Book Review and Giveaway: Journalution



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.


Introverts of the World, Unite!

Susan Cain's book.

Susan Cain’s book.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is a book that helps introverts claim a respectable place in society. Susan Cain, a self-proclaimed introvert, takes on our culture’s love of “outgoing” people. In school, kids are put in groups to learn; at work, we “collaborate” and work in teams–all difficult for introverts. Many organizations now require a personality inventory like Myers-Briggs® before a job offer is extended. Introverts are weeded out as “not fitting in.”

Susan Cain sees a big link between the 1963’s publication of The Feminine Mystique and Quiet. Cain says,

“Introverts are to extroverts what women were to men at that time–second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent. Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to “pass” as extroverts. The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and, ultimately, happiness.”

I’m reading the book for the second time now, and am finding it more interesting than the first time. It’s good to know that introverts may process more slowly, but it’s also more carefully, and when they do speak, it’s generally powered with information and facts, not bluster and hype.

Cain points out the advantages of being an introvert:

“introverts like to be alone–and introverts enjoy being cooperative. Studies suggest that many of the most creative people are introverts, and this is partly because of their capacity for quiet. Introverts are careful, reflective thinkers who can tolerate the solitude that idea-generation requires. On the other hand, implementing good ideas requires cooperation, and introverts are more likely to prefer cooperative environments, while extroverts favor competitive ones.”

I like the mix of research and personal stories. I don’t claim the book is hard science, but it is an eye opener for all the people who think that Type A workers are the only ones who can make a financially or culturally meaningful contribution.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, creativity coach, and introvert.

DIY Giveaway

Book1DIY isn’t just updating a kitchen. I’m a fan of making journals, too. You can use the paper you like, whether you sketch, write, or paint. You can mix paper types, include pages of interesting looking books, or maps.

Handcrafted Journals, Albums, Scrapbooks and More by Marie Browning is a how-to books for updating your studio–with some handmade books. This is not a new book–it’s a 2000 edition, but it is a useful one. It’s packed with information, color photos and templates.

You don’t have to have prior knowledge, the first three chapters discuss materials, bookbinding terms and techniques. Chapter 4 is a basic procedure for making your own album or journal. Brave creatives can take off from there.


Examples of how-to: different surface decorations techniques.

Need more help? There are chapters for folded books, paperback journals, wood covered books, closed- and open-spine books and novelty books.

Bookplate or decorative templates you can print out of the book.

Bookplate or decorative templates you can print out of the book.

There are terrific photos and ideas in this 128-page paperback book. And a binding guide, complete with measurements and templates for miniature books as well, too.

Miniature books are fun to make and give as gifts.

Miniature books are fun to make and give as gifts.

Giveaway: I’m giving away the book. Leave a comment and check in again on Saturday to see if it’s yours! (I won’t hunt you down, so check back on Saturday).

–Quinn McDonald has made a lot of books and knows the creative satisfaction of seeing a book completed.


Word of 2015: Ready? (and a Giveaway)

We are still weeks from the New Year. You are probably overwhelmed with cards and holiday planning. It’s about a week from the beginning of Hanukkah and two and a half weeks to Christmas. So why start thinking of the Word of the Year?

Words make the portrait. "Zappa" by konstantinek:

Words make the portrait. “Zappa” by konstantinek.

Because you can’t come up with it overnight. It takes a bit of planning, thinking, and trying on a few to see how they fit before you choose the right one.

Here are some ways to start choosing words:

1. Write down words you like. You can like the sound or the meaning, or just feel attracted to the word. Write them down without numbering them, scattered across the page, not in any order: Torque, branch, flood, heart, live, thrive, shine. Any words that appeal to you. Do that for at least a day.

2. Around each word, write some words you associate with the word you wrote. Let’s use “torque” as an example. You might write “revolution,” “turn,” “twist.”

Decide if any of those words are interesting for you. Let’s say you like the idea of “turn.” So write a few phrases with the word you like. “Turn around,” or “turn your head,” or even “do a good turn,” and “a turn for the better.” Keep working on word groups and phrases for a day or so.

