Inner Hero, Inner Critic

Most people think that with the Inner Hero book,  I no longer have an Inner Critic. [Snort] HAHAHAHA! Or course I do, and he’s not going to go away. That’s the whole purpose of the inner hero idea–to create an alter ego that has your permission to kick the inner critic’s butt.

One of the big steps in dealing with an inner critic is knowing when something makes you happy and reveling in it. Dogs do this naturally–they roll in revolting things because it makes them happy. Cats chase after red-light dots with crazy abandon. But people don’t express happy very well. We create an excuse like drinking to say “I got carried away.” We should all get carried away more often.

I’m just back from the CHA convention (Craft and Hobby Association) in Anaheim, California, and I had two enormously wonderful things happen.

BookingsigningCHA1. North Light (my publisher) had me do a book signing. I asked Seth Apter and Rosaland Hannibal, book contributors,  to sign the books with me. (Seth is not in this photo, that’s Rosaland on the right). After all, three signatures is better than one. And I’ve never seen that happen, so I thought it would be fun. And it was. Pure fun. My editor, Tonia Jenny, was there for moral support and took the photos. How nice was that? Tommy Semosh (also from North Light) made books, chairs and pens appear. And we signed books and talked and laughed.  Pure joy and excitement.

2. I was talking to someone at the CHA booth when a woman came up and recognized me from my column in Somerset Studio magazine. “Are you the Quinn McDonald?” I was sure she was thinking of someone else. “Probably not,” I said, and then she asked if I did the column. She said nice things. I did not tell her I was a worthless human or a talentless troll. I said, “Thank you,” and meant it. I allowed myself to feel good. I allowed my ego to inflate.  Carefully, and not too much. Because sometimes it just feels good to be recognized and praised.

I did not “jinx” anything by feeling good about myself. The world did not come to an end. Nothing bad happened to “counterbalance” the good. Happy is a wonderful feeling. But you have to allow it to happen.

—Quinn’s Inner Hero book is launched. There will be a Phoenix-launch at Changing Hands bookstore on Februray 20. Save the date, she wants to see you all there.


The Happiness Burden

Mezzegra_alleyway_1We love the pursuit of happiness, we love seeing it disappear around the corner, down an ally. That chase is everything.

But much like a dog chasing a car, if we catch happiness, we don’t know what to do with it.

Happiness is work. If we admit to being happy, we have a responsibility to stay happy. Maybe even admit we deserve to be happy. And then, even harder, make others happy. It’s too much work to sustain happiness.

So we don’t want to be happy. We just want to chase it. For all the competitiveness of our culture, we never claim to be happier than someone else. Or know more about how to be happy. Or how to stay happy. Nope. We’ll deny it. As if it were bad luck.

So maybe it’s the pursuit we love. The chase. The just-out-of-reach-ness of happiness. It’s the best when it’s the one that got away. Owning happiness is a burden. Chasing it is an adventure.

–Quinn McDonald loves the pursuit of happiness.

Image: Ally in Mezzegra, photo by Aconcagua, Wiki Commons GFDL, Cc-by-sa-3.0

Other people’s happy

You’re on the interwebs. You’ve just bought something. Or posted about a book you read. Or signed up for a class. You are happy. You stay on the computer and see a post about a different purchase, book, or class. Someone else is describing their choice in glorious terms. And just like that, you are unhappy with your decision.

hindenburg-wideYou should have done more research, you think. The other choice was better. Smarter. The joy goes out of your emotional sails like hydrogen out of the Hindenburg.

How can it be that your satisfaction and joy could be deflated so fast? How did you get left with dust in your mouth and heart?

Comparison is a natural inclination. But the conclusion that the other choice was better is not a natural inclination. It’s a mindset that makes unhappiness the norm. And it’s a short, straight road to competitive happiness. It’s a tough game, and you can’t win it. Because there are always other choices, bigger choices, better decisions.

If you aren’t sure about what makes you happy, it may be time to spend some time with yourself, discovering more about what lights your heart, what brings you joy. It’s not about what others are doing. Where is your center? Where is your balance? Your joy is uniquely yours. Be proud of it. Satisfaction feels like a ripe tomato–warm and heavy for its size. Your joy is yours to have. Nurture it.

–Quinn McDonald knows the Inner Critic doesn’t want you to be happy. He’s just jealous.

Yom Kippur: Thoughts on the End of the World

Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement. In Jewish mysticism, it’s the day our fate is sealed for the next year–The Book of Life is closed and your name is either written in it for a year or it’s not. It’s the day we think about our mortality, the day we think about the impact of our actions on others. Religious Jews spend the day in shul (temple), fasting and praying.

It’s Complicated. Ink on watercolor paper. © Quinn McDonald 2012

I’ve always had trouble finding the Creative Force in buildings, and I often spend much of the day in silence, thinking about what I need to do, what I want to do, what I have to do with the time I have left.

None of us came to stay. None of us know when we will die. It’s good to think about that—and think about it without fear, without regret.

One of the most commonly asked journal prompts is, “What would you do if you had one week (month, year) left to live? I’m always astonished that people would do something different than live their lives the way they are living them now.

I’ve never understood bucket lists. Why are we postponing enjoying life? Why are we waiting to make meaning with our whole life? What are we waiting for? A sign? A guarantee that we have X number of years, months or weeks left? That number exists already, it’s just that none of us know what it is.

