My new book: Motivation for Creative People

Cover of Motivation for Creative PeopleAfter 18 months, four drafts and countless cups of coffee, my new book Motivation for Creative People is finally complete.

You can pick up the ebook edition from Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play and Smashwords.

There’s also a paperback edition, beautifully designed and illustrated by the wonderful Irene Hoffman.

So what’s the book about?

How to stay creative while gaining money, fame, and reputation

Psychological research confirms what we know in our hearts: we are at our most creative when we are driven by intrinsic motivation – working for the sheer joy of it, regardless of rewards. Focusing on extrinsic motivation – such as money, fame, or other rewards – can kill your creativity.

Which is all well and good, but if you’re a creative professional you can’t ignore the rewards:

You need money to enjoy your life and to fund your projects. You may not need to be famous, but you do need a good reputation within your professional network. And if you’re in a fame-driven industry you need a powerful public profile, whether or not you enjoy the limelight.

There’s a precious balance at play – get it wrong, and you could seriously damage your creativity and even your career.

I’ve written Motivation for Creative People to help you strike the right balance, so that you stay creative even as you pursue your professional ambitions.

Did I succeed?

The answer from my beta readers has been overwhelmingly “Yes!”.

I also showed the book to Steven Pressfield, author of the creativity classic The War of Art and a string of successful novels. As a bestselling author and Hollywood veteran, Steve knows a thing or two about balancing creativity and success. Here’s what he had to say after reading the book:

Mark McGuinness is a rare cat – part poet, part coach for creative professionals, part old-time, overeducated Brit who thinks deeply about stuff you and I have never heard of.

His extraordinary new book Motivation for Creative People is a deep, unsentimental dive into the quotidian realities of the artist’s life – how to stay sane, pay the rent, refrain from murdering your spouse, all while pursuing your calling with purity of heart and nobility of intention.

This is a How To manual at the highest level from a man who has lived the life and has watched and worked intimately with hundreds of others who’ve done the same. Indispensable reading for anyone in a creative field who is seeking to achieve not just a flash of brilliance but a lifelong career.

Steven Pressfield, bestselling author of The War of Art

click here to learn more about Motivation for Creative People.

Kabuki: Lessons from 400 Years of Creative Tradition

Kabuki star Ebizo Ichikawa XI in action, from Ebizo’s YouTube channel

Last Christmas I visited the Kabuki-za theater in Tokyo to experience kabuki—one of Japan’s traditional forms of drama, dating back to 1603. As the curtain slid aside, it revealed a world of breathtaking beauty: a stage like a painted scroll, where actors in bright costumes and makeup acted, sang, danced, and fought. In one play, a riotous samurai battle climaxed with spectacular acrobatics. In the next, a lover driven mad by separation danced with a hallucinated vision of his former sweetheart. It was as though a book of prints by Hokusai or Hiroshige had come to life in front of me.

The actor playing the crazed lover is called Ichikawa Ebizo XI. This is his actor’s title, not his birth name. Why “the eleventh”? Because he is the eleventh member of the Ichikawa family to bear this title, most of whom have been blood relatives, with others inheriting the name via adoption. Ebizo’s father was Ichikawa Ebizo X, and his grandfather Ichikawa Ebizo IX. The lineage stretches back to Ichikawa Ebizo I, who trod the boards in Tokyo, then called Edo, in the 17th century.

[Read more…]

The Art of Emotional Pricing

Dollar bills folded into heart shapes

How much should I charge?

I hear this question a lot from coaching clients wrestling with the perennial question of how much a unique piece of art, or a stylish design, or an engrossing story, or a transformational creative service is worth in hard cash.

There are many answers to this question, and several well-known methods for working out your prices, such as benchmarking against your competitors; or deciding how much you want to earn in a year and dividing that by the number of sales you expect to make; or calculating and demonstrating the value of the work to your buyer. Sometimes I’ll use one or more of these methods to help my client work out their fees.

But with a particular type of client I give a different answer:

I think you already know.

[Read more…]

Is Inspiration a Thing of the Past?

Nine Muses on a classical frieze

The Nine Muses

Once upon a time it was taken for granted that the source of creativity was not the artist but the spirits, gods, or Muses, via inspiration. The word “inspiration” comes from the same Latin root as “respiration,” suggesting that the artist “breathed in” influences from outside. The opening of Homer’s Odyssey is a typical invocation to the Muse, imploring the goddess to touch the poet with divine inspiration:

Tell me, O Muse, th’ adventures of the man
That having sack’d the sacred town of Troy,
Wander’d so long at sea; what course he ran
By winds and tempests driven from his way:
That saw the cities, and the fashions knew
Of many men, but suffer’d grievous pain
To save his own life, and bring home his crew;
Though for his crew, all he could do was vain,
They lost themselves by their own insolence,
Feeding, like fools, on the Sun’s sacred kine;
Which did the splendid deity incense
To their dire fate. Begin, O Muse divine.

Homer, The Odyssey, Book I, lines 1–12, translated by Thomas Hobbes

The tradition of invoking the Muse lasted a long time. Here is Milton going through the same ritual two-and-a-half thousand years later:

[Read more…]

Video: Making a Living From Your Creative Work (plus events in London, New York and Chicago)

  • Why do you create? For love? For money? or both?
  • Balancing creative inspiration and professional ambition
  • The surprisingly creative potential of business models
  • Selling books – getting the basics right
  • Beyond selling books – creative ways to grow your income

These are some of the topics covered in this 45-minute video I recorded with my colleague the writer Orna Ross, in the run-up to this week’s IndieReCon conference.

The conference is for authors, so some of the conversation deals with writer-specific issues, but much of it – especially the parts about motivation and business models – is applicable to creatives working in any field. I hope you find it helpful.

If you’re a writer, I recommend you check out IndieRecon 2015, a free conference running online later this week, 15 – 17 April. I’m taking part in a panel at Foyle’s Bookshop in London on Friday, which will be streamed online (details below).

Long-time readers of Lateral Action may have noticed this blog has been a little quiet in recent months, but fear not, there’s plenty more to come. I’ve been busy behind the scenes, helping my coaching clients and writing my new book, Motivation for Creative People. Once the book is done I’ll have more time for other projects, so watch this space.

These days I’m mostly focused on writing and coaching, so I don’t make as many public appearances as I used to, but in the next few weeks I’m taking part in some great events on both sides of the Atlantic – if you can make it to any of the following, it would be great to see you there:

London, 17 April – London Book Fair Indie Author Fringe Festival

Live at Foyle’s: Top Indie Author Advice Panel: Rachel Abbot, Mark Dawson, Steena Holmes, CJ Lyons, Mark McGuinness, Nick Stephenson, chaired by Joanna Penn, 3.30pm BST

This is a live panel for IndieRecon at the iconic Foyle’s Bookshop, where we will be answering questions about self-publishing.

My fellow panellists are highly successful writers and independent publishers, mostly in the fiction sphere; I will be fielding questions about self-publishing non-fiction books and how this can complement your other products and services.

New York, 30 April & 1 May – 99U Conference

1-2-1 coaching for delegates, all day

For the third year running I will be coaching delegates at the 99U Conference for creative professionals in New York City. As a long-time writer for and a co-author of two 99U books, I’m a huge fan of the work Scott Belsky and his colleagues do to empower creatives, and coaching delegates at the conference has become a highlight of my year.

The conference has sold out, although you might be lucky and get a ticket via the waitlist. If you do get to the conference you can book a 1-2-1 coaching session with me, included in your ticket. Just make sure you turn up early on the day to request a session as the slots always book up fast.

Chicago, 5 May – How Design Live Conference

Presentation: How to Handle Rejection and Criticism as a Creative 4.15pm Central Time

HOW Design Live is one of the biggest design conferences in the US, and I’m looking forward to speaking about handling rejection and criticism – familiar occupational hazards for creatives! – based on my book Resilience.

I’ll also be doing some 1-2-1 speed coaching sessions earlier on the same day.

This is the second time I’ve spoken at HOW. Last time, in Boston a couple of years ago, I had a blast and made several people who have become good friends and collaborators, so I can vouch for the positive energy and networking potential. And the speaker lineup is always great – this year it includes Tom Peters, Michael Bierut, Simon Sinek, Maria Popova, Adrian Shaughnessy and Tina Roth Eisenberg.

There are still a few tickets left for HOW – if you can make it, it would be great to see you there.

After HOW I will be heading to a secret location in the States, to recharge and work on another behind-the-scenes project… As always, the people on my Creative Pathfinder mailing list will be the first to know about this and the other things I have in the pipeline for you. (You also get a free 26-week creative career course.)

Mark McGuinness is a poet and a coach for creative professionals. He is the author of Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success, and Motivation for Creative People (forthcoming).