21 Insights from 21 Years as a Creative Coach

21 candles

21 years ago I started to notice a pattern in my psychotherapy practice. Mixed in with the people consulting me for anxiety, depression, work-related stress, relationship conflict, and a host of other problems, was a different category of client.

The actor with stage fright. The novelist with writer’s block. The creative director dealing with the stresses of agency life. The entrepreneur on the emotional rollercoaster of launching a business.

Because I was a poet, I found it easy to relate to these clients, and there was a particular energy and intensity to these sessions. Clients walked away full of excitement, and came back to report big changes. They told me they had never experienced this kind of work before, and encouraged me to keep at it.

I came to see that most of them didn’t really have a mental health problem, in the clinical sense. As creative professionals, their work involved what Seth Godin would later call emotional labor. Because they put their heart and soul into their work, it made sense to work on their heart and soul.

So I decided to turn this into a new service for creative professionals, distinct from my therapy practice, and called it creative coaching.

This autumn it struck me that this is my 21st anniversary as a coach. In many countries, 21 is considered the age at which you become an adult, so it seems like a good time to reflect on the past two decades, and share some of the key insights that have emerged.

So here are 21 insights from 21 years of helping professional creatives deal with the stresses and strains, joys and jubilations, of the creative life.

1. Everything is powered by love

Blue candleIf you don’t love your work, you can forget it as a creative. Psychologists talk about intrinsic motivation and tell us it is ‘proven to be highly correlated with creativity’. But let’s call a spade a spade: it’s love.

You can probably remember the day you fell in love with your creative work; the butterflies in your stomach, your heart leaping, the sense of a whole new world opening up before you.

Maybe you saw another artist, creator or performer doing something extraordinary, and found yourself asking: ‘Could I do that?’

And like all love affairs, it’s probably been a rocky road, with plenty of friction and suffering along the way. Maybe even a breakup or a trial separation. But you always come back, because this is the love of your working life.

It’s easy to neglect this love, with all the other pressures and demands on your attention. Especially if you work in a non-commercial art, where the rewards are not obvious as the risks.

But if you neglect your true love, it will poison everything else in your life.

So whether or not it earns you money, whether or not it will make you famous, whether or not it will ever bring you worldly success, you need to find time and space for your art in your life. And when you do that, magical things start to happen…

And it’s not just about the work. In the course of your career you will connect with many people – teachers, peers, partners, clients, customers and others. If there is no love in these relationships, if they are driven by fear, competitiveness and bitterness, is that really how you want to spend your days? And is that really how you will produce your best work?

So make sure you work with people you can respect and admire – and yes, even love.

Wake up every day doing work you love, with people you love. What more could you ask of your work?

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Creating a Job that Doesn’t Exist with Aileen Bennett

Creating a Job that Doesn't Exist with Aileen Bennett

This week’s guest on the 21st Century Creative Podcast is Aileen Bennett, Roving Creative Director and Idea Thinker Upper.

Aileen BennettIn today’s interview, we tackle a question that many creative people struggle with – what do you do when you look at the jobs on offer, and none of them seem the right fit? Not even the self-employed ones, like consultant or freelance designer?

Should you try to fit in, like a square peg in a round hole? Or should you do what Aileen did, and create a job that doesn’t exist?

I’m delighted to introduce you to Aileen and her work in this episode, she’s a delightfully creative thinker and maker, and a great example of how being yourself can help your business thrive as well as sparking your imagination.

You can get more inspiration from Aileen on her Creating Clever blog and Aileen’s Notebook on Instagram.

Illustrated pages from Aileen's notebook

Aileen's illustrations of Sterling Originals confectionery

Take Aileen’s Creative Challenge (and win a limited edition print)

Every week, at the end of the show, I ask my guest to set you a Creative Challenge – something practical you can do that will help you put the ideas from the show into action.

Here’s how you can take part – and maybe win the prize of a print of Aileen’s drawing of Brooklyn, NYC, and its inspiring text.

Aileen's drawing of the rooftops of Brooklyn

1. Listen to the interview part of the show, either in the player above or on iTunes or your favourite podcast platform.

2. Here’s the challenge, in Aileen’s words:

Think of a job that doesn’t exist. Combine two or three or more of your skills and create a job title, and a brief job description, of the job that would be perfect for you – without worrying whether anyone already does it, or whether anyone would ever pay you to do it.

3. Leave a comment below this post with the description of your ideal job.

You have until midnight United States Pacific time on Friday 4th August 2017 to complete the challenge and leave your comment.

4. Once the challenge has finished, I will pick 3 winners at random from the comments, who will receive the prize of a copy of Aileen’s print.

5. Over the weekend I will send a bonus recording with my feedback on your comments and what we can all learn from the challenge. I’ll be looking through the comments for common patterns, whether that’s ways a lot of you get stuck, or great solutions you’re finding to the challenge. I’ll also be sharing reflections from my own perspective.

6. As usual the feedback recording will NOT be released on iTunes or anywhere else the show is syndicated. It will only be available via the 21st Century Creative mailing list – click here to join the list (and get a free Creative Career course).

Drawing of small bird and text saying sometimes we could all use a little bird that sits on our finger and silently tweets encouragement. Be you, be you, it would say

One last thing…

If you’re enjoying the show it would be a huge help to me if you would take a moment to subscribe to The 21st Century Creative in iTunes.

And if you’d like to leave a brief review in iTunes, that would be even more helpful.

The more people who subscribe and review the show, the more visible the show will be in the iTunes store, and the more creators I can help with it.

This is particularly important in the first few weeks of a podcast – so if you enjoy the show, and you’d like to support it, taking a few moments to subscribe and/or review will give the podcast the best chance of success.

