Quotes for Writers

Every writer needs some encouragement, warmth and a reason to write. Here are some quotes, especially if you are involved in NaNoWriMo:

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I

Fencepost cactus flower photographed with iPhone, no flash. Illumination with flashlight. © Quinn McDonald 2014

Fencepost cactus flower photographed with iPhone, no flash. Illumination with flashlight. © Quinn McDonald 2014

hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”
Neil Gaiman

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
Benjamin Franklin

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”  ― Saul Bellow

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Anton Chekhov

“The first draft of anything is shit.”   ― Ernest Hemingway

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver

“To be nobody but
yourself in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”
E.E. Cummings

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach.


Nothing Personal?

That odd little phrase. . .”It’s not personal”

Of course it’s personal. If it weren’t personal, no one would waste breath doing Godfather_09the setup. Distancing. Pushing responsibility back on the listener. Acting as if what is about to be said is somehow not coming out of the speaker’s mouth and not causing a painful reaction in the person being talked to. Because, honestly, have those words ever been spoken in praise or admiration?

We all take our work personally. We all put emotion and effort into what we do to make a living. We want to take pride in our work. When someone starts a sentence with “Nothing personal, but . . .” it is a shortcut to being OK with saying “I am about to attack you and I expect you to sit and take it, and oh, you may not cry or fight back.”

We pretend that business is objective and logical, but it is not. Someone can understand your plan, but unless they have emotional buy-in, they won’t take action. The very expectations of business–taking favorable action–is emotional.

It’s so much easier to hide behind the thin veneer of logic and objectivity.  We want it both ways–deliver a gut punch and look objective.  It doesn’t work that way. Passive aggressive is as passive aggressive does. Own up to your emotions and opinions. They are yours. But “It’s not personal” does not free you of the responsibility of hurting someone else.

seth-godin-personallyTo avoid confusion, let’s be clear about using “It’s not personal.”
—Back to basics: If you wouldn’t want the phrase that contains INP said to you, don’t say it to the other person.
—If it’s about anything the other person said, did, drew, wrote,  or created in any way, don’t use INP.
—Replace  INP with “In my opinion. . .” and stand behind your words.
—If you want to point to a flaw, mistake, or gaffe, make sure you speak to the person in private. Ask for permission to point out the flaw. Have a suggestion ready for how you would fix it, but don’t offer it till you are asked.

“It’s not personal” almost always warns the listener about the slap that’s coming. Put it down. You have better phrases then that.

—Quinn McDonald hears a lot about what goes on in people’s lives. It’s not always good or helpful.

Quotes for Quote-Lovers

If you keep a quote journal, you’ll like these recent favorites I’ve discovered.

shadow1“The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers.” — James Baldwin

“The way to find your own North Star is not to think or feel your way forward but to dissolve the thoughts and feeling that make you miserable.  You don’t have to
learn your destiny–you already know it; you just have to unlearn the thoughts that blind you to what you know.”    –Martha Beck

“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching- even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”   — Aldo Leopold

“We can’t save ourselves from fear by seeking safety, because safety always means there’s something to be safe from—in other words, something to fear. The way out of fear isn’t safety. It’s freedom.”  –Martha Beck

“There’s the story, then there’s the real story, then there’s the story of how the flowershadowstory came to be told. Then there’s what you leave out of the story. Which is part of the story too.” –Margaret Atwood

—Quinn McDonald watches shadows for the beauty they throw.


Quotes for Your Journal

Some new quotes for your journal or quote book:


“A wedding day is the easiest to make happy. You just throw in a ton of money and liquor, but a marriage is hard to make happy because when you throw a ton of money and liquor at it, it often makes things worse.”
–Rabbi Jonathan E. Blake, Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, NY.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”         ― Stephen King


“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”   ― Stephen King

“If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country


Quinn McDonald is a writer.

Postcard Play

The busy and focued iHanna is doing another postcard swap. Having missed the last one, I signed up for this one. You can sign up till April 28, 2014.

Not being able to decide on one direction, I chose two completely different types of cards, and made about half a dozen of each. The requirement was 10, but making two extra gives me some choices–or two extra postcards to send to someone else. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know how much I love making and sending postcards.

Here are some of the chicken series. All these cards still need to be pressed flat.

card1This one is made from a constellation atlas. The red parts are Monsoon papers.

card2Another chicken collaged from hand-printed papers and a bit of Monsoon paper (the grass.)

card3The chicken body is made of suminagashi-printed paper. The beak, comb and wattle are hand-printed papers from a Gelli Plate. The grass is a section of Monsoon paper.

The other series are ink drops on watercolor paper. When they dried, I printed quotes on them.

card4The quote: “It’s hard to have a life of creation if you have created a life of maintenance.” –Barbara Winter

card5Another quote that speaks to the work of creativity. “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” –Roald Dahl

Quinn McDonald believes in magic and chooses the rockier life of creativity over maintenance. She is easily bored but also easily amused. She is the author of The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal.

String of Words.

