Peaceful Warrior Author’s New Book

Dan Millman is the author of Way of the Peaceful Warrior and several other books on the theme of spiritual awareness. His latest book, The Creative Compass: Writing Your Way from Inspiration to Publication, is different. First of all, he wrote the book with Sierra Prasada, his daughter.

BookThe book is for anyone who is creative and wants to take their work from the imagination out to the world. Because I’m a writer, I saw it more clearly as a book for writers, but it works in a broader sense as well.

The five stages of creative work, according to Millman and his daughter are Dream, Draft, Develop, Refine and Share.

Dream includes getting to know yourself and then developing your “stickiest” idea–the idea that gathers attention and interest and asking (my favorite question) “What if. . .?” The chapter ends with the interesting Dreaming on Deadline.

Draft tackles some hard topics–how to listen, how to read writing books, writing as a solitary act. The chapter is compelling and the father-daughter take on the topics are really useful.

Develop has some good, strong practical advice: sweat trumps talent, never surrender, allegiance to your story and the layers of learning.

Refine covers the ancient skill of trusting your gut, word choice and word order, working with an editor and knowing when that draft is final.

Share helps you understand how to move your readers, summarize your plot, handle rejection  and marketing your book. It also covers self-publishing pros and cons.

Normally, I give away books, but I am not finished taking notes on this one yet. It’s a good book, and if you are going to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), this book is worth paying for.

Millman takes a sacred approach to creativity. It’s an appealing way to think of the hard work of book writing and meaning-making. Prasada doesn’t always agree, but they work together to bring a book better than either one of them could have written alone.

Quinn McDonald has an irrational love of books that make the task of writing seem sacred and worldly. Because it is. She just found out that her book will be available in mid-December–two full months ahead of schedule!

Right-Brain Writer, Left-Brain Editor

You’ve been asked to write an article on a topic you know and like. You sit down to write and . . . you stop. It’s not that you don’t know how to write, or even know where to begin, it’s more that you are filled with a feeling of dread. What if you forget something you wanted to say? What if you say too much? What if that first sentence isn’t compelling enough?

That’s your editor showing up. Your editor is the one who wants to format, replace, cut, polish. The editor has a

Left brain/right brain from

critical voice and a sharp X-acto knife for a tongue.

The writer part of you wants to get out a lot of information, probably in interesting ways, maybe develop a chart or graph, maybe link to more articles. The writer is dragging in piles of information, colored pencils, games, ideas. The editor is frowning at the mess.

How can you be both a writer and editor? The skill sets are quite different, and while I often insist that one person can’t be both, in today’s world, the demand is for exactly those people who are both. How can you handle both?

By separating the fighting parties and letting each have some time to work. Let the writer come out first. Move away from the linear-structure of the computer and grab a piece of paper. A stack of index cards is better. Write one idea per card and put it in front of you. Don’t edit, don’t stop, don’t wonder where this will fit. Just keep building the stack, one idea at a time. When you run out of ideas, you will have 20 or 30 cards in front of you.

Now feel free to shuffle the cards. Sort them for relevance, for the length of the final article, for sidebars. Shuffle through them to put the most important thing first, along with examples. The final deck should be clean and logical–a story told in pieces on the cards.

The computer is now the ideal tool. Start writing, following the outline you created in a free, non-linear way using your cards. Write all the way through. You editor will show up, but assign the editor the task to go tsk-tsk at the cards you decided not to use this time around. Finish writing.

Now the creative, playful side has had a crack at the article, creating an interesting article with great story-telling and powerful examples. Now it’s time for the editor to come in and tidy up, cut out extra words and stray thoughts, sweep up the mess of wrong punctuation, put in sub-heads with keywords and create a logic thread that runs through the article. If the writer shows up with pictures, colored pencils and games, the editor has the right to ignore the writer or assign a task in another room. Turn-about is fair play.

By being the writer first, then the editor, you can benefit from the right and left sides of the brain, the fun and serious side of writing, the exploration of possibilities, and the linear implementation of logic. And you can do it all without having your head explode. A big benefit to people who must write and edit for a living.


—Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at She teaches people how to keep raw art journals.

How ‘Affordable’ Is ‘Best’?

There is an article on Yahoo Home page on the 10 best places to live. Having just moved from one major metropolitan place to another, I was curious to know what Yahoo judged the best places.

The towns they picked followed their line of reasoning–low unemployment, art and education offerings, growth, affordability. I was caught off guard by the logic of ‘best’ and house prices. They are comparing prices on a flat scale, in other words, for people moving to any one of these cities from anywhere else in the country.

Of Charlottesville, VA, they say, “Homes are not cheap (median home price $225,000), but the cost of living is manageable.” OK, so I think that $225,000 is not cheap as a median price. Got it.

The next place is Santa Fe, NM, about which they say, not six lines down from calling $225,000 “not cheap,” “Despite its recent growth, Santa Fe remains relatively affordable, with a median home price of $365,000.”

How did we go up $140,000 in median home prices and move from ‘not cheap’ to ‘affordable’? Where is the editor on this story?

It then stumbles on to Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Lompoc in California. They choke on the house prices, too, but then they fall into a logic morass. “Indeed, the median home price for the county is $590,000, and your average house in the city itself is over $1.2 million. No matter how appealing, the Santa Barbara area’s cost of living and home prices will prove prohibitive for many Americans.” [Ahem, so what possessed you to chose this place as best ?]

It presses on, “In addition, recent job growth has dipped lately, so it might not be the best place to look for a new job.” This is one of the 10 best cities to live in? One with outrageous house prices and dropping job growth? Here’s how they explain it: “Nevertheless, for those that are retired or financially secure, the Santa Barbara area remains one of unmatched beauty and comfort.” Retired or financially secure? You’d better be retired and have an attic full of money, or you won’t make that mortgage hurdle next month.

In Lompoc, the definition of “best” seems to be “beautiful and comfortable if you are incredibly rich, don’t need a job and can afford a house payment that would buy you a city block in the town you live in now.”

The story marches on. If you recall, the $225,000 Charlottesville home was “not cheap,” but in Asheville, NC, “A low cost of living and affordable housing (median home price $202,100) offset the area’s low measure of diversity and unremarkable economy.” A difference of roughly $23,000 makes the difference between “not cheap” and “affordable.” Again, “best,” doesn’t count the economy. And I’m not sure what “low measure of diversity” means. Does it mean there are no people of color who choose to live in Asheville or are some of the white pointy tops not on the mountains? And no matter what the reason, the writer can’t come up with a better definition for the “best” place to live?

Back to money. If you live in Reno, according to the Yahoo story, “The crime rate is a bit higher than the national average, but the Reno area is affordable (median home price $292,300), which makes it a smart choice for young people. . .” who apparently can’t do math, because $225,000 is “not cheap,” and $292,300 is “affordable,” and so is Santa Fe’s $365,000, despite the $72,700 difference.

My mortgage calculator says that at 6.5% interest and a $10,000 downpayment, there is a difference of $459.51 between those “affordable” houses. About a car payment a month. So if you live in Santa Fe, you can’t make your car payment, but in Reno you can. Except your car will be stolen, since the crime rate beats the national average.

Whoever wrote this must have been one of those children who accidentally got left behind. Not only is it a mathematical mess, it doesn’t add up to “best” on anybody’s sniff test. It’s the 4th of July weekend. The fact checkers and editors must have been on vacation, along with the people who handed in the first draft then headed out the door.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach who teeters on despair when she reads sloppy writing. See her work at

–Houses, top to bottom: Charlottesville, VA courtesy; Oldest house in Santa Fe, NM courtesy; Biltmore house in Asheville, NC courtesy of; Reno rental property courtesy