In the Middle of Turmoil

My coaching client sighs. “I think I need to take a break from coaching. I’m so stressed at work and at home, I feel like I’m swimming in a riptide. Once I’m back safely on shore, I can have more ground under my feet and continue.”

I never force anyone to continue coaching, but when I hear this, I am hearing a need for coaching, not a break from it. I feel like saying, “There is no shore; your whole life is a river.” (I realize I shifted the metaphor from ocean to river.)

rapids_mountain_river__images_desktop_wallpaper-widePart of the need to “feel ground under your feet” is the word we use to describe someone stable and balanced: grounded.

We associate balance with control. With knowing what will happen next. But that’s largely an illusion driven by hope. We are always in the middle of something–a project, a crisis, a celebration, a decision, a career, an identity. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan, but it does mean that plans change, shift and become impossible without much warning.

Life is a river, and we are always floating, swimming, paddling. There is not a time when everything is suddenly perfect and the world stops so we can enjoy floating blissfully.

whirlpool-1-300x224Grabbing enjoyment when you recognize it is a skill that coaching teaches you. So is adapting to a fast-paced life and dealing with change without falling apart.

Coaching works in the middle of turmoil–because it mixes support with accountability, and courage with action. Coaching works best when the client is open to life and change, but it can help people adjust when the world is not stable under their feet. If it’s stable now, don’t expect it to stay that way. You won’t be surprised when change shoots under your feet.

-Quinn McDonald has had her share of change.


Family Christmas, Bullfighter Style

Tasha+Tudor+Christmas+TreeIf you are from a big, happy family who gets together on Christmas in loving celebration to exchange presents, sing, and eat. . .you aren’t reading this. You are enjoying your family. Both of you.

The rest of us struggle with family. We are adults,  lead responsible lives, no longer have the bad habits of younger years. But something triggers five-year old behavior. Someone’s a bully. Someone gets teased.  One person is nosy, someone else doesn’t care to ask enough questions. Many are “offended” at an opinion, the food, the word in a song. Instead of “merry and bright,” you get “fury and fight.”

old-fashioned-thanksgivingWhy does this happen when absolutely no one wants it to happen? Because Christmas is fraught with the freight of memories. We take the gauzy, vague memories of childhood and make them solid. We had perfect trees and handmade, heirloom ornaments. The treats were perfect and the food exquisite. It wasn’t of course, but our brain steps in, says, “let me remember that differently for you.” Your perfect childhood is endlessly trying to be created, not re-created.  You struggle to create  today the fantasy that never was in your childhood. Trouble erupts when your definition of “perfect” is not the same as the other people’s. Tension blossoms, followed by a power struggle. Everyone loses.

As adults, we have a firm vision of who we are now. In control. In control of how we want people to think of us. Your siblings remember foibles and habits we’d63241like to forget. They bring them up anyway. You collapse. You realize just how many buttons you have that get pushed. In fact, you are just one big button standing next to the Christmas tree.

Shift your perspective just a bit. Instead of thinking of yourself as the noble, wounded bull in the bullfight, remember that the bull inevitably gets stabbed by the bullfighter (to wild applause). Update that image. You are the bull—but strong, nimble, powerful. Not wounded, but angry. The matador is the thoughtless sibling, aunt, cousin. Decked out in a too-tight suit of lights, [the link description is worth reading, just for the unfortunate translation], complete with the little goofy hat, pink hose, sequined pants and . . . your emotional baggage instead of a cape.

From a Samsonite Spinner commercial, produced by ad agency Moxie and Superfad.

From a Samsonite Spinner commercial, produced by ad agency Moxie and Superfad.

Here’s the trick: stop looking at the red cape/baggage the matador wiggles at you. There is a sword in there. Look at your matador–the sparkly sequins, the tight pants. There’s your target. Can’t run fast in that getup. You are a lot more powerful. But only if you ignore the taunts and flapping red attention-distracting flag. If you charge the flag, you will be jeered. Swords will appear. If you gore the bullfighter, you will hate yourself later. And you’ll be stabbed. People will cheer. Not the result you want.

Here’s the move: Ignore the baggage. Do not attack the attention-grabbing baggage. Once you charge, there is a feint, the distraction moves, and the matador is engaged. Instead, listen to what the matador is goading you with. Listen, not to charge headlong into the red, but to hear a keyword you can acknowledge. This move catches the matador off guard.

Aunty Annoying: Are you still at that dead-end job? I don’t understand why you didn’t become an engineer like your brother.

You: [respond to key word, “engineer”] Yes, [brother’s name] is very successful. We are all proud of him. [If you can’t manage that, you can substitute, “You must be so proud of him. “]

Aunty Annoying: We’d like to be proud of you, too, but it’s hard to be proud of someone who claims to be an artist.

You: [respond to key word “artist.”] Art isn’t valued by our culture, is it? [Notice that you are not chasing the red flag here]

Aunt Annoying: No, who cares about art? Why did you disappoint us all anyway?

You: [changing subject] What did you want to be when you were little, Aunt Annoying?

Aunt Annoying: I didn’t have choices like you kids today do. I stayed home and raised the children. Which reminds me, when are you going to give my sister a grandchild?

You: [responding to keyword “grandchild”] Speaking of grandchildren, how is your grandson Iggy doing?

Notice that this is not a conversation. This is you, avoiding charging the ancient painful baggage being dangled in front of you. You are not looking for conversation, you are avoiding a tearful confrontation. You are listening, not to correct her, make her wrong, express your frustration, but to keep coming back to her, instead of the red cape.

Keep your eye on the real target–the matador.  Do not resort to the clever, snarky verbal slap that will put the questioner down, hard. (It will attract the attention of the bully protector.) Feel sorry (if your can’t muster compassionate) at the inability of the matador to manage a good relationship. Focus on acknowledging the life of the questioner. Turn the conversation to neutral ground or to questions about the matador. Not mean questions, neutral. Within 20 minutes, you will be behaving like the in-control adult you are.

lsThis behavior is not easy. You will want to attack. You may want to dump the eggnog over the taunter’s head. Resist. You want to feel good about yourself. Pity the lack of tact of your matador.

Then take a lap around the ring, still standing, still strong, still powerful.  Stand among your peaceful family. You’ve earned it.

—Quinn McDonald has been the matador and the bull. This year, she’s avoiding being the red baggage.

Coaching: When it’s Time for Clients to Move On

Coaching is an interesting calling. You become a coach to help clients not need you anymore. It’s a mind set that has to be with you all the time, yet not be the sole focus of coaching. Clients reach their goals, gain their balance, get unstuck, and then move on. That’s the coach’s goal. But as a coach, you can’t rush a client too fast, or they stumble. You can’t slow down and hold them back, either.

Full moon rising behind palm tree

Full moon rising behind palm tree

One of the difficult stages of coaching is the completion stage. Sometimes the client asks, “Am I done yet?” and sometimes the coach brings it up. It’s a delicate stage, and most coaches suggest a month’s time to prepare for completion.

It’s a bad idea for the client to decide to quit and then act on it. That results in a jarring separation and a requirement for the client to be able to recall all the lessons learned whenever they need them in the future, and that’s simply not going to work.  The best way to end coaching is to lengthen the time between sessions while you review and practice  techniques. You’ll need some time to process information around dealing deliberately with your inner critic in the coming weeks, when you aren’t speaking with your coach.  It’s a weaning process, and an important part of gradually moving to your own ability to be accountable and love yourself at the same time.

Moon+in+phasesIf you are a mother who breastfed your child, you remember weaning. You didn’t just decide you were done nursing, buy formula, cereal and make a meal switch. The baby can’t adjust to a bottle, formula, cereal and spoon overnight, and the mother will still be producing milk with no relief. That’s bad news all the way around.

The way to wean is to replace one feeding with formula or cereal, then wait a while to see how it goes. In a week, you might add another feeding. Weaning takes about a month or so to allow the adjustment to feel like growth, instead of whiplash change which will start to crumble the benefits of coaching.

If you didn’t nurse your baby, the same idea is seen in learning to drive a car. First you learned rules and techniques. Then you got behind the wheel. Then you got a learner’s permit and had to have a licensed driver in the car. Only then could you drive solo on the streets. Your first request to drive was probably to run an errand for a parent, not to start a cross-country trip alone in a snowstorm. Same analogy. Ending coaching is a step by step process.

Coaching is a way to handle a change you want, but may not be looking forward to making. Once you have learned to negotiate the change, and it becomes part of your life, there is still the work of habituation to be done.

We hold you to the light, © Quinn McDonald

We hold you to the light, © Quinn McDonald

Coaching is a blend of support, encouragement, and accountability. It’s a process that helps you grow. When you are ready to step into your new life, give yourself some time to adjust. Your coach will help you find the path that may have gotten washed out by your busy life. It’s still there, but it is a good idea to make sure you are heading in the right direction before you start to run down it.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer working on a book about the inner critic.

In Praise of PraIse

The evaluation form I ask participants to fill out at the end of classes is my chance to find out if I’ve met the expectations of the class. Over the years I’ve been running training programs, a lot of interesting information has come my way. I’ve changed classes, added suggested topics, and, occasionally, wondered what would possess someone to write a comment on the eval  form.

Adults learn differently from kids. Adults need to hear information more often, in different ways, in order to remember it longer. The word “educate” comes from the Latin “educare’ and it means ‘to pull out of,’ not ‘to stuff into.” Most people in the training sessions learn a lot from sharing information with people who work in similar business environments. Maybe even more than from me.

From me, they need to hear a practical application, examples that resonate with their experience, and reinforcement. If I tell a participant they are “wrong” or their writing “isn’t up to standards” in a training class, they won’t hear anything else I say.

My classes are short–one or two days. I can’t teach someone how to write in that time, or how to do presentations. But I can give them tools to use that will make them a better writer or presenter over time. And one way I do it is to find something to praise in every piece the participant reads or demonstrates in a presentation. By praising them for something they are doing well, it is more likely they will continue to do it.

That alone will make them a better writer or presenter, and that’s my goal. I’m not a magician, just a trainer.

I think there is not enough praise in business.  The reasoning is simple: Praise someone and they may ask for more money, maybe a raise. Wouldn’t want that. So keep them unsteady, unpraised and worried about job security. And that may work in this shaky economy, but it doesn’t breed loyalty. Or best efforts. It breeds resentment. And when the economy picks up, so will the people who felt belittled and demotivated. They will pick up and move on.

To be fair,  every now and then I get a comment on the evaluation form that baffles me. “You should be harsher in your criticism” said one. A few months later I got the more enigmatic,”You did not criticize other people’s work strongly enough.” I’m still not sure if they thought other’s work needed to be critiqued or if I had said something they interpreted as harsh. A few weeks ago I found this on an evaluation, “This isn’t a New Age training center, I expect some criticism that stings so I can improve.” What was that person’s childhood like? Is s/he a manager? Do they sting their co-workers with their remarks?

I’ll take being marked down for encouraging kindness and giving praise. I’d be honored.

–Quinn McDonald believes that if you praise what you want to get more of, you will get more of it.


After the MacGuffin

The question that filled up my email box was, “Well, thanks for pointing out the MacGuffin in our life, but then what?” What do you do with the plot point you hang your life on? The belief that you build your story on? “My mom never encouraged my creativity, so now I don’t have any.” “My brother got the attention, so I have no self esteem.” Those stories. We spend a lot of time making other people wrong for our stories. Part of it is blame, and part of it is showing the world the statement is correct and has therefore ruined our life. Deep inside, we are still waiting for the prince to ride up to save us, or the sword in the stone to move under out hands. The magic you seek, however, is most likely hiding  in your own hands.

