QuinnCreative Newsletter Returns

Some months ago, I stopped publishing my newsletter, Imagination Works from QuinnCreative. There were lots of good reasons: The newsletter was ten years old, I’d originally kept the addresses in an address book, because I sent a paper newsletter. Once I created an online one, I knew that some people weren’t getting the letter anymore, those who

Raw-art-journal entry, Inktense pencils on paper, © Q.McDonald, 2009

Raw-art-journal entry, Inktense pencils on paper, © Q.McDonald, 2009

got it at work often found it in the spam filter. OK, I’ll admit it was a lot of work putting it on my website, and fads change–people didn’t want a newsletter through email, they wanted it on a website, now people don’t want to be forced to click on links in emails to take them to websites they think might contain mal-ware.

Once I discontinued the newsletter, the emails started.  “What happened to the newsletter?” “Where was that article you wrote on failure?” “I went to your website and there’s no newsletter!”

My mistake. There are many reasons to start up the newsletter again.  A lot of people don’t want to read a blog every day, don’t want to troll my website to see when a new class is coming up,  and want to know about living their creativity out loud as artists, writers, and just plain people. So I’m bringing back the newsletter with a really simple title: QuinnMcDonaldNewsletter.  It’s not fancy, it’s simple writing through a Yahoo Group.

You can go here and sign up:


Anyone can sign up. It will come the first and third Sunday of the month, via this Yahoo Group.

Tip of new logo for Quinn's Raw-art-joujrnals

Tip of new logo for Quinn's Raw-art-joujrnals

Sundays so people who are in the “Sunday Slump”–that uneasy time of week at the end of the weekend and before the beginning of the work week–will have something interesting to read.

I don’t sign anyone up, I don’t spam anyone. I’ve sent out invitations to a few people who have told me to bring the newsletter back. If you want to receive the newsletter, please go sign up. It will contain links, stories, ideas on living a creative life. Because I still believe that we don’t find meaning in life, we make meaning. The newsletter will be delivered through a Yahoo Group, but it is a newsletter. No photos, no websites, no fancy design. You won’t be required to do anything. I chose Yahoo Groups because it makes it easy to subscribe (and unsubscribe) and for me to mail out.

Yahoo Groups also creates automatic archives, which I could never do, and it was a constant source of questions. Now people can search the archives for previous posts.

Thanks to all for letting me know what you want. I sure hope this is it!

The Pencil © Quinn McDonald, 2005-9

The Pencil © Quinn McDonald, 2005-9

Follow Friday: Twitter Blogs Worth Reading

Micro-blogging is the latest way to express yourself. I’ve read it a dozen times this week. But when I got to Twitter (and I Tweet) what I see is not micro-blogging, it’s a lot of self-promotion—micro-flogging more than micro-blogging. I’m for that. You can’t express a full concept in 140 characters, although you can do a good job of teasing an article, sending along a quote, and posting an idea.

Online, then and now

Online, then and now

On Twitter, Fridays are the days you praise the people you like and hope that others will follow them (put them on their list of people whose comments you want to read regularly). It’s called Follow Friday.

Because Twitter allows no more than 140 characters, it’s hard to tell people why you are recommending someone.

So this week, I’ve moved my #FollowFriday to my blog. Here are some recommendations of blogs that are consistently well written and well thought-out:

Maria Schneider , or on Twitter, @mariaschneider explains about  #fridayflash on her blog today. Maria explains a community of fiction writers who all write at least one piece of fiction a week, post it on Friday, then let others know. Sure it builds readers, but even better, it builds writing muscle and self-confidence. It’s one of the few times I’ve wished I were a fiction writer, but I’m non-fiction. We build writing muscle and self-confidence other ways.

Maria  helps us, too, because she shares useful information: Here are 25 people to follow if you are a freelancer.

Here are 25 more people to follow if you are a writer who needs to figure out the ropes to make a book come together.