Note: Congratulations to Anne Cross, who is the winner of the giveaway of Pam Carriker’s Creating Art at the Speed of Life. Contact me (right above the color header) and send me your mailing address, and the book will be on the way!

*  *  *  *

quote-a-book-of-quotations-can-never-be-complete-robert-m-hamilton-283470Coming across a sentence that lights up a page is one of the joys of reading. I’ve come to a complete stop (to hell with the plot and characters)  and read a sentence over again several times. Then I’ll highlight it or mark it. When I’m done reading the book, I’ll go through it looking at the highlighted sentence again. Sometimes, I have no idea why I loved them. Those I let go.

Ahhh, but sometimes, they are perfect. They hold a speck of wisdom like a drop of water in a curled leaf. Unexpected, sparkling. I began collecting quotes and sentences from books.  I often take them to art classes, because they make wonderful words to add to collages and journals.

Often, I’ll pick a quote at random and start writing about it. I’ll have different takes on different days. I’m surprised at what I find in myself.

6a013485f24774970c01901b624f54970b-piWant to start keeping your own quote pages? I’ll help you get started. You can add even more by looking up any of the people you don’t know.

“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.” — Elizabeth Lesser

“Stop comparing your insides to other people’s outsides. Remember, they’re doing the same thing.”  —Martha Beck

“You know what? People can take a lot from you. They can take away everything except your mind and your heart. Those things you have to give away. I decided not to give them away, and neither should you.” — Nelson Mandela, explaining how he overcame his bitterness, hatred, and resentment

“We’re all just walking each other home.”  –Ram Dass

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” –Nelson Henderson

“I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a foreign language. Don’t search for the answers which would not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

Quinn McDonald is in love with words. And today’s blog post is brought to you by her word of 2014, Scatter.

It’s Not Over, It’s Just One Down

Senate Bill 1062 got vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief and. . . not so fast.

Arizona is not out of the woods. And while I rarely write about politics, it’s time I did. One of the reasons I moved here is to work on social justice issues, of which there are many.

One of the scary facts in the story of SB1062 is that the three original proponents suddenly were against it when the “media made a fuss.” Which, in my humble opinion, is what the media is supposed to do.

All of us are complicit. As artists, we have an obligation to be involved in politics. Too many artists I know don’t watch any national news. I mean real news. Instead, we share bumper-sticker slogans on Facebook and think we’ve done something.

The excuse for not knowing what your own legislature is doing is “so much violence,” or “it’s all the same.”  The result of ignorance is far worse. It’s a lack of ability to see consequences and prevent them. If you are not informed,  you get a legislative clown car that is about to drive the future of your state off a cliff because they didn’t have a clue to what their action was making possible. And no one stopped them.

Think I’m on a senseless rant? Here’s what Maya Angelou says on art and politics:

“All of that art-for-art’s-sake stuff is BS,” she declares. “What are these people talking about? Are you really telling me that Shakespeare and Aeschylus weren’t writing about kings? All good art is political! There is none that isn’t. And the ones that try hard not to be political are political by saying, ‘We love the status quo.’ We’ve just dirtied the word ‘politics,’ made it sound like it’s unpatriotic or something.” Morrison laughs derisively. “That all started in the period of state art, when you had the communists and fascists running around doing this poster stuff, and the reaction was ‘No, no, no; there’s only aesthetics.’ My point is that is has to be both: beautiful and political at the same time. I’m not interested in art that is not in the world. And it’s not just the narrative, it’s not just the story; it’s the language and the structure and what’s going on behind it. Anybody can make up a story.”

“All politics are local.” –Tip O’Neill

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and social justice advocate.

Wedding on New Year’s Eve

Don’t often talk about this, but I am an ordained celebrant. I perform weddings, house blessing, child namings. I create ceremonies for people who need a special ritual in their lives. Sometimes when I say “ritual” people think of incantations and swinging a chicken over your head and yelling “Shalimar!’ but that’s not what I do.

Digital art, fractal art by © Wiirus, New Year's Eve.

Digital art, fractal art by © Wiirus, New Year’s Eve.

This wedding is low-key and simple. It will be on New Year’s Eve. The couple were each married before, and after almost two decades of being alone, have found each other. I visited them today and their path to getting married is so complicated and highly patterned. Tonight I wrote their ceremony, and found a poem that is perfect for them. I thought you’d enjoy it, too. The title is the author’s, and names people he knows.

Wedding Poem For Schele and Phil

A marriage is risky business these days
Says some old and prudent voice inside.
We don’t need twenty children anymore
To keep the family line alive,
Or gather up the hay before the rain.
No law demands respectability.
Love can arrive without certificate or cash.
History and experience both make clear
That men and women do not hear
The music of the world in the same key,
Rather rolling dissonances doomed to clash.

So what is left to justify a marriage?
Maybe only the hunch that half the world
Will ever be present in any room
With just a single pair of eyes to see it.
Whatever is invisible to one
Is to the other an enormous golden lion
Calm and sleeping in the easy chair.
After many years, if things go right
Both lion and emptiness are always there;
The one never true without the other.

