Category Archives: Creativity

Ideas, thoughts, ‘Aha!’ moments

The Creative Slump

While I’ve been sick (yeah, I’m real tired about writing about it, too),  I haven’t stepped foot in the studio. No interest. This is so unusual for me, I took a closer

Even a mosaic goes together piece by piece.

Even a mosaic goes together piece by piece.

look. I’ve been spending spare time doing my taxes, a chore I absolutely loathe. But the dumb repetition of finding dates on receipts (why in Bastet’s name do they not put the date in the same place on all receipts?) and putting the amount on a spreadsheet is something I can manage to do.

Normally, I keep a list of ideas I want to work on, but I can’t think of anything that interests me at the moment. There is work on the desk, ready to go. Not interested.

There’s clearly a connection about a stuffed head and an empty brain. And I’m not rushing it. True, I haven’t written in my journal in two weeks. Unusual. And it’s Spring, and usually I want to make note of the day the fig started leafing out. Nope.

Instead of worrying about this, I’m shrugging it off. When I feel ready, I’ll go back. I think it’s odd, but then again, I’ve learned a lot about my body and when my body is ready to pull itself together, it will. Meanwhile, I’ll drift, read, and celebrate the fact that the taxes are done about two weeks earlier than ever!

Quinn McDonald is getting it together, piece by piece.

The Patience of Grass

I’m not a patient person. As this cold/flu/bronchitis crawls on into its 12th day, I’m discovering just how impatient I can be. It’s not something I’m proud of. But I hate being sick. Not walking. Not really wanting to eat. And worse still, doing taxes because it’s something I can do.

Nature provides me with lessons on life all the time. Here’s a recent favorite. This sign is well over eight feet tall.

grass2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I love is that coming out of the top is fresh, growing grass. In our searing heat last summer, that grass, crawled up, inch by inch, in 110-degree heat in a metal tube. Grass that does not grow that tall. It just kept climbing. Now it’s reached the top.

grass

And now it’s found the sun and recent rain. That is patience. Patience with not idea of a result. Just patience.

A lesson well-taken.

-Quinn McDonald is still coughing and sneezing herself through tax season.

Meaning-Making and Validation

It’s not enough to make meaning anymore. Because we aren’t sure it really is meaning. Unless, of course, we photograph it, put it on social media, and get approval. Then we’ve made meaning.

Crescent moon moving closer to Venus on a dark, February night. I saw it because I was outside. In the dark.

Crescent moon moving closer to Venus on a dark, February night. I saw it because I was outside. In the dark.

Popular culture shifts and changes–that’s what defines pop culture. But the biggest change in our lives (from my observation), is that something has to be photographed (or videod) and put online for it to matter. Somehow, we can’t have private meaning anymore. In fact, we can’t really be alone any more.

Without “likes” and comments, even negative ones, what we do doesn’t feel real,  doesn’t matter.

That’s why, when we see something surprising, beautiful, alarming, horrifying, we immediately grab out camera and experience it though our phones. Then post it. We crowd-source our emotions, our experiences, and eventually, our meaning-making. If people object, we change our minds. Maybe we didn’t have as much fun as we thought. Maybe we didn’t like that movie as much. Or maybe it was much more, depending on what reactions we get.

Some people I know Tweet all their reactions to watching TV. They post 20-60 tweets while watching Downton Abbey or the Oscars, waiting for friends to react to the show and the other tweets, to create an emotional background they cannot seem to create alone.

In a recent study, published by the Journal Science (and reviewed here in Time magazine) 67 percent of men and 25 percent of women would rather receive electric shocks (which they administer themselves) than be alone with their own thoughts.

We no longer trust our own emotions. We don’t even want to have them. We want approval so much more, that we are willing to put the most intimate parts of our life online and get a reaction to them, to validate ourselves. This weekend, I watched people post the following events online:

  • the death of a relative (with photos of the dead person)
  • a selfie of a crying woman (“I’m so sad right now.”)
  • the birth of a baby at home (with a photo of the emerging head)
  • new tattoos (complete with blood still flowing)
  • two FB posts from different emergency rooms
  • one FB post from an ambulance

oversharing1-300x210At some time, each of these events would have been thought of as too private to share. In fact, years ago, most people would have preferred to process the comlex emotions of these events with family (or alone) and not mention them to others until some time has passed. Not anymore. We aren’t real unless we are online.

I’m amazed (and will admit to being the right demographic for amazement) that we are so willing to give up every shred of privacy to validate our emotions. I’m not there yet.

