Yahoo, Dr. Pepper, and the Annoying Ad

In the 60s and 70s, studies showed that annoying ads were remembered the longest. Notice I said “ads” and not “product.” Advertising agencies raced to create annoying, repetitive ads. Madge the Manicurist tapped her client’s hands back into the Palmolive (“You’re soaking in it!”) to prove it was gentle; Mr. Whipple continued to squeeze The Charmin’ after telling others not to.

Not much has changed. “Apply directly to the forehead” is not only an ad, but in another ad they admit it’s annoying.

Now Yahoo has joined in. When I open my mail, there is a Dr. Pepper(TM) ad at the top of the page. When I close a message and go to click “Back to Messages” the ad automatically gets longer and I wind up clicking the ad instead of the link. Of course, then I get to see a Dr. Pepper(TM) ad.

This kind of “trick the dumb email user” is infuriating. I know Yahoo email is free, but if they are going to punish me by tricking me into clicking on ads, I can move. I’m willing to pay not to be annoyed. Isn’t that what runs XM  and Sirius radio stations? You pay to live commercial free?

The first thing on my mind, of course, is to quit drinking Dr. Pepper(TM) and all the products related to it.Oooops, that’s a big order. Dr. Pepper(TM) is owned by Coca-Cola (TM). They own hundreds of products, including A&W, the root beer chain restaurant, Braq’s, Dannon yogurt, Dasani water, Frutopia, POMS, Sprite, Wink, and yes, the name Winnie-the-Pooh. Tough to boycott them all. (What? Winnie-the-Pooh is owned by Coke(TM)?)

I’ll start with Dr. Pepper (TM). All of it. I’m not drinking one more drop of any version. Won’t make a big dent in their market, but it will make me feel like I’m doing something.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, artist and certified creativity coach. You can see her work at

In the Moment, on the Bike

In about a week, Eric Maisel will stop by my blog for an interview about his book, Ten Zen Seconds. At the same time, I’m reading Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret. (I’ll be discussing that in a few days. I don’t want to jump to confusions, so I’m reading it all first. And there is no official site for her, and I’m loathe to send you to a commercial site where they are shilling for products linked to her book.)

Both books talk about meditating and ‘being in the moment.’ It’s a hard concept for a lot of people, being in the moment. What does it mean? How do you do it?

If you ride a bike (motorcycle), and took the riding course, it is exactly what you learned there. When you are on the bike, you are watching the car ahead of you, staying 2 seconds behind it. You are watching the hood of the car on the side road. If the car is moving toward the intersection and the hood is tipping down, the driver is braking. If the driver is looking straight ahead, and accelerating, he may not see you. The car behind you may be too close. What’s your escape? That car on your left, with the driver on the phone, is the driver aware of you? Are you on a spot where you can be seen in the rear view mirror? What’s your speed?

On a bike, you are always in the moment. You are not planning what to buy for supper; you are not planning what to say to your mom when you phone her tonight; you are completely aware of everything around you and completely in control of the bike. You are staying out of the grease strip and aware of every moment’s change. That, in essence, is being in the moment.

Well, what if you don’t ride? Then being in the moment means concentrating totally on what you are doing. Cooking dinner? Your mind is on chopping, keeping your fingers clear. Changing a diaper? Your mind is on getting the diaper off, checking for rash, getting your baby comfortable. On the phone? You are paying attention, thinking about what the other person is saying, processing the reaction, responding to the other person’s needs. (That’s why you can’t drive and chat on the phone at the same time. You are either not processing the choices of the road in front of you, or the needs of the conversation. It leads to accidents.)

Being in the moment can also mean staying calm, not deciding, bringing your mind to rest with simple incantations. (That’s what Eric’s book is about). Being in the moment is not hard to learn, and, once mastered, can feel as restful as a nap or as energizing as a great idea.

One of Eric’s incantations is great for practice. Watching a clock, breathe in for five seconds and out for five seconds. When you know how that feels, add a thought to each inhalation and exhalation. A good one to practice on is–Inhale and think I am completely. . . and exhale and think . . . stopping. It’s a great way to let go of monkey mind and come to a stop to relax. Try it.

–Quinn McDonald is a trainer, a writer and a certified creativity coach. Want to know more about creativity coaching? Karen Roberts interviewed me about creativity coaching. If you have questions, you can send me an email.

Make Your Own Journal

Yesterday I posted the front of a journal I use. The instructions could also be modified for collage background. Here is the inside of that journal.

inside journal To complete the inside, I covered the front inside cover with a paper marbled in blue and brown inks. For the back inside cover, I used sheet music, a page from a Chinese book, and a page from a Russian fairy tale book. Letterforms are beautiful in their own right, and deserve to be considered art.

