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.

You’re Not Who I Imagined You to Be

You read a book you love, you imagine the author to be someone who could be your best friend. You read the next book, it’s even better. You feel you know the author. You meet the author at a book signing and he doesn’t have a flash of soul recognition. Or maybe he is dumpy, frumpy, and a bit cranky. You go home and toss out all the books and change your fanmail review on Amazon. Your imagination has been bruised.

courage-be-yourselfInteresting, huh? Once we have an image of someone in our heads, we don’t want them to be anything else. We say things like, “I used to like her, but then she changed. . .” or “She wasn’t anything like I expected.” And quite often, if the real person is not like our imagined one, it’s not ourselves we adjust. Instead, we walk away, slightly angry and disappointed. The real person failed to be our imagined creation.

After meeting me at a book signing, one woman realized I am not the illustrator she imagined me to be. Although I state this clearly in both books, she had thought that someone who writes like I do, and does art, must also be an illustrator. She thought I was just being modest. And here I was, not a modest illustrator, writing a how-to book on expressive art. The nerve! She told me as much, and walked away without buying a book. Deep breath . . . and. . . not my problem to solve. Yes, I write about expressive creativity, but my focus is on the Inner Critic, the voice that ruins who we are and shames us for not being someone we can’t be.

Often training clients who have never met me imagine me as younger, thinner,392059_305190596168834_1104470495_n prettier. Their faces go through contortions while they try to think of something acceptable to say. My favorite (and most flattering comment, to my ears) was, “Your emails are so professional and smart, I thought you’d be more like me.” Yes, that’s exactly what we want. Recognizing our best selves in others so we can like them.

Those reactions is one way I prove to people they are creative. We make up images, backstories, expected behavior, and are then surprised, disappointed or even a bit angry when our imagination “fooled” us. The sign of real creativity is to be open to change and surprise.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer, coach, and writing intstructor.

 

 

The New Book

I don’t talk much about the book I am writing. It’s not that I’m secretive or hiding anything. From long experience, I know that if I talk about it too much, I’ll pull the wind out of the sails. The ideas will shrink.

Without memory, there would be no books; without books, we would have no memories.

Without memory, there would be no books; without books, we would have no memories.

This week, I’ve been having a hard time with the book. I keep writing around the issue at hand. Finally, early this morning, I sat down and wrote a very hard section. A section that did not cast a flattering light on my own Story. Or me.

And that was the whole point. I did dumb things. I still do. But I am no longer making them the heart of my Story–the reason for my mistakes. The excuse to continue making the same mistakes. Once you own your mistakes and admit them, you take away the feeding frenzy of your Inner Critic.

We love our Stories. They are the meat and marrow of the decisions we make every day. Unfortunately, they are also the main meal for our Inner Critics.

“My parents never encouraged me,” we sigh, feeding the Inner Critic the “you can’t be enough because you weren’t nurtured” broth.

“At home, the boys got all the attention,” we complain, spooning the sweet accusation that we aren’t worth the effort of love, attention, or praise into the mouth of our Inner Critic.

“No one ever loved me enough,” we say, giving the Inner Critic a meaty bone of self-doubt to chew on for years.

The saddest (and funniest) childhood comment I’ve heard as a coach came from

from anagarcialopez.com

from anagarcialopez.com

the client who said, “My parents gave me everything. They encouraged me and praised me. No wonder I never learned how to deal with disappointment. I don’t have the ability to be self-critical. It was my parent’s fault, really.”

Poor childhood. It can’t win. If we’re treated badly, it ruined our life. If we were treated well, that’s wrong, too.

Yes, I take seriously the grim stories of childhood I hear–stories of abuse, abandonment, loss. No one can take any of those stories lightly. They cause terrible damage. But not irreparable damage.

The sign of growth, the sign of change, the sign of reinvention is the willingness to admit that we can’t go back and change the past. It happened. Blessedly, it is also over, and in the past. The next step is yours to make and live. And that’s what the book is about.

-Quinn McDonald is writing a book. Again. It’s turned into a habit.

Aside
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.