3. Try out a few words and see if they fit. Do any phrases strike you as important, even if you don’t know why? Do they feel like words you’d love to use a lot? Words that call to you require a fitting session. Write the word on a piece of paper and carry it around for a day. Every time you touch the paper, think if the word fits you.

4. Narrow your words down. Choose a few–no more than three.  Work from there. Talk to your friends about what they think when they hear the word. You might get new ideas. Type it into Google and see what happens.

5. Sleep on it. Put the piece of paper with the word written on it under your pillow. Any interesting dreams? Any ideas or association within an hour of waking up?

The final word has to be rich and deep–something you can chew on for weeks51wed0j1hTL and months.

The Giveaway. Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments, along with the word, when you choose it. You have some time–but not enough to put it off.  On December 15th, I’ll choose one of the comments to win Wild Mind–Living The Writer’s Life a book by writer and writing teacher Natalie Goldberg.

The book is a great addition to your head and heart–how to balance daily responsibility with a commitment to write, coming to terms with success and failure, and how to find time to write.

—Quinn McDonald is choosing her word for next year.

The DVDs Are Here!

monsoon2Last March, I filmed two DVDs to go with my books. One of the DVDs shows how to make Monsoon Papers, and the other shows several different projects that show how to store and carry your unbound journal pages.

Cloth, Paper, Scissors, the mixed-media magazine covered a Monsoon Paper project in their online magazine. It ran last week while I was in Houston teaching business writing, and I was surprised to see the link in my mailbox as I headed off to class. It took all my strength not to tell the participants to check out the DVD!

Here’s a preview:

You can purchase the Monsoon Paper  DVD here.

T3492You can see a preview of the projects in the second DVD, Art Journals Unbound on the Cloth, Paper, Scissors website. And you can purchase the Art Journals Unbound DVD here.

I am not super willing to be photographed, much less video’d, but I knew that it would be good to support the book. And to bring projects to people who can’t come to classes. It took a lot of discussing the project with my inner hero to get me to decide to do these projects. But one of my most vibrant inner heroes, The Risk Taker, finally broke down my barriers. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone from time to time.

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who encourages others to take ambitious steps for creativity’s sake. She could hardly do less.


Art Supplies Worth Having

Super-specialized art supplies are fun and can ease the tedious part of creative work. What makes special supplies most useful is combining them with the basics you love and use every day.

Here are my four new favorites for everyday journaling use.

Open notebook showing yellow first page (others are white) and pocket insert that does NOT come with the notebook.

Open notebook showing yellow first page (others are white) and pocket insert that does NOT come with the notebook.

Notebook: Mnemosyne 183. Unlined, 70 sheets (140 pages). Now that I’ve abandoned six journals for one–the Commonplace Journal, I needed something practical. So it has to:

  • fit in a purse (or carry-on)
  • fold over on itself
  • have paper that’s thick enough for sketching and writing
  • have paper that doesn’t have severe show-through
  • have pages that can be removed (and leave as a note for someone)

I’ve loved the Strathmore Mixed-Media journal, but the wire binding is just too bulky, and the paper seemed a waste for client notes, which go into the Commonplace Journal most.

Showing double-truck spread of Maruman Mnemosyne notebook. Right page has been deliberately blurred.

Showing double-truck spread of Maruman Mnemosyne notebook. Right page has been deliberately blurred.

Maruman is a Japanese company that makes notebooks for writers. Mnemosyne is the Greek goddess of memory. The notebooks are made with meticulous care. For example, the small-diameter wire binding is “short”–doesn’t go to the very top or bottom of the page. So you can easily hold the gutter side of the page when you tear out the perf’d page cleanly.

I got the notebook at JetPens, which has a huge variety of sizes, lined- graphed- and blank notebooks. Here’s what they say:

The way a paper interacts with a specific ink is as unique as a snowflake. Fountain pen users will prefer paper that produces the perfect inkblot levels, paper that absorbs too much ink would not be good. On the other hand, a ballpoint pen user might seek a paper that allows their pen to guide more smoothly across the page. Japanese paper manufacturers pay attention to these preferences by tweaking numerical values ever so slightly during the manufacturing process to create the perfect page for their customers.