You'll have to walk your own road, but the hike can be beautiful. This one is in the sandstone sculptured slopes of the Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area on the Arizona/Utah border.

The sad thing is, we keep refreshing our MacGuffin. Over and over again. How should you change your story? Frankly, I don’t know. I’m not a therapist. But I believe that therapy can help free you. If you want. Unfortunately, if you keep going from therapist to therapist, repeating your story, it won’t fade. It will become a huge center pillar in your life, and you will be chained to it.

I’m also a life- and creativity coach, and a holder of my own MacGuffin, and I can suggest some ways to make the MacGuffin do the right thing, and fade by the third act of your life.These are just ideas, and if one of them resonates with you, take it for a spin through the next week or so and see what happens.

1. The MacGuffin excuse comes in two parts–naming the hurt, (“Mom never encouraged my creativity,”) and pointing to the consequence (“so now I’m not creative.”) Separate them. Make sure the second part is true on its own–without the first part. Are you really not creative? Are you sure? What’s your proof? Is your proof related to the first part of the statement? You might turn up something interesting.

2. If the second part is true on its own, then is the origin still important? We can’t change the past, so you can’t go back and un-do that part of your life. What has to happen right now to make your story shift focus? What can you do to change the direction of the story? In the case of a real MacGuffin in a screenplay, it is useful only until the audience find the main characters capable of overcoming difficulties in the plot. Ask your friends what is wonderful about you. Keep a list of behaviors, actions, accomplishments you can be proud of–even small ones. Write them down. Don’t trust them to your memory.

3. Ask yourself “Who would I be if the MacGuffin fades?” Imagine a great success you would love to have, for example, being a great creative writer.  Is that MacGuffin really keeping you from it? Could you start practicing that skill now? If you immediately say that you are too old, or too far along in another career, ask yourself another question–what can you do to start enjoying the experience itself? You don’t have to have another career, you just have to enjoy. Remember, you are letting the MacGuffin fade, so you aren’t looking for another reason for anger or blame, you are looking for your own power. Take a creative writing course, see what it feels like once you can hold your own power.

Take hiking boots. The trip may be steep going.

4. Art heals. If the topic of creative writing is too steep a mountain to climb, take a dance class, join a choir, learn to knit, sign up for a drawing class. Exploring what you are missing is the only way to discover it.

5. No one will do the work for you. No one will hand you a solution on a crystal platter –and if they did, you wouldn’t value it. Satisfaction, joy and success come from overcoming obstacles. Put on your hiking shoes, it’s going to be an interesting trek.

-Quinn McDonald no longer wonders what her life would have been like if she had gone to a Seven Sisters University,  had a mother who loved her or why the good girls didn’t get the attention the bad girls did. It just didn’t happen that way. She’s now busy living out her destiny.

Scared? Smart? It’s a Wild World

Martha Beck spoke at Changing Hands bookstore tonight, and packed so much information, power, inspiration, laughter and honesty into just over an hour, that I took notes faster than an Angry Bird slingshots at a green pig.

Her new book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World is subtitled Reclaiming Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want. It’s not only a mouthful, it’s a mindful. And maybe a heartful.

Martha spoke about fear in a fascinating way. She was learning to track rhinoceros and as most trackers, followed footprints that led through the bush in South Africa. She kept her eyes glued to the ground as the tracks grew less visible until she heard a companion gasp. Looking up for the first time she realized that she was within 20 feet of a mother rhinoceros and her baby. And the mother rhino was angry.

Martha Beck at Changing Hands bookstore.

Martha is a slight woman, and could have easily been trampled to death. What happened in the next second was that she thought she was going to die, and felt a wave of fear and panic. And then she wondered about the two questions that form the cornerstone of the book–“How the hell did I get here?” and “What the hell should I do now?”

instead of being filled with fear and panic, Martha realizes that this second fulfills a lifelong dream of adventure, being fully engaged in the natural world, and living in the moment with friends. Were she to die, it would be with a “joyful pounding heart.”

