Category Archives: Links, resources, idea boosts

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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.

Words in Words

Words are an endlessly fascinating playground of letters. They help you (sometimes) keep from tripping up. There are fun shortcuts to make up or discover. Stationary means staying in one place. Stationery is writing material. Lucky that the letter kind of stationery had an E in it, just like letter does.

When I talk about the difference between there, their and they’re in class, I can point out that there is the opposite of the word here, conveniently stuck in there. Moving on, their is a word that shows ownership (their car was parked on the street) and has an ownership word in it–heir.  OK, not every example is brilliant, but it’s fun to look for one word hidden in a larger word. When one defines another, it’s even more interesting.

So there is an EAR in HEARD.

ID in INDIVIDUAL.

If you want your eyebrows to rise in surprise and wonder if that was intentional, there is a GRIN in GRIND and BRA in VIBRATE. And, of course, there is WANT in WANTON.

Snark lurks in words-in-words, too. There is MENTAL in FUNDAMENTALIST and RED in CREDIT and IRK in QUIRK and GIN in ENGINEER.

Some may just be a spelling tip. So there is VERY in EVERYTHING, TAG in HERITAGE, TIP in MULTIPLY and RATION in INSPIRATION.

Now that you know, you’ll see small words in bigger words and smile while you are reading. There is SIN in EASINESS, but it doesn’t mean you have to give it up.

Quinn McDonald has fun with words.

Feeling Weird About Copyright

It’s called “sampling” and “borrowing,” and “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” In earlier days it was called “copyright violation,” and “plagiarism.” Whether it’s songs or poetry, images or photographs, one of the fastest changing behavior in our American culture is who owns what.

I’m always amazed when I see artists on Etsy using Disney or Looney Tunes characters on their work. If Disney or Looney Tunes finds out, they will be hit with a “cease and desist” letter–at the very least. They can also  slap violators with a huge fine for copyright infringement.

In America, the way we make laws is by suing each other and watching the outcome. Suing over copyright is the way the internet laws will be decided.

A cup with a fateful lyric on it. No permission was given, and now there's a lawsuit.

A cup with a fateful lyric on it. No permission was given, and now there’s a lawsuit.

Just this week Taylor Swift went after Etsy artists for using her lyrics on cups and T-shirts. She is now trying to trademark the lyrics, some of them such common phrases that she most certainly didn’t create them.  Normally, lyrics fall under copyright rules, but she has powerful lawyers, and they are in scorched-earth mode.

In a weird sidebar, of all the things we can copyright, perfume is not one of them. Here’s an article about perfume protection.

For the common ruck (that’s you and me) there are two kinds of copyright protection:

1. Any written or drawn item you produce is under copyright from the moment it’s finished. You don’t have to mail it to yourself, but you may have to prove it was your idea first, though. If someone uses your words (songs, play, dance steps you choreographed), you can sue them. For violating copyright. For example, if someone uses one of your photographs in an ad without your permission, you can sue them only for the cost of  the space of the ad.

2. If you register your material with the U.S. government’s copyright office, you can sue not only for violation, but for damages. The amount can be substantial, depending on the size of the audience and the commercial use of the piece.

You can also use a lawyer or Legal Zoom to help you. I’ve used Legal Zoom with good results, but it’s good to check them out yourself.

A few cautions on copyright:

1. You cannot change something “20 percent” and then think it is safe for you to use. That rumor has been around forever, and it’s as wrong now as it was then. There is no percentage that makes copyright violation a good idea.

2. “Fair use” is not easy to use to weasel your way out of a lawsuit. The tricky paragraphs are Sections 107-118 of the copyright law. Here is an excerpt:

The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

So, you will have to get permission.

3. Just because it’s on Google or Flickr does not mean you can use it. Google is a popularity index, not a poacher’s paradise, although that happens. You shouldn’t be doing it.

About websites: it’s your job to be vigilant about your own material. The U.S. Government will not sue anyone for you. That is your responsibility. If someone uses a blog post, an image, a photo from your site without permission, you can send them a take down demand under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

You can use sample letters found on Google.  An important point: you must be able to show that you are the copyright owner. This link tells how to do it at Scribd: http://support.scribd.com/entries/22980-DMCA-copyright-infringement-takedown-notification-email-template

It’s a whole new world, but be careful out there.

Note: I am not a lawyer. I cannot answer your questions about your specific work with any accuracy. I wish I could, but your best bet is to hire an intellectual property lawyer.

-Quinn McDonald knows the complexities of copyright and thinks it needs to be simplified. But her phone did not ring, and no one is asking for her opinion.

 

Saturday Creative Hop

Beautiful colors, fascinating abstract design–it’s easy to love the art of Helen Wells.

"The Underwater Dream" © Helen Wells

“The Underwater Dream” © Helen Wells

From her website: “This unique painting is made by adding multiple layers of watercolour paint, and detailing with a pencil and iridescent silver watercolour paint.”

Paste magazine talks about books, and books are art. And this discussion is about Harper Lee and her new book Go Set A Watchman.

Harper Lee

Harper Lee

There is a lot of controversy about the book, written before To Kill A Mockingbird. The concern is that Harper Lee is not mentally clear enough to make the decision and is (or is not) being manipulated by her lawyer.

Duy Huynh is a Vietnamese artist who paints poignant and beautiful artistic works that illustrate ancient myths, fairy tales and comic books.

©Duy Huynh

©Duy Huynh

He learned to paint as a way to illustrate his own communication struggle when he learned English as an immigrant.

© Duy Huynh

© Duy Huynh

The idea of trust in the above painting is particularly poignant to me.