Ken Robert is Mildly Creative. I’ve recommended him often, because his writing is damn good. In this article, he tackles the spiky topic of what to say when people ask you to remove something from your blog because they don’t like it. I had that happen last year, and the consequences were pretty drastic for me when I refused. So I caved. I still feel ambivalent, because I caved and got the retribution anyway.

Here’s the quote from his blog post “Blogging on Eggshells.”

Please understand, it’s not my intention to offend anyone, but this is a blog about living a creative life. If I start removing anything that bugs someone, it’s tantamount to me telling you to unleash your creativity, to be authentic, and to freely express yourself as long as it doesn’t upset anyone. Goodbye, Inspiration. Hello, Puritanism.

He’s right. I’m proud of him. I wish I’d said that. Follow Mildly Creative on Twitter.

Other people worth following: Diana Adams of Adamsconsulting is a literate geek. She could bore you to tears, but she never does. Her posts are thoughtful, informative and interesting. Her website needs flash to view, but it’s graphically well-done, and her marketing makes you feel smart. All marketing should do that. Follow Adamsconsulting on Twitter.

BeCreative2Day browses creative sites so you don’t have to. And you want to follow her recommendations. Here’s an example, unique matchbook designsRead BeCreative2Day’s  (Cory Fausz) blog, too. The photos alone are worth it.

CopyBlogger  (Brian Clark) helps you market online. In a way that doesn’t make you want to take a shower afterwards. And he allows himself to be 3-dimentional on both his blog and on Twitter.

Alyson B. Stanfied is @abstanfield on Twitter. If you are a freelance artist interested in learning business skills, you should read her blog. Following her on Twitter is also a good idea.

Ali Turnbull is Fit to Print. You will find her links reliable, and if you are a writer, necessary. If you want to expand your general knowledge and have fun at the same time, follow FitToPrint on Twitter. Here’s why she wants to delete the word “try” from the English language.

Paul Sloane’s blog today demos why corporate brainstorming doesn’t work.
Follow Paul and his lateral thinking skills on Twitter.

Want to know more interesting people to follow? Drop by any site above and see who they follow. Smart people follow other smart people.

—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. You can follow me on Twitter, too.

Image: ths.gardenweb.com

Theme Thursday #14: 8.27.09

It’s Theme Thursday, and this time the Theme is Illumination–growth through inspiration.

Illuminated manuscript from bornemania.com

Illuminated manuscript from bornemania.com

Illuminated Mind is a thoughtful blog that’s well-written, and longer than most. Rare to find both to today’s culture of microblogging. Jonathan is an iconoclast, but his blog on the commitment needed to start our own revolution is a good read.

There is something about infrared photography that is compelling and other-worldly. You can see a collection of 50 infrared photos here.

Polyvore is a site that lets you make an instant collage or a visual dream board. While at first blush, it looks like it’s all about clothing, start with the background and words and you’ll discover you can create quite a statement that’s not about fashion. If you are a fashionista, you will also have fun.

If you’d rather make your own vision board with photographs and alter them, you can find free photos and textures at Image*After.

The moon has a powerful call to us. It was the original timekeeper, and it still sets our tides. If you want to check on the phase of the moon, or put the information on your website or blog, you can do so at Moon-Phases Calendars.

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.

Five Most Recent  Theme Thursdays:   * * * Creative Play 8/20/09 * * *  Creative Play 8/15/09 * * *   Creative Play 8/6/09 * * * Creative Play 7/30/09 ***Creative Play 7/23/09 * * *

—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.

The “Perfect” Journal May Be A Mess

“What does your journal look like?” one of my class participants asked. She was putting away her own carefully crafted art journal filled with delightful patterns and colors that she had copied from magazines.

“What do you think it would look like?” I asked, knowing where this conversation would lead.

Thinking in circles © Q. McDonald

Thinking in circles © Q. McDonald

“Your journal would have exquisite artwork on every page, with beautiful handwriting in lovely colors. And the whole book would be perfect–no mistakes. You’ve been journaling a long time,” the participant said with the joy that comes right before the bubble pops.

