each one is used.

After that, we drop to twice a month, then maybe once a month. Most clients, once they know the tools work, are eager to use them on their own. And that’s how it should be.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach. For more information on life- and creativity coaching, visit her website, www.quinncreative.com
–Images: Green eyeshade from http://www.spj.org and flying courtesy http://www.fotosearch.com

Content: (c) Quinn McDonald, 2007. All rights reserved.

Creative Boost 2

Creativity needs to be nurtured and fueled to keep going. Here are some exercises that can keep you ready to tackle each day.

1. Do something each day that gets your blood flowing to your brain:
walking, biking, hiking, skating—something physical. If your art keeps you sitting at a workbench, you need to break away and get blood to your brain.

2. Write down your ideas on index cards and throw them in a box.
From time to time, pull out 10 at random, and expand them in some way. Make a change to each idea that makes it different in some way. Add to it, reduce it, change the person who would use it, change how it could be used. These brainteasers help you create more uses for one product as well.

3. Do you dream?
The answer is yes, but you may not remember your dreams. Go to sleep in silence, without TV or radio. As you go to sleep, tell yourself you’ll remember your dreams. Keep a pad of paper and pen by the bed. If you wake up and remember the dream, write down the key words. Dreams fade quickly; they can be completely gone in minutes after waking up.

4. When and where do you get your ideas? In the shower? Right when you wake up or go to sleep? Keep a pad of paper in the room, and write down the ideas—no matter how strange they seem. If a pad of paper is too messy, keep a few big index cards in a hardcover book, and slip a pencil in the outer spine. What looks like a book is a place for your notes.

5. Flip through a magazine and rip out five ads.
Arrange the pictures in the ads to create a story you make up. Re-arrange the pictures to create a different story. This can also be an interesting way to spend a half hour with your children. You’ll be surprised how easy this is for them.

–For more about creativity coaching, life coaching, and art, visit Quinn McDonald’s website.

Creativity as Idea Generator

“Many people miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
–Thomas Edison

Keep it simple. Make it useful: Using your creativity as an idea generator.
Solving problems is not nearly as easy as we hope. We get an idea, but it doesn’t work right, it doesn’t quite fit, it’s almost right, but someone brings up an objection. Here are three things to do with an idea to make it fit the problem:

1. Cut it out.
The idea may have too much baggage. Don’t abandon it entirely, trim one area. And don’t look for the most obvious thing to cut. Reach for one of the side issues to adjust. It can shift your whole perspective.
Example: You’ve written a memo to pitch your next idea. It explains everything, has charts, “what if” scenarios, cost projections, and next steps.

Apply cut it out—don’t cut out the memo, but cut out the extra words. Don’t tell your audience everything you know about the topic. Tell them just enough to stir interest. It makes a huge difference.This is a pitch. Make it 300 interesting words long and wait for a reaction before you decide next steps.

2. Change the color.
It helps you see more uses for the idea.

Example: You invented the file folder. If you think of it in different colors, you’ll discover color-coding, too. Different color file folders can do more than hold material. They can differentiate categories without words. Changing color can add an entirely different use or direction.

3. Combine two ideas.
Sometimes one idea needs help from another to create the right solution. Combining two unlikely ideas can lead to a new idea that solves your problem.

Examples: Combining paper and a sticky substance gave us Post-It© Notes. Combining the need to have a car with a concern of the environment gave us hybrid cars that get 100 miles to the gallon. Unrelated ideas need one spark to link them, creating a great idea from two moderate ideas.

These methods can be used to come up with a plot for your novel, a solution to the disagreement you have with a co-worker, a new piece of music, or a business idea.
When you are brainstorming an idea, apply one of the three changes above and see if it doesn’t light up your idea, help you see it differently, or change it entirely.

Creativity is not limited to artists; everyone is born creative. The trick is not training it out of yourself. The more you exercise your creativity, the more it grows. The more it grows, the more you can count on it.

–For more information on creative ideas, life coaching, creataive coaching, and to see my Connections art that combines lively images with thoughtful words, visit my website at www.quinncreative.com

We Are What We Watch

Most people believe their choice of diets will improve and prolong their lives. We are what we eat. But by the same reasoning, can’t we say we are what we watch on TV? So many people are concerned about what they put in their mouths, but not at all what they put in their minds.

We Are What We Watch
There were years in my life when I could not start my day without the Today show or end my day without an hour of vegging out in front of the TV. No more. I can’t bear to watch human beings humiliating others. I cringe when I see people degrading themselves. My soul shrinks when I see couples use their wedding day as an opportunity to get loot, presided over by a manic Katie Couric, who has since decamped and wants us to believe she is all hard news now.

Don’t have a partner lined up? No problem–you can get one from a show where men and women vie against each other for the attention of a stranger and a million dollar check with a big, mean, string attached. If any one of these contestant’s parents try to sell them on an arranged marriage, the fur would fly. But add a chance to be on TV and get a wad of cash, and an arranged marriage pales in comparison to a contrived marriage.

It’s Not Escape, It’s Passive Victimization
Why are we glued to the TV, night after night, watching people get fired for not out-weaseling their suite-mates, get voted off an island for not excelling at deceit, or get thrown out of a dating pool for not passing the cruelest gossip? This is fun? This is relaxation? This is what we do to escape from our jobs—where we are scared of getting fired, hate the deceit, and pray we don’t become the next victim of cruel gossip?

Filling our minds with these shows is the entertainment equivalent of gawking at the mangled bodies in a car wreck. Is our pleasure now derived from relief that the mangled body–or tortured soul on TV–isn’t ours? At least we don’t let people kill animals on TV. That, after all, would be cruel.

We’re Teaching Our Children to be Bullies
There is more alarming news. I recently read a report that 75 percent of children under the age of five are watching these shows with their parents. These same parents who won’t allow their children to drink caffeinated soft drinks because it’s bad for their health. What will these kids be like when they grow up? What laws will they pass? Who will they vote into the White House Island of Triumph?

Turn it Off, Do Something Fun
What’s the answer? What you put in your head is up to you. Here’s what I discovered now that the TV is off: I like listening to different kinds of music. Chants, drums, songs in languages I don’t know. Sometimes I just sit and listen to music and don’t do anything else. Sometimes I read a book for the pure pleasure of a plot that I like. I’ve also had time to explore collage and encaustic—painting with hot wax, both of which are less expensive than a month of cable and both of which have opened a whole new world of color and texture for me.

It’s astonishing what you think of, what you remember, what you dream up when your mind is not retreating in horror. Your mind is stuck in your head, which is connected to the hand with the remote. You are what you watch.

–To see collage art that speaks to you, visit my website at www.quinncreative.com
You’ll also find information about life coaching and creativity coaching.