The Confusing Message of “Not Giving a F**k”

We’ve worn out a lot of words in the last five years. “Awesome” used to mean “fall on your knees, drooling, in fear or amazement.” Now it ranks around “OK” (or to use the common term, “K”) or just a shrug. We’ve also bleached out the meaning of “basically,” “literally,” “absolutely,” and “good job,” usually accompanied by a high-five if said to a child under the age of six.

This image is often seen with the phrase, "this kitten does not give a f**k"

This image is often seen with the phrase, “this kitten does not give a f**k”

Watching how Americans use English is something that fascinates me (but is not “a passion” of mine–we wore out passion when we brought it into the office and substituted it for “mildly interested.”)

Culturally, we are now wearing out the F-bomb. I will freely admit to being a bit stodgy about using this word freely. It makes me uncomfortable, and I’ll confess that I didn’t use it at all until I was about 23 years old. There were two reasons:

1. For me, it was a shocking, violent word best associated with rape, darkness, and the opposite of love. (Your results may vary.) I also had to say “Cheese and rice” in the homes of my Catholic friends, instead of naming the Christian deity’s son outright.

2. The F-word was considered vulgar, and writers (particularly women writers) were encouraged to use move vivid, powerful, and vibrant words. It made for lively combinations of adjectives, adverbs and interjections. It made me an excellent collector of exciting phrases that would pass the editor’s inspection and still allow the reader to know what we meant.

We use f**k  so commonly that we have made up substitutes that are used in zappa3even the most proper corporate meeting: “freaking” came first, and sounded quite harmless, so we upped it to “fricking.” And then we just forgot about talking around it and went right for the f-word.

Note: Many of my friends use the word frequently. I do not correct them. Nor am I shocked. Loving language is more about observation than being the f**k police.

What does interest me is the adaption of the phrase “Not giving a f**k” and its best friend “Not a single f**k was given that day,” to mean two different things entirely. (Google the phrase, then click on images. NSFW).

You would think (or at least I did) that “not giving a f**k” would mean not caring, indifference,  not being involved in an outcome, having an ability to walk away from any situation.

It may mean that in some circles, but it also means being so sure of yourself that you don’t care what other people think. You are rooted firmly in your values. Now, that’s a use I find interesting.  Mark Manson described this meaning in an article on January 8, 2015. Yes, “giving a f**k” means caring, but that’s the point–he discusses why caring too much can drain your focus of what you should be caring a lot about. And on those issues we care deeply about, well, then you give a big f**k.

Here’s what Manson says: “Indeed, the ability to reserve our fucks for only the most fuckworthy of situations would surely make life a hell of a lot easier. Failure would be less terrifying. Rejection less painful.”

What all this means is that indifference breeds drama, and drama is empty of power and force. Caring about others, choosing to protect what is important to you, well, that is what we want to give a f**k about.  An interesting twist of events.

And finally, because I’m worn out from clicking on all those asterisks, here is a poem I found about living that life of deep caring, real coherence and authenticity. Without once using the f-bomb.

I found this poem on The Practical Mystic, credited to The Awakening Woman Institute.

You are the well-trodden, dusty tracks of habit
and you are a freedom so brilliant it brings
deities to their knees.

You are the hesitation and the mistrust that make us
so desperately cling to the plastic replicas of who we are,
and you are the ache of the real calling us from the other side of risk.
You are that mystical courage
that makes us get up and out of bed each morning, despite it all.

Achingly beautiful, dull, exhilarating,
horrendous, paradoxical, cosmic, dense,
dark matter and radiance beyond measure.
Here is your world.
Here it is.

You have been so busy creating walls,
squeezing your tail and your wings
into this digestible hand-me-down dress,
trying so very hard to compartmentalize the
unfathomable wilderness that you are.

There is no action, no withholding,
no sprouting or rotting,
no lover or predator,
no loser or hero,
no wound nor victory
that is not you.

Here is your world.
Here it is.

:: Chameli Devi

-–Quinn McDonald is careful what she cares about. Language is right up at the top of the list.