Thank you!

Mark McGuinness is a poet, a coach for creative professionals, and the host of The 21st Century Creative Podcast.

Freeing the Natural Voice with Kristin Linklater

Freeing the Natural Voice with Kristin Linklater

This week’s guest on the 21st Century Creative Podcast is Kristin Linklater, the world-renowned teacher of voice work for actors and speakers, and the author of Freeing the Natural Voice and Freeing Shakespeare’s Voice.

Kristin LinklaterI recorded this interview at Kristin’s Linklater Voice Centre, in her native Orkney, at the end of a week-long course on speaking Shakespearean verse. As a student of Kristin’s I have personally benefitted greatly from her teaching, and I’m delighted to be able to share her work with you in this interview.

Kristin has some very insightful things to say about creativity, authenticity and communication, based on a lifetime spent teaching voice work – so you’ll find it helpful whether you’re an actor or you do any kind of public speaking.

And as we discover in the conversation, working on your voice can have a very interesting and positive effect on your creativity, outside of the realm of performance!

If you want to develop an authentic connection to your own voice – whether for professional performance, creativity or personal development – I highly recommend Kristin’s courses. I’ve taken two courses at the Linklater Voice Centre and it was absolutely worth the effort of travelling to Orkney. As you can see from the photos, it’s a magical setting in which to do some powerful inner and outer work.

Kristin Linklater and students working in her voice studio

External shot of the Linklater Voice Centre

Chairs round the stove inside the Linklater Voice Centre

Take Kristin’s Creative Challenge (and win a copy of Freeing the Natural Voice)

Every week, at the end of the show, I ask my guest to set you a Creative Challenge – something practical you can do that will help you put the ideas from the show into action.

Here’s how you can take part – and maybe win the prize of a copy of Kristin’s book Freeing the Natural Voice.

1. Listen to the interview part of the show, either in the player above or on iTunes or your favourite podcast platform.

2. There are two versions of Kristin’s challenge – you can do either (or both) if you want to enter the draw for the books.

First version: Go out to the countryside or if you’re in the city, to a big park, so that you’re alone or at least anonymous.

And in a loud voice, shout firstly to sky: “Haaaaaaah!”

Then to the horizon: “Heyyyyy!!”

Then down to the ground: “Hoooo!”

And remember those different sounds, they are significant.

Second version: choose a poem that has some personal relevance to you, and learn it by heart, letting the images of the poem flow into you and the feelings it arouses.

Then read the poem out loud to two or three friends.

4. Once the challenge has finished, I will pick 3 winners at random from the comments, who will receive the prize of a copy of Freeing the Natural Voice.

5. Over the weekend I will send a bonus recording with my feedback on your comments and what we can all learn from the challenge. I’ll be looking through the comments for common patterns, whether that’s ways a lot of you get stuck, or great solutions you’re finding to the challenge. I’ll also be sharing reflections and advice from my own experience of public speaking, reading my poems, and working with Kristin.

6. As usual the feedback recording will NOT be released on iTunes or anywhere else the show is syndicated. It will only be available via the 21st Century Creative mailing list – click here to join the list (and get a free Creative Career course).

One last thing…

If you’re enjoying the show it would be a huge help to me if you would take a moment to subscribe to The 21st Century Creative in iTunes.

And if you’d like to leave a brief review in iTunes, that would be even more helpful.

The more people who subscribe and review the show, the more visible the show will be in the iTunes store, and the more creators I can help with it.

This is particularly important in the first few weeks of a podcast – so if you enjoy the show, and you’d like to support it, taking a few moments to subscribe and/or review will give the podcast the best chance of success.

Thank you!

Mark McGuinness is a poet, a coach for creative professionals, and the host of The 21st Century Creative Podcast.

The Floatation Tank: a Short Cut to Your Superpower? with Nick Dunin

The Floatation Tank: a Short Cut to Your Superpower? with Nick Dunin

This week’s guest on the 21st Century Creative Podcast is Nick Dunin, co-founder of Beyond Rest, a company that operates float centres in three Australian cities.

Nick Dunin

Nick is on a mission to help people get in touch with their best selves via floating. He’s also had a very unusual journey as an entrepreneur and he has a lot of interesting things to say about personal development, creativity and business.

I’ve been using floatation tanks for years, and I’ve found floating tremendously beneficial, for my personal and creative development, so I’m delighted to have Nick on the show to explain the what, why and how of floating for creatives.

[Read more…]

Kill Email Anxiety and Do More Meaningful Work with Jocelyn K. Glei

Episode 7 title graphic: Kill Email Anxiety and Do More Meaningful Work with Jocelyn K. Glei

This week’s guest on the 21st Century Creative Podcast is Jocelyn K. Glei, Founding Editor of 99U, author of Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done, and host of the Hurry Slowly podcast.

Jocelyn K. GleiJocelyn was instrumental in turning 99U into the iconic brand for creatives it is today – editing the magazine site 99U.com and the series of 99U books for creatives, and helping the team create the amazing 99U Conferences in New York.

In this interview, Jocelyn talks about the psychology of email – why such a convenient form of communication has become such a drain on our creativity and productivity, and how to reclaim time and headspace for real work.

And as we discovered in the course of the conversation, most of the advice in Unsubscribe is applicable beyond your inbox – the principles of email management can help you get your creative work done amid the daily whirlwind of news, social media and other distractions.

As well as reading the book, you can follow Jocelyn’s thinking on her website and on Twitter.

In the first part of the show, I talk about the four types of work we can spend our time on – and which one creates the most long-term benefits for your creative career.

[Read more…]