“Passionate” Only Goes So Far

“Passionate” is a buzzword that’s been around for about two years now. It’s already worn thin, and Wachovia bank is replacing it with the word “obsessed” in their commercials. I’d prefer not to have my banker obsessed about me.

Passionate has paled from the original meaning of “without reason, using only emotion,” passed through the business-jargon world meaning “fascinated with and dedicated to” and has now paled to mean “kind of interested in.” And lately it’s being spoken with great emotion as an entitlement adjective to excuse bad behavior.

"passionate people" from personalbrandingblog.wordpress.com

"passionate people" from personalbrandingblog.wordpress.com

“I’m passionate about what I do” generally means, “so I didn’t meet the deadline,” or “Whatever you asked me to do isn’t as important as what I did.” I notice that the assertion is often preceded by “Hey,” so the whole sentence is said, “Hey, I’m passionate about what I do,” implying that the listener is not passionate, while simultaneously pronouncing their passion as more important than anyone else’s.

Here’s a suggestion: quit being so passionate. So inflamed about your cause because it’s about you. Here are some things that are harder to acheive than passion, but far more appreciated:

Be on time.

Show up ready to go, dressed and with the right equipment.

Do what you say you will do.

Check first, not after it’s all gone wrong.

Respect someone else before demanding respect from them.

Don’t ask for special treatment.

Give more than you get.

Be helpful without being asked.

When you do all that, you act passionately. And your behavior shows us far more than what you tell us.

Thank you. Please go back to work now.

–Quinn McDonald is a lif- and creativity coach and a trainer in writing and presentation techniques.

More on Networking

A few days ago, I wrote a blog post on networking. For some reason, on my blog, people don’t leave comments, they find my email and write me instead.

OK, I’m really sorry that networking is hard. And it’s even harder if you are introverted, an artist, a writer, an inventor, a trainer. . .  Well, it’s hard for everyone who wrote. And each person who wrote told me why they couldn’t work hard, they deserve a short cut, and my blog post didn’t deliver one. No, my blog post told about what does work: lots of hard work and effort.

I’m sure there are a ton of people out there, internet marketers, SEO experts, blog specialists, who will tell you that there is a secret they will “share” with you. They’ll tell you it’s easy and doesn’t require work. You won’t be able to find the price until you give up your email address or click “register” or dig five levels down, and then the price will be called an “opportunity,” or “investment.” I hate it and I can’t recommend it.

And no, I don’t have a list of sources to share with you. Not because I’m selfish, but because my list for one idea is different than my list for another idea, and there is no one magic master list of networkers that plop your opportunity into your lap. Honest.

I’m sure there are “old boy networks” or the equivalent that have a wink and a nudge, secret handshake and you get in. I don’t belong to any. For me there is no secret–it’s hard work, and you do it to get what you want.

So here it is again, in bullets:

  • Listen more than talk
  • Don’t talk about topics that others can’t contribute to–your food allergies, the content of your latest email blast, or your conversation with the bank teller
  • Do lots of asking for help, waiting, thinking and re-thinking
  • Thank people who try to help, even if it doesn’t work out
  • Be clear about what you want, to yourself and to others. If you can’t explain it, you don’t have a clear idea yet.
  • Be kind, help others, give of yourself. It draws other people to you

And yes, envision success, spend some time daydreaming, and playing. Taking time off from work makes you better at working. Lorne Michaels, who orchestrated an amazing run of Saturday Night Live describes his secret as, “The longer you are there, the longer you are there.”

-Quinn McDonald is a trainer, life- and creativity coach. In addition to teaching people how to write a variety of documents, she also teaches raw-art-journaling.

The Pencil is Mightier than the Disk

I love pencils. Cheap, available, usable. I have a pencil on my nightstand next to some index cards–in case I wake up and need to remember something but don’t want to turn

Yellow pencil. Colored pencil, ink. © Q. McDonald

Yellow pencil. Colored pencil, ink. © Q. McDonald

on the light. A pencil always works. In the dark, without looking, the pencil will work. Ballpoints and fountain pens, which I also love, sneakily need to be warmed up and I don’t know when they’ve started working.

The other night, I wanted to remind myself to take the white board to a workshop. I used a ballpoint pen (the cat had absconded with the pencil to blissfully chew the eraser to bits) and the next morning I read “uh tc bca d”because missing halves of letters looked like different letters–half of a W turned into a U, the O into a C.

When I got to the journaling workshop, I was asked the most popular question I get–why not just blog? Why not keep a journal on your computer? I love tech toys. But I also have a shoebox full of diskettes in various sizes that no one can open and read. Some are in word-processing programs that pre-date MS Word or Wordperfect. Anyone remember Multi-Mate? Of course not. Some are on formats for which there are no matching slots in computers. The big 5.5-inch floppies. Punch cards. Those computers are long gone.

Lascaux cave drawing

Lascaux cave drawing

It’s true that I lost a pile of journals to a flood in the basement, and to another to a fire in the attic. (Ah, the Old-Testament years.) But in each case, the journals I found were still readable. For that matter, so are the drawings in the Caves at Lascaux, which are about 30,000 years old and made with charcoal, an early pencil-substitute.

My son’s first drawings, love notes I scribbled, my parents notes to each other (my father favored light poetry directions and directives to my mother), in fact, my father’s sketches from when he was 6 years old–over a hundred years ago–are all still intact because they are in this simple medium. Pencil on paper. Timeless.

Quinn McDonad is a writer, trainer, life- and creativity coach. She teaches what she knows–how to write, give a presentation and keep a journal.

Theme Thursday #4: 5/28/09

It’s time for Theme Thursday: pick a subject you love, find three websites that do a good job about that topic and pass it on.

Here’s a creative website that proves if you know your audience, they will follow you–into the loo. I’ve been at longer movies and had to go the bathroom but was afraid I’d miss a pivotal scene. Worry no longer.  RunPee is a website that tells you when there’s a scene that isn’t pivotal and you can go to the bathroom without losing an important plot point. It not only tells you how long into the movie it is, it also provides visual and verbal clues.

Mattias Adolfsson is a visual journaler who’s a genius with a pencil and his brain. Browse through is amazingly detailed images created in a parallel universe.

Kevin Jenne uses color and form for interesting results. The saturated colors and focus on architecture and people create a powerful effect.

Traveling Journals Update: From the Unthemed journal, page 4-5, from “Journey”  in Sedona.

Unthemed Journal, p.4-5 Peg Cole, artist

Unthemed Journal, p.4-5 Peg Cole, artist

Previous Theme Thursdays: May 21, May 14, May 6.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach.

Quinn is participating in the 1001 Journals Project.

See more about the journals and images from two journals.

Creativity in the Shower

Those great ideas, the really best ones, come at you in the shower, don’t they? It’s not surprising. Studies in brain science generally say that creative solutions come about in three steps:

1. Looking at the problem from many angles in open curiosity.

2. Researching information and possible solutions.

3. Putting away the problem by taking a nap or sleeping on the problem overnight.

When you wake up, not thinking about the problem at all, but coming awake, a creative answer suddenly leaps out at you. Stands to reason you could be in the shower at the time. My morning start with a walk, but I meditate while walking, leaving the mind open for ideas that slap me in the face in the shower.

What do you do with those ideas? Well, someetimes they are fleeting, like a streaker dashing across the brain. I need to hang on to a edge of them before they vanish. So I write them down. In the shower? Absolutely. With a grease pencil. If you are under 50 you won’t remember grease pencils, also known as china markers.

Grease pencil

Grease pencil

They are big, heavy pencils that you peel to sharpen. And they write on bathroom tiles. Easier than keeping waterproof paper in the shower. And faster. And it guarantees that I catch the ideas and scrub the shower once I’ve written them down. (Waterproof paper is available at stores that carry serious hiking equipment and construction supplies.)

Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write as well as how to keep a journal you love.

Product Review: Derwent Inktense Pencils

After reviewing the Derwent Graphitint Pencils, I had to review Derwent’s Inktense pencils. OK, I didn’t have to, but it gave me a great excuse to buy and try a new set of pencils.

The two sets are both watercolor pencils, but very different. Inktense colors are a lot brighter, which is to be expected. Graphitint’s (graphite pencils) description is that they have a “hint of color,” which they do, when put on dry. They develop considerably more when you wet them. But Graphitint are all muted graphite tones—wines, rather than reds. Barks, rather than earth browns.

Derwent Inktense color swatch

Derwent Inktense color swatch

Inktense is a different story. The pencils are a bit harder, but not scratchy. These are bright colors, but very transparent. When washed over with a wet brush, they look exactly as if they had been made with an ink wash. The transparency really surprised me. Ink washes have always been a bit tricky, they required putting ink into cups, adding water, then trying them out first. Here, they don’t. I apply the dry pencil to paper, then add the amount of water that makes the right tone for the wash.

Best of all, they can be used by brushing a wet brush directly against the pencil, then applying the brush to paper. That makes ink washes portable.

The combination of Graphitint and Inktense makes a wonderful combination set to travel with. I’ll probably add a few colors to the Inktense to give it the wider range I need for the desert, but the blending ability–and yes, they blend with each other, gives a wide range.

Note: if you blend the Graphitint with Inktense, you won’t get the beautiful transparency of Inktense alone.

Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach and a writer who teaches art journaling for people who can’t draw.

Catch-Up on Journals, Classes

“It’s about the art, not the competition.” That quote sums up a powerful philosophy on art, teaching, and my journal project as well.

In-person class update: I taught a class at Arizona’s Maverick Quilters this weekend, and the attendees were people you would like to come into your studio with you. They shared tips with me, made suggestions and had a good time. It doesn’t get better than that.

Raw art journals

Raw art journals

My biggest challenge in an all-day workshop was making sure I had some tips to make the workshop transferable into individual quilting studios.

Creating a class is hard work. I always want to reach a lot of people and allow them to have fun. But I never  know if it will work–so I just jump in. Thanks to the Maverick Quilters for inviting me!

Online Raw Art Class starts on June 22. My next online raw-art class is going to be for people who don’t want to write in a big journal. We’re going to make (and fill) small

One Page, One Book

One Page, One Book

folded journals. Two of them will be made from 8.5 x 11 sheets, useful for symbols and codes. One will be an accordion book with a twist–a sort of landscape book that lends itself to many different applications–watercolor, sketching, or telling one story.

These small shapes allow you to turn the page in front of you and manage it better. Small sizes are also more accessible and often more enjoyable. Sign up for the class and save a space today.

Red Journals Update: The first journal has returned and is about to go out again. I’ve got a nice waiting list and am asking some interesting people to contribute. I hadn’t thought of that before, but why not? The most they can do is say no, and that isn’t earth-shattering. In fact, that’s a project for the upcoming week, asking some people with interesting stories to contribute to the journals. And if you have an interesting story and aren’t on the list yet, please sign up. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are. Tell me you are interested by leaving comment, or send an email to rawartjournals [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’ll send you the information.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She is also an artist who develops and fills raw art journals.

Network Your Way to Anything

Here’s the good news: you can network your way to a new job, to being interviewed on radio or TV, to a quote in the newspaper, to teaching an art class. Yes, you can.

Here’s the bad news: there is no master list of opportunities with names, phone numbers and urls that make it easy. No one will show up at your front door with a limo and whisk you off to fame, much less fortune. To network your way along, you are going to have to do a lot of hard work for a long time. There are no shortcuts, no instant gratification.

