Taxi Story 516

From airport to hotel
it’s 45 minutes of dark freeway.
I’m hoping for one memorable taxi story.

One time the driver was drunk
and screaming.
I screamed louder and he
set me out in the middle of the road
and left me there.

But not tonight.
Tonight the driver wrapped me in his easy smile
and used his musical voice to stash my bag
confidently into his cab’s back seat.

Five minutes later, my taxi story started
with him telling me about his life
driving strangers
through rain and fog and life uncertain.

His dream, he sighed, was med school, “But it’s so expensive,”
so he works a double shift on weekends,
stoking his mojo to clear the path ahead.

He asked me what I did for work.
“I”m a writer,” I said,
speaking my big truth into the dark,
hoping it was still true.

He had a book in him, he said,
and I thought, “More than one, for sure.”
He asked if I wrote poetry,
and I held my breath before I said,
“I do.”
It sounded like a vow.

“I do not understand poetry so much,” he said,
and when I asked, “What poets do you read?” he said,
“Rabelais and Rimbaud,” I thought, “Well, no wonder.”
“Try Billy Collins,” I suggested,
and wrote it down for him.

“Tonight is like an adventure with you,” he said,
handing me my bag and receipt.
“What’s your name?” I asked
and was not surprised when he replied,
with solemn, formal, introduction,
“Call me Ishmael.”

— © Quinn McDonald, All rights reserved. 2016

What To Put on the Last Page of Your Journal

You already know what to put on the  first page of that new journal. No more staring at blank pages for you!  Once you get past the middle, you can decide how to end your journal.

How do you  end a journal so you don’t have to continue a thought, a project, or a story into another journal?

Create a table of contents of favorite pages.  I like to come to the end of a project or idea flow in my journals. I don’t mind having a few blank pages in the back. Over time, I’ll fill those blank pages with dates of pages I keep looking up or those with favorite quotes or poems.  I don’t number my journal pages, but I date each page, so sometimes I write the start and end date at the end of the journal. It becomes a useful index to the contents.

Three pages at the end of a journal, cut decoratively. Do not cut the last page that is glued onto the cover.

Three pages at the end of a journal, cut decoratively. Do not cut the last page that is glued onto the cover.

Decorate the end pages. If there are a few blank pages left, I also cut steps into them. I trim the last page about an inch from the end, the next one two inches, and the third one three or four inches in from the book edge. Using a craft knife, I cut a wavy line and create a three-page landscape. Remember to put a cutting mat under the page you are cutting.

Tinting the page edges gives it a nice finish. I use a water color wash to keep the color pale. You could tear the pages straight down or give them a deckled-edge look. I like the curved look better.

Use stickers or postcards. Daniel Smith, the art supply house, puts a sticker dont-throwmeon small or lightweight packages in larger deliveries. The sticker is bright orange, about 4 x 6 inches and says “Don’t throw me away.” It strikes a chord, so I often use one on the final page of a journal. It seems about right. You might be done with it, but there is lots of meaning to be made.

Add a photo of yourself, your children, your pets.  That way, when you look back over them in the years to come, you’ll have an evolving view of what you looked like. Adding a photo of your house shows how it changes over the years. A photo of the kitchen is always fun with advancing technologies changing what our appliances look like.

The last page of a journal doesn’t have to be an ending. For a powerful last page, flip back to the beginning, and read the first post or two. End the book with a recognition of how far you’ve come.

Quinn McDonald keeps a journal and helps others do, too.

Kickstart Your Journal

Yesterday, my friend Marit said she was “waving from her journal page to mine,” and I thought, “what a great idea!” Need something to focus on? Need a jumpstart on writing?

Dialog can intersect and circle around, like this path in King's County (Washington)

Dialog can intersect and circle around, like this path in King’s County (Washington)

This is more than a journal prompt. It’s not a word to write about, it’s a whole technique. And it’s powerful. Let’s get started:

1. Warm up by focusing on your emotions: Right now, I feel [fill in the blank.] One word may be all you need.

2. The reason I feel [blank] in 20 words: [describe how you reached this emotion.]

3. Almost always, someone else is involved in this story about your emotion. Whether you are happy, anxious, excited, or skeptical, most of our emotions are connected to other people, often for reasons we don’t understand.

