Stow-Away Poetry (Aug.4, 2016)

Stow-away poetry is a way to share what you write and remain anonymous. But that’s just a tiny part of it. It’s simple: you write a poem, put it in an envelope, and leave it in a public place for someone to find. Anything else is up to you. You can join the stow-away poetry group on Facebook, you can make your own poems to leave.

I have no idea what the copyright law is about copying someone’s poetry and leaving it in public, even with attribution. There, I’ve said that. I must admit, I take the risk. My inner artist also likes me to dress up the poem to make it easy to see. There are a lot of different ways to do it: a decorative envelope, pretty paper, calligraphy. Here’s one I did filling in letters with colors. The complete poem appears on the back. It’s by William Stafford.

Colorful Stow-Away poem, using several lines from a Wiliam Safford poem. © Quinn McDonald, 2016.

Stow-away poetry became something I began when I went back to school to become a poetry therapist. Our class began by writing poetry to do some personal healing.  Healing is a powerful benefit of writing poetry. (If you want to know more about poetry as therapy, contact me through my other website contact page.)

Even better is writing your own poetry. Never written a poem? Anyone can. They don’t have to rhyme, they don’t have to have a certain rhythm or beat. Poetry can be short, meaningful and to the point. Here is an example from my classmate Barbara London.

Listening to the Morning News
Animals kill each other

Humans kill each other
and talk about it.

Short poems take effort. You have to take out all the extra words and be careful about choosing the right ones to use. Few words make each word do a lot of work and require picking and choosing. But the result is powerful.

I’m thinking of holding a poetry-writing online workshop. I want more poetry in the world; it’s so satisfying to write and participate. If you are interested (no, it’s not a promise to take the class), leave a comment. Let me know if you would take an online poetry class. If you want, tell me how you like to use online classes–once a week, everything at once, with an in-person part–whatever makes you feel involved and creative.

Quinn McDonald is studying to become a poetry therapist. She is a writer who teaches writing.

Poems and Collage

© Forgotten Memories, Quinn McDonald. 2016, All rights reserved.

© Forgotten Memories, Quinn McDonald. 2016, All rights reserved. Monsoon paper, walnut ink, alcohol inks on Yupo.

Art doesn’t have to be just one thing. I like to combine writing and collage. But I don’t like tearing words out of a magazine and using that. It’s great for vision boards, but I like collage to be more coordinated.

In this collage, I used writing as a background. I also stylized the writing so it is not readable. I didn’t want the viewer to be distracted or to feel that reading was part of experiencing the art.

The collage was part of creating an assignment for my grad school program in poetic medicine. We were to create the collage first, then the poem. I tried to do that, but it’s not how I work. At least not successfully. So I wrote the poem below, then created the collage.

Forgotten Memories
The brick building had been extended
(twice already),
a poured foundation ready for this,
the third expansion.

Three different weathered shades of brick,
a muddled patchwork marking time.

“Memory Center”—clearly, a lie.
The memories have long faded
from this center’s rooms,
bleached into shadows
like the rising wings of birds
migrating
against the moon
during a break in the clouds.

–Quinn McDonald is studying poetic medicine. She is also a trainer in business writing.

Pressing Matters

© Quinn McDonald, 2016

© Quinn McDonald, 2016

We sit pressed close
breathing each other’s air
Knees and thighs touching
arms exploring, nudging, shyly avoiding eye contact.

In another world, we’d be lovers
canoodling up some turbulence.
Here we are strangers
Wordlessly skirmishing over arm rests at 35,000 feet.

Quinn McDonald is a practitioner of poetic medicine.

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.

 

Life Tetris

My first computer game was Tetris. My first computer-game skill was to find the sound button and turn it off. I’m not good at spacial relationships, and I was very bad at Tetris. Eventually I outgrew it.

tetris1If you have never played Tetris, it is a game in which differently-shaped two-dimensional objects drop down a screen, and you have to fit them together to complete full rows of squares.

Last week, I put it back on my iPad. The paid version. Because I kept thinking I needed it. As I gain skill, no, umm,  practice, waste time with this game, I am getting better. Much faster. What happened?

Two things. In the version I have, you can slow down the time it takes for the tiles to drop. I got familiar with both the shape itself and the negative space that it fills.

The second thing was learning patience. You have to fill in the row completely with whatever shape you get. The more holes you think you’ll get to later, the faster you lose.

I’m now up to a much faster speed, and working quickly.

So why in the world am I going on and on about Tetris? Because I suddenly saw Tetris_screen006the metaphor in the game:

1. To get better at anything, you need to practice. A lot. Even if people tell you it’s a waste of time.

2. Another word for “practice” is “shaping a habit.” And good habits are good to form. Good habits make life easier.

3. Start slowly–so slowly you feel like an idiot. You learn a lot from going slowly. You have time to observe and learn. You can speed up when you have the hang of the big picture.

4. Be ready to jettison your assumptions. That’s really hard. But when we look at the world expecting certain things, we generally find them. When we approach the world with an open mind, allowing the experience to form new ideas, we begin to see opportunities that we did not see before. Example: There are two Tetris pieces that are mirror images of each other. This confuses me. Every time. I keep putting them in the wrong-shaped space and then

  • noticing it doesn’t fit
  • then panicking
  • then not paying attention
  • then losing the game.

To fix this, I decided to try a new way of seeing the board–not by shape, but by color. At first it was confusing, then it got a lot easier. Had I simply berated myself for not being good at spacial relationships, I would have stayed stuck. By working with color, something I understand better, I advanced my skill.

Yes, computer games are time-wasters. But they also have some great metaphors buried in them. And you know how much I love a good metaphor.

—Quinn McDonald is thinking about Tetris synethesia and smiling.

Check That Progress

To-do lists are my saving grace. I love them. I keep them, work them, check them off and grin. Occasionally, I am guilty of putting things on my to-do list that I have already done, just so I can check it off and feel like I’ve started doing something.

strugglequoteThe trouble with that, of course, is you are never satisfied, always living in the next step, and striving ahead without a break. It’s exhausting. And I still love them.

Which is why I started a to-don’t list, often before I travel, so give myself permission to put some work on hold so I can actually live in the present and do the work at hand–traveling.

Now I’ve come up with something almost as fun as a to-do list: a “it’s done” list. Research shows that a real boost to meaningful work is keeping track of progress. What went right. What you did that was smart. What worked well. Most of us don’t do that. If things work out, we just keep going. There’s no learning in that.

True, I learn a lot by making mistakes. The reason? When things go right, I just workInProgress-150x150breeze ahead. When I stumble and fall, I have to figure out what went wrong, how it went wrong and how to notice it early enough next time not to do it again.

Imagine if you did that for getting it right. Progress is an important step in meaning-making. Knowing you have made progress and admitting it, even taking satisfaction in it, is another thing entirely. Give yourself a break. Allow yourself to keep track of what went right. Your good decisions. Your progress. See if more of them don’t start showing up.

—Quinn McDonald is moving forward on several projects.