Is it really so bad to have something happen unshared? Unphotographed? Undocumented? Do we not know what to feel until our FB friends tell us? I’ve quit posting my Sketchbook homework not because I don’t want to share, but because I want to experience what I feel about it before others tell me. It’s OK not to like something and not say anything. Or to enjoy it without sharing. Sometimes, it’s wonderful to not share your thoughts.

-–Quinn McDonald feels completely OK making meaning on her own and not sharing it.

 

 

The Seedling of Patience

Patience–wish I had it. At least more than I do now.  Impatience is my strong suit. The last time I was discussing a problem I wanted to resolve, my coach rootnsproutsuggested just letting it ripen for a while. For a Myers-Briggs “J” –the one who checks things off a list, who is always working toward a goal, who makes decisions and even if they are wrong, who cares, it’s better than not doing anything–well, letting a problem stew didn’t seem like a good solution.

My coach, wise woman that she is, said–“think of the solution as a seedling. It’s just broken out of the ground and is searching for some light. If you come along and pull it out to get a closer look, then stick it in the ground, then do that every day, the seedling won’t survive.”

I could see that poor seedling getting pulled up every day, examined, and stuck back in the earth. I could see my impatience doing just that.  And how quickly fatal that would be. Some things do better when left to grow roots and shoots.

The story reminded me of another gardening metaphor on patience. Sweet corn zea_mays_-_kocc88hlere28093s_medizinal-pflanzen-283takes about 75 days to go from seed to picking an ear. Yelling at it to hurry up has no effect on the length of time. It doesn’t make the corn sweeter, either.

Some problems, some answers just need time to ripen. Even if we want answers and solutions right now. Knowing when to turn things over, as another wise woman I know says, “to the operating system of the universe,” is good wisdom.

-Quinn McDonald is a gardener at heart. She is learning to be a gardener of the heart.

Timing, Timing

dandelionThere are days that I am in top form, ready to go, loving what shows up. And then there are days when I have a cold. It’s been a week now and the snot fairy has moved into my head with a long-term lease and the cactus is firmly ensconced in my throat.

Feeling sick is a normal part of life–no one is healthy all the time. I am tremendously lucky that I haven’t been seriously sick in many years. And a cold–even a bad cold–is just that. It’s not life-threatening. But there is something that does happen when I don’t feel well, and I bet it happens to other people, too.

I catastrophize. Small upheavals become giant, and small efforts don’t work. Everything requires huge effort. And yesterday, my Plan B because my only option. Because I let it look like my only choice. Although I know “you look where you go,” feeling sick made me look more closely at failure, at not making it, at playing small, crushed and defeated. And headed right into that direction.

So I stoked up on cold medicine and went to see the client. Ready to be defeated and go home and eat worms.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 3.05.58 PMThank goodness for smart clients. This one turned me away from Plan B and steered me right back to Plan A. The Big Game. Some sense seeped into my stuffy brain. I pushed back the highly polished Plan B and pulled out the A Game. And it worked. The client was pleased. Encouraged me. And way against my expectations, Plan A glowed and Plan B (what to do if I fail) crumbled.

So, one more time: when you aren’t feeling well, don’t let that define you. Don’t go for the worst scenario. Intense self-care, even if you think you don’t deserve it, if vital if you own the business, stand up for yourself or represent your work.

Don’t brush off your self-care. It will always reward you. I learned to ignore self-care from years of working in businesses where being sick was not an excuse to stay home. Now it’s my business. And self-care comes first.

—Quinn McDonald will be getting better any moment now. Please.

Good Writing Blogs

If you are a writer, or a writer-hopeful, you’ll need to look at some other writing blogs and posts.

Here’s a list that should get you started in the right direction.

1. Goins, Writer has a great post on the difference between good writers and bad writers. I so love the first paragraph because I personally know how true it is.

2. K.M. Weiland is Helping Writers Become Authors. Here is her post on fixing the most common writing mistakes authors make.

3. Jane Friedman will help you with a 7-Step Business Plan for becoming a writer. One that gets work.

4. Linda Formichelli is the Renegade Writer. She helps you deal with trolls who hate what you write. Also friends who rip you to shreds.

5. Joanna Pen from the Creative Pen shows you how to write, publish and sell your book.

6. The Artist’s Road is run by Patrick Ross. He talks about living an art committed life.

That should get you started finding your way as a writer, nodding your head and smiling. And that’s what writing is about.