As she was standing in front of us, she did not die, (and the way the story concludes–it’s in Chapter 1– is worth the price of the book) but she knows that each life has an angry rhino, and we all must bring ourselves to decide what to do in that moment of truth.

After the rhino encounter and its amazing resolution, Martha spent the next five years speaking to many people in many cultures so she could answer those two cornerstone questions. She realized that the answers she heard from wise women, shaman, medicine men (and women) were the same–that all of us on earth are facing huge change–economic, climatic, geographic, historic, and cultural. This change is roaring down on us like a giant wave. We can either drown in it or surf through it. If we want to survive, we have to become surfers skilled in surviving change.

I had an image of a tiny nimble figure negotiating through the curl of a giant wave with wits and grace. It made a great image of survival, always staying ahead of the crushing wave, and feeling exhilaration in your own skill.

She spoke of our basic mission while we are here on earth–healing the earth. I wrote about it recently as the mystical ideal of Tikkun Olan (Hebrew for healing the world.) It’s one of my favorite images–that each of us is not only capable, but bound to heal what we can–the ecosystem, our hearts, the pain of others.

“Our culture trained us to be factory workers–to sit still and take limited action when we were created to solve huge problems as they occur, spontaneously,” she told us.

Her book explains the four steps that contain the wisdom she gathered during her years of research:

  • Wordlessness
  • Oneness
  • Imagine That Which Has Never Existed
  • Forming (not forcing) your art, your life

I’m looking forward to reading her book, not just as a reader, but as a life coach who knows that each of us can have a fulfilling life, rather than a life of drudgery and soul-snuffing work.

Quinn McDonald agrees with Benjamin Franklin who said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Hating Change: Hate the Wind

Change causes us to break out in a sweat. We react to change with procrastination, with fear, with stubbornness. It doesn’t matter how we react, change is driven by time, and change happens unexpectedly. Fast. Unnervingly fast. Hating change is like hating the wind–it doesn’t care that you hate it; it still blows.

The instand of change: you are traveling 65 mph, you can see, the weather is good. Suddenly your windshield smashes in, glass flies throughout the car, you can't see. Change. Did you notice the image of the bird in the middle of the impact zone? It's not what hit the windshield, it's what you see in it.

What makes change so awful? Most of my clients answer, “it’s the unknown next-step portion of change I hate,” but I don’t think so. When I ask a coaching client to give me an example, they tell me about feeling excruciatingly emotionally unprepared. Awkward. Not up to the task of facing change. Feeling not ready is the inevitable companion to change. So is feeling awkward, ungainly, not suited for the task. What makes change so awful is the lack of adjustment time. No time to prepare the perfect reply. No chance to look chic and unsurprised. Change catches you by surprise, with your shoes untied and not ready to run.

Change throws us into a formal party while we are still wearing our emotional play clothes. Suddenly, what seemed appropriate for the emotional playground doesn’t fit into the serious polished-shoe environment we find ourselves in. We are caught off-guard. And off-guard,  without time to plan, we make bad decisions.

My coaching practice is rooted in helping people survive change. Then thrive with it. But it’s not easy, and there can be a lot of tears first. Change is not always a friend.

When change whips around us, it’s a windstorm of confusion, decisions, and often paperwork—all within a tight deadline. You get laid off, and must choose a generous package with a non-disclosure signature or no package and a sense of righteousness. A loved one is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, the kind that destroys plans, futures, whole families. What decisions are right? What decisions are right now?

The second part of change we hate is the fast decision making. We make decisions that are based in fear, and then see days and months of self-blame stretch in front of us. When loss is a choice, we make decisions that buffer the loss, and watch anger flood in, because we settled for less than we wanted because we had to decide quickly.

Change doesn’t always mean bad news, but even good change can look like bad news. Teaching clients to deal with change often starts with learning how to stay calm. Harder than it sounds. But once you’ve learned that, you can see change as a tool, not as a result. And that gives you the power to build.

Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach who helps people survive change and thrive in a changing time. Write her at QuinnCreative @yahoo. com to find out how she can help. [Close up the spaces to make the email address work.]

Making the Same Mistake

You’ve heard it a million times: “It’s OK to make a mistake, but never make the same mistake twice!” Or “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” One of the giant myths we love to believe is that we make a mistake only once.

Buster no longer eats flowers. Why not? Because I no longer put flowers anywhere he can find them or climb to them. I finally changed, as he would not.

It’s simply not true. We not only repeat mistakes, we repeat them most of our lives. We all know the woman who has dated the same kind of man all her life. Falls for the same type, the same profession, the same opposite-to-hers values. We wonder why she does that as we stride into Starbucks and order “the usual.”

We are creatures of habit and most of us don’t like change. We do the same thing over and over because we know how to do it that way. Even though we know the definition of insanity, we keep hoping for different results.

Change is hard. It’s great the first three days when we are filled with resolve and motivation. Then our friends begin to tell us they like us the way we are. Or our family hurls the ultimate insult at us: I don’t know who you are anymore, you’ve changed!

Well, I hope so. I’d be really bored with someone who didn’t change over a whole life. I sincerely hope we grow, we learn, we adapt, we re-invent. Because making the same mistake over and over again, and hoping for growth anyway is a new definition for insanity.

We are going to make the same mistake over and over unless we take a look at the reason for the mistake, and change our habits. It’s hard, really hard to stop making the same mistake over and over again.  But it also painful to keep making the same mistake–even if we do it in new and inventive ways.

That’s why having a coach is useful. They encourage you to create a new vision and a new way, and they hold you accountable for walking toward the goal. And then, they walk with you, because change is not easy and making mistakes is painful.

Quinn McDonald still takes on too much work and needs more sleep. She and her coach are working on it.

Want a Critique? Don’t Ask Your Creativity Coach

Yes, I’m your coach.

No, I won’t comment on your creative work.

This is hard to understand, because I am not only your coach, I’m your creativity coach. There are several reasons, so let’s get the one you most suspect out of the way:

1.  It doesn’t matter what I think. What if I tell you your creative project is horrible and I don’t like it? Will it destroy you? Why? Because one person doesn’t like it? What if I say it’s wonderful? Will my opinion validate you? What if I tell you it’s wonderful and then it doesn’t sell? Does that make me wrong? Does it make you wrong? Will you quit doing your creative work? That’s the worst choice. So my opinion doesn’t matter. Not about the meaning-making of your work.

2. You are paying me to coach you. Critiquing is a different service. Most clients think that once they’ve hired me as a coach, I can provide many services–adviser, researcher, conscience, authority-figure-to-fight-with, editor, marketer, problem-solver, and idea-provider. I can, but I probably won’t.  As your coach, my major service is to keep you in action in service to your own creativity. To give you a clear place to take a stand. To let you discover who you are and what your purpose in life is. I don’t give advice. It’s a bad idea. It gives you the idea that I’m responsible for your decisions, when I am not. You came to me because you were stuck in one place. Discovering your next move is your work, and I support you in that. I will toss out ideas for you to consider, but they aren’t advice. They are generally perspectives you can’t imagine yourself, but you will.

Yes, I provide marketing communication, editing, writing, problem-solving and idea-providing to businesses. And I charge them for it. All those services are separate, and my non-coaching clients pay for them.

3. I’m a coach, who understands the slippery work of creativity. I know about the danger of discouragement and the spike of “making it” and the long stretch of creative fear in the middle. I’m not an art/music/film/fashion expert. If fashion listened to me, there would be no 5-inch spike heels, none of those silly platform stilettos without heels, and none of those ankle boots that make women look as if they had ahoof instead of a foot. There are many things that work well, and become hugely popular, even if I don’t understand them or think they would be financially successful.

