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Talisman for Clarity

Clarity is hard to come by. My coaching clients struggle with it. My training clients re-write till the document becomes clear for the audience.

So when my jeweler-scultptor-pal Matt Naftzger (who owns Works of Man) created the Window of Clarity pendant, I knew it was the right talisman for me. I own several other pieces that Matt made, and all of them have powers to remind me what I want to be.

Front view of "Window of Clarity," © Matthew Naftzger

Front view of “Window of Clarity,” © Matthew Naftzger

Another benefit of Matt’s work is that he works in titanium, which is light and strong and non-reactive. Starting in late April, all my silver talismans and jewelry go into hiding until October, when the weather cools down. For the hot days of summer, I can wear only gold or titanium. The combination of heat and the tiny bit of copper or other metal in silver makes my skin break out. (I will spare you photos or descriptions. Not pretty.)

So, no steel, surgical steel, copper, brass, gold-plated or low-karat gold. Or silver. But yes to titanium, gold, and silver pendants on longer gold chains.

What makes an amulet different from a talisman? An amulet is believed to give

Back view of "Window of Clarity" © Matthew Naftzger

Back view of “Window of Clarity” © Matthew Naftzger

protection, a talisman offers some other kind of benefit. A talisman does not have the power, the wearer does. The talisman reminds you of powers that may not want to stick around in hard times. A talisman builds strength because it is worn; it stays close.

So what is this talisman about? Matt calls it “the window of clarity.” I had him customize it by putting a window on the front and another one on the back, but in a different place. Clarity doesn’t come in at the same place every time.

The best recognition of the truth and power of the talisman is the answer Matt gave me when I asked him, “On this pendant, why is the window so small?” The answer? “Because people can only take so much clarity at once.” And that is a reminder for me, too.

—Quinn McDonald knows that clarity is sometimes hard to take.

Creativity Hop, April 4, 2015

Broken mirrors have brought New York photographer Bing Wright a lot of luck. He photographs sunsets in the shifting glass surface of broken mirrors, then creates prints.

Broken+Mirror_Evening+Sky(Agfacolor)

The exhibition, called Broken Mirror, Evening Sky  at the Paula Cooper Gallery looks like vibrant stained glass windows.

Broken+MIrror_Evening+Sky+(Kodacolor)

A quote from the gallery’s website says, “Cracked glass seemingly generates doubled reflections, disjointed gleams and refracted light into shards of images.”

While on the topic of glass, here is more interesting work, this done with mirrors.

mirror-1

Alyson Shotz created a picket fence of mirrors and let it reflect the scenery around the fence within the mirrors.

50_alyson-shotz-mirror-fence-2Here is the same fence from a distance. You have to work to see it behind the first row of trees.  If you look slightly above the ground, you can see the straight line created by the top of the fence.

50_alyson-shotz-mirror-fence-3

Here’s another  installation that both reflects and disappears into the landscape.

Have a creative weekend!

Quinn McDonald loves the reflective nature of art.

The Joy of a Trashy Novel

imagesPeople who work on airplanes are admirable. I watch them take out their laptops, open documents and work as if their lives depended on it. Maybe they do. Then there are the game players who hold their iPads like steering wheels and race through narrow lanes on their screens. It’s hard not to feel sorry for the people who are watching a movie on their iPhone. Seriously, I would not want to watch a movie that expanded across a big screen shrink down to the size of my phone. I’d keep wondering, “Which one is that? Was he the driving the getaway motorcycle or was he the guy who crashed through the window in France?”

On airplanes, I bring a book. The kind you don’t have to put away until you are at 10,000 feet. The kind the flight attendant doesn’t ask you to turn off until the Captain tells you it’s OK to read. The kind that makes you look like a matronly grammar teacher on her way to teach a class and . . . let’s leave her alone.

These airplane-reading books are a slice of heaven. I keep my eyes glued to the pages tPile-of-Bookshrough turbulence. Ignore the man in the next seat whose head is on my shoulder and he’s drooling. Ignore the squalling toddler who is kicking my seat.

For I have the trashy novel and am loving it. I pick them carefully. They have to be well-written and the plot has to capture my attention. I’m willing to suspend a lot of disbelief if the main character is flawed in a believable way and has to struggle to solve his problems.