Very little show-through on this book.

Very little show-through on this book.

It’s true–the pages are thin, and have an almost smooth, fabric feel to them. It has a black plastic front cover, and a chipboard back cover, which makes writing easy, even when folded over to save space.

Pack of 5 x 8 inch Post-It Pockets. A must-have for every journal-keeper.

Pack of 5 x 8 inch Post-It Pockets. A must-have for every journal-keeper.

Post-It Pockets. There are items I like to carry in my Commonplace Journal–the gift certificate to an art store, the business card I just got, a postcard (with stamp) to send to someone on the spur of the moment, the names and phone numbers of doctors and emergency contacts.

These plastic pockets work like Post-It Notes--they attach to the inside front cover of your notebook and peel off when you need to move it. A flap is held shut with velcro, so you have easy access to the contents.  These fit in a 5 x 8-inch notebook perfectly, and they do come in different sizes.

Pentel Hybrid Technica ballpoint, extra fine (size 04). I’m not a gel pen fan. I like Pentelpen1ballpoints. And this gel pen is perfect is you like extra fine pens. It’s crisp, black script is perfect for detail. It does what most gel pens don’t–it dries as soon as it’s on the page.

It’s a great sketching pen, too. Smooth, even, no blurring when you cross-hatch. Archival, acid free. Writes when you touch it to paper, so no “scribble start” with this pen.  If you draw and write in your journal, take sketchnotes, or doodle, (and like a superfine pen), this is perfect.

Drawing in a 9 x 12-inch wire-bound notebook is a nice way to create and keep your pieces the same size and together. It’s also hard, because you work consecutively, but not emotionally sequentially.

notebook1You also have to put the book aside to dry if you are doing something messy and wet. Patience is not always my strong suit.

Canson has solved your problem–they make a wireboound book with repositionable pages. (The link takes you to Dick Blick art supply.)

You carefully peel out a page, top to bottom, and let it dry or decide where you want to put it. Then you put it back in, carefully “clicking” the pages back into place.

Notebook2It works along the same lines as Circa, which uses removable disks to hold notebooks together.

This makes the book doubly useful. You can arrange the pages by date, media, technique, color, emotional content. You can rearrange them to your heart’s content, as long as you are careful.

Note: I paid for each of these products. I am not being compensated in any way by any company for the content of this blog.

Warning: Rollabind also makes those disks, but I can’t recommend them after reading the horror stories about non-delivery and non-communication. Even the BBB rates them with an F and has an alert out about them. The Ripoff report has a steady stream of complaints that go back several years and are added too almost weekly.

Quinn McDonald loves basic art and writing tools.




Writing Poetry (and a Giveaway)

Finding What You Didn’t Lose by John Fox is a book of poetry and a book about writing poetry. Best of all, it is a book about healing through writing your personal story in poetry form.

864099The book is beautifully written and designed, with wide scholar’s margins containing comments on poetry from Ginsburg to Pascal. You could just read the comments in the margins and learn a lot about poetry writing and yourself.

Fox starts the book by encouraging a practice of breathing, stillness, and listening. It’s the best way I know how to write anything.

The book is 300 pages of examples, exercises, suggestions, and encouragement:

Our soul responds with energy to our desire to grow–and create poetry. Poetry says things in ways that no other kind of communication can. When we write poetry, it is possible to not only “heal the wounds of the heart,” but liberate our imagination. Reading and writing poetry is a secret bridge to a part of ourselves that is sacred.

I have two copies of this book, because I thought I’d lost it and then, of course, found it because I found what I hadn’t lost. It has some writing in the margins, but nothing that would detract from enjoying the book.

Leave a comment if you would like to own the book. I’ll draw a winner and announce it on Saturday, May 31.  Check back and see if you were the winner!

-Quinn McDonald reads poetry and learns about life by writing poetry.