For me, posters are a perfect opportunity for good design. Poster Cabaret has a lot of posters and art prints, including this crane poster by Michelle Morin.

© Michelle Morin, "Cranes"

© Michelle Morin, “Cranes”

Andrew Bird concert poster by Jason Munn.

Ben Harper poster  © Jason Munn

Ben Harper poster © Jason Munn

Munn does several great graphic effects in his posters.

Have a creative weekend!

-Quinn McDonald is having fun with taxes. It’s almost as much fun as nailing your tongue to the wall.

Saturday Creative Ramble Jan 31, 2015

Art doesn’t always have to hang on the wall or be a museum installation. There are a lot of practical artists who make art that you can use in everyday life. Swedish designer Gabriel Sarkijarvi, created an Illusion Chair. The slats of the chair, from some angles, look like a chair back. From another angle, you can see the shape of a face.

Illusion_Chair_Gabriel_Sarkijarvi2-600x900-565x847He carves the chair by pixilating the image, transferring it to slats of wood, then translating the final image into birch chairs.

Here’s the chair from an angle–the image still shows because it is three dimensional.  Imagine the heirloom value!

Illusion_Chair_Gabriel_Sarkijarvi6-600x900-565x847

While thinking about chairs, you can change your room by customizing the wallpaper. This design, by ZNAK,  (via Design Milk) consists of pieces you can remove–as many or as few as you want, creating constantly changing designs all over your house.

znak-wallpaper-1

What would it look like in two patterns in a dining room? Like this:

znak-wallpaper-5

Forget what you need to do as soon as you leave? These new post-it notes will help you. No, not by reminding you about the hole in your memory. . .

12632_switch-note-product-on-black-565x485. . . but by helping you. Put these notes on your switchplate by the door and you’ll have a great memory boost whether you are coming or going.

1-565x566

You could get used to these clever inventions made by Switch Notes by suck uk stationary store.

26449_sk-umbrella2The company also makes an incredible clever travel journal , skyline gift wrap (your wrapped gifts look like a city, no one would blame you for using it in collage) and an umbrella that changes color when it gets wet. You’ll be waiting for rain!

Want to see an island in the making? Here’s a clip of lava dripping into the ocean off the coast of Hawaii. Lava is molten rock. I wonder how much it heats up the ocean right around it.

Have a creative weekend!

Disclosure: I found these interesting items while doing important internet research avoiding doing my taxes. I am not paid by anyone or make any money from these items.

Quinn McDonald loves the jump from creative idea to useful product.

 

Gallery

Give Away Your Work? It Can Work

This gallery contains 2 photos.

If you are a freelance writer, artist or have a talent, offer a service or product, you will be asked to give it away for free. Often it comes with the promise of “getting your name out—good marketing.” I’ve talked … Continue reading

Interesting Art from Interesting Artists

On Saturday, it seems right to take a look at unusual art from people who like to make art, opinion be damned.

Ignacio Canales Aracil makes hollow vessels out of dried flowers.

ignacio-4

*     *     *     *

Richard Sweeney makes paper sculptures. Amazing ones.

Richard-Sweeney_05*    *     *    *   *

Graffiti artist Odeith creates art that looks three-dimensional, but isn’t.

odeith-anamorphic-3d-graffiti-letters-pink-and-green-fluor-lights-lisboa-portugal*     *     *    *

Another three-dimensional artist, Pejac, creates murals on walls. They look like, but have, no depth.

pejac_istanbul4

Here’s another Pejac artwork that looks like a poster, but is flat art.

pejac_istanbul7

Have a creative weekend!

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach.

 

Sticking to Your Idea

Yesterday, I talked about working with what works for you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about your work, if you are making meaning in your life, if you are finding inspiration and growth,  you are on the right track. For you.

A few people asked me to prove my point by giving an example. Gladly.

Museum installation using styrofoam cups. © Tara Donovan.

Museum installation using styrofoam cups. © Tara Donovan.

The art on this page was done by Tara Donovan.  She works in plastic straws, Styrofoam cups, coffee filters, and steel pins. She tended bar and waited tables for six years while working on her art. She heard people laugh and suggest “real” art work. Maybe event a “real” job. But she didn’t do that.

You may know the feeling. You are working out an idea–on a book, a painting, a textile piece of creative work, and you begin to doubt yourself. “Who will ever think this is worthwhile?” you think. Maybe a friend or relative looks at your work and sighs. “Do you really think this is art?” they ask. And you begin to doubt yourself. Your work. Your life choices..

Most artists go through this, and many cave when faced with serious criticism or doubt. They move to something more acceptable. More popular. More understandable.

The artists who inspire me the most, who give me the biggest soul boost, are the

Tara Donovan's installation using plastic straws. © Tara Donovan.

Tara Donovan’s installation using plastic straws. © Tara Donovan.

ones who stick with their work and perfect it. They let the criticism and doubt stay with the person who feels it–while the artist sticks with the creative work.

Tara Donovan graduated from the Corcoran School of Art in 1991, got a MFA from Virginia Commonwealth in 1999 and kept her day job till 2003, when she had her first solo show at the Ace Gallery. In 2008 she got a MacArthur Fellowship, often called a Genius Grant. And she still works with pins, straws and cups.

I find this dedication and constantly renewed creative energy incredibly inspiring. She knew what she wanted and she kept working at it. How many times do you think she heard jokes about tending bar and stealing straws? And she kept going. All the way to that Genius Grant and beyond.

It’s a good story to remember when you begin to question yourself.
See more of Tara’s work.

--Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach.