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



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.

Inner Hero Blog Class Starts Sept. 13

We all need inner heroes. Not all of us know how to find them. We are far more familiar with our inner critics. I want to help people find their inner heroes, even though it is not always easy. The class is about Writing Yourself Whole, gathering up the parts that don’t fit, that may be broken and finding a way to get to your strength through your journal.

Starting on this coming Saturday, I’ll be teaching a week-long class on this blog. YehudaBergQuoteIt’s about finding yourself in your inner hero, claiming your strength, knowing when you run off the rails by listening to your inner critic and all the people who mimic him. Naming your inner heroes help make them real, usable.

Each day you will be introduced to an inner critic you are probably familiar with.  Some you may recognize, some are facing you daily at work or at home, in your family or friends. You’ll then be given several prompts to use in your journal. The prompts will help you explore different ways to climb over the obstructions that block happiness, satisfaction, and contentment.

This is not an art journaling class. It’s a bone-deep writing class. You can make it into an art journaling class if you want, but this time, it’s about the writing. The connection to yourself and your strength. Through your fears and doubts. Doing some hard writing, deep writing.

The class is free. Some people will want to pay anyway. Some will find value and want to account for that. I am leaving it up to you–if you want to pay, you can. If you want to take the class for free, you are welcome to it. Here is the link to my site that allows you to donate any amount or get a gift for donating certain amounts. Again, the class is free; you don’t have to pay unless you want to.

(If, for any reason the buttons don’t work, please contact me at QuinnCreative [at] Yahoo [dot] com. They have been cranky today.)

I’m hoping that you will want to take the class and that it will help you find out the wonderful parts of you that are your inner heroes.

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and the author of The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal


The Pull of Inner Critic and Inner Hero

It’s hard to admit that after writing the Inner Hero book, I’m still bedeviled by my Inner Critic. People expect me to be over it by now. Sadly, not. I’ll have to face down my Inner Critic many times in the coming years. If I’m lucky, I’ll get good at facing him down. Why won’t he go away? Because I’ve got faults, and he’s an expert at noticing them, showing them to me, and then helping me believe I am that fault, and am helpless in the face of it. Oh, and while I’m worthless, I might as well destroy all my art, too. And toss in the writing for good measure.

Which brings me to something I said in the comments yesterday, and which keeps coming up with my creativity coaching clients: Your faults are your strengths turned up too loud.

Image from The Music Ninja.

Image from The Music Ninja.

Turn up your favorite music too loud and your sternum shakes and all you can hear is a base beat and distorted sound. You can’t make sense of it. You just want to get away from it. It’s not music, it’s ear-splitting noise.

Your strengths and faults work in much the same way. Let’s say a strength is a good sense of humor. Great. Helps you get through the tough patches in life, helps you not take yourself so seriously, helps you be easy on yourself as you make learning mistakes.

Turn up that sense of humor too loud and it is easy to be insensitive, even obnoxious. Your friends can’t hear you making life easier, all they can hear is the jarring noise of not-caring.

Image from

Image from

Maybe your strength is teaching others life skills. Wonderful. Your guidance helps people find what skill they need to work on, focus on it, practice it while you help them see and avoid the pitfalls until they get good at the skill.

Turn that up too loud and you are micro-managing, pointing to all they do wrong, insisting on your way as the only way to to be “right,” suffocating any ability to learn by making mistakes. Too much advice, and they lose the freedom of making their own choices and learning from the results.

I often ask my creativity coaching clients to make two lists: three characteristics you are really proud of, that you are good at. The second list is three characteristics of faults you have. Failings you feel bad about. (Just three, not 10). Now compare them. Almost always,  the client sees how the fine characteristic can get too big, too loud, too jarring, and turn into a fault.

Still, faults need to be worked on. We can’t just say, “well, that’s my authentic self, it’s the me you get, like it or not,” and continue on our way, pleased that we are being”real.” Our authentic self is our self-realized self. Flawed, but aware and working on it.

When we pull our out faults by the roots, we also pull out the very ability that is a strength. Best not to try too hard to discard those faults, they contain the possibility of change.  Instead, try dialing them back until they talk to you, sound resonant and useful. That’s your Inner Hero, holding the space where you do good work.

HeroBook* * *   This week is the local launch of The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal. (If you are in the Phoenix area, it’s at Changing Hands independent book store on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. Bring a pen, we’re going on an Inner Hero hunt!)

Note: Congratulations to Jeff (@fernseeds), winner of Get It Done by Sam Bennett. Congratulations, Jeff! Send me a note at QuinnCreative [at] Yahoo [dot] com with your mailing address and the book will be on the way!

–Quinn McDonald is busy turning down the volume so she can hear the Inner Hero better.