Now that I’ve lost most of the readers. . . if you are still reading, you are the one I want to talk to. Luann Udell, a friend and gifted colleague, share an experience that I’ve written about before that demonstrates the results of networking. You work your brains out for years, volunteering, pushing a project, researching, showing up, waving your hand. When you are almost dead from exhaustion, the interview falls into place . . .and appears in the paper. It’s good. And you get a hundred grumpy calls and emails that all start, “You are so lucky. . . .”

Easy street via keded.wordpress.com

Easy street via keded.wordpress.com

Here are the steps to networking your way to success:

1. Start with a project you are deeply interested in and know a lot about. Yes, you start with what you know best and are deeply interested in.

2. Decide who you want to reach and what the goal is. This is an important step–if you don’t know what you want, no one else will, either. “Successful” isn’t  clear enough. What is success for you? Getting the interview? Knowing  a celebrity? Making a potful of money? Write down what success is for you. Once things start happening, you forget. Let’s say you want an interview on a radio, TV station or newspaper.

3. Do research. Let’s say your goal is to be interviewed on your topic. Research every radio station in your area. Community radio, internet radio, dig ’em all up. Use Google, get on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Ask people you know.  Go to the library. Ask there. Once you have a list of potential stations,  look them all up to see what they say about themselves. If your expertise is Celtic instruments, you can skip over the stations that focus on politcal talk shows.  Look for shows at odd times–early morning, Sundays, late at night. Find out who the disk jockey is. Listen to the show.

Cave Creek sign, photographed by Q. McDonald

Cave Creek sign, photographed by Q. McDonald

4. Act on your research. Phone the station and ask who the producer of the show is. Be prepared to ask for what you want in a direct way. “I have a collection of Celtic Instruments and I thought it might be interesting to Dee Jockey because she has a Celtic radio show on Sunday mornings at 5 a.m. Yesterday she played a series of songs written for the Uilleann pipes, and I’m an expert. I wonder if she would be interested in interviewing me about the resurgence in pipe popularity.” Yes, I’m using odd example—to other people, your expertise may sound odd.

4. While you are waiting for fame, talk to other people. All the time. Waiting in the grocery store, in the movie lines, at the bank and post office. Listen more than talk. Who are these people? What do they know? Listen your brains out. Ask for cards if the people interest you, even if they don’t have a job or an interview for you. Stay in touch through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. That’s how you build your list of people to follow.

5. Write useful, interesting articles on your blog. Answer every comment. Be nice even when you don’t feel like it. At this point you are the Little Red Hen–doing all the work. That’s OK. 

6. Volunteer or do a project around your area of expertise. This is a project you choose because you need to learn something or want to talk to more people. Do more listening. Sometime around now, people will ask you to do work for free. Become discerning. Don’t believe everyone who tells you about “great marketing opportunities.” Great marketing opportunities are rare. They should put you in front of your eager audience. They should produce qualified leads.

7. Around this time, you will have some good opportunities show up. A producer will return your call and set up an interview. Show up for them. Be on time, be polite, do your best work. After the interview, follow up with a nice email or note. Get the card of everyone you talk to. Have your own cards ready.

8. Make the most of your interview. Get tear sheets, a recording, a video. Promote it on your website.

9. Reach out to the program chair of groups that might be interested in your work. Speak to groups. Be interesting. Get paid.  Send them to your website for more information. Post good tutorials on your website.

10. Once you have done all this, you will begin to see success. People will call you for favors, for speaking gigs, for information. Help others, keep track of the people you meet and who are in your field. Don’t give away your expertise to just anyone. Be selective. Ask to be paid for your worth. Don’t be greedy.

And that’s how it works. I wish there were a secret, but for most of us, success comes from hard work, showing up, being prepared, working our skills, learning as much as we can, being nice and listening. It’s neither simple or easy, but it works. If it doesn’t work, do more of it till it does.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and training developer in writing and soft skills. She assumes she’ll get some snarky comments to this post complaining that it didn’t offer any shortcuts or sure things. I’m pretty sure there aren’t any. © Quinn McDonald, 2009. All rights reserved.