When I say “trashy,” I don’t mean bodice-busters or Fifty Shades of Gray. I have standards. There are genres I don’t like (but not many).  Give me a good mystery with an interesting protagonist, and I’ll have to be pried off the plane like a dried-on diaper from a baby that’s been asleep since we passed over Cleveland.

pile-of-books-1During the work week I often read non-fiction books on writing, coaching, critical thinking. Art books and magazines for fun. But I do have a weakness for novels, and audiobooks have made many a car trip not just fun but deeply satisfying. Airplane books fall into that category. Yes, I’ve read Middlemarch and Moby Dick, Light in August and The Gulag Archipelago, but I don’t read classics on an airplane. I read books that hook my interest and my imagination. Some of them may even be literature. But all of them hold my attention.

My latest airplane novels:

Inferno by Dan Brown. More of the same, but if you love Italy or are a folklorist, there is a wealth of interesting information buried in the so-so plot.

A book of short stories by Neil Gaiman. That led me to reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane and then onto American Gods and The Ananzi Boys. Not trashy, incredible. Some of the best story-telling I’ve read.See where a book of short stories can lead?

Several by Jodi Picoult. She writes page-turners with interesting characters and interesting plots.

Peter Robinson writes about an English detective, Inspector Banks, who is flawed and troubled and a very stubborn and a good detective. The books are always interesting because they weave the personal life of the characters into the crime plot.

J.A. Jance now lives in Seattle, but she’s from Tucson. She wrote a series that takes place in Tucson (Joanna Brady and another set featuring Diana Ladd Walker and Brandon Walker)  another in Seattle (J.P. Beaumont),  a few where the detectives from each town meet. Then there are some about a woman newsreader who gets bounced from TV because her face is starting to look old (Ali Reynolds). J.A. Jance is prolific and a kind and generous woman who once comforted me with a funny story that made a clever blog. And she writes page turners. If I finish one on a plane, I put a note in it recommending it and leave it in the airplane. Someone will be delighted.

You don’t have to get on an airplane to read an interesting novel you like. Good writers almost always are also voracious readers–of anything. Enjoy an old-fashioned book. You won’t be disappointed.

-Quinn McDonald reads books in bed. Her iPad hurts too much when it drops on her face as she falls asleep.

 

Creative Hop, March 21, 2015

Paper arts stun me. The thinking, the manipulation, the engineering. Peter Dahmen, a German artist makes paper do things I could not imagine paper could do. Enough talk, here’s the video:

You can see even more on his website (above) and see more of his amazing work.

Peter-Dahmen-PopUp-07I couldn’t resist one more image of pop-up cards that Dahmen creates. If someone sent me this card, I’d put it in a glass box and use it as an altar. But then again, I was a papermaker and still love collage.

Another art process I love is artists who begin to wonder about something, and then create art around it. These are true creatives who explore their world in unusual ways.

Two artists, Luke Evans and Joshua Lake (both students) began to wonder what their insides looked like. And what digestive juices actually did. So they swallowed single frames of 35mm films, allowing their digestive tracts to “develop” them.  The work is called “I turn myself inside out.”

© Joshua Lake and Jake Evans, photography

© Joshua Lake and Luke Evans, photography, part of “I turn myself inside out.”

Before you say, “Ewww,” they put the film into a colored capsule in order not to damage their intestine, and retrieved the capsule (yeah, just the way you think) and yes, cleaned it, and then printed it into giant black and white prints.

Studio Drift creates lights that look like flowers. In an amazing blending of technology, nature, and art, the lamps blend color and the idea of blooming to create a light that does much more than deliver light. It rises and lowers to the flower while opening and closing.  It illuminates.

Shylight-Rijks-8

The work, called shylights, have a mesmerizing effect. And is currently in the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands. There are videos here.

Have a creative weekend!

-Quinn McDonald loves the simplicity and complexity that exists simultaneously in creative projects.

 

Why Breaking the Internet Doesn’t Matter

I’m writing my new website so hard, my eyes are bleeding. I keep bouncing from being clever to being simple and clear, from being baddass to being straightforward. I am making all the mistakes I warn my writing clients about: too many objectives, too big an audience and the worst–listening to too many people who are giving me advice. Not that I asked for any, but it doesn’t slow writers down. We love giving writing advice.

i-won-the-internetThe worst advice I’ve gotten is that I need to write copy that will “go viral,” or “win the internet,” or, best of all, “break the internet.” No. No, I don’t.

When an image or a blog post goes viral, it gets passed from hand to hand, eye to eye, quickly. Remember The Dress? The one that was either white and gold or blue and black? That was about a week ago, and in one two-hour segment, The Dress got 16 million views. It went humongously viral. But exactly what did those 16 million people do with the image? Passed it on, defending what color they saw.