But the dark secret of the ones long married,
A pleasure never mentioned to the young,
Is the sweet heat made from two bodies in a bed
Curled together on a winter night,
The smell of the other always in the quilt,
The hand set quietly on the other’s flank
That carries news from another world
Light-years away from the one inside
That you always thought you inhabited alone.
The heat in that hand could melt a stone.

Bill Holm

–Quinn McDonald loved spending an evening reading poetry, looking for just the right ones, even though she should have been working on the garage sale.

Learning by Heart

Corita Kent was a nun who taught art for more than 20 years in Los Angeles. Jan Steward knew Sister Corita and became the biographer using an interesting concept to create to create the biographs, Learning By Heart, Teachings To Free The Creative Spirit.

Sister Corita Kent early in her career, when she still wore a habit.

Sister Corita Kent early in her career, when she still wore a habit.

Jan would write down an idea, a sentence, a memory, or a quote she remembered from Sr. Corita, and toss it into a box marked with the name of a course Sr. Corita taught. The two women wrote back and forth about the book, until Sr. Corita died unexpectedly. But Jan didn’t quit or give up. She finished the book, which has become a cult favorite. The chapter titles were taken from courses that Sr. Corita taught: Sources, Structure, Connect & Create, Work Play, Celebration.

I’ve met Jan, and just finished reading her book again. I love the determination of both Corita Kent, who met considerable resistance in teaching art her way, and Jan Steward, who brought the book to completion.

Some quotes from the book for inspiration:

Limitation is what differentiates a flood from a lake. In th emaking of things, limitations allow ou to choose from something rather than everything.”

Image, © Sr. Corita Kent. Quote by Albert Camus: [I] "should like to be able to love my country and still love justice,"

Image, © Sr. Corita Kent. Quote by Albert Camus: [I] “should like to be able to love my country and still love justice,”

“Everything is a Source: There are two objects to my left on the table where I am typing. One is a purple plastic ink bottle . . . the other is a photoraph of a bronze statue of Lord Shiva. . . Either could be a source for my drawin The content of the object will not determine the success of my work.”

“Artists are people who have developd their seeing muscles in much the same way as weight-ifters develop thelir lifting muscles–by constant, disciplined use.”

Jan Steward's book about Corita Kent.

Jan Steward’s book about Corita Kent., from amazon.com

“We tend to think of play as abstract, without a goal, and somewhat irresponsible–while work suggests a goal, is specific and honorable. Because of this, play can be more challenging–even though we have been taught to perceive work as that challenge.”

“There are moments in the creative process when one is aware of great things happening, but I never feel that is the Creative Process. It is only a punctuated moment of excitement in the larger process. The hard times, too, are prt of the creative process; for example when I can’t sleep at night or lose the meaning of what it’s all about.

It can be a time of drudgery–a dirty, collecting time when I sharpen pencils or clear work space, but we know that somehow these things are necessary . . .”

—Quinn McDonald is amazed at how Jan’s book and Sr. Corita’s wisdom still rings true, decades later. She takes comfort in that.

Postcard Fabric

I was already on my way to the check-out counter when I saw the fabric. It was straight out of the 70s–polyester, shiny, with a gold gleam, and in colors that made my eyes water 10 feet away–red and orange. And I loved it.

Now, I have a streak of bad taste. Sometimes there is nothing like sequins, shiny fabric, and rhinestones to set the mood. Yes, this is odd for someone whose favorite colors in journaling are sepia and black. Payne’s Gray is way out there for me. But this one looked like a lava flow, a gleaming spill of heat, or, well, a Sonoran Desert sunset.

The fabric was not to wear, it caught my eye because I’m participating in iHanna’s postcard swap. (You have till March 24, 2013 to sign up). I’ve participated before and find it my duty as a Sonoran desert-dweller to make at least three of the cards with an image of a saguaro cactus standing in our red-orange sunsets.

Last year one of the recipients didn’t think it was possible to have a plant that looked like a saguaro, and another one thought I’d sent her a postcard of a pickle in tomato brine, but hey, it’s all good fun.

Here are four of the completed cards:

Polyester fabric, ink on paper.

Polyester fabric, ink on paper.

I still have to stitch around the edges to finish the fabric. The texture of the fabric, and the gold shimmer only shows at a different angle, but you get the idea.

Ink on paper (cactus), marbled paper, dark blue fabric with sparkles.

Ink on paper (cactus), marbled paper, dark blue fabric with sparkles.

This postcard is layered–marbled paper, the cactus, and sheer navy fabric with sparkles. This one needs to be edged, too.

Acrylic paint on watercolor, cut out type.

Acrylic paint on watercolor, cut out type.

All the postcards are abstracts, and I like the way the paint mixed.

paper collage on inked watercolor, poem.

paper collage on inked watercolor, poem.

Another favorite Lorna Crozier poem, “Twilight Angel.” I always wonder what people think when they get a postcard like this.

–Quinn McDonald is working on more than one project at a time.