Anticipation’s Joy

“I want what I want, when I want it,” she said. She was my client, and was taking great pride in knowing what she wanted and how to get it. Instant gratification can be wonderful. Other times, having everything without waiting is a soul-draining trap.

Christmas stores that are open all year round is an example of too much of a good thing. There is something that makes a holiday more precious when you have to wait for it, when you can anticipate all the things you love about it.

Years ago, some fruits were available only in season. Grapes, cherries, pears, pomegranates were all available only at a certain time of year. Then they were gone. Sure you could eat canned ones, but they don’t taste anything like the fresh ones. And the wait made them more delicious, more tantalizing for the weeks you could find them. Papers  A month away, we would start to anticipate the fruit coming into season.

In the vacant lot next door stood a giant mulberry tree. As much as I wanted to climb the tree and eat mulberries, I knew that first the white flowers covered the tree, then the small green fruit appeared, and then, achingly slowly, the fruit turned white, pink and finally, purple. Only then did it taste good.

In spring,  cherry trees were somewhere blooming, their fruit invisible for weeks. The anticipation was exquisite. When the first ones arrived in the store, they were too expensive. I could see them, but not have them. Finally, my mother brought home a bag or firm, dark red cherries.

Several weeks ago, I placed an order for Japanese papers. I love these colorful, intricate papers. Nothing makes a better journal cover–fully saturated color, delicately silk-screened and available in hundreds of (relatively expensive) designs. I’ve been anticipating the papers since then. There was a delay, and I began to anticipate their arrival like the cherries of my childhood. Tonight they arrived.

I left them packed until all the coaching sessions for the evening were over. Only then did I go upstairs, and unwrap the papers, running my fingers over each one, happy that the beautiful papers were finally here.  I knew how the notecard would look with the sage/gold/bittersweet waves. I had prepared the journal cover base for the purple/blue/floral paper. Anticipation made them so much more important. Made them so much more delightful. Made me happy for each sheet. Anticipation is the fragrance of waiting. Take a deep breath and enjoy it.

–Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She is also an artist who makes notecards, journals, and paper bowls. See them at QuinnCreative.

Get Ahead by Saying “No”

When the phone call came from a friend, asking me to help chair a massive meeting in April, I told her I was too busy to do a good job. “The busiest people do the most work,” she cajoled. Within 15 minutes, I had agreed to take on a job on a committee. No one was hired as the committee head, and people kept acting as if I were running the committee. I hated to back out, so I plugged ahead, doing a bad job.

It gets worse. I had just joined the organization, and many of my colleagues were doing great jobs as committee heads. My agreeing to do the work resulted in my looking disorganized, lazy, and incompetent.images1.jpeg

Taking on Too Much Is a Recipe for Failure
During the same time, I was on the art show tour, doing shows, coming home, creating pieces for inventory, keeping up with special orders and other administrative tasks, running training seminars and keeping up with my creativity and life coaching clients. It was not unusual to log 135 working hours a week.

I love working hard. In accepting the job of the annual meeting, I took on a task I could not accomplish. Without the time, without a committee head, I not only didn’t help, but put a serious dent in my reputation. The reason? I didn’t want to say “no” to a friend who needed help.

A few days later, I saw a book called “The Power of Positive Choices,” by Gail McMeekin. It was the subtitle that interested me: “Adding and Subtracting Your Way to a Great Life.” I picked up the small book and began to page through it.

Find the Idea That Solves A Business Problem
As with most self-help books, there are a number of ideas–some work for me, some don’t. I’m happy if I can find one helpful idea. And I did. It was the idea of subtraction. Normally, when the business needs a boost, I add a notecard or develop another training course or speaking idea. Adding something always results in a lot more work. But more work doesn’t always result in more money.

McMeekin’s book brings up the power of subtraction. “The Power of Subtraction is astounding. When we forcefully say ‘No’ to dysfunctional people, toxic workplaces, limiting beliefs, or unhealthy habits, we open up the space to fill our lives with what we long for.” I decided to apply the power of subtraction to perfectly good ideas–but ideas that were not bringing in a good profit.

To that list I added products that demanded a lot of administrative work for a mimimum profit and teaching gigs that paid next to nothing but promised “a great marketing opportunity.” Often the opportunity was vague or not great for my particular line of business. Once the list was finished, I subtracted those items from my to-do list.

Subtract Time- and Money Drainers
The day I created my “subtraction” list, I got a phone call from a church group who wanted me to run my creativity seminar for less than half of my usual fee. “Our group is really worthy,” the events director said. “And if this one works well, we may be able to afford your full fee in the fall.” I was about to agree–after all, how can I turn down a spiritual group whose only fault is a cash pinch. Haven’t I had that problem, too?

Wrong line of thinking. Better line: Could I afford to run the seminar at a loss? Running it at the price they offered would not cover my expenses, particularly not if I had to bring the art supplies needed for the seminar. And what were the consequences? Once I taught this course at a loss, could I realistically teach it again at my normal price, which would be more than twice the original church rate? Even if I did that, I would teach 16 hours and earn $200, less the cost of the supplies for the first class. That put me right at minimum wage.

Was the increased cost for the second course fair to the second group, whose only fault had been missing the first, cheaper, course? And would the group really come back in the fall and say, “We loved your seminar so much, we will gladly encourage you to charge more than twice as much for this session.” Probably not.

The Power of Subtraction
I turned the seminar down. I listened as the event director tried to praise me into the job, then, that failing, to shame me into it. I kept my business priorities in place, and instead of trying to make her understand, I just kept politely refusing. She needed to fill a space in her events calendar, and I need to make a living. Those two facts weren’t adding up to me agreeing to a low-cost seminar.

Subtracting is a wonderful exercise. Look at what isn’t making money. Instead of pumping money into it, think about the pros and cons of subtracting it. Use the time for marketing your products that are already successful. Often, it’s a quick was to saving time and money.

–(c) 2007 All rights reserved. Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who helps people select and meet their goals. She specializes in transitions and re-inventing careers. Visit her website at