Warning: If you use the spelled-out f-word in your comments, the comment will automatically go to spam. I’ve been a blogger for eight years now, and that control is a comfort.

 

It’s YOUR Story

Last week,  I was talking to someone whom I understand deeply–someone with a bit of an attitude about authority. Maybe even an authority neurosis. Someone who doesn’t like being told what to do or how to do it. I know this feeling. What we hate in others is what we hate in ourselves. What we admire in others are our own good qualities. And that gives us a hinge to authority troubles.

dsc_0457Authority figures show us our own unclaimed power. The part of us that didn’t make it to the top of the heap, the part of us that, our Inner Critic tells us, just doesn’t quite cut it. And we become angry at those  in leadership who are not as bright, talented, disciplined as we are, but who made it to the top anyway. They got discovered. They had mentors.  And since they don’t deserve respect, we don’t give respect. And that’s where thinking trips over its own shoelaces.

dsc_0454Some people believe what authority figures tell them to believe. A few more believe what their friends tell them. But everyone believes their own story—the one they tell themselves. And once you believe it, you tell it to others and they believe your story, too. The one where you never got the breaks. About being overlooked and under-appreciated. And then others don’t give you breaks, overlook you and under-appreciate you. Because you told them to.

Tell yourself that cape is yours. Then iron it and put it on. It’s time for you to step up and re-claim the powerful bits of yourself you stored away, hoping people would disagree with you.  Being a leader doesn’t mean being given power. It means working with people who believe in you.

Be the person people can believe in, and you’ll have your power. If you believe in it yourself.

—Quinn McDonald is a believer. In herself and in others.

Images from: A Pretty Cool Life.com

Looking Ahead

Thanks to all of you who emailed me about the new website. And for voicing an opinion on a tagline. You want me to stay here, not join the corporate world, and keep posting blogs. Breathe, breathe.  I’m not running off.

Pen Nib Sigil for Quinn McDonald 2I’ve been a corporate trainer for about 20 years, I just didn’t talk about it much. I teach business writing, grammar, emails, persuasive writing, writing for the web, and create custom courses for clients who have special requests. The most recent class is on writing answers for complaint letters, for a customer service department of a business I work with.

Why didn’t I tell you? Because the classes aren’t open enrollment–each class is for a specific company’s employees.

Yes, I will still be coaching, more than ever. I’m developing several three-session sets for people who want to be coached on a specific topic.

And the blog? Just like it is now. I write about living a creative life and making the most of yourself in this life. I share information that I believe to be useful to you. Including mistakes. Because I am the same person all the time, the blog posts are not suddenly going to morph into annual reports.  I may emphasize writing more because that’s who I am–a writer. I’m not giving up art, but I am doing some personal development work and don’t have much to show. Why? Talking about art ideas while I’m still working on them makes me see all the things I could be doing differently and that, for me, is the road to perdition. I prefer to share when I can talk about the good parts of the journey.

And now, I’m off to bed. A chest cold knocked me flat today, and I’m taking it easy. I am deeply grateful that I got to teach the two-day class in Dallas before this hit. Colds rarely get me, but this one did, and I’m letting it run its course.

—Quinn McDonald is grateful that the two-day class in Dallas was over before she got the cold.

Creative Link Hop (Feb. 14, ’15)

Normally, I post links to paintings, photography, or street art on Saturday. But it’s Valentine’s Day, and you may be writing cards, so here are some lovely people doing caligraphy and hand-lettering.

Joanne Sharpe is a delightful teacher of hand-lettering. She never runs out of ideas. You can see her demonstrating hand-lettering here:

And here is one of her colorful journal pages:

© Joanne Z Sharpe

© Joanne Z Sharpe

Joanne Fink also does wonderful lettering. Here’s a video of her using Koi (watercolor) pens, making it look easy:

Here’s a series of hearts in her loose, doodling style.

© Joanne Finnk

© Joanne Finnk

My friend, Michael Noyes, is an amazing calligrapher. He did my first logo:

Design by Michael Noyes

Design by Michael Noyes

And he does amazing work with images combined with calligraphy.

product_220_border

I love this quote he illustrated by Henry David Thoreau. And yes, he sells his work.

The late Lisa Engelbrecht made wonderful art and was a kind and inspiring teacher.

© Lisa Engelbrecht

© Lisa Engelbrecht

She called herself a Letterista, because much of her work was new, inventive and got her in trouble with traditional calligraphers.

Laurie Doctor is a calligrapher whose work is both powerful and gentle. She’s an inspiring teacher, too. She has a series, Another Night in the Ruins, a response to a poem by Galway Kinnell.

© Laurie Doctor

© Laurie Doctor

Above is Night Vigil, a combination of writing and figurative work. She will be coming to Madeline Island School of the Arts in September (2015), but she does many workshops each year.

Go have a wonderful weekend writing wonderfully.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer who loves hand-lettering.

The Secret to Luck

When people I haven’t seen in a years notice I’ve lost weight, the inevitable question I get asked is, “What’s your secret?” When I say, truthfully, “There is no secret; I gave up everything I craved and walk three to five miles a day. It made me cranky and I wasn’t always nice.” I get skeptical looks. “But what is your secret?” they repeat. There should be a smoothie, a pill, a piece of equipment, a girdle, or a new exercise behind  significant weight loss.

"Make your own luck."

“Make your own luck.”

If I’m feeling brave, I’ll say, “Self discipline. Self control. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done so consistently. I still mess up.”  That doesn’t work, either. “You have to treat yourself sometime, or you will quit,” they assure me. “You need to eat a little bit of the foods you love.” “It’s not good to have all that discipline.”

I try to change the subject. I’m uncomfortable talking about discipline and success. It’s not the answer for everybody. But it has worked consistently for me–not just in changing my relationship with food, but for most things in life that I have been pig-headedly stubborn about relentlessly pursued.

It reminds me of how often I was told, after I landed a book contract, that I was “lucky.” Well, perhaps, but it also involved a lot of hard work and, ummm, discipline. I experimented with concepts, ideas, projects. A lot of concepts weren’t strong enough, ideas were half-baked and projects failed. Real creativity is what happens after you fail and before you succeed.

I wrote the book proposal over at least six times, I changed the idea of the book

slightly when it wasn’t focused enough, spent hours doing research to find a publisher who specialized in the kind of book I wanted to write.

The need for “luck” and “secrets” comes because discipline and hard work are Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 10.19.45 PMnot fast and easy.  And no one (except the Little Red Hen) wants to say, “I worked really hard for this and I made it work.” It sounds conceited and self-satisfied. But I don’t know a single soul who has lost a lot of weight and kept it off who had an easy secret. Same goes for people who have accomplished something big in their lives. They seemed to have given up a lot of what they would have liked to do instead and worked hard for a long time to make the big dream come true.

Thomas Edison had it right when he said, “The reason too many people miss opportunity is because is goes around dressed in overalls and looking like work.” Followed by another good quote from Thomas Jefferson, “The harder I work the more luck I seem to have.”

Don’t be afraid to dream big.  Don’t ever doubt that pushing a dream into reality isn’t hard work. It always is. Don’t be afraid to work hard for that big dream. It’s worth it, and you will learn a lot along the way.

Quinn McDonald is still struggling to keep the weight off. But she gets to walk in the beautiful light that comes at daybreak.

 

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.

Re-Invention and Updating

Re-inventing yourself is another way of saying you are deliberately making a decision to grow. It’s a sore point for some. “I like you the way you are,” is a powerful threat, particularly from those who love you. We all know people who still have the same hairstyle, clothes, and beliefs they did in Middle School.

Tough seedpods protect small seeds.

Tough seedpods protect small seeds.

Nothing against loyalty, but often we outgrow that look, those ideas, and even the dreams we had. In fact, we should. We should allow dreams to grow up, too.

Growth includes overcoming resistance, from the seed breaking out of the shell to the flower breaking out of a bud. Friends and family can be despicably  mean in the face of your growth, but it is your growth. If they don’t want to come along, they will make that decision for themselves.

In about six weeks, I will have a new website, and after seven years of having a website and a separate blog, the blog will move over to the website. When that day comes, I’ll lose all my readers who don’t come over and sign up again. I will have to ask people to change with me.

It was never my idea to track my readers, except if they choose to comment. You can sign up or delete the RSS feed to my blog and I’ll never know. Readers have always had the freedom to come and go.

The good news is, it is still in your control to read my blog (or not).

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

Fencepost cactus flower © Quinn McDonald 2014

The bad news is, you will have to re-sign up on the new website. It’s not ready yet, and I’ll give you plenty of warning when it is. This blog will stay up for a while after the switch, but no new posts will be added. Some of the old posts will be moved and all new posts will be on the new website.

Another change is the tagline. For years, it has been “tips, slips, stumbles and leaps on the creative journey.”  While creativity is a huge part of my life, my website will concentrate on writing, teaching and coaching.

The writing focus comes in two parts: corporate training and online training. I’ve been a corporate trainer for 20 years, but never talked about it much–some of my clients have non-disclosure clauses, and it was easier to be quiet about all of them. I’d like to welcome more corporate writing-training clients. I have a killer one- and two-day course on business writing. In person. Grammar, punctuation and syntax with lots of exercises and lots of personal attention. I don’t know how to teach without customizing my class to the specific participants.

I will also welcome invitations to teach writing to retreats and small groups. For retreats, I will be concentrating on the healing, growth-inspiring aspects of writing. Most of it will come from the exercises I’m developing for the new book. [Working title: Write Yourself Whole.]

I have two suggestions for a new tagline:

1. QuinnCreative: Be understood.  Everyone, especially writers, wants to be understood. Having the audience understand your writing and message is just as important as the deep personal need to have your values understood. Corporate clients need their teams, departments, sales reps and speeches to be understood. That tagline has both an emotional and a benefit appeal.

2. QuinnCreative: Clarity starts here. Most corporate writers think that jargon makes them powerful, when it weakens the message. Crisp, short, focused writing delivers a message that everyone can grasp and use. I teach a kind of writing that sucks out the bloated, vague words and concentrates on speedy verbs and muscular nouns to get the job done. That tagline fills a tool-using benefit.

Opinions, please: which would offer you more–the real you, not second-guessing what a corporation would prefer.

QuinnMcDonald hopes she never gets tired of change.

 

It’s a War Against . . . Something

It’s a War Against Women, a War Against Christmas, a War Against some part of the Constitution. Why does stoked up emotion and failed attempts at reason  always have to be a war?  Why do we want to be angry so much? What is the thrill of cranking up drama and emotion over disagreements that could be worked through by talking always have to be blown up and called a War?

War has no winners, only losers and heartbreak.  How about a peace of something? No one is waging a war against women. There may be a legislators making up rules that are unnecessary, but that’s what civil disobedience, voting, and speaking up are for. But it’s hardly a war.

Not only was there never a war against Christmas, but the concept is silly. How would we arm ourselves? With ornaments? And our prisoners of war? Would we drip hot wax on them? Poke them with pine needles? Is one celebration better than another? Do we want one group of people to be wrong about a holiday?

I’m surprised at how many people are behaving a lot more like Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner that human beings. There’s a lot of ground between blind anger and ignoring problems. Let’s find some.

The language we use is important. When a group starts to call confusion or anger by the word “War,” it justifies bad behavior, escalation of emotions, name calling, harsh accusations. We can join in or we can refuse. We can refuse to be cruel, mean, and hateful. We can choose the words we use to be neutral. Not every discussion is a slur against your core values.

My first boss used to say, “Keep your words soft and sweet. You never know when you will have to eat them.” Good idea.

Quinn McDonald is tired of high dudgeon. She thinks a lowering of dudgeon is called for.

 

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.