Quinn McDonald is a non-fiction writer who teaches writing.

The Confusing Message of “Not Giving a F**k”

We’ve worn out a lot of words in the last five years. “Awesome” used to mean “fall on your knees, drooling, in fear or amazement.” Now it ranks around “OK” (or to use the common term, “K”) or just a shrug. We’ve also bleached out the meaning of “basically,” “literally,” “absolutely,” and “good job,” usually accompanied by a high-five if said to a child under the age of six.

This image is often seen with the phrase, "this kitten does not give a f**k"

This image is often seen with the phrase, “this kitten does not give a f**k”

Watching how Americans use English is something that fascinates me (but is not “a passion” of mine–we wore out passion when we brought it into the office and substituted it for “mildly interested.”)

Culturally, we are now wearing out the F-bomb. I will freely admit to being a bit stodgy about using this word freely. It makes me uncomfortable, and I’ll confess that I didn’t use it at all until I was about 23 years old. There were two reasons:

1. For me, it was a shocking, violent word best associated with rape, darkness, and the opposite of love. (Your results may vary.) I also had to say “Cheese and rice” in the homes of my Catholic friends, instead of naming the Christian deity’s son outright.

2. The F-word was considered vulgar, and writers (particularly women writers) were encouraged to use move vivid, powerful, and vibrant words. It made for lively combinations of adjectives, adverbs and interjections. It made me an excellent collector of exciting phrases that would pass the editor’s inspection and still allow the reader to know what we meant.

We use f**k  so commonly that we have made up substitutes that are used in zappa3even the most proper corporate meeting: “freaking” came first, and sounded quite harmless, so we upped it to “fricking.” And then we just forgot about talking around it and went right for the f-word.

Note: Many of my friends use the word frequently. I do not correct them. Nor am I shocked. Loving language is more about observation than being the f**k police.

What does interest me is the adaption of the phrase “Not giving a f**k” and its best friend “Not a single f**k was given that day,” to mean two different things entirely. (Google the phrase, then click on images. NSFW).

You would think (or at least I did) that “not giving a f**k” would mean not caring, indifference,  not being involved in an outcome, having an ability to walk away from any situation.

It may mean that in some circles, but it also means being so sure of yourself that you don’t care what other people think. You are rooted firmly in your values. Now, that’s a use I find interesting.  Mark Manson described this meaning in an article on January 8, 2015. Yes, “giving a f**k” means caring, but that’s the point–he discusses why caring too much can drain your focus of what you should be caring a lot about. And on those issues we care deeply about, well, then you give a big f**k.

Here’s what Manson says: “Indeed, the ability to reserve our fucks for only the most fuckworthy of situations would surely make life a hell of a lot easier. Failure would be less terrifying. Rejection less painful.”

What all this means is that indifference breeds drama, and drama is empty of power and force. Caring about others, choosing to protect what is important to you, well, that is what we want to give a f**k about.  An interesting twist of events.

And finally, because I’m worn out from clicking on all those asterisks, here is a poem I found about living that life of deep caring, real coherence and authenticity. Without once using the f-bomb.

I found this poem on The Practical Mystic, credited to The Awakening Woman Institute.

You are the well-trodden, dusty tracks of habit
and you are a freedom so brilliant it brings
deities to their knees.

You are the hesitation and the mistrust that make us
so desperately cling to the plastic replicas of who we are,
and you are the ache of the real calling us from the other side of risk.
You are that mystical courage
that makes us get up and out of bed each morning, despite it all.

Achingly beautiful, dull, exhilarating,
horrendous, paradoxical, cosmic, dense,
dark matter and radiance beyond measure.
Here is your world.
Here it is.

You have been so busy creating walls,
squeezing your tail and your wings
into this digestible hand-me-down dress,
trying so very hard to compartmentalize the
unfathomable wilderness that you are.

There is no action, no withholding,
no sprouting or rotting,
no lover or predator,
no loser or hero,
no wound nor victory
that is not you.

Here is your world.
Here it is.

:: Chameli Devi

-–Quinn McDonald is careful what she cares about. Language is right up at the top of the list.

Warning: If you use the spelled-out f-word in your comments, the comment will automatically go to spam. I’ve been a blogger for eight years now, and that control is a comfort.