4. Use the next page to write a dialog between you and the other person. Writing dialog means you will make things up. That’s fine. You want to figure out a reason for the emotion and what your role is and what the other person’s role is. By putting words in someone else’s mouth (and you know you are doing this), you are resolving old issues, exploring new ways to happiness, or clarifying ideas.

Example: I’m feeling anxious. A friend has asked me to help her in a way that I feel uncomfortable with. I want to help my friend, but I want to hold onto my values.

Q: I’m not sure I can do this, Friend.

F: But it will help John and it will be a big favor to me, too.

You can also draw speech bubbles and fill them in.

You can also draw speech bubbles and fill them in.

Q: I think speaking up at the Writers’ Club and supporting John as another member isn’t a good idea. The club rules say you have to be a published writer, and John isn’t.

F: It’s not about you, Quinn, it’s about getting John into a place where he can find business. And the club is great for that. You’ve gotten business that way. John is a good guy.

Q: I have gotten business from the club. But I was a published writer when I joined. And John isn’t.

F: He writes his own blog, and that’s publishing. You are just afraid he’s a better writer than you.

Q: A blog is not publishing. And I want what’s best for John. But getting him into the club is not in his best interest.

F: What’s wrong with you that you won’t help this friend? Haven’t you needed a hand before?

Q: I’ll be happy to help John in some way that helps John. Being dishonest doesn’t help anyone. Least of all John, if he gets a job he can’t handle.

. . . .the dialog can go on as long as you need it to. In this example, I see my own stubborn character, but also my clarity in not being dishonest. Yes, it’s a small thing, but I can see that if I vouch for John, and he doesn’t do well, the lie I told will be the reason John got in over his head. What I am understanding from this dialog is that my need for approval is pretty big, not not big enough to lie for someone.

Is this the dialog the way it really happened? No, but by making up the other half, I’m giving myself the opportunity to dig into my own emotions in ways that help me see my own motives clearly.

The dialog exercise is a good way to find out more about yourself.

–Quinn McDonald is an explorer in her journal

Journaling as Building Block

I’m working on the journaling process again. I’m focusing on writing and Commonplace Journaling for right now. I got a 5 x 8-inch journal in which I can’t draw (paper is too thin) so I would write more. I’m fond of doing mind maps, and I’m doing a lot of them, too. Why writing instead of art journaling? Right now, I have a lot of ideas to clear, a lot of inner critic arguing to do, and that (for me), is done by journaling.

Yes, I’m still working on my art. The latest piece is also about writing, though!

Book of letters. © Quinn McDonald 2015

Book of letters. © Quinn McDonald 2015

The collage uses an older idea I had, but the letters around the book actually are words that relate to writing. I often sit in front of a blank journal while my mind writes and my hands don’t. That’s what gave me the idea.

To make myself focus and write, I create a list of problems, worries, and ideas at night, right before bed.  (That goes in the journal, too). The next morning, I choose an item from the list and set the timer for three minutes. When the timer rings, I finish the sentence and shut the book. No re-reading. That comes later.

mindmapOn the left is a mind-map from Journaling from the Inside Out by Susan Borkin. I use mind maps to capture pieces of a big idea when I don’t know the connection yet.

The mind-map helps me grab all the pieces of the brain dump. Sorting them comes later. I’ve found that mind maps are still maps, another one of my favorite concepts.

When I’ve got a book filled, I can go back and distill ideas and save them. The books have cardboard covers and have about 50 pages. They aren’t attractive, but they allow me to be messy and not try to design a page. Sometimes, quantity is as important as quality.

It doesn’t matter how you tackle journaling, it always helps. It always heals. As long as you keep writing, your life will begin to make sense.

-Quinn McDonald keeps journals. In many different ways and styles.

 

Book Review and Giveaway: Journalution

Cover

Cover

Sandy Grason wrote Journalution in 2005, and it still stands as one of the best books on deep-writing journaling. She writes in an easy-to-understand way, and combines the wisdom of Julia Cameron with the emotional nurturing of Shakti Gawain. (One of my favorite lessons from Gawain is, “to feel more love, you have to let go of more anger.”)