Silently, I handed her my journal. It has a water-stained front cover and the elastic is over-stretched. She opened it, and gasped, involuntarily. She had opened it on a page in pencil, with an ugly sketch of a thing that might be a butterfly followed by several swashes in pencil. She looked at me in real doubt. I was the teacher here? She flipped to another page. A drawing done diagonally across two pages, with a not particularly good illustration of a hand reaching up to find a pen on a table.

The participant looked at me with pity. “This is yours? Is it recent?” She was horrified. How could the instructor in a class have a journal that was so. . . ugly?

The class had gathered and I held up the ugly butterfly page. “When I saw this butterfly done in repoussé  and chased on a pendant, I loved the Asian feel it had. When I drew it, as an illustration, it was flat, missing the raised element of the repoussé and the deep outlining of chasing. The Asian influence came from the technique, not the illustration, and I didn’t understand that until I did the drawing. Had I added shading and definition, added a framed,  it would have looked like the pendant.

“Why didn’t you?” Another participant asked.

“I learned all I need to learn from what I had drawn,” I said. “Having learned it, I noted it on the page and then could move on.”

“And the . . .hand?” another participant asked.

“Hands are hard to draw, but this was not about the hand. This was about breaking the page–creating an artificial edge with a diagonal line across the page. Elizabeth Perry is an expert at it. I was not, so I practiced, and gave myself a chance to copy my own hand at the same time.”

My journals are not little artworks ready for framing. My journals are explorations on translating what I see into a flat surface. My journal is about experimenting and failing, and knowing why I failed. My journals are about experimenting and succeeding and knowing why it worked this time. Some pages have instructions for an idea, some a diagram that makes sense only to me. Some pages are beautiful, some are not. My journals are my work, my thoughts, my ideas, and they are not perfect. They can be a mess on the way to pretty good. And that’s why my journals make me indescribably happy.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and recovering perfectionist.  Quinn is also a life- and creativity coach who helps people through change. She teaches people who can’t draw how to keep art journals.

Hot Day, Cold Soup

In many parts of the country, summer is coming to an end. The days are getting shorter back East, and in New England the nights are dipping into the 40s; in DC, the nights are in the 60s.

Potatoes cut for soup

Potatoes cut for soup

Here in the Sonoran Desert, we still have at least a month of 100-degree days, although in a few weeks, it won’t reach 100 degrees every day. But it’s hot, still. Very hot.

Cold savory soups are just right for this weather. I keep buttermilk around for just such a purpose–to make a cold soup. You can toss peaches or cherries (or both) into a blender and make a dessert soup, but savory soups are the soothing coolness I crave on days when the sun bakes your eyeballs dry.

This soup is also cheap to make. Budget gourmet–my favorite kind.

Vichyssoise : Cold Potato and Leek Soup (Vichyssoise is pronounced “Vish-eee-swahze” not “vish-ee-swah.”) Just in case you were wondering.

One potato (red or brown-skinned are fine)
2 slender leeks
1 Tablespoon butter. Use margarine at your own risk. Olive oil is fine.
1 Quart buttermilk (reduced fat is OK, no-fat is blechh)
1 cup sour cream (reduced fat is OK, no-fat is disgusting)
1 cup chicken stock (vegetarians can substitute veggie stock)
Cut-up herbs for garnish: thyme dust or rosemary sprig
Salt and pepper

Method (Takes about 30 minutes) Make ahead and chill for 2 or 3 hours to develop flavor.

Leeks rinsed to get sand out

Leeks rinsed to get sand out

Scrub potato, but don’t peel it. Cut it in chunks that would take 2 bites to eat, if you ate raw potatoes. Boil 3 cups filtered water and when boiling, add potatoes. Let boil till soft, about 10-13 minutes, or until a knife goes through the chunk easily.

