Power in a Manifesto

Jenna*is one of those artists who surprise me time after time. She has a real grasp on the throat of her inner critic, and she has big plans. That’s always a good combination.

What surprises me is not that Jenna never stumbles, falls, makes mistakes, slides into the morass of crankiness or wraps herself around her axle–she does all of those things. What surprises me is that she doesn’t make up stuff. She keep her life and her place in it in focus.

personal-manifesto-240x300She does the three thing that makes coaching successful:

1. She gets up again, after every slip, trip, and stumble. People who stay down discover that others step over them on their way to their own plans.

2. She doesn’t make excuses for herself. She analyzes her situation and learns from it. That doesn’t mean she won’t do it again, but she will learn something different from it. The more you learn the more tools you have to move ahead to your goal.

3. She starts the fix with herself. “What do I need to do here to make my situation better?” “What do I need to do to move my plan forward?” No waiting for the magic wand. Choosing your own moves allows you to feel in charge of the direction and speed of travel. I’m pretty sure that’s a law of personal physics.

Here is her Personal Manifesto she wrote last week. Right underneath it is her

*   *   *   *   *

I want to be an artist.

I want to live somewhere so beautiful that even in the wind and rain I am drawn to go outside and revel in the sights, sounds and smells and take those into my studio to inspire what I do.


From whipup.net

I want to have an abundance of time to sketch and refine and develop my own ideas so that I produce art that is meaningful to me.

I want to develop a discipline and a regular habit of creating art.

I want the company of a mentor or teacher who can help me improve and encourage my achievement.

I want my art to be good enough to sell in an upmarket gallery, not a market stall.

I will be confident and able to put myself amongst other artists whose work I admire.

I want to feel passion at the colors of a sunset and joy in the colors of pebbles.

I want to continue to explore and play, but I want to find my niche, my craft, my calling.  I want to develop my skills and get really, really good.

And I want to feel so caught up in the moment that the act of creating art is almost a spiritual experience.

I WANT TO BE AN ARTIST: This is my manifesto.

What do I need to get there?

  •  A space
  • Discipline
  • Practice
  • Encouragement
  • Financial support
  • Customers
  • Determination
  • Health
  • Belief
  • Persistence
  • Energy
  • Courage

The Result:

  •  Happy
  • Energized
  • Fulfilled
  • On purpose
  • Worthwhile

*   *   *   *   *

That’s a lot to want. And a lot to demand of oneself–to know what you need and what you have to do is a brave first step in getting it. But it takes courage to declare yourself. And even more courage to declare yourself to yourself.

What would you declare about yourself?

On Wednesday, I’ll give some pointers for writing a personal manifesto–and how to make it happen.

–Quinn McDonald needs to work on getting more sleep and choosing her commitments more carefully. That is what she is declaring.

* Not her real name. Coaching clients are promised anonymity. I have her permission to use her manifesto in this blog.


The Frail Logic of “Meant to Be”

One of my favorite ways to help me make a decision or re-think a problem is to post it on Facebook or Twitter and ask for an opinion. I value other people’s perspectives and ideas. It helps my brain run in new rivers of thought.

Aboriginal art from the Gippsland coast.

The other week I asked a “should-I-or-shouldn’t-I?” question and got clever, good, and thoughtful answers. The one answer that I don’t fall into the flow with is “if it was meant to be, it will happen.”

I’m not a person who believes in predestination–that everything is pre-planned, and people are meat puppets acting out their destiny. It takes away that free-will decision making process that has taught me so much in life. (That’s nicer than saying “I made huge mistakes, and often.”)

And how far can I ride the “meant to be” stream? If my teeth are meant to be flossed, someone will come do it for me? If the mortgage is meant to be paid, someone will send me money? I know, those are far fetched, but I don’t know where the horizon line is in the “meant to be” scheme.

The first peoples of Australia (and Albert Einstein) believe in the Everywhen–a universal time in eternity, where past, present and future are all present.  In that case, I understand that my problem, decision and consequence are all visible at the same time. I can understand that.

For the life of me, I don’t understand that items will fall into my lap if someone (fate? destiny? a god?) declares it “meant to be.” If that were true, then I could work for years toward a goal, which has secretly been declared “not to be” and I wouldn’t know it. Or reach my goal. Or (and this is the big one for me) not know why I’m not getting close to my goal. Some of my finest learning has been discovering why my efforts are (or are not) moving me toward a goal, why failure happened.

Shrugging off failure, ineptness, laziness, as “not meant to be” also means I can sit in the same ineptness and laziness and expect something to work if it is meant to be.

So I’ll continue to be confused until I work it out. You know, if it was meant to be.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who is watching for an opportunity.

Creativity Coaching? Why? (+ Giveaway)

Coaching Giveaway Report: Today is the day (Oct. 24, 2011)  I’ll be contacting the winners of the free coaching. I will not be publishing names to keep all coaching confidential. It’s an ethical bond I want to continue. There were seven winners—Thanks to all who left a comment!
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As people find out about creativity coaching and separate it from a football coaching, marriage counseling, and therapy, I start getting interesting questions.

Journal page, ink wash over white ink.

The first question is always, “How is creativity coaching different from life coaching?” The short answer is, “Creativity coaching focuses on that part of your life that fuels your ideas and talents. It helps you make meaning out of your life.”

Some other good questions I get at book signings:

Q:  Do I have to be an artist to benefit from creativity coaching?
A: No, not at all. Creativity coaching makes the most of your ideas and innovative ideas, even change in your life, to help you feel worthwhile and show up in the world the way you see yourself.

Q: How long before I see a change in my life?
A: In the last two months, I’ve had two people who came for a sample coaching, had a powerful session, and found their direction. That’s great, but it does take most people a bit longer. I ask for a 12-week commitment, because change is not easy, and while the first session is powerful, it’s hard to maintain that surge on your own. Doubt creeps in. To overcome the fear of change, to make change work for you, and to take the fear out of it takes about 12 weeks.

Q: Does coaching always work for everybody?
A. Sadly, no. There are people who do not want to put in the work it takes to create change in their lives. Some people would do better in therapy. But at the end of 12 weeks, you will either have made the change, or know the reason you haven’t, and that is a lot of learning worth having.

Q: What’s the point of creativity coaching?
A: If you are sleep-walking through life, you probably aren’t happy. Most people don’t like their jobs, but stay in them because of the salary or benefits. That’s a dreary life that to feelings of worthlessness and  low productivity. Finding something that fuels a purpose in your life, that combines left-brain drive with right brain insight can give you a completely different perspective. You life can fill with purpose and energy. That’s what focusing on creativity can bring you.

GIVEAWAY  Today on Create Mixed Media’s website, North Light Books (my publisher) hosted me at a webinar about my book, Raw Art Journaling, which is deeply rooted in meaning making. I’m finding people hungry to use their talents to do something that makes a difference. I want to help. That’s what the giveaway is about.

WHAT: I’m giving away free full-length (one-hour) coaching sessions, one for every five comments, up to 10 free coaching sessions. No multiple comments necessary.

HOW: Leave a comment telling me how you think coaching can help you. It’s not an essay contest, but I’d like to know your perspective.  You can live anywhere–coaching happens on the phone or via Skype.

WHEN: On Monday, October 24, I’ll announce the winners and contact them via email to set up a time in November or December to experience the coaching.

Goals, Dreams, and Getting What You Want

The sentence in the article I was reading confounded me. A woman in a horrible relationship went to a therapist for “my first and last visit. He asked me to set goals.” The writer was appalled at being asked to talk about goals when she was in such pain.

I wondered what she would have wanted the therapist to ask. If the client

There is never a perfect time to start a goal. Just start.

is in pain, the smart therapist is going to ask what the result should be–leave the relationship? Stay and try to work it out? Demand couples counseling? Set a deadline for the other person to take action? For yourself to take action? All those sound like goals to me.

I think goals got a bad name in annual reviews. Business employees are supposed to set goals and then check them off. Goals are often artificial or checked off after attending a class. (I’m familiar with those people in my training classes. It’s often called “training as punishment.”) Real goals, those set with intention and thought, are more than useful. Without goals, life is stuck in the endless wash cycle–the dirt is out, but you churn without really getting clean.

A goal is a point in time we can imagine. Once we can imagine it, we can benefit from the joy or achievement we’d feel when we reach it. That’s the best motivation to move toward your goal.

A softer word for a goal is a dream. Napoleon Hill famously said “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Dreams are visions of a wonderful future. Dreams are often considered unreachable. “It was only a dream,” we sigh. But if we don’t dream, we can’t imagine what we long for. And without longing, there is no goal development.

I’m always troubled by coaching clients who tell me, “I don’t want to have goals, I just want to be in the moment.” Being in the moment is not the opposite of having a goal. It is part of having a goal. The “now” part. The part you work on right now because now is the best time to work on something you want to achieve.

When I ask the coaching clients who don’t have goals how they feel, they often tell me, “I’m unhappy. I don’t know what I want.” Not knowing what you want is different from not having a goal or a dream. Not knowing what you want is most likely being afraid to name what you want.

Often, when I ask coaching clients who has no goals why they are unhappy, they’ll say, “I never get what I want.” I can’t help myself, I ask, “How would you know?” To get what you want, you have to name it. To name what you want, you have to know what you want. To know what you want, you have to have a dream, a longing, a wish. It can be vague, it can be specific. The only requirement is knowing that having it will make you feel good–fulfilled, satisfied, successful, joyous. And you have to be OK with feeling good.

The person responsible for your personal goals is you. Only you can define them, and only you can manifest them. You have to do the work, but you get all the credit and joy, too.