There was only one dress, so it didn’t sell a million dresses. I’m sure a lot of people who didn’t know what Adobe Photoshop could do, found out. But Adobe didn’t have a huge increase in sales.

Views, discussions, explanations are great. But they do not translate into sales. Information no longer is power. Everyone had information about that dress. Attention span is power. And, like Gertrude Stein’s Oakland, there was no “there, there” for attention span in the dress story. The wave went from what color you saw the dress to explanations of rods and cones in the eye, to polls on what colors you saw in the dress, to weird science and then. . . it vanished in the churn of the internet.

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By GaryKing and the Enablers, via Imgur.

What holds attention span? Caring. What makes readers care? When the writer gives a damn. (Now if I said “gives a shit” I could have had a cool acronym– GAS). See? I’m just not badass.  But I know a big mistake most writers make–and it’s the same one I’m working on avoiding. Most writers screw up when they write to prove how clever/smart/cool they are. The smart writers don’t write for themselves, they write for their audience. Because they give a damn about their audience.

Caring is always smart/cool/perfect. Caring about your audience, whether you are a writer, a teacher, an artist, or a social media expert, is how you get a bigger audience. A real audience. One that is interested in what you have to offer. And that audience does not care about the color of the dress today.

—Quinn McDonald is not listening to advice about going viral. She’s being her intuitive, introverted self who cares about her training and coaching clients. Because she knows they want to be understood. And she knows how to do that.

 

 

Popular Culture, Fairy Tales, Bolts

Book Giveaway winners: Princess Burning Hair (known as Angie) wins the book giveaway from earlier in the week.  Journalution goes to Angie–congratulations!  Bluestocking wins another book from my journaling stash. Bluestocking said that she is having trouble with journaling book and keep flinging it across the room. Her honest frustration made me laugh, so Bluestocking, get in touch and I’ll send you a different book. Contact me at QuinnCreative [at] Yahoo [dot] com so I can send the books!

*    *     *     *

Every February in Yukon, Canada, there is a hair-freezing contest. Yes, hair freezing. Contestants dip their hair in 104ºF water, then put their heads up into the freezing air. (I will not make air-head jokes. I will not.)

takhini-hot-springs-hair-freezing-contest-8The cold air then freezes the water and the hair. The contestants can mold their hair into shape or let it freeze freely. (Story via Buzzfeed.)

enhanced-8211-1425575578-10There is something funny and wonderful about this contest. It’s not just the color, but it must feel cold on your head while your body is warm.

Kilian Schönberger is a German photographer who has toured Central Europe looking to find locations that illustrate the otherworldly imagery of the stories collected by the Johann and Wilhelm Grimm.

central-european-landscapes-inspired-by-grimms-fairy-tales-by-kilian-schongerger-4You can see more of the photographs on Behance (part 1) and (part 2).

central-european-landscapes-inspired-by-grimms-fairy-tales-by-kilian-schongerger-10On Behance, he says, ” I think there is a deep longing for tranquil naturalness among people in our techonology-driven environment. Therefore I don’t want to show just potrayals of natural scenes – I want to create visually accessible places where the visitor can virtually put his mind at rest and make up his own stories. Possibly this is the real benefit of my work: Resting places for the eyes in an visually overstimulated world.”

Tobbe Malm is a sculptor from Sweden. He found a bunch of old bolts in a barn in Bergsladen Sweden, and decided to use the bolts in sculpture.

tobbe-malm-transforms-steel-bolts-into-evocative-sculptures-1The forms are touchingly human and the sculptures speak to the human condition.

tobbe-malm-transforms-steel-bolts-into-evocative-sculptures-3Via Twisted Sifter, Malm says, “The bolts reminded me of human forms, and I felt they had something to tell. I heated them, forged, bent and twisted. I tried to create relations, meetings and situations and suddenly stories emerged about sorrow, joy, pain, warmth and humour. A kind of poetry was created, hence the title.”

Have a creative weekend!

-Quinn McDonald is encouraged by original art. She is also delighted that today at 9:26 a.m. and p.m. it will be the perfect Pi day: 3.1415926

 

 

 

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.

 

The Past Is Not Your Future

Love the past? Have tons of photos of your childhood, high school and college days? Photos are great reminders of who we were, but so many times, we mire ourselves in the past like an old station wagon with its wheels dug into a snowbank.

Who still holds the strings that allow you to move?

Who still holds the strings that allow you to move into a free world?

Yes, the past shaped you. Maybe even hurt you, distorted you, and damaged you. But that does not mean you have to stay stuck there. You can turn your back on the past and face forward. Look ahead. Plan ahead.

Getting Rid of the Past by Cleaning Out
One way to help you let go is by cleaning out the stuff that is holding you back. There is a difference between old photos and photos that zap tears into your eyes–tears of regret, shame, and anger. Take a look around your living space. What are you hanging on to that is not supporting the you that you want to become?

This is particularly true if you are suddenly living alone, about to move in with someone, an empty nester or simply still hanging on to painful memories and memorabilia.

Pile everything that’s painful on the bed. Throw out all items you won’t need for taxes or legal reasons. There will still be a big pile left–memorabilia, some of which you feel guilty about. “I can’t throw out my wedding album,” I hear you wail. OK, you can use one old suitcase or Rubbermaid container to hold those items you feel have historical or genealogical value.

What holds you back needs to be given away, burned, donated, or trashed.

What holds you back needs to be given away, burned, donated, or trashed.

Be ruthless. Toss out, give away, transfer ownership, donate, but get those painful objects out of your house. Do not stack them in the garage. Do not rent a storage locker for them. Paying to hold on to your painful memories is worse than having them underfoot in the house. Under all those pieces of your past your are clinging to are the basic values you need to start over. The big dream. The enthusiasm. All that stuff is crushing those values. Making them small. Making you sure that you don’t deserve a big, happy, interesting, creative future.

The next thing is an exercise from my upcoming book. I’ve found it to work in many cases:

Re-write the future as you are living it now to what you would like to do. Do not allow yourself to stay stuck in old patterns. Instead of “I always wanted to be a writer, but because my mother told me to get a career, I became a teacher. Maybe when I retire in ten years, I can do some art,” write down, “I want to live my life out loud as an artist. I want to [paint, write, sing, dance] and do it out loud and in public. In five years, I can see myself [having a solo show, singing in a musical, publishing a book]. When I do that, here are the friends that will celebrate with me [list]. Here is how we will celebrate [describe it in detail.]

You don’t have to worry exactly how to move from A to B yet. You have to have a clear vision before you can walk toward it. Carrying around the blame and shame will not lighten your walk, it will barricade it. Take the first step and clean the past out of your home. You will feel lighter and more prepared for the future you want.

[There are many steps to creating the life you want. Small ones, big ones. But facing what you are holding on to and what is holding you back is an excellent place to start discarding the unneeded, unnecessary, and unlovely. ]

-Quinn McDonald helps coaching clients leave their past behind and walk toward a lighter, brighter future.

Creative Hop Saturday: Feb.28, 2015

Matt Emmett photographs abandoned places. For some reason, I find his work hauntingly beautiful.

 

© Matthew Emmett

© Matthew Emmett

They are in the UK, and his website, Forgotten Heritage, is filled with shadow, light and dark, and the breath-holding way that abandoned building surprise us.

©Matt Emmett

©Matt Emmett

From Emmett’s website: ““It’s an often quoted cliché but there really is a strong sense of palpable history present in abandoned buildings, the items left behind like paperwork in a drawer or plaques or signs in an industrial plant, allow you a glimpse into the past. I consider experiencing these places to be a great privilege.

Kevin Dowd, also from the UK, creates photo collages that are both spare and rich in meaning. He uses a lot of images from childhood, but a childhood free of connection, allowing the reader to feel both loneliness and nostalgia.

© Kevin Dowd

© Kevin Dowd

Dowd has several collections on ghosts and the meaning of what we see and what we understand.

© Kevin Dowd

© Kevin Dowd

From Dowd’s website: “From this, I questioned the ephemeral notion of identity, as observed by the artist. These individuals were captured in a moment, their appearance just one minor aspect of themselves.”

Because today’s theme seems to be abandonment, it’s perfect to mention Herbert Baglione, who paints a different kind of ghosts on the walls of abandoned psychiatric hospitals.

© Herbert Baglione

© Herbert Baglione

These are shadow-ghosts, haunting what was and depicting memories that no one can honor any longer.

© Herbert Baglione

© Herbert Baglione

This project was created and photographed in Parma, Italy in an abandoned psychiatric hospital. The exhibition is entitled, 1000 Shadows.

Have a creative weekend!

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who is always astonished at the imagination of artists.

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.