Milking the Word

The first week of January has stumbled off and here we are, in what becomes mid-January in a few days. Now that the decorations are packed away, school is back in session, and work is swinging along, it’s time to unwrap that Word you chose for 2015 and take a closer look.

It’s probably written in your journal a few pages back. Take a look at it, and spend some time with it.

What called you to that word?

What would you like the word help you do this week?

How can that special word help you make 2015 remarkable?

How will this word help you change?

It’s fun to ask different questions about the word and invite it into your life and journal in different ways. Writing about it helps clear away the “just a word” aspect and brings in into your lap, where you can make it come alive.

Quinn McDonald is seeing her word show up around every corner.

The Past (Tense?) of The Word of the Year

Note: Congratulations to snicklefritzen43! She’s the winner of the Natalie Goldberg book. I hope your word of the year brighten with the book! Contact me at quinncreative [at] yahoo [dot] com with a mailing address and the book will be on the way!

Many of you have chosen your Word for 2015. Some of you are trying out the last cull from the ones you thought of. This is excellent work, thinking about the word or phrase that will serve you well for 2015. How it will fit you, how you will have to make room for it in your life.

2014-calendarBefore we leave 2014, let’s think about the year that is quickly coming to a close. What word would you use to describe 2014? Did the word you chose for 2014 match your experience?

Was it close? It doesn’t have to be, after all. You could have had a big intention word and constantly worked on it, while 2014 plotted against you.

Or maybe your word was not big enough and it was an easy word, but not a challenge. Not everything has to be a challenge. Some things can be a treat.

How would you describe 2014 if you thought of it in an overall sense? Was it a year that pushed you to grow? One that you negotiated with a bit of stress but made it through? I like to pit my chosen Word of 2014 against the word (phrase) I’d use to describe 2014 and see how thy line up. Then see if that balance is reflected in my Word for 2015.

Here’s my own example. I started 2014 with the word Scatter, with the Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 2.22.31 PMintention of broadcasting ideas like seeds–in big, joyous arcs. Halfway through the year, I felt too scattered. I was doing too much, too little, not doing enough well enough and feeling confused. I switched the word to Distill, which I loved doing for the rest of the year.

The year 2014 had some tough challenges for me. There were a few big, crushing disappointments, and a few pleasant, unexpected developments. If I had to choose a phrase for 2014, I’d choose “Give up control.” Every time I try to control the future, the path is too narrow, too paved, too engineered. And every time I think I want that, I experience a big tear in my plans that shows just how foolish that idea is in my life.

Summary: My words for 2014 were both Scatter and Distill and the year was a year of Giving Up Control. The words were a good match for what I experienced, but it felt a bit removed from digging in.

Moving Ahead: My Word for 2015 is Heart.  Yes, I am the one who hates heart shapes, I have no talismans shaped as hearts (to my view), I don’t use them in my artwork. So why choose that word? Because I am working on a book, and I have slowly discovered that I need to write it with Heart, because that will make it come alive, while writing it with brain will just make it accurate. Because passing ideas through my heart will show me what my work really is, not what I think it should be. In a world where I give up control, when I do not compete, or become attached to winning, Heart will help me find balance at the point where I so often fail–going with what is soul-satifying instead of career building. Because soul-satifying will attract the participants who build career. And it’s time for the Tribe. You know, the one you are part of on this blog.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who keeps a Commonplace Journal.

Word of 2015: Ready? (and a Giveaway)

We are still weeks from the New Year. You are probably overwhelmed with cards and holiday planning. It’s about a week from the beginning of Hanukkah and two and a half weeks to Christmas. So why start thinking of the Word of the Year?

Words make the portrait. "Zappa" by konstantinek:

Words make the portrait. “Zappa” by konstantinek.

Because you can’t come up with it overnight. It takes a bit of planning, thinking, and trying on a few to see how they fit before you choose the right one.

Here are some ways to start choosing words:

1. Write down words you like. You can like the sound or the meaning, or just feel attracted to the word. Write them down without numbering them, scattered across the page, not in any order: Torque, branch, flood, heart, live, thrive, shine. Any words that appeal to you. Do that for at least a day.

2. Around each word, write some words you associate with the word you wrote. Let’s use “torque” as an example. You might write “revolution,” “turn,” “twist.”

Decide if any of those words are interesting for you. Let’s say you like the idea of “turn.” So write a few phrases with the word you like. “Turn around,” or “turn your head,” or even “do a good turn,” and “a turn for the better.” Keep working on word groups and phrases for a day or so.

3. Try out a few words and see if they fit. Do any phrases strike you as important, even if you don’t know why? Do they feel like words you’d love to use a lot? Words that call to you require a fitting session. Write the word on a piece of paper and carry it around for a day. Every time you touch the paper, think if the word fits you.

4. Narrow your words down. Choose a few–no more than three.  Work from there. Talk to your friends about what they think when they hear the word. You might get new ideas. Type it into Google and see what happens.

5. Sleep on it. Put the piece of paper with the word written on it under your pillow. Any interesting dreams? Any ideas or association within an hour of waking up?

The final word has to be rich and deep–something you can chew on for weeks51wed0j1hTL and months.

The Giveaway. Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments, along with the word, when you choose it. You have some time–but not enough to put it off.  On December 15th, I’ll choose one of the comments to win Wild Mind–Living The Writer’s Life a book by writer and writing teacher Natalie Goldberg.

The book is a great addition to your head and heart–how to balance daily responsibility with a commitment to write, coming to terms with success and failure, and how to find time to write.

—Quinn McDonald is choosing her word for next year.

December: Running Toward 2015

Rabbit, rabbit. OK, that’s taken care of. (It’s a wish for good luck for the whole month. You can read more about this English custom at Yankee magazine.)

sower2014 is heading toward the end of its run and into a new year. Now is a good time to start thinking of a new word for 2015. Don’t share yet–there will be a blog later in the month with a random giveaway, in which we talk about words and choices.

You can, however, post your old word (someone might want it for next year), and mention how the word worked for you. Good, bad, or indifferent, keeping that word in front of you is an excellent way to steer your life.

Maybe you changed your word, like I did. The first one (scatter) wore me outDistill and the next, a metaphorical opposite (distill) served me in many ways. It still is serving me, and I’m glad I changed.

Whether you are a writer, an artist, own your business, are independently wealthy, it’s good to ask yourself a few questions before you start next year. A few questions will help you decide where to spend your energy well, and unless you are too young to read, or you are a kitten, your energy is limited.

What’s the most surprising thing you found out about yourself this year?  When did it happen? What surprised you?

What do you want to change about yourself in 2015? Even if your plans are to change the world, the best place to start is with yourself. You’ll probably need some tools and protective gear for big changes.

What steps will make that change happen? No good engineer works without a plan. No good artist does, either.

How do you plan on putting those steps into action? A plan without a deadline is a daydream. What are some milestones and what are realistic time periods?

Who will be your support in making change? We don’t live in a world alone. Your change will ripple out and find support and criticism.

If you plan on taking on more of something (more work, another child, helping a parent), what will you give up to make room for this change in your life? This is an important part of taking on something new. Your time won’t magically expand, so it’s good to think about what you will let go.

—Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who gets very busy at this time of year.



Checking on the Word of the Year

This time of year the time seems to pick up speed and race toward the end of the year. The days are noticeably shorter and we begin to become more focused on the end of the year.

A good time, then to check in with your word of the year. Is it still serving you well? Are you satisfied with your choice? How often do you think of it or consider what it means in your life?

Half-way through the year, I changed my word from “scatter” to “distill.” It was

It's not a painting; it's an open space in the wall, overlooking Arizona's desert. Beyond is the Bar-T-Bar ranch, with the San Francisco mountain range in the background.

It’s not a painting; it’s an open space in the wall, overlooking Arizona’s desert. Beyond is the Bar-T-Bar ranch, with the San Francisco mountain range in the background.

worthwhile. “Scatter” was what was happening to my life–too many open doors, too many choices to keep them all balanced. What started out as some far-flung ideas ended up as not getting enough of the right work done.

It was less of a paring down and more of a taking the essence of my work–distilling–that worked well. I’m glad I made the switch.

How do I weigh the choice? I write the word on random calendar days and see what has happened since the last time I considered it. Because I look at my calendar on the weekly view before the daily view, I see the word coming and going through the week.

Tell me how you remember your word and what it has meant to you so far.

-Quinn McDonald loves watching words make meaning, whether or not she changes them.

Checking in on The Word of the Year

The year is touching the half-gone mark. How is your word serving you? Does it seem like a touchstone? A millstone tied to your ankle? Do you remember it?

Did you have to dredge it up like a boat mooring that’s been submerged all summer?

Your word for 2014 doesn’t have to stay the same for the whole year. If it’s not surprising you, helping you, teaching you, it may be time for a switch.

I’d chosen “scatter” and it is the word that has gotten the most mileage since I started words of the year. I wanted to try out new ideas, techniques, coaching styles. I wanted to write and draw, do collage, teach, re-design my studio, find a sport I like so I can do more of it. I’m exhausted. I also wanted to start a newsletter, network, build an audience, find a niche, create a Facebook Page for Inner Hero seekers. It was overwhelming and I knew I’d do poorly on most of it. Because most of it wasn’t grounded on any one value, one idea.

I’m not sorry I chose “scatter” –I learned a huge amount, including my limits.

An old-school distilling device.

An old-school distilling device.

So I’m stepping up to say I’m changing my word. Halfway through the year, I have experienced the joys and perils of “scatter” as much as I needed to.

I’m choosing “distill.” Almost the opposite of scatter.

I’ve filled the pot on the left with ideas, techniques, to-do lists, explorations and experiments. Now I’m going to think things through, let them ripen in the glow of the Operating System of the Universe and see what drips out. This feels really good.

I’ve been doing minimalist collages and that feels like it needs more time and development. So do some classes–writing classes–poetry and capturing some personal Truth–what each of us know about our life, but have wasted time allowing others to define for us.  And finally, I want to honor the Inner Hero.

How is your work serving you? Is it time for a Mid-Summer Change of Heart (and Word)?

–Quinn McDonald is watching summer settle in and is emotionally estivating.




Checking in on the Word of the Year

Moonrise over Houston. The bright full moon is caught under the wing, as we turn west toward Phoenix.

Moonrise over Houston. The bright full moon is caught under the wing, as we turn west toward Phoenix.

April is already half over and I haven’t checked in on your Word of the Year. Do you remember it? Is it serving you well? If not, you may find that putting it down and choosing a new word is just what you need.

“Scatter” is my word. It’s been very interesting. Some days, I do something from all parts of my life, some days I explore the edges of something I’ve done for a long time.

On the business front: I’m amazed at the people I sit next to on airplanes. So many people crushed by their own lives. Who flee into “busy” to give themselves self-worth. Who will talk to me about their lives although they don’t know me. Very interesting.

On the coaching front: I’m grateful for clients who recommend me. Very grateful. It’s a wonderful way to accumulate more gifted people who want to work on change.

On the creative front: I’m exploring collage again. Deeply. Collage with Monsoon papers and words. Always those words! And after returning to my Commonplace Journal, I’m thinking I need to teach a class that includes . . . . a lot.

On the identity front: I’m so interesting in how people perceive others. Now that I have identified as an outsider artist, I have found that I’m not alone. There are creatively hungry people out there. And yes, people who just like to mess around. Room for both!

On the art teaching front: I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Madeline Island class makes. The long, cold winter slowed class enrollment, so I’m holding my breath and hoping for a few more people who want to retreat into creativity, explore writing and art and make a journal —all in early June!

What’s your experience with the word you chose?

-Quinn McDonald is thinking of working on a plane-coaching model, because she seems to be doing a lot of listening to people’s stories.

Checking in on Your Word of the Year

It’s time again. How is your word doing? Is it directing you? Helping you? Slowing you down? Do you remember it? Do you wish you had chosen another word? There is no rule that says you can’t. If you can’t remember your word, or wish you had chosen something different, try that. A word that is not serving your creativity is a word that needs to be updated.

Your creativity needs to be nurtured and encouraged. With words, with actions, with the best help you can give it.

This is the banner of  's blog:  Be sure to read her review of The Night Circus. Link is below.

This is the banner of Morigan Aoife’s ‘s blog: Be sure to read her review of The Night Circus. Link is below.


My word for the year is “scatter” and I’m doing it. If all went well, I am flying home after filming the DVD this week. I wrote blog posts ahead of time, so if I came home tired, I could rest and not beat myself up for not posting a fresh idea.

I’ve never done a DVD, and I did it in support of the Inner Hero Creative Art Journal book. I was hesitant. But writers have an obligation to live what they write,  so I had to stand up and support my own inner heroes and support others in the creation of their own inner heroes.  If I don’t create a tribe around the book, no one will be able to warm their hands by the fire of creativity.

I’m also creating a new class for my corporate clients. I rarely talk about my life as a corporate trainer, but it’s a big part of my life. And I’m stepping up and creating a class on innovation and change. I see the need for it when I teach business writing. So I’m creating it. Gulp. Will it sell? Will clients ask for it? Is it risky? Well, sure, but if I chose “scatter,” I better try the risky things.

How is your word doing? What are you doing with it? Does it need to be changed, updated, brought back into your life? Leave an answer; you’ll help others.

–Quinn McDonald remembers that her mother-in-law used to say, “Do it now. You are a long time dead.” So she’s doing it.

I’m reading The Night Circus, which is how I found Morigan Aoife’s blog on the book. It’s interesting.


The Right Word (Guest Post)

Quinn’s note: Today I read an email from Creative Crocheter, a friend and long-time acquaintance. She was explaining the Word of the Year to her friends and family. The thought that went into choosing her word for this year was impressive enough,  I asked if she would be a guest poster. She generously agreed. Each month I’ll ask one of you to check in as a guest poster and tell me how your word is doing.

*   *   *   *   *   *
On the other hand, gathering my thoughts about listening has had its own rewards. I’ve been reminded of the many ways in which my body, soul, and spirit speak to me.

Listening to my body is the obvious one. Tired? Get more sleep. Hungry? Eat something healthy. Weak or stiff? Exercise. Obvious, yes, though not always heard.

Listening to my soul is a little more subtle. What is touching my heart with joy or sadness? What is engaging my mind? What is challenging my will to follow through on the choices I have made?
Listening to my spirit seems least direct, such as through physical metaphors, if I ask “What might my spirit be trying to tell me here?” when a physical problem lingers. When my shoulders are tense and achy, what am I shouldering that isn’t mine to carry? When an infection resists treatment, what might I be allowing to fester—a guilt or resentment that needs to be cleared out, opened to light and air, so it can drain and heal? When food isn’t digesting properly, what am I having trouble stomaching or what have I swallowed from what others are “feeding” me that isn’t good for me?

How do you listen to yourself, to others, to nature, to God? I was reminded of the role of silence in allowing deep listening to take place when I read this recent post on a favorite blog [Madmanknitting]

When was the last time you were in silence so deep you could hear a still small whisper?

My answers to those questions have led me back around to my 2013 Word of the Year: “Home.” Not just a place, for me, “home” is anywhere I am heard and where I can truly listen. Yes, I am grateful that my physical home gives me the space and quiet to let myself listen, to be still and feel safe, to find comfort(ing) and peace. And yes, surrounding myself with colorful, soft, handmade beauty contributes to that environment. More than that, though, I am truly thankful for the people in my life with whom I feel “at home” and who reflect back to me so I can really hear myself, encouraging me to listen past pain and hurt to a deeper level of knowing.

AtlanticSunrise_632_25Aug2013Then—surprise—after all that listening, my 2014 Word of the Year popped out of my reading this morning: “Light.”

Such a rich word with so many uses:
As a noun: a stream of photons, as in the attached photo; a lamp or source of illumination; an insight that comes in a flash, as in “the light dawned.”
As a verb: to ignite a fire; to land, as a bird “lights upon a branch”
As an adjective: without much weight, as in “my burden is light”; bright or pale, as a color that is “light blue”; cheerful or even frivolous, as in “light entertainment”; easily digested, as in “eating a light supper”
Even in an adverbial form (lightly): delicately, with grace.
And those are just the ones I jotted down before I looked in the dictionary. Where does “light” show up in your life? What will you choose as your 2014 Word of the Year?

Whether or not you celebrate, as I do at this time of year, the coming of Jesus as the “Light of the World,” may your deep listening lead you home to the loving light that glows within you.

CreativeCrocheter feels “at home” with Quinn, who really listens, lighting the creative path.

Let Go, Let’s Go, and Choosing

Several of you have asked what my word for 2013 is. Rubber Rabbit, who knows a good deal about doing and giving up, chose the same word: Let Go.

treeHere’s why I chose it: It’s something I need to learn how to do better. To look at my work plate and let some of it go. For every (significant) new project I take on, I will create a guestimate of how much time and effort it will take, and then take the equivalent amount of work off the plate.

As I have discovered over and over again, I can’t have it all, and certainly not at the same time. I want to teach online classes, in person classes, coach creative people, finish the inner hero book, cook up another book (new concept, still half-baked), teach a new class  to introduce the inner hero book, put out an e-book, teach classes with all the contributors to the book. . .the list goes on. Even if I put all the ideas and tasks on a timeline, there is not enough time. So I will have to Let Go of some of the ideas.

There are emotions that are no longer serving me. Guilt, regret, some anger, fear. I’ve squeezed all the learning out of them I can. They won’t compost into joy, energy or peace. Time to Let Go.

I have too many art supplies. Projects I thought I’d do, supplies I thought I’d need, purchases of materials I thought I’d have time for. And never did. Items I have no talent for and am not interested in learning. Time to Let Go to people and places who will love them and use them.

There are possessions in my house that I am holding onto for reasons of guilt. Things I don’t want or use, but that my parents thought were important enough to cram into the few possessions they brought with them. They need to bring someone else something else. Keeping something out of guilt is a terrible reason to own it, make space for it. I need to make space for space.

And then, a slight variation. It’s time to get into action. Not huge leaping ahead, but the smallest thing that I am capable of doing. Not making a video, or publishing an e-book, but doing tiny steps toward figuring out how to make it possible. Looking where I want to go, seeing if the road is clear, and then, well, Let’s Go!

Quinn McDonald is looking forward to the discoveries of 2013.