Creative Play Brings Answers

Creativity is an important part of every life. Business, art, investing–you need creativity in it all. How to bring creativity into your life? Play.
Creative play is a vital part of being serious. Unstructured play allows your mind to run free. Most often it runs to fetch you good ideas.

We often don’t recognize the ideas as good because they are dressed up as something we don’t understand or think we need. When we play we quit focusing on the problem and allow our thoughts to roam. And that’s what allows us to think of many good answers. Use the ones you need, save the ones you don’t use. They’ll be useful later.

 Start by playing.  Johnathan Feinstein lets you noodle with his geometric elements to make abstract collages with your keyboard.

Read a lot? Make a multi-strand bookmark to keep track of all the parts of a book you love.

“Illustration Friday is a weekly creative outlet/participatory art exhibit for illustrators and artists of all skill levels. It was designed to challenge participants creatively. We believe that every person has a little creative bone in their body. Illustration Friday just gives a no-pressure, fun excuse to use it. It’s a chance to experiment and explore and play with visual art. So welcome, novices and pros alike” –From the website.

Love fabric art? Check out Sue Beiweiss’s blog. Her fabric folders are a great idea.

Wabi-Sabi is a fascination for me. The Japanese aesthetic of honoring the old, worn, and incomplete lead to quiet creativity and simplicity. Some resources for those who want to explore wabi-sabi. If you are as fascinated as I am by this reverence for the simple, the worn, and the unfinished,  keep an eye on my newsletter, Imagination Works. I teach a journal writing class based on the principles of wabi-sabi, and the announcements are always in the newsletter.

Remember your prom? These kids will. They went to “Stuck at the Prom” and they made their prom clothes entirely of duct tape. Dresses, tuxes, shoes, purses, wraps (pun intended) all made of duct tape. Who knew it came in so many colors? Sponsored by Duck brand duct tape.

Wish you could find a website dedicated to Photoshop techniques for artists? Get busy, you have lots to look at!

–Quinn McDonald is an artist, writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at

Choosing a Wabi Sabi Life

The moon lay on her back in the sky, her thin ivory rim tipped up. Cupped gently in her hollow was the indigo sky, dotted with stars. Two straight lines stitched past the horns of the moon. They were contrails, side-lit by the bright, reflected light. Next to the contrails is the constellation Orion. I always look for it when I walk at night. Often I can just see the belt. Tonight I could see the entire constellation: the powerful Hunter standing next to the river Eridanus with his two hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, fighting Taurus, the bull.

OrionI was walking at night. The sidewalks were deserted. In the distance, I could hear a train whistle calling as it crossed the street grade and raced into the blank and mountainous desert. Who is on the train? Where are they going at night, where will they wake up?

In the next block the intense smell of orange blossom washed over the block walls that provide privacy. I could just see the blossoms on an orange tree. I know the smell from perfumes, but no perfume has such a rich, deep green smell that carries the hope of next summer’s glowing ember oranges. I touched one of the polished, shiny dark leaves. I pulled one of the blossom branches to me, and, making careful that there were no bees in the bunch, touched the flowers to my tongue. The neroli oil washed over my tongue in a sweet and bitter wave. It is as if I had bitten into a perfumed orange. The branch sprang away from me.moon

The houses have their curtains drawn. I could hear faint sounds from the TVs. Someone was watching explosions and laughing. In the next house someone was not making it on American Idol. I kept walking through the shining night air. This was my gift alone.

I have chosen this life–right now it is lonely and hard. But walking through the night with all five senses is a feast I find indescribably life affirming. I feel alive and aware. I am in one moment at a time. It is an enormous gift to see all this, to taste it, touch it, to hear the sounds of the desert at night. I am grateful. The people who are in front of the TV will never know this, but they are satisfied, too. They don’t want to be walking outside in the dark. I’m glad for their comfort and glad for my own experience.

And in that second of peace, I know the heart of wabi-sabi.

Images: Orion:  Moon:

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at

Wabi Sabi Journaling in Tempe, AZ

March 12: Wabi Sabi Journaling In-Person at
Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ

Wabi sabi, a Japanese aesthetic, honors the old, the incomplete and the unfinished. It’s an interesting topic for journal writing, because a study of the aesthetic leads to choosing the real over the artificial; simple over fussy; handmade over mass produced.

I’m running a seminar at Changing Hands this Wednesday, March 12, 2008. You’ll get an idea of what creativity coaching looks like as well as learn more about Wabi Sabi. Bring a journal for maximum fun.

It should be an interesting evening at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, at the Southwest corner of McClintock and Guadalupe. The class runs from 6:30 pm to 8:30pm. Bring a journal! The class is $20 and you can register, by calling the store at 480-730-0205.

Lemon Posset: the Wabi Sabi Dessert

When I saw this dessert in the Los Angeles Times, I couldn’t believe it would work. When I tried it, it was a great surprise and delight–it works perfectly. The dessert is Meyer Lemon Posset and the recipe, while ancient, appeared in a modern version in the L.A. Times courtesy of Regina Schramblings.

A posset was originally a drink developed the Middle Ages. It was made with cream, sugar, spices, and some sort of spirit, often ale. The alcohol would thicken the drink. Over time, recipe got more complicated, with eggs and flavorings added. Now it’s come back to its original simple creation, and we can be thankful for it.

lemon possetIt’s the perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day–it’s worth the calorie splurge. It has a heavenly tart, fragrant, and sweet taste, and an exquisite texture. And it’s not hard to make. Three ingredients combine to create the perfect meaning of the word ‘synergy.’ Cream, sugar and Meyer lemons. Together they taste so much better than each ingredient on its own.

Why wabi sabi? Because as a recipe, it has all the elements of wabi sabi–it honors the old, the simple, and is the joy of its creation. It doesn’t take long to make, but there are no shortcuts, and each step has a special joy. It requires waiting and the wait is worthwhile. Meyer Lemon Posset is a perfect wabi sabi dessert.

key limesIf Meyer lemons are not available, use Key Limes. They are the same citrus fruit that goes into Key Lime Pie. If you live within easy reach of a Hispanc market, they are also called Colada Limon. I’m not a fan of Persian limes–the ones most commonly sold. But a good ripe lime will work in this recipe.

A Meyer lemon is yellow and fragrant-it’s round, not oval, with a finer textured skin than a standard lemon. When left on the tree, they will become yellow, but they are most often picked, packed and shipped while mostly green. They have a soft flavor, intensely tropical and tart, rather than sour.

The recipe
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice

Combine cream and sugar and heat over low heat, stirring, till it simmers and sugar is dissolved. No need to boil.
Cool the mixture to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
While the mixture is cooling, juice enough Meyer lemons (about 5) to create 1/4 cup juice. Use the pulp, but remove the seeds.
Combine the juice into the cooled cream mixture, stir thoroughly and immediately pour into small bowls for individual serving. Chill for at least 4 hours to allow the mixture to set up. It will have the consistency of sour cream, and will be a lovely ivory color.

Serving suggestion: you can certainly eat it the way it is. You can top it with fresh or frozen fruit. Blueberries add a nice color contrast, mangoes create a taste explosion. If you can’t bear the calories, you can also serve it in smaller portions by putting together some perfect berries and putting a generous dollop of posset over the fruit.

No matter how you serve it, eat it slowly, breathing fully between bites to get the fragrance into your head for maximum enjoyment.

–Images: Key limes: Posset: Quinn McDonald
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She lives in Arizona and wishes her house in Virginia would sell. While she’s waiting for her chef husband to sell the house, she’s rediscovering her own cooking skills, including this dessert recipe. See her work at (c) 2008 All rights reserved.

Journal Keeping: More than One

When I teach journal-writing courses, I often hear, “I’ve started a lot of journals, but I keep abandoning them.” There are many reasons we abandon our journals–because we are perfectionists, because we are guilty that we don’t write every day, because we don’t know what to write.handmade journals

A solution I offer to my classes is simple: keep more than one journal. Write in whichever one you choose. “Oh, no!” I hear you yelling, “That will never work!”
“Ummmm, why not?” I ask.
Keeping more than one journal is fine. Just date each entry. I have one journal that is almost square, and has heavy paper, so I like it for watercolors. I have another one that is small and lies flat because of clever binding. I like to take it with me in airplanes because I can write in a cramped area. Another one is larger, and I like to use it for playing around with ideas.

Journals don’t have to be neat, tidy, all the same size, or from the same store. They can be messy, have pages torn out, have ideas that never happened in them.

You can sort them by topic–dreams in one, ideas in another, family stories in a third. You can sort them by paper type or where you will use them.

No matter which way you choose, keep a journal. Your life is worth examining, even occasionally. And when you read them, you will be amazed at what you remember.

See my three different set of journal-prompt cards: perfectionists, one-sentence, and wabi sabi.

–Quinn McDonald teaches journal-keeping and runs seminars on personal and business communication. See her work at (c) 2007 All rights reserved.

Wabi-sabi Wastewater

Here in the studio, it’s warm, but outside it’s snowing. One of the interesting things about Lemuria is that it’s not a 4-season kind of place. It’s the weather you need, but you can’t control it. So today I’m inside, working on handmade paper bowls.

brushwaterOne of them has been painted gold on the inside, and I’m rinsing the brush in water, when I notice how beautiful the water looks. I swish the brush around again, and the gold flicks along the surface in spirals.brushwater2gold.jpg

I’m entranced. Then embarrassed. Wasting time. Not being productive. As I pour the waste water down the drain, I have another idea. What would it look like to paint with this water–to use it instead of throw it out? Won’t know, I just rinsed it down the drain.

wastewater paperBut there are more bowls to be painted, so I salvage some paper scraps, crumple them up, and dip them in the wastewater. Straightening them out, I hang them on the towel rack and work some more. Use the same paper, dip it in another bucket of wastewater. Hmmm. Looks like I have a collage background, or maybe paper for a notecard.

Yep, wabi-sabi works in art. Maybe just as well as life.

(c)2007 Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved. Images by Q.McDonald.