I love the fable of the man who is stuck in a flood. He’s on the roof of his house, when a rescue boat comes by to help him.
“No, thanks, ” says the man, “I prayed to God for help and God will help me.”
The rescue boat motors on.
A few minutes later, the water is rising faster, and a helicopter appears.
“We are lowering down a ladder, climb up!” says the EMT.
“No, thanks,” says the man, “I prayed to God and He will save me.”
The man drowns and goes to heaven. He meets God and says, “I am so disappointed in you. I prayed to you, I trusted you, and you ignored me.”
God looks at the man and says, “What do you want from me? I sent a boat, I sent a helicopter, and you turned them down.”

Our goals, our dreams and getting what we want are ours to get or to lose. We have the choice to make. We have the work to do. We have the joy to feel.

Photo by JasonRogersFooDogGiraffeBee

Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach who helps people who are stuck in their dreams, in their life, and in their work.

Make Your Dream Come True. Then What?

We sure spend a lot of time chasing dreams. Working hard, staying focused. And then, suddenly, like a cat chasing a butterfly, one day you reach and catch the dream. Now what?

The winning line: twlcasinos.co.uk

Catching up to your dream and making it real can be scary. This is your dream and part of you didn’t believe you could do it. Your negative self talk told you often enough how out of reach it was. You might have chased that dream because it was good exercise, but deep inside you may not have thought you’d catch it. And now you did.

At this very point–the point of reaching your dream or goal, we jump back. After all, if we hold the dream, we suddenly become responsible for it. We doubt ourselves. Is that dream good or big enough? After all, if we reached it, was it really worthwhile?

When you reach a goal, there are no instructions and no magic wand that comes with it. The biggest burden of reaching a goal is that the same ol’ you has reached it. Along the way we might have become older, wiser, thinner, but it is still you. Getting that dream doesn’t come with a limo and posse for most of us. It comes with responsibility. You reached your goal, now you have to acknowledge it, and account for it. You have to admit that you got what you wanted. Some people will say “So what?”, others will snort, others will be envious. A few people will be mad at you. None of this should stop you from admitting you reached your goal. None of this should make you belittle yourself or your goal.

The important part is knowing what you did to get here, knowing that you could have stopped to avoid having the responsibility and pretended to change the goal. It’s a brave thing to reach your goal. Unlike running a marathon, once you cross the finish line with a goal, you realize you can’t declare a finish time and stop. Goals we set for ourselves continue. They grow as we do. When you reach a goal, you have made meaning out of your life. You understand what you can learn and manage. You have succeeded.

Before you feel dipped in fear, acknowledge your growth. Be proud. Making meaning is growth. Celebrate!

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, trainer, and creativity coach.

DIY: Making Meaning Your Way

Making Meaning through your creative work takes courage.
It’s an intensely private work, which in our culture is always slightly suspect. When you see the serial killer being led away from the crime scene, you always hear, “He kept to himself,” or “He was a loner,” as if those things are somehow intrinsically bad and wrong. Yet that’s where a lot of creative work is done–by yourself. Alone.


One person's chicken is another's Little Red Hen

Making Meaning starts from scratch.
Sure, you may have played with kits. And you may well be using many leftovers from various kits to make your own stuff. But you are working with your idea. You aren’t assembling anything, and you aren’t using directions supplied with a kit. You are moving into uncharted territory, and you are alone. And you love it.

Making Meaning means you write the rules.
The way you make meaning is your way. Not your neighbor’s, not the rich and successful writer, musician, dancer, or gardener you admire. You get to fail, try again, and then succeed. And that trip is what makes it so very satisfying. Because it involves creative play, messing up, and fixing it all by yourself. Making meaning brings satisfaction because it involves triumph over obstacles. The major obstacle is often your own thinking.

Making Meaning is not a consumer activity.
You can buy a kit and make something, but it doesn’t make meaning. You can buy paint-by-numbers, scrapbooking kits and cards, you can complete step-by-step wire-wrapping jewelry and wind up with a product without one scrap of meaning making. You may feel empty after such an activity, even if you have completed a gift-quality product.

Making Meaning is a Little Red Hen project.
You remember the story of the Little Red Hen. Her friends–the cat, dog, mouse, chick (it varies from story to story) don’t help her plant the wheat, cut the wheat, take it to the mill, or bake the bread. But they all show up to eat the bread. And after all that work, she doesn’t share the bread. She eats it by herself. Is she selfish? No, in this story the other animals aren’t starving, they are hoping to share in her success without having done the work. The Little Red Hen has made meaning in the bread and is eating the joy of her work.

Making Meaning is a goal in itself.
You’ve written a book? That made meaning. Publishing it is another story. The joy you feel in writing is the success. Publishing is an administrative task that will make you feel proud, inadequate, fill you with “shoulds” and bring out detractors, admirers, and hangers-on. That’s a step beyond making meaning. Making meaning is a journey.   It can have many goals that don’t make meaning. Make sure you notice when meaning-making stops, you don’t want to confuse the journey with reaching a destination.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach. She has a website for writers who want to keep an art journal, and a website for her business training. Both have coaching sections.