Grason handles journaling in a simple, direct way. If you have been swamped by the responsibility of art journaling, if you are tired of trying to think of something to journal about, if a sketchbook journal disappoints you because you can’t draw, you will enjoy this book.

The subtitle of the book says it all: “Journaling to Awaken Your Inner Voice, Heal Your Life, and Manifest Your Dreams.” That’s a lot of journaling, but it’s packed into 200 pages that you can dip into, study, or read from front to back.

Table of Contents, page 1.

Table of Contents, page 1. Click to enlarge the image.

If you haven’t been deep-writing journaling, start now. Grason helps you getstarted and answers some simple-sounding but meaningful questions like “Where do I start?” and “Why do I need to journal?”  The answer to that is in a quote from the introduction:

“You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.” –Margaret Young

Grason gives you tips on writing when you don’t feel like it, figuring out what’s important to you, getting to your truth, and facing a blank page. There are tips for keeping track of your hopes, dreams and visions. There is an index to find all the exercises, from playing small to living large and how to set intentions and remain detached from the outcome.

The book is gently used, and from my book shelf. It’s time for it to bring ideas, clarity, and inspiration to someone else.

Table of Contents, page 2.

Table of Contents, page 2. Click to enlarge the image.

Quote from the book: “Inside, we are all just little children trying to heal, trying to do the best we can in this world. Many times it doesn’t look like that to others, though. Often, the child inside is angry and resentful; it may even want to hurt others.”

Giveaway: Leave a comment telling me why you want the book, and you’ll be in the drawing. There is just one book. The drawing is random, so you don’t have to be brilliant. International entries are welcome. I’ll announce the winner this coming Saturday, March 14, so stop back and check in!

Quinn McDonald is making room on her shelf for more books.

 

Milking the Word

The first week of January has stumbled off and here we are, in what becomes mid-January in a few days. Now that the decorations are packed away, school is back in session, and work is swinging along, it’s time to unwrap that Word you chose for 2015 and take a closer look.

It’s probably written in your journal a few pages back. Take a look at it, and spend some time with it.

What called you to that word?

What would you like the word help you do this week?

How can that special word help you make 2015 remarkable?

How will this word help you change?

It’s fun to ask different questions about the word and invite it into your life and journal in different ways. Writing about it helps clear away the “just a word” aspect and brings in into your lap, where you can make it come alive.

Quinn McDonald is seeing her word show up around every corner.

Make Something

Once you learn how to make something–a pot, a story, a song, a video game–it changes how you see things forever. Once you write a story, you hear pieces of dialogue in conversations, plot lines while walking down a busy street.

This parabolic curve is made of nothing but straight lines. Your eyes don't lie, but your brain does.

This parabolic curve is made of nothing but straight lines. Your eyes don’t lie, but your brain does.

Making something allows you to fail while learning, build something better, and not be at the mercy of a boss who doesn’t understand you and work you never liked.

When I worked in advertising agencies, I learned how to set type. This is a skill no one needs anymore because computers do it. Although it has been decades since I spec’d type, I have a deep appreciation for typefaces, their subtle differences, and the shape of letters. Still. It makes a difference on my taste, my judgment and my idea of what matters. Just because I learned that skill.

A few days ago, I signed up for a drawing class. I have to draw in ink. I hate it. I want to go back to drawing in pencil. In my homework, I thought about drawing in pencil, then going over it in ink. But what would that teach me? I signed up to learn something new, something hard.

It’s hard to follow the rules. But that’s the point of learning. How I drew before taught me something, this method will teach me something else. My eyes don’t lie, but my brain does. “What do you need this class for?” “Draw the way YOU want.” “You don’t need someone to force their way on you.”  That’s my brain, trying to get me to go back to what I know instead of stumbling along in something I don’t.

I won’t learn a thing by looking at someone else’s artwork and judging it. I need to try and fail drawing with ink, try and succeed, learn what works and what doesn’t. When I practice, I learn something. Something about drawing. Something about myself. Something about the creative process that my clients struggle through.

My coaching clients do important work. I cannot allow myself to do less.

Quinn McDonald is struggling in a drawing class to be a better coach.