To finish it, punch both sides with a Rollabind punch, and use the color and size rings of your choice. Black small rings (one size up from tiny) seemed right for this journal. Be careful when you punch the covers. Make sure you put them into the punch correctly. The front cover should have the outside facing up when you punch it. The back cover should have the side facing the pages (inside) facing up. That way they will match and the journal will be even.

The journal is finished with two pockets from real library books. The books I chose were titles that went well with my journal–“The Great American Myth,” and “Lands of the Dawning Morrow.” I’ve left the original sign-out cards in them, but I can also use the pockets to store tickets, blank index cards, or other small cards.

–Quinn McDonald is an artist, journaling teacher, and certified creativity coach. See her work at

Technique: Collage Background 2

The books were small–clearly children’s versions of classics. A closer look revealed real leather bindings and adult classics–full text, not abridged. They were just small. The leather was disintegrating, and try as I might, it would not be restored. Pages began to sift out of the small books. I’d found them at a garage sale, and I didn’t want to throw them away.collage bookcover

So I gathered them up and arranged them on a piece of heavy watercolor paper. When I had a pleasing arrangement, I put a piece of parchment over the arrangement and turned it face down, then lifted the watercolor paper. I brushed Golden’s Matte Medium on the watercolor paper, and carefully pressed it on the page-down arrangement. That gave me the exact arrangement I had before.

Using a metal ruler, I turned the entire piece over, watercolor paper, glued pages and parchment. I lifted off the parchment, made sure the pages were arranged the way I wanted them, and let the arrangement dry.

Once it was dry, I coated the back with Matte Medium to keep the page from curling. When that side was dry, I turned it over and coated the page collage with three layers of Matte Medium. I then punched the holes for the Rollabind rings.

Had I wanted the pages to be a background for a collage, I would have thinned an ivory or mushroom-colored acrylic paint with Matte Medium and painted at least one, but probably two coats to create a background.

If you prefer a busier background, use a large-toothed comb and drag is carefully across the painted surface. It will create an interesting pattern. You can also apply the thinned paint first, then lift some of it off with a damp sponge, creating a different effect that is quite appealing.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and artist. See her work at

Easy Tips, Easy Travel

Some things I’ve learned on the road to make the trip easier:

1.Room-service breakfasts are great you travel alone, particularly if you are shy. Often the toast arrives cold. Butter the toast sparingly and warm it using the hair dryer. Warm toast, melted butter. Life is good.

2. Room service rolls or biscuits arrive hard and cold? Use the spare washcloth, soak in hot water, wring as dry as you can manage. Drape over whole plate, heat from top with hair dryer. Moist, warm rolls.
3. Splurge on fast-dry underwear from outdoor/adventure gear supplier. Wash a pair every night, and you’ll only need three for a trip: one to wear, one drying, and a spare.

4. The TSA make you put your gels and liquids in a quart-size Ziplock bag. Pack a few extra Ziplocks; they serve many purposes. Fountain pens and some gel/roller pens leak on long airplane trips. Put them in a Ziplock, no worries. Ziplocks separate dirty socks from clean; dole out snacks like trail mix into convenient one-serving sizes; contains chocolate mess if your bag gets put next to the heater vent; keeps toothpaste and toothbrush together, but separate from the hairbrush. Ziplocks hold ice to soothe sore joints or a hot-water soaked washcloth for warmth.

5. If you like to wear sneakers or other lace-up shoes on a trip, but have trouble re-tying them after going through airport security, change shoelaces to Yankz. Adjustable at two points, the stretchy shoelaces let you get in and out of your shoes without untying them and stay comfortably snug. Available from sports retailers like Sahalie.

6. Lip balm is a must-have on dry airplanes or windy, sunny or cold climates. Clear is the easiest to use. For women, start with a lip pencil applied on the whole lip, then use lip balm to create a lipstick-fresh look with lip balm comfort. Clear lip balm can also soothe extra-dry cuticles and keep unruly eyebrows in place.

7. Outdoor gear stores carry small rolls of duct tape. Duct tape fixes suitcases that have split, holds up a hem in an emergency. In case of a real emergency, a hotel fire, duct tape seals the cracks around a door to keep out smoke. If you leave your room, you can tape open the stairway lock so you don’t lock yourself out. Mark the door on the floor you are leaving with a duct-tape X and if you have to come up again in a smoky stairwell, you’ll know which door it was.