Get It Done: Book Review (and a Giveaway)

What better day than Valentine’s Day to love yourself enough to give yourself the creative help you need to finish your work? Creative people are wired differently and see the world a bit differently–but the one thing they have in common with every other person is a lack of time to work on projects that are due, projects that sound like fun, and projects that need to be explored.

SamRt443-199x300Sam Bennett created the Organized Artist Company and she wrote a book that is part coaching, part time management, and part kick in the butt. Get It Done, from Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day is a book with suggestions, how-tos, and clever ideas to help anyone (but especially artists) choose their work, get their work done in a time frame (by working 15 concentrated minutes a day), and complete their work.

Here’s are some chapter titles:

  • Procrastination is Genius in Disguise
  • Which of Your 37 Projects to Tackle First
  • Overcoming Perfectionism
  • How to Do Your Could-Do List
  • Where Will You Find the Time?
  • Organizing Your Space
  • Why Is It So Awful When Everyone Thinks You are So Wonderful?
  • Do You Quit When You’re Almost Done?

When you read Bennett’s book, you know she is an artist, has been in your shoes, and can teach you how to dance in them–backwards–to success. Her worksheets are realistic, her steps doable and her process powerful.

sambennett-412fab8b-eff5-4bda-bf24-8f7aa46f6602-v2The book is a fast read but one you will want to concentrate on to overcome perfectionism and the destructive procrastination that goes hand-in-hand with it. She’s knows art is important to culture, supports the necessity for excellent work, but won’t let you ruin your success with senselessly chasing perfection.

It’s 204 pages that are packed with good advice, success stories, and real help.

Giveaway: I’ll be giving away this copy. so leave a comment for a chance to win. The drawing will be random. And the winner will be announced on Monday’s blog. Stop by and see if you were the lucky one!

Disclosure: The book was sent to me for review from New World Library. I did not purchase the book I read. However, I did purchase one after I read it, as I’m giving away the original.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who will be using some of the ideas in this book in combination with the ideas in The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal.

How To Journal Even When You Resist

Note: Janine Rudnick is the winner of Fast Fiction by Denise Jaden. Send me your mailing address and the book will be on the way! (My email is under “contact” on this blog) Congratulations, Janine!

*    *    *    *    *
When you sit down to write in your journal,  after morning pages, what happens? Does peace flood into your mind, stillness settle in, and the sun rises just over the horizon of your deep inner peace? Liar. It does not.

My Inner Critic. PittPen on watercolor paper. © Quinn McDonald, 2012

My Inner Critic. PittPen on watercolor paper. © Quinn McDonald, 2012

Your head fills with yakking.  Monkey mind starts right up with the to-do list, “Right after this I need to go shopping, but before that I need to stop at the ATM and get some money, I don’t write checks anymore. Where is that checkbook? I haven’t written a check in months. You don’t need to do that anymore. I must have put the checkbook in my desk drawer, and I’ll bet it slipped back, so the desk drawer jams. Or maybe I need to wax the runners. . .” On and on goes monkey mind, hopping from topic to topic while you are seeking quiet.

More likely, your talk is not neutral, but damaging. Journaling helps the negative self talk crank up. The critic or the judge, one in a red velvet jacket and one in a powdered wig show up and start in on what isn’t right, what hasn’t been right, and why you don’t have talent, dedication or time. If they are really active, they will ask how you will ever make enough money to support yourself as an artist if you spend time writing by hand.

So now you are poised over your journal page, frozen. You try to push monkey mind and negative self-talk from your mind, but they persist. Of course they do. Instead of pushing them from your mind, sit down and listen to them. What, exactly do they have to say after the first sentence? Repetition. Endless repetition until you cave in and believe them. You will probably find that there isn’t an original though there. You’ve heard what they have to say from your parents, a mean teacher, a thoughtless sibling. Monkey mind and negative self-talk aren’t original, they are simply persistent. The more you push the thoughts away, the more they persist. Sit down and examine them, and they are not only not original, they are often spoken in voices from the past. And you are animating them. The voices in your head are yours. Your fear. Your insecurity. You make them up. And as evil parents in all the TV after-school movies say, “I brought you into the world and I can take you out.”

HeroBookThat scenario is exactly why I wrote The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal. To help you create inner heroes to take on your inner critic. But for now, here’s a quick fix: On your journal page, draw the slide bar you use to turn the sound up and down on your computer. Take your pencil, drag it down to where it’s silent and draw the bar right there. It’s a lot quieter in your head now, isn’t it?

Start writing.  .  . what is it that you don’t remember but wish you could?

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She writes what she knows.

Perfectionist and Procrastinator, Part 2

Yesterday, in Part I of Perfectionists and Procrastination, you heard about Anne, who missed opportunities because her perfectionism never let her finish a project.

The Root of Perfection.
What causes perfectionism? Research shows that around the age of four, children begin to socialize with the culture they live in. In American culture that means playing in groups, not being too different, not showing above-average intelligence, and following rules. (Later this changes to not getting caught when breaking the rules.)

ColoringInsideTheLinesAround age four, children start spending most of their day in a school-like group environment where behaving according to the teacher’s norms is important—it yields approval.  Children learn to color in the “right” colors, stay inside the lines, sing in groups, write the “truth,” and memorize facts that will appear on standardized text.

Critical thinking is not encouraged. Creativity isn’t either. Both take time, and most schools spend a lot of time preparing the class to get better grades on standardized tests.

Graduation-CeremonyA Little is Good, a Lot is Worse.
Socialization isn’t bad, it’s just overdone. Our parents and teachers tell us to compete, win, get that good job, make lots of money, be “successful.” We compete, and our inner critic  steps up to tell us that we are not good enough, not applying ourselves or lazy. By the time we are in college our goals are to hurry up, win, compete, and stay in the top percentile of school and achievement. And we are almost completely unequipped to do it.

Perfectionism is not all bad. In tiny doses, self-discipline is great, and even the desire to be perfect can be useful–doing careful research, doing original work instead of plagiarizing, being diligent–all are good. When being “perfect” gets out of hand it leads to serious life problems.

The key is separating discipline from  fear of failure. Over-discipline stops us from producing anything finished.

New Idea of Discipline.
There is a new discipline–and it is exactly the right word for what we need to nourish.

The idea stage of a creative project is the fun part,  the part where anything is Lowering-the-bar-300x193possible.  But when we start the process portion of the project, we need to call on a new discipline rather than the critic of negative self-talk.

What we need is discipline enough to push through to the finish and get that wonderful feeling of completion, satisfaction and accomplishment. Even if the project is not perfect.

The Trap of High Standards.
Perfectionists say they have “high standards.” It serves as the excuse to miss deadlines and to berate less than perfect results. The perfectionist is a bully. Of self, of others. Because that was the power example they learned early by coloring in the lines.

Blaming the deadline is a lack of discipline. The truth is more likely to be, “If I never finish it, others will never find the flaw, and I will never have to admit that my work (and I) are not perfect.”

The Reward of Completion.
Here is the big reward: when you get things done, even if they are not perfect,  you will first be overwhelmed with shame at how poor the work is. You will invent hundreds of excuses not to turn it in.

Do some deep breathing, put it away for an hour. Then, look at it right before you send it in. You will feel relieved. You will feel the rush of the imperfect. It is the acceptance that you worked hard and as well as you could with the talents you have today.  It will be the first step into being a recovering perfectionist.

–Quinn McDonald is a recovering perfectionist who helps other people open the door to a new future without the burden. She has just completed a book on developing inner heroes that take on our inner critics.

The Inner Hero Art Journal: The New Book

InnerHeroCoverThe Inner Hero Creative Art Journal: Mixed Media Messages to Silence Your Inner Critic. It’s quite a mouthful for my new book’s title. And admittedly, I did not choose it. But it’s exactly what the book is about, and that’s exciting. I didn’t have the nerve to give it the name that describes precisely what’s inside.

We all have inner critics. Some of us have whole vans full of them; whole clown cars that unpack themselves with each new direction we take. The inner critic speaks of lack and attack. We listen and believe. But we don’t need to.

Margaret Peot's illustration from Chapter 2.

Margaret Peot’s illustration from Chapter 2.

The book helps you discover and call out your inner heroes–parts of you that you may want to deny exist. The strong parts. The ones that know your worth. And yes, the vulnerable ones that hold great wisdom that you may know want to live up to.

The inner heroes in this book are there to help you find the words to speak to your inner critic. The ones you aren’t bold enough to come up with yourself.

The projects in the book are new and challenging. You don’t have to know how to draw. You are not going to draw your inner hero. Instead, you are going to do deep writing exercises, be with your own heart, and use color and technique to create an atmosphere that surrounds you with strength and courage.

A leaf I painted for Chapter 5, The Gardener

A leaf I painted for Chapter 5, The Gardener

The book encourages you to make free-standing journal pages to help you develop messages that confront the inner critic through strengths you may not know you have. The more pages you make, the more sure of your own mind you become.

The book also gives suggestions about how to use all the free-standing pages (or cards, if you like), and ways to carry them with you.

The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal is available from North Light Books (the publisher) right now, and within a few day from, Barnes and Noble, and your neighborhood independent book store.

—Quinn McDonald is creating a class for coaches who want to use the book to work with creative clients.


When Walking Meditation Fails

This morning, I headed out for my usual walk and meditation. Almost from the beginning, something didn’t feel right. My pace was a little slower, the sun was a little higher. But the weather was fine and I was feeling strong.

After I crossed a busy street, the meditation that usually relaxes and delights mecommon-sandpiper_504_600x450 didn’t work. Was it the long list of items still to do before the Design Your Life Camp? Was it the new Persuasive Writing Class I’m teaching on Wednesday? I don’t know. I tried following my breathing. I tried listening to every sound on the walk. I tried imagining letting go of each thought. But my mind raced and bounced, worried and fretted. There are sandpipers here in the fall, shore birds hundreds of miles from shore. I felt that misplaced.

It happens. Even long-term meditators have days in which meditation is difficult. I decided to let it go. Instead, I plugged in and listened to a novel that took a bit to get into, but that I am now enjoying.

I wanted to worry about it. I wanted to figure out why. I wanted to beat myself up for . . . listening to my inner critic. It doesn’t happen often, but when I can’t muster the gift of meditation, I move on. Tomorrow will be another opportunity. It’s hard to be OK with not connecting with a practice that is generally refreshing and invigorating. But the more you are OK with it, the sooner the strength comes back. And I trust it will. It’s important not to beat yourself up, not to over-think it (hah!) and not to quit. Other than that, some days are better than others.

-Quinn McDonald will get up and continue doing walking meditation tomorrow.

Solving over Suffering

The last few days, Facebook has been full of health disasters, deflating art projects, and drama-packed emotional posts. People asking for healing prayers, for support, for an end to their suffering. I’m not sure if it’s a moon phase or a perspective.



In coaching school, when everyone’s path seemed to be that of a healer, I knew mine was not. “Healer” felt too imbued with magic, with an uneven balance between coach and client, in which the coach, with healing power, changed the past of the client to create a new identity. In my development, I cannot heal. I’m a mender. The past is real and what shaped us. Maybe wounded us. But the  turn can come right now, here in the present. That’s what the client can re-shape and step into with a different attitude. Developing the present can change the future.

So for all these disasters, all the suffering I’m seeing on Facebook, I see them as problems to be solved, work to be done, rips and frays to be mended. I’ve never been one to feel helpless, to wait for the magician to appear and wave a wand to solve my problems, then whisk me away on the white stallion.


From Blog52

Even when I was younger, and pretended the prince came to save me, I always wound up with the reins, riding the horse at breakneck speed, the prince hanging on behind.

Life can be about self-sabotage, the damage you create, the bad luck you stew in, the uncontrollable part of life that gets dumped on you.  Or the bad stuff can be looked at as a problem to be solved with creativity and your own power. How you show yourself to people is how they perceive you. Today’s world is tricky and not everyone will be your healer, your mentor or your supporter. Being able to count on yourself, to mend as you go along, is a great skill to have.

—Quinn McDonald is selecting needle and thread for some mending.


Getting Over Disappointment

Note: The winners of the creativity coaching will be announced tomorrow. So you can still leave a comment on yesterday’s blog to be eligible.)

A few weeks ago, a class that I was looking forward to teaching didn’t make. For those of you who don’t teach, “not making” means not enough people enrolled to make the class worthwhile for the location or for me. For an instructor, it’s a blow–to income, to pride, to the schedule.

In my case, the Inner Critic (after all, I spent most of last year writing about the topic) showed up with the usual bus of relatives to tell me that . . . well, you can imagine. You have an Inner Critic, too.

An ancient Chinese stone seal. The writing says, "Do not become complacent with victory; do not become frustrated with defeat."

An ancient Chinese stone seal. The writing says, “Do not become complacent with victory; do not become frustrated with defeat.”

And because I am well-trained by the Inner Critic, I listened and began to follow that bitter and logical voice. Maybe I should stop teaching. How will I ever reach my audience if the classes don’t make? I’m sure you’ve got your own list. And that’s the point to today’s blog. There are better questions to ask yourself after a disappointment.

The first one is my favorite:

1. What did I want to happen? Well, let’s see, I wanted the class to be full, and everyone happy to experiment and eager to work. I imagined happy faces and great art results. That alone cheered me up.

2. How would the class have achieved that? Once I had the happy class in mind, I imagined them working on the project I planned, and in three minutes realized that I wanted to change some things about the class. Now, this is a habit I have, that no class is the same one twice, and that fiddling with the class content is something I do regularly. That put me in the feeling of doing something familiar and fun.

3. “What’s the worst that could happen here?” This is really a grim question. I used to ask it all the time to prepare myself. Instead, I asked, “What’s the best that could come from this?” The answers surprised me–more time to update the class, create a handout with a bonus extra, and run the class closer to the new book launch.

4. Where does it hurt? In my case, pain of failure always hurts in my chest. That was an immediate need. A few deep breathing exercises helped, and a walk made the pain leak out of my body.

Disappointment is a part of every life. How fast we bounce back determines how fast we recover and move on.

—Quinn McDonald would have been happier teaching the class. Having the opportunity to make it better is a gift.