Things I Never Thought I’d Say

Life is weird. At certain times in your life, you are sure you would never say anything odd, embarrassing, silly or just plain dumb. But then, technology changes, you change, and you are saying things you could not have imagined yourself saying 20 years ago. Or ever. Travel is broadening, but in so many ways I had never imagined.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 9.35.07 PM1. If you remember a time when there were only landlines, phones were attached to the wall or sat on a small table. When you phoned someone you never had to ask, “Where are you?” because the answer was one of two rooms where the extensions were.

2. “I need Botox.” Botulinum toxin is a neurotoxin that for all of my life lived in poorly canned meats and killed people. You didn’t need it, you feared it. The idea that some people cheerfully inject it into their faces is still a bit jarring.

3. “What day is it?” The first time I walked into a rest home and saw the day and date on the bulletin board, I was horrified. People didn’t know? But when you are teaching grammar on Monday and editing on Tuesday and persuasiveScreen Shot 2015-02-02 at 9.36.53 PM writing on Wednesday, and copywriting on Thursday, and you always wear black dress pants when you teach, it’s easy to get up in the morning, shower, put on those black dress pants and then wonder, “What day is this and what am I teaching?” It’s a bit scarier if you are in a hotel room on a 12-consecutive-days teaching gig and the hotel room in Dallas looks like the one in Cincinnati and you aren’t entirely sure where you are, much less what you are teaching today.

4. “Please don’t lick my phone.” Said to a child on an airplane.

5. “Yes, I am the last drop off, but that doesn’t automatically mean that suitcase is mine.” Said to a shuttle driver in some city where I arrive in the middle of the night.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 9.52.10 PM6. “It’s a fountain pen. You use it to write with. The tip is sharp, but not dangerous. No, it’s not a blow dart.” Said to a TSA inspector.

7. “No, I never told him not to steal the car.” Said to an angry Human Resource inquisitor when one of my direct reports stole the company car and went joyriding, then blamed me because I hadn’t expressly forbidden him not to steal the car.  “And I didn’t tell him not to pee in a wastebasket, either, because some things seem pretty clear to me.” He stayed. I got fired.

8. “No, I don’t have a spare condom you can borrow.” Said to a young couple in an elevator. “If I had one, I’d give it to you, not lend it to you.” And then realized they didn’t understand why I added that. Because when you teach grammar, everything is a learning experience.

Are there phrases you never thought you’d say or would have to say? Leave them in the comments. It’s a good day for a laugh.

Quinn McDonald lives to laugh at herself. Lucky for her, life gives her plenty of opportunities to do just that.

 

 

 

 

Drama: The Soul Eater

“But it was so wrong,” my client said angrily. And it had been. The next step was going to determine how much drama was going to enter her life and change it. There is a natural urge in some people to fix whatever they find in front of them. Not just lend a hand, but insert themselves into situations that are not their making and try to take them over. This is the flashpoint of drama.

letter to dramaDrama may seem like fun, a break in your routine, a chance to get involved in some juicy problems and watch other people struggle. A larger and larger number of women enjoy drama. If they don’t find it, they create it.  That’s a dangerous game.

Drama is a time-waster and a soul-eater, often creating more trouble than the original problem. Drama requires three players:

The victim, who can focus only on what is missing in life, what she does not have, and what she does not want. She wants to remain the victim, so solving a problem may not be what she wants to achieve.

The Fixer is the person who is attracted to every victim like a magnet. The Fixer wants to rescue or save the victim, and the more effort it takes, the better the fixer feels about herself. She wants to appear selfless, strong, and a problem solver. Unfortunately, that means looking at life from a negative point of view, to show sympathy and alliance with the victim. Fixers are people-pleasers or martyrs, giving up a positive view to dwell in the negative. Of course, where you look is where you go, so the “solutions” the Fixer brings are often revenge- or fear-based. That never has long legs.

drama adviceThe Villain is far more like the Victim than we want to think. They have a huge need to be right, to gain control over every situation, and are particularly bad at seeing anyone else’s point of view. Villains were often victims who brought themselves out of victim-hood by controlling everything in sight.