8. Traveling alone? Ask for two keys when you check in. Someone who is watching to see if you are alone, will think you are traveling with someone. Then put one key in your purse or breifcase, another in your coat pocket. One key will always be quickly available.

9. Carry your favorite herbal teabags or loose tea with you. Heat water in the hotel coffeemaker, use some to heat the cup and the rest to make tea. Brew up a cup of camomile for a relaxing way to drop off to sleep if you are in the wrong time zone. Loose tea can be carried in a Ziplock with some folded filters. A coffee maker can be a tea maker, too.

10. Carry postcard stamps on your trip. You can make colleagues or friends feel special by sending them postcards while you are away. If you don’t know the addresses, write them on blank labels before you leave.

– -Quinn McDonald is a traveler, writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at

Natalie Goldberg, Live

Last week I took a writing workshop from Natalie Goldberg, the author of Writing Down the Bones. The book opened the world of creativity to thousands of writers who began to keep journals and write as a practice of creativity, understanding, and introspective exploration. She has written eight other books as well.

This course, on memoir-writing, was taught through the Sedona Art Center, and held at the Sedona Creative Life Center. The class was almost totally unlike what I expected. I had a vague vision of sitting around tables with older women, all of us discussing writing.

Instead, Natalie sat in the front of a sacred-space-like room and the class (close to 100 men and women of all ages) sat, theater–style in the room. She encouraged us to move the chairs until we were comfortable, and proceeded to lead us through a series of writing exercises that brought out amazing sentences, phrases, details and ideas. For example, she would give us ten minutes to complete the sentence, “I remember. . .” We were not to stop writing till she told us, and we were not to edit or cross out words. You’d think you wouldn’t be able to start, but most of us weren’t able to stop!

She called on volunteers to read what they had written and made supportive comments. If you didn’t want to read, you didn’t have to. We wrote by ourselves and in groups. We wrote with her prompt s and with ones we made up. We did 10-minute writings and one-minute writings. We read our writing out loud, but we didn’t comment on anyone else’s writing. We just listened.

The writing sessions were interspersed with Zen-based meditation. She taught us how to focus on breathing and the separation from the frantic world most of us inhabit allowed us to write more clearly and directly.

Natalie is engaging, interesting, and a relaxed teacher who can pack a great deal of learning into an easy, non-stressed week. This group discovered our own talent, ability and enthusiasm for writing. Do the same and take one of her workshops.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach who is currently developing online and in-person journal-writing classes, including Journaling for Perfectionists, Wabi-Sabi Journaling and One-Take Journaling. Contact Quinn to get on the notification list for her journal-writing classes.

Open source. . .sewing?

The more art/craft shows I go to, the more I realize there is a trend wheel turning here. We’ve raised up among us a Wal-Mart nation, for better or worse. Buying decisions are often made on price alone. Innovation and creativity takes a back seat to cheap, which is not only in the front seat, its in the driver’s seat.

Along comes a company that takes an old-fashioned idea–sewing your own clothes–and  brings it into the 21st century. Burda Moden is a pattern company well known in Europe, especially in areas where trendy clothes aren’t carried in every store. In Cold-War Europe, East German women had a chance to dress in style with these patterns.burda mode pattern

Now Burda Moden has evolved into BurdaStyle, a website that has done away with copyright, encourages clients to download patterns, print them on recycled paper, change them, post the results and any tips for inventive sewers. BurdaStyle is in New York, and run by two German women.

“My generation’s problem is not a lack fashionable clothing, but the excess of mass consumption products,” said Nora Abousteit, the hobby sewer of the two women. “We aim for conscious consumers who want to make their own unique clothing items.”

“Instead of opposing the removal of copyright,” Burda “drew a parallel between sewing patterns and the music industry,” she said. “He said we should not make the same mistakes as record companies did with copy restrictions.”

New ideas. New trends. Ideas that no one ever thought could happen. And it started in the hobby/craft area.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach. She first saw this story in the International Herald Tribune.  Her own work is at

Creating Meaning

If Julia Cameron (author of the 1992 book, The Artist’s Way) is the mother of creativity coaching, Eric Maisel is surely the godfather. He published Staying Sane in the Arts in 1993, and has regularly published books on creativity, at least 15 of which are still in print.

