Theme Thursday #10: 7/30/09

If you love paper arts, you have to see the crisp, clean collage of Helen Musselwhite. The interview in Creative Review is not only interesting, there is a brief how-to and some breath-taking photos of Musselwhite’s detailed work.

Every artist who has ever had to write a bio has wished for something easier–spinning straw into gold, for example. Copylicious, who blogs on writing, gives you an easy way to write an interesting, engaging bio. I used it to create the bio for my keynote for Art Unraveled, and it sounds natural and more like me than any other one I’ve written. It can easily be adapted for your artist statement, too.

Rainstorm by:

Rainstorm by:

Music can be more than melody or notes, it can recreate sounds you are familiar with. In this clip, an Eastern-European A capella group imitates the sound of an African rainstorm, from small drops to thundering downpour. It’s followed by a rendition of Toto’s Africa, a song from the 70s. The song is well rendered, but the first 1:40 is a great rainstorm to listen to.

Anna Hawthorne has a book-arts site. It’s a lovely place to spend poking around and exploring. She’s making a zine, and gives some instructions.

I just ordered some stationery from Perideau Designs. Custom made, came in four days. If you like sleek, simple designs, take a peek at Perideau.

You can join in on Theme Thursday: post three links to sites you love or blogs you follow. You can do it on your site or in comments here.

Previous Theme Thursdays:

Creative Play 7/23/09 * * *Creative Play 7/16/09 * * * Creative Play 7/2/09 * * *  Creative Play 6/25/09 * * *    Creative Play 6/18/09 ***   Creative Play 6/11/09 ***   Creative Play 6/4/09 *** CreativePlay 5/21/09 ***   Creative Play 5/14/09, ***     Creative Play 5/7/09

—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also  manages four journals that travel the world.

Not Handicapped? Stay out of the Stall.

The handicapped parking space issue has pretty much been settled. If you park in one and you get caught, you get a ticket. Most judges aren’t sympathetic to “I was just going to take a minute.” Tickets stick, you pay. Often hefty fees.

Not so in the real-estate of the public bathroom. At least in the ladies’ room, there is a huge misunderstanding about who gets to use the stall for handicapped people.

If you can use another stall, please do.

If you can use another stall, please do.

Moms with infants know that some of the bigger stalls have hanging changing tables, so it’s natural for them to use them.

Moms with more than one child also want to use them. It corrals everyone in one confined space.

Women who are big use the handicap stall because, well, it’s roomier in there.

Women who want to change their clothes can use the changing table as a place for a purse, the other shoes and clothing.

In airports, women who have a lot of luggage fine it easier to use the restricted stall.

Claustrophobia seems a good excuse, except not liking small stalls isn’t really claustrophobia.

So people who are handicapped often have to wait, letting person after person pass them in line while they wait for the able-bodied person to finish using the stall designed for the handicapped.

It gets trickier–what if the stall is open and you are not handicapped, but using the stall makes sense? And who is handicapped and who isn’t? And can’t you use it if no one else is?

The rule that applies is the same one as the parking lot–if you aren’t handicapped, don’t use it. Somewhere right behind you in line is a mother who needs the changing table, or a woman who isn’t obviously handicapped and needs to sit on the higher toilet because the lower ones make it impossible to use them. Or pull herself up on the rails because without the rails, she can’t get up. She may not have a cane, she may not be old. She may have a condition that is serious, that she hides because for years, she knows how people will tell her how to fix her problem if she mentions it.

So when you are in that long ladies’ room line, and you want to use the handicapped stall, simply turn around and ask down the line, “Does anyone need the handicapped stall?” It won’t help everyone, but it wil be an excellent step in the right direction–into a regular stall, if you aren’t handicapped.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. Her business website covers training and business coaching; her art website covers creating raw art journals–art journals for people who can’t draw.

The Cookbook Journal from Powell’s

My friend Journey gave me the greatest gift. She knows I collect, make, and fill up journals, so she gave me a great new journal.

She found it at Powell’s, the fabulous independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon. Powell’s started in a derelict storefront in 1971 and today is the largest independent bookstore in the world, with six stores in Portland and a website, it’s stocked with four million used, new, rare and out-of-print-books.

Looks like a diet cookbook. . .

Looks like a diet cookbook. . .

Journey found a stash of journals made by Ex Libris Anonymous. These clever people make journals out of old books. They use the book covers as the journal cover. The one Journey got me is a diet cookbook. (Journey knows me really well). The best part is that it’s an old Betty Crocker cookbook, so it has those super-saturated, slightly off-kilter food photos that put you off your feed, diet or not.

The inside has some of the pages from the old

. . .complete with recipes and food photos . . .

. . .complete with recipes and food photos . . .

cookbook. Some are recipe pages, some are images–photos of food.

The rest of the book is filled with about 75 pages of acid-free paper that good for writing or sketching.

So your new journal has a great book cover and a few pages and hides all those secrets you worry about other people reading. After all, who’s going to read a diet cookbook?

. . .ready for writing or sketching.

. . .ready for writing or sketching.

My secrets–and fat-filled recipes–are safe inside the book.