Do the things that feed your heart and soul. Do them today. OK, so most of us work to have money to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table and maybe a few special things–but then many of us put off the vacation, or the visit, or the trapeze lessons, because we don’t have time. Well, they aren’t making any more time. If you want to accomplish your dream, stop waiting for your boss to give you permission. Stop being scared that if you take time off you’ll be fired or replaced. Fear is no way to live whatever life you have left.

Of course you shouldn’t quit your job and take a cruise around the world because you want to do that now. But you shouldn’t do your job grudgingly, wishing all the time you could be on that cruise, and resent your co-workers, family and pets because you are in an office and not on a cruise ship.

Look at your life. Look at your work. Where they overlap is where happiness lives. If you aren’t happy, something big is missing.

This year Yom Kippur falls on my birthday, as it has only two other times in my life. It’s fitting that I spend the day thinking about my life, how I live it, how I mend the parts I can, how I live my own happiness. Fear and regret have no meaning here. This is a day that is given to me with no promises. It is enough of a gift. And I am glad.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who watches the shadow of her life move across the round curve of the earth.

Ups, Downs, but Never Still

One of my clients was sad. “Something has gone wrong every day this week,” she said. “It’s not supposed to be this way. Life is not supposed to be this hard.”

I asked what she thought life was supposed to be like.

“Smoother.  More effortless. It shouldn’t be so hard. I should be happy.”

Some boats come in faster than others. Photo from Kifu.blogspot

Interesting to think about. My thoughts always go back to immigrants–people who left everything that was familiar to them and traveled (not without danger) to a country that was new and different and probably frightening. Because they wanted something better and were willing to risk. They hoped for a better life, but never expected happiness as a requisite life in their new home.

When my parents were young, they worked hard, studied hard, and created a life that created respect and work they loved. But a few years after they were married, their world fell apart. A war wiped out their house, took their possessions, took the lives of relatives and friends. They arrived in America with a few wooden crates with what was left of their lives and started over.

In my entire childhood, I cannot remember hearing my parents complain about having to work hard or wishing they were back in Europe. My father believed that you built your own happiness, that the effort you put into being happy determined how happy you were.

Martha Beck, the life coach and author, has a wonderful quote about how we view life:

As long as we are breathing, the conditions of our lives will always be in flux, our ships still sailing in, the things we already own potentially dissolving (or disappearing). To accept that fact without anxiety is
to enjoy the process of living. Anything less, and we are simply suffering until we die.
–from  Enjoyment in the waiting

I’m not much for suffering. I think we are here to enjoy life. How much we enjoy it, and how we feel about our life, depends largely on how we look at ourselves and our experiences.

Bad things will happen. We will lose those we love when we are not ready. We will make choices we regret. But for all that, we can still enjoy our lives, balancing the joy with sorrow, for neither one can exist without the other.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. Not every day is a bowl of cherries and ice cream, but very few days are cactus spines, either.

Theme Thursday #25: 11.19.09

It’s Theme Thursday and that means it’s time to do something fun and creative. For altered book artists, go take a peek at GoMakeSomething, who has a list of elements to add to altered books, each with a how-to link, including one for 350 ideas for altered books, as well as how to do a layout for one.

Colored pencils from

Altair Designs provides you with different geometric patterns, a brush, a color selector and a few auto-fill in tools. You can color in designs, save them, email them, and see other people’s work in a gallery. Surprisingly enjoyable; a great way to explore color combinations you’ve been wanting to  work on.

Tired of explaining your project progress  to your peers? Here’s a jargon generator that creates empty, meaningless phrases for you. The advantage is that these phrases sound important. Who wouldn’t want to empower cross-market e-platforms?

Thanks to frequent commenter Pete Harbeson, we have a map quiz with a twist. The maps are shown, complete with colors, demarcations and scales, but there is no explanation. Using only the information shown and your basic knowledge of, try to guess what information the map shows. It’s not about geography, it’s about information.

More on found poetry: Logolalia is a site dedicated to artists’ collaborations. The link points to an artist who is working through a page of a book a day, looking for found poetry. It’s visually and poetically interesting.

And finally, TinyBuddha gives you simple advice for a complex life. In this link, 7 keys to happiness.

Five Most Recent  Theme Thursdays:  * * * Creative Play 11.5.09 * * * Creative Play 10.29.09 * * * Creative Play 10.22.09 * * *  Creative Play 10.15.09 * * * Creative Play 10.8.09 * * * Creative Play 10.1.09* * *  Creative Play 9.24.09 * * * Creative Play 9.17.09* * * Creative Play 9.10.09 * * *

—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also wonders what you would like to say that you didn’t?

More on “Authentic” Behavior

The other day I felt that being authentic wasn’t enough for being a friend. And that’s true. But there is more truth to discover.

Your authenticity doestn’t guarantee love and admiration from your friends, just because you are being authentic. The word “authentic” has taken on a sort of mythic proportion of human endeavor. We strive to be “authentic” and somehow, in our own competitive minds, “authentic” begins to sound like “perfect.” It’s not.

Your authenticity means that you are true to yourself, that when you screw up, you know it to be a screw up, but one made because of your mistake, not out of meanness, or subterfuge. (Unless, of course, that is your authenticity–meanness and subterfuge.) You apologize, you are sorry, but you do not go about “fixing” yourself to be better. Authentic is living in the room with yourself and accepting it all–good, indifferent, not so good.

Your authenticity is simply that–bare bones you. No making stuff up to polish your image, no trying desperately to be someone you can’t be. Authenticity has its downside–you won’t make everyone happy, you won’t solve everyone’s problems. Because authentic you is just that–the real you with flaws, failures, and hopes.

You won’t make everyone happy, but you can learn to be happy with who you are. It is enough.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer.