Urban Naturalist at Night

Night walking is very different from day walking, particularly in the city. Most people are home, so the porch lights are on, and most windows are dark, or lit by the light of screens. There is the literal feeling of being an “outsider” because no one sits on their front porch at night.

Moonplant: walking at night. © Quinn McDonald, 2018

Surrounded by people, you feel totally alone, but not necessarily lonely. There is much that connects us in the night.

The day’s work is done, the family is together. Or maybe that’s just what we would like to think. As I walk down streets, I have no idea what happens behind those doors. I am free to make up what I want to think. For now.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She walks every day, sometimes at night, in the invisible, visible world.

The Night Balcony

Inside my house,
Inside my mind
the lights are on.
The books shift, wanting to be read.

Night lightning in Phoenix. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

Night lightning in Phoenix. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

My to-do list stretches, reaching for another ream of paper.
My phone buzzes, chirps, and rattles with impatience.
My cat sinks his claws into my thigh, hungry for attention.

Dear God, it’s like being nibbled to death by ducks.
All this quiet, so I can work.

I push the heavy slider wide,
and step onto the night balcony.
The light rail leaves a station, clanging on its way.
Cars honk, people laughing, cursing, singing, 14 floors below.
Lights shimmer, blink and fuss, directing traffic,
calling for attention.

On the night balcony
all that noise is someone else’s
And I can fade into the stillness,
and be gone.

—Quinn McDonald is a practitioner of poetic healing.

Pressing Matters

© Quinn McDonald, 2016

© Quinn McDonald, 2016

We sit pressed close
breathing each other’s air
Knees and thighs touching
arms exploring, nudging, shyly avoiding eye contact.

In another world, we’d be lovers
canoodling up some turbulence.
Here we are strangers
Wordlessly skirmishing over arm rests at 35,000 feet.

Quinn McDonald is a practitioner of poetic medicine.

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


Building on the Past

Almost no one I talk to had a happy childhood. We mourn our past as the present trickles by. We want to live it over, do it better, get the mom or dad we really needed.

We can't re-write the past.

What we are doing, of course, is using our adult selves to direct what we should have had as kids. What would happen if you asked yourself, “What would I be today if I had the childhood I so badly needed?” Maybe you did have the childhood you needed then to become the person you are today.  You are you because of your past. You learned lessons you could not have learned had you had that ideal childhood. What did you learn? Maybe it was patience, self-discipline, discernment, independence, self-reliance, or determination. Maybe you learned how to survive. Not a bad skill.

When we treat our past like a swamp, we stoke it until it takes over our present, eating at us, whining at us to blame everyone who didn’t reach out. No doubt they should have, but they didn’t. And tomorrow, they still didn’t. And meanwhile, you are missing out on today’s life.

As we go through the days, mourning our past, we rip each day off the calendar and trample it beneath our feet. The calendar hanging on the wall gets thinner and thinner, as our days get fewer. We still grind each day beneath our feet, treading it into the past that does not change.

What if we handled that calendar page differently? What if we wrote on it–across the big numbers, around the margins, filling it with what we accomplished, how we moved forward, how we celebrate our skills? Then take the calendar page and tuck it back into the end of the calendar.

As the days run on, instead of the proof of loss under your feet, you have a record of what you have created, what you have made. The calender is a bit wobbly with all those loose pages, but it stays full and stuffed with facts, growth, with reminders of how far we have come.

We cannot change the past, but we can change how we see it. We can use it as rich ground to grow our future. Our lives can be the journals that track our steady movement ahead. To become the people we always wanted to be.

Quinn McDonald is a journaler of  life. She did not have a happy childhood, but she is having a hell of a time now. She’s the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art.

Join Me at Valley Ridge, May 5-6, 2012

It’s exciting news—my newest class will be premiering at Valley Ridge Art Studio (near Madison, Wisconsin) this coming May 5 and 6. Postcards from The Other Side of Your Brain combines collage, found poetry, creative visualization, intuitive writing, ink used as watercolor, and surface decoration fun into a two-day class that uses both sides of the brain. Registration begins today, January 14.

Collage card © Quinn McDonald All rights reserved

The idea from the class came from many visits from the inner critic––that voice that says you aren’t good enough and don’t have enough of whatever you need to create.

I’ve spent years trying to chase the critic out of my studio, my decisions, my heart, only to see him sneak back in with his message of lack and attack. I hid him under the doormat, the linen closet, and the laundry room while I was working. I drew images of him and tore them up and burned them. But he came back. Pretty soon,  I was so scared of finding the inner critic has sneaked back, I was patrolling the borders of my creativity. A lot of the time. Not doing art.

Then I had a huge idea: what if I stopped chasing him out and invited him in—to meet the inner crusaders who protect and inspire me? What are inner crusaders? Well, if I have an inner critic, I have inner crusaders–an alchemist, a cartographer (who gets me out of tight creative spots), a tightrope walker, a lion tamer (the inner critic can be tough), a judge, a mathematician, a locksmith. . . you get the idea. Inner resources to support my creative source.

Monsoon paper © Quinn McDonald

What if we invited the inner critic into the big circle of our imagination, along with our crusaders and hashed out the difficult project? After all, sometimes the inner critic has a point–there are some times I am following the wrong creative idea, using a poor-choice technique. Wouldn’t that result in some interesting ideas, thoughts, projects, and answers? It did for me.

And I’m bringing the process to Valley Ridge to share with you.

Using both sides of your brain—the left side’s logic and order and the right side’s intuitive creative force, you are going to create postcards from interesting and imaginative crusaders who protect and serve your creativity. The completed pieces will contain iconography and powerful language, color and wisdom to support your creative journey.

Ink as watercolor with found poetry. © Quinn McDonald, All rights reserved.

And yes, we will be making Monsoon Papers. Uncontrolled and always wonderful, monsoon papers will form a holder for the tarot-like cards you make.

Best of all, you’ll spend time at the very special place that is Valley Ridge to nurture your body and spirit in a natural setting. The night before we start, we’ll share a meal (and wine!) and talk about what’s important to us as creative souls.

I’m so happy to be sharing this. I can’t wait to meet everyone!

Read more about the class (and register) here.

-Quinn McDonald makes postcards from the other side of her brain with ink-stained fingers from an ink-stained heart.

Day 19: The Work of Writing

Day 19: What’s turned up for you as you write? (or, start with the first post in the series.)

Ink and watercolor pencil on paper.

Wisdom from the comments:
From Dawn Herring: “Yes, we need to pause and pay attention to the wisdom we hear as we write in our journals. It can be rather forthright, definitely intuitive, and sometimes obvious without our realizing it.”

From Marjorie: “. . .more often than not, I go back and read one or two (or more) of my prior posts before beginning to write. It helps me orient myelf, but I also notice things I’ve written that I hadn’t noticed while writing them. Or I’ll see what I’ve written in a different light than when I wrote it.”

From Daien: “After getting off to a great start, five days in I did what I usually do, which is to stop. What was different was that I continued to read your posts and everyone’s comments, as well as continued to count myself one of the sojourners. But I wasn’t writing, and I wasn’t walking.”

*     *     *     *

Like Daien, I haven’t been writing every day. I’m still trying to find the time to write without interruption. In the morning, which is really a preferred time, things need to get done. If I put it off, I lose East Coast time–the time when the East Coast is awake and starting the business day.

I’ve been walking later in the day–at lunch–because the weather is perfect, and this is the time of year I want to walk and know I’m in the desert. January is a time when Brittlebush and a few other trees bloom. I want to experience those subtle desert seasons, so I have to build in a time to walk in the dry riverbed of Skunk Creek.  I’m trading working early morning for a lunchtime walk. This won’t work if I’m teaching, but it works for when I’m not. So I’m writing when I get back from the walk. I have the most benefit of meditation then.

And I’ve made another switch. I’m writing on the computer. Shocking, I know. All that truth about having to hand write. And I still want to write in a journal. But I’m experimenting with writing on a computer. For several reasons: I type really fast, and can get more written down–process more. I’ve been touch-typing since I was 10, and I simply feel very comfortable typing. So comfortable, that I type my pages with my eyes shut. It keeps me from editing, and I can do what I was doing using a pen before–ripping through words down to meaning.

I separate journaling from this kind of writing. For me, journaling is a creative act that encompasses both visual expression and writing. And I do that in heavy-paper journals. I might do some collage, I might build a journal. But the pages I write after walking help me dig down into the creative well and make sure the stream that comes up from that is a fresh spring of ideas. That work is best done, at least for me, with a keyboard, an open heart and closed eyes.

What discoveries have you made? Have you quit, but still lurked with us? Let us know how this time is working for you.  It’s not about success and failure. You are exploring the wayward path of your wandering. Where have you walked and what have you seen?

-Quinn McDonald is a writer who is digging for her own creative source for 30 days in the company of some interesting people.