What makes this situation dangerous is the similarity to every fairytale in our cultural span. The Villain must be defeated, the Victim saved, and the Fixer (or hero) admired. The flaw in the fairy tale is that life is not that simple. And worse, in most fairy tales the victim is thought of as helpless or weak until she is rescued by a man. Sleeping Beauty had to be kissed by a prince to be saved, Rapunzel had to have her prince climb up her hair to free her (although then they were both in the tower with all that hair). You get the point.

What makes drama a bad idea for relationships, work, and friendships? Drama is based on the idea that the victim is in crisis and helpless. Instead of stepping in as the Fixer and immediately looking for a Villain in every situation, allow the Victim to be resourceful, creative and whole. Many Victims use their Victimhood as a test to find people who will always prove themselves as friends. For a Victim, friends are always there to be manipulated.

Victims control their negative life by not letting go of their bad luck, hardships, or problems. Any Fixer in close proximity gets sucked in. Victims like being surrounded by Fixers. Fixers, on the other hand, do not like confrontation or other Fixers. Often Fixers will try to be the only person the Victim can trust. If you think that sounds controlling, it is. Remember, many Fixers started as Victims, progressed to being Villains and now want to be Fixers–controllers and the ones who hold the only solution. The price is a lot more than a kiss or climbing up a hair ladder.  It’s a no-win situation, a traffic circle of grief.

Ways to break away from drama:

1. Don’t give advice unless you are specifically asked for it. Don’t fish around by saying, “do you want advice?” because a victim will always want you to supply an answer. That way, when it doesn’t work (and it never will), it will be your fault. You told her what to do, she did (in her own way) and now it’s your fault that her life, once more, is a mess.

2. Allow your friends, family and co-workers to be creative in choosing a solution that works for them. Creativity is the key. Creativity is the ability to see positive solutions and put together a plan to create them. This requires a lot of patience and some professional training.

3. Walk away from drama. It’s much easier to walk away before you get sucked into the traffic circle of escalating drama.

4. Suggest a coach or therapist. They are different answers, but coaches and therapists are trained to deal with drama without getting involved in the problem. Therapists look to the past to find old habits and solve them. Coaches look to the future and help clients build their own solutions while teaching them to use new tools.

-–Quinn McDonald is a coach who knows a lot about drama. Trapped in the Victim-Hero-Villain circle herself for years, she is now writing a book on freeing yourself from the trap.

 

Burning And Other Words

Pay attention to the words you read, and a whole new life starts up in front of you. There are tiny differences in words we use every day and hardly notice. Language and culture are interlaced, and meanings shift through time and through use. I teach writing and grammar and I’m often asked to explain subtle differences in word use to people whose native language is not English.

words, burningLast week, a participant in one of my classes asked, “which is right, ‘My house burned down,’ or ‘My house burned up”? As native English speakers, we don’t notice those small differences.

I explained that when something “burns up” it is exhausted, like fuel. So, it would be fine to say, “I burned up all the papers with private information in them.” And, yes, it would also be correct to leave out the “up” and say, “I burned all the papers with private information in them.” But adding “up” indicates the entire pile is now ashes.

When something “burns down” it means that nothing is left of a structure. The complete phrase originally came from “burned down to the ground.”

There are other burning words. Overwork makes people “burn out,” but not “burn down” or “burn up.”

If someone deceives us, we are “burned,” without any preposition at all following it.

The same preposition problem shows up in “tie up,” and “tie down.” The former Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 12.24.35 AMindicates a rope being used to secure hands and feet, but not to another object. The latter is a rope being used to tie a person (or an object) to a stationary object. So “He used the rope to tie up his victim,” but “He used a rope to tie down his victim to the bed.”

That wasn’t the end of the conversation. Because “don’t tie me down” isn’t a plea from Fifty Shades of Grey, (or it may be, but I don’t care), it also means to limit someone’s freedom. And “don’t tie me up” can also mean to load someone with excessive amounts of work, or to make them late for an appointment.

Words concerning time have great importance in our business culture because we can’t manufacture time, and it’s something no one has enough of.

English isn’t easy to learn because there are many subtle differences, but it makes being a writer a lot of fun.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing.

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.