There are other books as well, but this one was exactly right for me. It’s a good size, too, about 10 inches wide x 8 inches long.

Thanks, Journey! I love my new journal.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people to use and make journals, including raw-art-journals for people who want to keep an art journal but can’t draw.

More on “Authentic” Behavior

The other day I felt that being authentic wasn’t enough for being a friend. And that’s true. But there is more truth to discover.

Your authenticity doestn’t guarantee love and admiration from your friends, just because you are being authentic. The word “authentic” has taken on a sort of mythic proportion of human endeavor. We strive to be “authentic” and somehow, in our own competitive minds, “authentic” begins to sound like “perfect.” It’s not.

Your authenticity means that you are true to yourself, that when you screw up, you know it to be a screw up, but one made because of your mistake, not out of meanness, or subterfuge. (Unless, of course, that is your authenticity–meanness and subterfuge.) You apologize, you are sorry, but you do not go about “fixing” yourself to be better. Authentic is living in the room with yourself and accepting it all–good, indifferent, not so good.

Your authenticity is simply that–bare bones you. No making stuff up to polish your image, no trying desperately to be someone you can’t be. Authenticity has its downside–you won’t make everyone happy, you won’t solve everyone’s problems. Because authentic you is just that–the real you with flaws, failures, and hopes.

You won’t make everyone happy, but you can learn to be happy with who you are. It is enough.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer.

Theme Thursday #9: 7.23.09

Theme Thursday!  I’m still in love with pens, journals and yes, inks, so we’ve got more sites that reivew, try out and find new writing tools, and some places to take classes.

First, shameless self-promotion. I’m teaching this Saturday–July 25, 2009–at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. The store is on the Northwest corner of  McClintock and Guadalupe, in the Trader Joe’s shopping center.


PetroglyphHands Bookstore in Tempe. We are going to try out some experiments with raw art journalings. The subject is petroglyphs--patterns that come with meaning and are easy to draw and make your own. Information on the class and how to register is here.

We’ll be working on using petroglyphs–stone-carved symbols, in raw-art journaling. Class is from 10 to noon, costs $20, and you can register by calling (480) 730-0205.



InkyJournal reviews inks, particularly inks that work with certain journals. Hard to resist. . .for me. While the right-hand column sports the tooth-grinding mistake of adding an apostrophe for plurals, it does have good information. Interesting recent review is a penclip for Moleskine journals–which includes the shortcomings.

Notebookco is an Australian site that sells Moleskines. It’s a lovely site, but that’s not enough to be included in Theme Thursday. They carry the hard-to-find Japanese accordion-fold Moleskine as well as the Storyboard notebook. Scroll down on the page to find them side by side.

If you are looking for something to write in that journal, try this index of phrases, sayings, and idioms. You can discover the nautical origin of “cut and run” and “broad in the beam,” plus take clever quizzes about word and phrase origins. A word-lovers site worth bookmarking.

If you love book arts, and live on the West Coast,  look at all the classes taught at San Diego Book Arts. Lovely and reasonable–a good combination!

If you live in Arizona, don’t miss the Sedona Art Center for classes–the website needs some poking around to find it all, but it’s worth the effort.

You can join in on Theme Thursday: post three links to sites you love or blogs you follow. You can do it on your site or in comments here.

Previous Theme Thursdays:

Creative Play 7.16.09 * * * Creative Play 7/2/09 * * *  Creative Play 6/25/09 * * *    Creative Play 6/18/09 ***   Creative Play 6/11/09 ***   Creative Play 6/4/09 *** CreativePlay 5/21/09 ***   Creative Play 5/14/09, ***     Creative Play 5/7/09

—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also  manages four journals that travel the world.

When Authentic Isn’t Good Enough

One of the secrets to my freelance career is that I do a number of related services, and the relationships often lead to new clients in one area because they worked with me in another. For example, a training client might become a coaching client. A coaching client might take a journaling class.

Jigsawing related services often means the difference between freelance survival or failure. And in today’s economy, failure is not something I care to contemplate.

Jessica Hagy:

Jessica Hagy:

I never hide my various lines of business, but occasionally a client doesn’t understand how I can be more than one thing. Most often, the way it leads to trouble is that a client sees me as a writer and doesn’t understand how come I can’t spend more time writing. If they don’t understand that I am running a training program, they may become resentful when I ask for a longer deadline.

“How long does it take you to write that, anyway?”

“I have other work that is on my plate. I can have it by Friday, but not Wednesday.”

“If you really wanted the job, you’d meet my deadline.”

“I do want the job, but I can’t accept it if the deadline is Wednesday because I can’t deliver it on Wednesday. Much as I’d like to help you, I can’t accept a job knowing I can’t meet the deadline.”

“Then you really don’t want the job, do you. Anyone could finish it by Wednesday.”

And so, because the client doesn’t understand that I’ll be running a training program, and doesn’t care (and I can’t expect them to) I lost the job.