Eric is on a blog tour right now (and I’ll be interviewing him here on May 8th) for histen-zen-seconds-lg.jpg new book Ten Zen Seconds. In a recent class on mindfulness and art, Eric had some interesting and startling ideas (at least for artists) on making meaning against all odds. I asked him for permission to use part of the lesson (it’s long, but below is an excerpt of the idea I found startling). Here’s Eric on making meaning in your creative work:

“I make my meaning—or else I don’t. All that exists until I actively and mindfully make personal meaning is the possibility of meaning and, while I wait to get started, the experience of emptiness.

We are on the threshold of really understanding a shining idea: that each life can have meaning, even if the universe has none. Although each of us comes with appetites, defenses, genetic predispositions, and everything else that “human being” connotes, we are nevertheless free to choose what meaning we intend to make. . . You get to decide what will make you feel righteous and happy. You turn the meaning that was waiting to be made into the meaning of your life.

You and you alone are the sole arbiter of the meaning in your life. The second you turn to someone else and say, “What does life mean?” you have slipped into a way of thinking that courts inauthenticity and depression. The second you agree with someone simply
because of his position or reputation. . . you fall from the path of personal meaning-maker.

You let go of wondering what the universe wants of you, you let go of the fear that nothing matters, and you announce that you will make life mean exactly what you intend it to mean. This is an amazing, glorious, and triumphant announcement.

Then, in the next second, reality sets in. How do you make meaning? Don’t the facts of existence and everyday life prove tremendous obstacles to meaning-making? How can you make meaning if you are trapped in a dull job or a caustic relationship? What if you doubt your talents or your strength? What if you don’t know what meaning to make? After that glorious, triumphant announcement you are exactly where you were the moment before. What has changed?

This is truly a new path. . . . you decide to earn your sense of meaningfulness by heroically making meaning. You answer the question “What does life mean?” with the sharp rejoinder, “Whatever I decide it should mean!” You fill your life with mindful meaning-making, deciding what you will value and what you will abjure, and make a new wager with the universe: ‘Remain mysterious: I don’t care. I intend to matter, in my own
way, as is my birthright!’ You decide to live a personally meaningful life and begin to fill your life with meaning.

This path may not sound that radical, but it is. It is an amazingly radical departure from the usual path because it blasts all received knowing out of the water. Its central tenet, that you must decide for yourself, is exactly the following announcement: that you create your universe from your best understanding of what is right, what is good, and what is valuable, and that no one gets to arbitrate meaning for you. Nothing and no one is allowed to prevent you from deciding what values you intend to manifest. . . . ”

“This is a path to make a person proud. You heroically step out into the blinding light of reality, look around, and say ‘I am going to do this and I am going to do it for these reasons.’ You make the next hour meaningful by investing it with your capital, your intentions, your energy, and your decisiveness. You make the hour after that meaningful in exactly the same way. You aren’t a god—you are far too earthbound and contingent for that. But you are the best human being you can make yourself, the one you had
always hoped to see in the mirror.”

–Quinn McDonald is a certified career coach and a student of Eric Maisel’s. See her work at

Accepting Horror

Monday, April 16 was a day of pouring rain and high winds. Giant trees crashed to earth, blocking the highways. People struggled to get to work. In Blacksburg, Virginia, a gunman (or perhaps more) slaughtered 31 people over the course of two hours.

I was running a training class, aware only of the weather. As I often do, I had sent myself class material on my Yahoo account, knowing I could pull it up at a moment’s notice. I called up the link and saw the computer’s ‘busy’ signal–the wheel spinning, the screen blank.  My heart dropped into my stomach and I felt sick and lightheaded. The last time this had happened was also a training day, but it was more than five years ago on September 11.

As I waited to have my fear confirmed, one of the students read the headline out loud, “Largest mass murder in the U.S. as 20 are shot at Virginia Tech.” Almost immediately the number began to rise. My niece is a senior at Virginia Tech.

Time freeze. What’s the next step? Do I continue teaching, as there is nothing I can do in this moment? I cannot help the dead, I cannot save the injured, so I keep teaching so the living can learn? That doesn’t sound right.

Do I cancel the class so we can mourn this horror, try to grasp and bring some understanding to something beyond understanding? So we can reflect and touch base with family? That sounds emotionally healthy, but histrionic, a little too dramatic when all I want to do right now is know that my niece is OK. From a business sense, the class in front of me paid money to have me complete the teaching. Better to pretend that all is well and keep teaching. That doesn’t sound right either.

What’s the rational thing to do here? What is humane and sane? Keep calm and deliver some learning in the face of horror? Wonder exactly how important class content is when the lives of 30 families are ripped apart? What would you do?

–Quinn McDonald is beginning to wonder about the decision that drove her parents to abandon their countries for a safer, saner home in America. We can do better than this.