4. Writing is not about getting published. This is the hardest to understand. I am a writer. And writing is not about getting published. Writing is about writing. A born writer won’t quit, even if I tell them their story stinks. That’s how I know they are writers. Writers want to say something, even if no one listens. Being a writer is a struggle, and that’s the part I’m supporting and making accountable. The rest is details.

5. Because you need to build confidence, not gather encouragement. That’s the heart of the reason. You hired a coach to be able to create a change, work through change, live with change. Or learn why you can’t and live with that. There is a difference between what makes meaning and what will sell, and both have merits. That’s your work. I can’t do it for you. All the stories, the examples, the agreement in the world won’t amount to anything if you don’t do the work. Ah, and that’s the horrible truth. . .I won’t do your work. I can’t do your work. Doing your work is how creative people succeed and live their lives. It’s all about you. And I know that.

Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach who helps people through change, re-invention and transition. Her book Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art has made it to the #1 slot on’s Mixed Media division and #3 in Creativity.

Creativity Coaching–What Is It, Anyway?

Of all the questions I get asked when I’m running a training session on communications, the one I hear the most interest in is “What is creativity coaching anyway?”  There is always a bit of doubt, a fear that maybe creativity coaching might be inaccessible to the business worker. After all, day-to-day creativity is suspicious to American corporate culture.

"Beginning" ink and watercolor pencil on paper, Quinn McDonald © 2010

Read more about the fear of creativity in leadership in “A Bias Against Quirky,” in the Feb. 16, 2011 issue of the Wharton School of Business’s online journal, Knowledge@Wharton.

Answering questions about creativity coaching is fascinating to me, because it doesn’t take long to discover the hunger for answers behind the questions. There is a curiosity about creative problem solving, creative thinking, and the possibility of living a daily creative life. Creativity coaching focuses on the stumbling blocks experienced by anyone involved in creative endeavors. Clients cover a wide range, including creative business leaders, performing or visual artists, parents, and students.

Here are the answers to questions I’m frequently asked:
Q  Do you teach people how to be creative?

A. No, you are already creative. I just make you less afraid of your own creativity, or how to re-discover your existing creativity when it has been buried and unused for a long time.

Q. Why do your clients come to you?

A. Generally because they are stuck. They might be confused about their talent, they might not have enough time to create, or have too many ideas at once. Sometimes they are conflicted between their creative work and day job. Some people want to create but are afraid to sell their work. Or they get confused between selling their work and satisfying their own creative calling. It’s easy to make creativity a full-time money-making job, with job-like demands and that can be confusing.

Q. Can you make money being creative?
A. Yes, but not always in the way you think. If you don’t have an existing following or marketing skills, it’s hard to put the burden of money-making on a creative project. The main purpose of creativity is to make meaning. Once you have mastered meaning-making, you can think about money-making.

Q: What’s a coaching session like?

A. My coaching is done on the phone, so it starts with a phone call. In the first or second session, when we are defining the relationship, I ask the client what his or her goals are, what their dreams are, what they wish they could make of their lives, how they want to show up in the world, what values they want to display and honor. Often creative people want to show up in the world in a certain way, but behave in a very different way, and are surprised when they get unexpected results. Once we uncover basic goals and the values that support them, we see what the obstacles and gifts are on the path. I create a big space for the client to express their fears, their hopes, and, eventually, their desire to work on a goal. My role is to ask questions to clarify and to toss out ideas that the client is free to follow, discard or change.

Q: Are you a creative person?

A. Yes, I’m a writer who teaches business writing and communication, a book artist who works at the intersection of words and images, and a life- and creativity coach. I’m really an every-day creative person–a problem solver and seeker. I believe that you have to be involved in creative work to be a good creativity coach.

Q: Did you go to school for creativity coaching?

A. I did. After I went to school for life coaching, 180 hours worth. When I graduated, in 2003, I opened my practice. At that time, I was already a writer and business trainer. Most of my clients were creative, so I took the certification path of creativity coaching became the first creativity coach certified in the U.S.

Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. Her crossover book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art will be published by North Light Books in July of 2011.