It’s a bit harder when it come to friendships. I’ve long suspected that my workaholic tendencies make friendships difficult. And when your work supplies necessities, the work needs to come first. I try to keep the bonds of friendship alive and working, but there are days when I simply can’t meet a friend across the Valley for lunch, can’t chat with a friend for an hour, can’t read and answer a complicated email. And today it cost me a friend.

When your authentic dedication to supporting your family doesn’t leave room for friends, do you give them up? Do you let your family slide? Do you shortchange a client’s job? Today’s choice was not easy. I apologized and it wasn’t enough. My comfort was that I made the choice that hurt, but it was the choice I could understand. Sometimes being authentic isn’t enough. But it’s all I have.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life– and creativity coach. She’s also a trainer in business communications and helps people who can’t draw keep art journals.

Wedding in New Hampshire

The rain stopped, the sun came out just hours before the wedding. The bride and groom had met in the Peace Corps, and now, at a lake in New Hampshire, they joined their lives.

Meghann and Brad

Meghann and Brad

The bride was the flower girl in my wedding to her uncle. Twenty-two years later, I was honored to be the celebrant at their wedding. It was a fitting part of the circle of life to stand with them as they chose each other.

Waiting for the bride

Waiting for the bride

My stole was made by Roz Hannibal, who did an incredible job of designing, dying the material, and sewing a wonderful celebratory piece. The bride’s father has a green thumb, the garden and borders were incredible. He must have worked all the wet, cold spring and early summer to make them happen.

Stone wall and Impatients

Stone wall and Impatients

Fence and flowers

Fence and flowers

Quinn's stole

Quinn's stole

Theme Thursday: 7/16/09

Here’s how it works: you pick a topic you know something about and share three links on your blog about that topic. Or you can leave a comment with a good link.

My theme is creative play. You’ll find links to prior Theme Thursdays at the bottom of this post.

If you love typefaces and the subtleties of serifs and sans-serifs, visit the periodic table of typefaces. Nicely designed, too.

Some wonderful, imaginative and different calligraphy on Calligraphia, an Australian site. Look through the site for your own discoveries.

Ready to try something new? Watch this fast-paced, but well-organized video on gelatin print-making and you’ll be running out to buy gelatin and make your own prints.

Less really is more. Here’s why paring down is better than bulking up.

Don’t miss BlueRoofDesigns great article on stick painting with Andie Thrams. “The longer the stick, the grander the gesture.”


Prior Theme Thursdays:

Creative Play 7/2/09 * * *  Creative Play 6/25/09 * * *    Creative Play 6/18/09 ***   Creative Play 6/11/09 ***   Creative Play 6/4/09 *** CreativePlay 5/21/09 ***   Creative Play 5/14/09, ***     Creative Play 5/7/09

—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also  manages four journals that travel the world.

Re-Inventing Yourself: Learn from the Lizard

One of our cats was paying rapt attention to something on the rug. He had that ears-cupped-parallel-to-the-floor look, and was holding absolutely still, eyes wide open. He does this only when there is something of great interest to him, and that is almost always something that is about to become dead.

Lizard image:

Lizard image:

I got up, and looked at the spot on the rug. It looked like a stick. Suddenly, almost all of the spot on the rug shot across the room, leaving a wiggling piece behind. Nature works really well. The thing was a lizard, and it had dropped its tail, which wriggled appealingly, allowing my cat to focus on it, while the rest of the lizard scrambled across the room.

Picking up the now-tailless lizard with a paper towel,  stepped out the door and shook the paper towel out gently, close to the ground. The little lizard body tumbled out.”Must have picked it up too hard,” I thought, feeling sorry. Just as I thought it, the lizard pulled out of its frozen position, and shot, tailless, up the lemon tree to safety.

“Must have scared it to death,” I thought. But the lizard quickly recovered and scuttled up the lemon tree to safety.

I knew that some lizards dropped their tails, but I’d never seen it work so well. The cat was perfectly happy to let the business part of the prey escape if he got to keep the  funny, wiggly part.

It seems like such a good idea to be able to drop a non-vital body part to save the important working parts. We don’t come equipped with convenient tails, but we do drag around burdensome “tales”–the stories we drag around as baggage. The sad story of how our parents didn’t give us what we needed. The mean roommate in college who was so thoughtless. The boss who wasn’t a mentor we’d hoped for, but gave us all the drudge jobs.

All those stories pile up and slow us down. They make us prey for anger, stress, decisions based on revenge and stored-up resentment. We can drop our “tales” of hurt and pity, leave them wiggling for someone else to become fascinated with. Because they aren’t helping us. No doubt, it’s hard to give up the story we live, the perspective we have on them, how we make choices based on past hurts and injustice.

Recasting our past is hard work and not appealing. The work of letting go the past means admitting that our perspective isn’t working and deliberately looking for a new perspective, one that allows us to live a less-burdened, less blame-riddled life. It won’t be done in a single day, but the small steps and work is certainly worthwhile. My clients have experienced it, and not a single client regrets the work of re-invention.

We can’t change how our story began, but we can change how it continues and build for a happen ending.

Note: this post was originally written for’s blog.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and certified creativity coach. She has a coaching practice for people in transitions and those undergoing changes in thier lives. See her business site at and journaling site at