Wash leeks, making sure they are not sandy. Discard limp outer leaves. Cut in half-inch disks, including some of the green.

Melt a pat of butter (about a Tablespoon) in a small frying pan, add cut-up leeks. Let them get soft. If the butter starts to burn, turn down the heat, or add a splash of chicken stock. Let the leeks soften and get some color, about 10-15 minutes.

Put the sour cream into a blender. Drain the potatoes and put them in the blender. Blend till mixed. Add about half the buttermilk, then the leeks, blending in between. Add the rest of the buttermilk and the chicken stock. Blend. If you have used non-fat milk and sour cream despite my warning, the mixture will now be a horrible color–translucent and sad. If you have used real buttermilk and sour cream, the mixture will be ivory, flecked with green and brown from the leeks and potato skins.

Potato-leek soup

Potato-leek soup

At this point, adjust the texture to your liking. I like soup to be a bit on the thick side. If you want thinner soup, add either more buttermilk or more chicken stock. Taste and adjust seasoning. Chill for two or three hours, then serve and eat with celery sticks or crunchy crackers of your choice. Enjoy!

Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing to companies that are having trouble being heard or making themselves clear. She teaches PowerPoint for what it was meant to do–explain through words and images, rather than bullet points. Quinn is also a life- and creativity coach who helps people through change. She teaches people who can’t draw how to keep art journals.

Maybe It’s NOT “Meant to Be”

In the last weeks, when my spouse needed help getting around, almost everybody told me it was “meant to be,” and that “there is a reason for everything.” I’m taking a big step outside my comfort zone here, and I’m going to say, “I don’t think so.”

Fuzzy question mark

Fuzzy question mark

The “reason for everything” phrase seems to me to be a way to avoid critical thinking, push unexplained events out of the realm of real-world and into the world of religion. And once it’s in the world of religion, it falls into the crack of fate, dusted over by the will of some special god.

I’m a spiritual person. But my kind of spirituality allows for not knowing everything, questioning things I don’t know, and leaves a lot of room for dumb mistakes, personal wrong-doing, evil people and tragic events that are not of a divine retribution or even a divine cause that we are to untangle like a thin-chain gold necklace, till the knots are out and we can wear it again. Wow. That sentence has 68 words, and I teach my writing classes that  a sentence should have a maximum of 16 words.  Must be a reason for that. See? There isn’t. I just rattled on.

And my spouse tripped over the cat, who was not divinely placed for some larger learning, he was just asleep under the fan.

Now, if those “everything has a reason” people puzzled over what the meaning is, I could understand it. But the phrase has become a way to avoid thinking, to shove the responsibility into a divine realm, where it cannot be questioned. And should not be. And that’s the part I have trouble with.

control/option keys

control/option keys

I don’t want to wander through my life, blindly believing there is a reason for everything but having no idea what that reason is. I want to know. If there is a lesson, I want to learn it. Otherwise, trips happen.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing to companies that are having trouble being heard or making themselves clear. She teaches PowerPoint for what it was meant to do–explain through words and images, rather than bullet points. Quinn is also a life- and creativity coach who helps people through change. She teaches people who can’t draw how to keep art journals.

Lie, Lay Grammar Tip

You look at your dog, command, “Lay down!” and your dog does nothing. Great! The dog knows grammar and he knows you’re wrong.

The number of people who don’t know when to use “lay” or “lie” is climbing as fast as the birth rate. In the past week I’ve heard a politician, a teacher, a minister, and a newsreader on NPR get it wrong. NPR! The last fortress of correct English! I hear a giant toilet flushing, we are all going down the drain.

sentence diagramAren’t sure when to use ‘lay’ and ‘lie’? You certainly aren’t alone. Here are three ways, neither involve any grammar. I won’t make  you diagram sentences, either.

1. The lazy way. Use ‘lie’ all the time. You’ll be wrong only a tiny fraction of the time.

2. The substitute way. Fool yourself and substitute “sit” or “set” in the sentence. It makes it easier. If you use ‘sit’ then you can use ‘lie,’ if you are sure it’s ‘set’ then you can use ‘lay.’

Here are some examples for sit/lie: Sit down. When I came in, he was sitting on the floor. Let’s sit down together and figure it out.

Here are some examples for set/lay: Please set the bowl on the table. Set your tired bones on that chair, let’s sit and talk for a while. Once you set down the wine glass, pick up a pretzel.

2. The easy way. ‘Lie’ means to recline. You want your dog to recline, so you say, “Lie down!” You are tired so you lie down for a nap. The paper is lying next to the pen.

‘Lay’ means to place. ‘Lay the pen on the table.’ You then lay the paper next to it. You can even pick up your dog and lay him on the table, too, because you are doing the placing. And finally, when you place yourself in bed, you can say, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep.” Notice you are adding ‘me’ to the sentence, you are placing yourself. If you were reclining, it would be, ‘Now I lie down to sleep.’

Listen up, Doreen, Tandaleo, Sidsel, Sarah, Lisa. You can do this. I know you can, because you lay it on the line for us every day.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and trainer. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) 2007-9 All rights reserved. Diagram of “Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” courtesy logos.com

Theme Thursday #13: 8.20.09

Time to surf so you don’t have to! This Thursday’s theme is creative humanity–what we can do to live authentic, creative lives every day. These websites help:

Morse-code of cups (c) Quinn McDonald (c) 2009

Morse-code of cups (c) Quinn McDonald (c) 2009

Ken Robert is Mildly Creative. I’ve mentioned him before, now I’m checking in all the time. He’s calm and thinks things through. Here’s his post about Seven Things He’s Deleting From His Life. You might want to lighten your load, too. I love his ink drawings on the site, too. They go with the tone and voice.

I’m a big believer in micro-work. Very different from micro-managing. Micro-work is doing the smallest possible step toward creative work. The tiny steps brings us closer to doing creative work and allows us to approach the work without the negative self-talk getting so loud we give up. Here are two steps to micro-creative work.

The Art of Dramatic Living is a blog that has their Theme Thursday on Friday. Her blog is far more intellectual and thoughtful than mine, and you will find a whole community of authentically-striving artists there. Well worth visiting every Friday.

If you like taking notes and want to keep your loose-leaf notes in a journal, check out Ple Designs’ leather pouch for loose-leaf journals. Or, simply put your journal in the pouch with a pencil or pen. Check out their sales page as well.

And just for fun, here is a link to creating anagrams of your name. It’s not one of those quizzes that makes you give up friends’ names. It’s just a link that’s fun. You don’t even have to use your own name. I have it set to John Smith.

Shameless self-promotion: I’ll be teaching secret codes and private language journaling at Changing Hands in Tempe on Saturday, 8/22. Details: http://tinyurl.com/dmqexz

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.

Five Most Recent  Theme Thursdays:  * * *  Creative Play 8/15/09 * * *   Creative Play 8/6/09 * * * Creative Play 7/30/09 ***Creative Play 7/23/09 * * *Creative Play 7/16/09 * * *

—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.

Head Shots On Blogs: Friend or Foe?

It’s become a convention for successful blogs, LinkedIn profiles, even business cards: put your picture on your online (and print) material to add credibility. Recently Neal Schaffer of Windmill Networking wrote an article making strong points in favor of photos.  All his reasons were good ones—people can see who you are, credibility is important in a world of impostors, and people want to know who they are dealing with.

Quinn's pencil avatar

Quinn's pencil avatar

Reading Neal’s article brought up some other thoughts I’ve had for a while. We have a tendency to like people who are like us. So when we look at photos, wouldn’t it be true that our own biases lead us to the “credible” image, which is “someone just like me”? Wouldn’t white people choose white people in photographs, young people choose young images, fat people prefer other fat images? We feel more comfortable doing business with people who look like we do–we assume that if they look like us, they also have our values and beliefs.

These personal likes can also go one step further–we eliminate people because of a comb-over, ugly jewelry, a hair style we gave up years ago, an unfortunate color we associate with someone we don’t like. Worse, we do this all without giving it much thought. It’s part of our taste, our preferences, our choices.

Sure, we can say, “Well, I wouldn’t want to work for such an opinionated person,” but you probably already are. Your client might have chosen you for exactly such a reason. And because our opinions are deeply buried in our subconscious, we justify them. Or worse, deny them.

It’s easy to believe in the photo/credibility story if you are young and good looking. If you aren’t, you begin to wonder about the truth of the New Yorker cartoon that shows two dogs at a computer. One dog says to the other, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”

Over at Mashable, there’s a post that makes me think . It’s a list of Twitter’s most prolific spammer avatars, and they are predominantly of attractive men and women. Spammers offer no credibility, but they offer great photographs. Because they can be anyone they want to be.

I’m not an expert web marketer, I speak simply from my own ideas and experiences. I often use an avatar that shows what I do, not who I am. I find it works well, for exactly the same reason those photos do: It shows a skill I have that people need. Instant identification through a photo.  As for credibility, I’ll let the content of my work speak for me.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach. She owns QuinnCreative, a site for businesses who want communication training, and Raw-Art-Journals.com for those who want to keep an art journal, but can’t draw. (c) QuinnCreative, 2009 All rights reserved.

Practice, Please

Big sigh. Hang head.

Yet another client wants a four-hour class to cover what six years of grade school, two years of middle school, four years of high school and four years of college could not. The topic doesn’t even matter, this is about time.

Bart know practice. He does it at the start of every show.

Bart know practice. He does it at the start of every show.

“See one, do one, teach one,” is the new business mantra for learning. That means that after you see a procedure, you can do it correctly without practice,  and then are capable of teaching it. Business people must be a lot smarter than I am.

I teach business writing–how to write an email that gets read,  how to write a good PowerPoint (seriously, cut down on those bullets) and then deliver it, how to write and give a good speech with no PowerPoint at all, listening skills, negotiation skills, and dealing with difficult people.  But I can’t do it in four hours. Particularly if the client won’t let me do exercises with the group. Certainly not if the participants arrive without a single idea that taking notes might be a good way to learn.

The other part of the mantra in business education is that no one should have to take notes. That’s what class materials are for. No class material should be that detailed that the topic can be learned by listening to an instructor and reading notes afterward.

Here’s a giant secret: in the history of the universe, no one has learned anything well by hearing it once, not practicing it, and then trying to be an expert at it. Practice takes time. A good class allows people to try out their own learning techniques and see what they understand, adjust it, try it again, ask questions, try it again, then find out what’s needed to make it stick, try it again and then practice on their own.

I don’t want my brain surgeon to be a “see it, do it, teach it” learner. In fact, I don’t want the bank teller, the mail delivery person, the bus driver,  fire fighter or the pot-hole fixer to be a “see it, do it, teach it,” learner, either.  (Although I think I’ve met the bank teller already.)

You need practice to learn something. You need practice over time. A hundred dives of the diving board in one day will not make you as good a diver as 10 dives of the diving board a day for 10 days.

There isn’t a workbook, textbook, or classroom handout that will give you skill without practice. And having someone come in for four hours and expect to train your group well enough so your group is skilled in something as difficult as listening, problem solving or giving presentations is unrealistic.

Sure, I know it’s money and time. But both of those are wasted if you don’t allow your participants to practice, and practice often.  “Practice makes perfect” was repeated by someone who didn’t bring a scribe and tablet to Periander’s class. The original quote, by Periander is, “Practice is everything.”

For my practice, Martha Graham said it best: “We learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. One becomes in some area an athlete of God.”

-Quinn McDonald is an instructor whose classes all contain exercises to practice each step along the way.