 

It’s YOUR Story

Last week,  I was talking to someone whom I understand deeply–someone with a bit of an attitude about authority. Maybe even an authority neurosis. Someone who doesn’t like being told what to do or how to do it. I know this feeling. What we hate in others is what we hate in ourselves. What we admire in others are our own good qualities. And that gives us a hinge to authority troubles.

dsc_0457Authority figures show us our own unclaimed power. The part of us that didn’t make it to the top of the heap, the part of us that, our Inner Critic tells us, just doesn’t quite cut it. And we become angry at those  in leadership who are not as bright, talented, disciplined as we are, but who made it to the top anyway. They got discovered. They had mentors.  And since they don’t deserve respect, we don’t give respect. And that’s where thinking trips over its own shoelaces.

dsc_0454Some people believe what authority figures tell them to believe. A few more believe what their friends tell them. But everyone believes their own story—the one they tell themselves. And once you believe it, you tell it to others and they believe your story, too. The one where you never got the breaks. About being overlooked and under-appreciated. And then others don’t give you breaks, overlook you and under-appreciate you. Because you told them to.

Tell yourself that cape is yours. Then iron it and put it on. It’s time for you to step up and re-claim the powerful bits of yourself you stored away, hoping people would disagree with you.  Being a leader doesn’t mean being given power. It means working with people who believe in you.

Be the person people can believe in, and you’ll have your power. If you believe in it yourself.

—Quinn McDonald is a believer. In herself and in others.

Images from: A Pretty Cool Life.com

Looking Ahead

Thanks to all of you who emailed me about the new website. And for voicing an opinion on a tagline. You want me to stay here, not join the corporate world, and keep posting blogs. Breathe, breathe.  I’m not running off.

Pen Nib Sigil for Quinn McDonald 2I’ve been a corporate trainer for about 20 years, I just didn’t talk about it much. I teach business writing, grammar, emails, persuasive writing, writing for the web, and create custom courses for clients who have special requests. The most recent class is on writing answers for complaint letters, for a customer service department of a business I work with.

Why didn’t I tell you? Because the classes aren’t open enrollment–each class is for a specific company’s employees.

Yes, I will still be coaching, more than ever. I’m developing several three-session sets for people who want to be coached on a specific topic.

And the blog? Just like it is now. I write about living a creative life and making the most of yourself in this life. I share information that I believe to be useful to you. Including mistakes. Because I am the same person all the time, the blog posts are not suddenly going to morph into annual reports.  I may emphasize writing more because that’s who I am–a writer. I’m not giving up art, but I am doing some personal development work and don’t have much to show. Why? Talking about art ideas while I’m still working on them makes me see all the things I could be doing differently and that, for me, is the road to perdition. I prefer to share when I can talk about the good parts of the journey.

And now, I’m off to bed. A chest cold knocked me flat today, and I’m taking it easy. I am deeply grateful that I got to teach the two-day class in Dallas before this hit. Colds rarely get me, but this one did, and I’m letting it run its course.

—Quinn McDonald is grateful that the two-day class in Dallas was over before she got the cold.

Creative Link Hop (Feb. 14, ’15)

Normally, I post links to paintings, photography, or street art on Saturday. But it’s Valentine’s Day, and you may be writing cards, so here are some lovely people doing caligraphy and hand-lettering.

Joanne Sharpe is a delightful teacher of hand-lettering. She never runs out of ideas. You can see her demonstrating hand-lettering here:

And here is one of her colorful journal pages:

© Joanne Z Sharpe

© Joanne Z Sharpe

Joanne Fink also does wonderful lettering. Here’s a video of her using Koi (watercolor) pens, making it look easy:

Here’s a series of hearts in her loose, doodling style.

© Joanne Finnk

© Joanne Finnk

My friend, Michael Noyes, is an amazing calligrapher. He did my first logo:

Design by Michael Noyes

Design by Michael Noyes

And he does amazing work with images combined with calligraphy.

product_220_border

I love this quote he illustrated by Henry David Thoreau. And yes, he sells his work.

The late Lisa Engelbrecht made wonderful art and was a kind and inspiring teacher.

© Lisa Engelbrecht

© Lisa Engelbrecht

She called herself a Letterista, because much of her work was new, inventive and got her in trouble with traditional calligraphers.

Laurie Doctor is a calligrapher whose work is both powerful and gentle. She’s an inspiring teacher, too. She has a series, Another Night in the Ruins, a response to a poem by Galway Kinnell.

© Laurie Doctor

© Laurie Doctor

Above is Night Vigil, a combination of writing and figurative work. She will be coming to Madeline Island School of the Arts in September (2015), but she does many workshops each year.

Go have a wonderful weekend writing wonderfully.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer who loves hand-lettering.