Be Media-Ready With These Seven Tips

Are you media ready? With the profusion of podcasts, video blogs, community and internet radio, being media ready is as important as having an answer to the question, “What do you do?”

The biggest disaster is people who “wing it.” There is no excuse for being unprepared for an interview. It’s unlikely you will be pursued by investigative reporters, so you will know about the interview in advance.

Some tips on preparing for a radio or podcast interview:

images1. Ask the date, time and location and how long you will be on the air. Don’t assume, ask. Check your calendar before agreeing. Don’t accept a “better date” once you’ve accepted. Just because the podcast is an hour long, doesn’t mean you have an hour of talk time.

2. Ask the name of the program, the content, the name of previous popular guests. You’ll be more comfortable being on a program that you have expertise on. It might sound interesting to be on a hot political program, but if the host thinks interviewing means firing non-stop questions and accusations about your point of view, you have a lot more preparing to do.

3. Two questions that precede any interview: Who is your audience? What’s the objective? You’ll need to gear your comments to the popular culture reference of the audience–I once spoke about the family gathering around the kitchen table for activities and the host replied, “I never ate at the kitchen table. Breakfast was in the car on the way to school, and dinner came from the drive-through on the way to soccer.” He lost interest in my field of expertise because I didn’t sound credible to his demographic.

You need to know the objective, because everything you say needs to be geared to meeting the objective. Are you persuading, being the local expert? Is your purpose to rally around a cause? Contribute money? Have people show up somewhere? Unless you know the purpose, you don’t know what to say.

4. Ask for a list of questions. It’s fine to do that. Again, there are few investigative reporters left. Most likely, you are being asked because you have information. If the host says, “We’ll just talk,” then it’s your job to create a list of questions you want to be asked.

5. Prepare a list of points you want to make. Put them in the order of most important to least important. Make the points interesting to your audience. “Writing in a journal is fun,” is not nearly as interesting to college-age listeners as “Journals aren’t just on paper anymore. You can keep a video journal on your computer, too.”A well-written point keeps you on topic and makes a great sound bite.

6. Have some information to back up what you are saying. Your opinion is great, but having several studies that prove your point is better. Tell the host they study is posted on your site, offer to send the information to the host.

7. Gear your style to the objective. Are you asking for agreement or contributions? Be vivid, inject stories, use emotions. You don’t need to break into tears or yell. Logic is on the left side of the brain, but judgement is on the right, along with emotion. Facts are necessary, but if you don’t bring the audience from understanding what you are saying to agreeing with you, you missed the objective.

Preparing for a show actually calms you down and makes you a better presenter. A good presenter becomes a popular guest, and that’s a plus, too.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and trainer, helping people speak in public and write well.

Theme Thursday #3: 5/21/09

Here’s how it works–On Thursdays, you pick a topic you love and know a lot about. Share the information-find at least three links that are great. Post them to your site and let us know about them in the comments. You can also put them on Twitter (#Theme Thursday) or Facebook.

This week is about clever ideas:

I cringe at making a video, but I like to watch them. Here’s a really well-done, sharply-edited video on cat yodeling. Don’t have coffee in your mouth while watching. Use as an excuse to learn skills on video-learning.

Your business card is what people use to remember you. Advertising leave-behinds need to be useful to your audience.  Make it memorable.

Krista is a photographer. She took a lot of pictures of objects shaped like letters. Her home page lets you  spell out our favorite word, name or message using her photos.  You can purchase it as a framed piece of art or greeting card.

If you’ve seen (or read) Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, you know about ambigrams–words written in such a way as to be readable both right-side up and upside down. John Langdon created them for the movie and on his website. He gives you tips on how to create ambigrams, too.

Previous Theme Thursdays:

Creative Play 5/14/09,

Creative Play 5/7/09