Creative Rock Stars Get to Work with Other Cool Dudes

This post is part of the Creative Rock Stars series.

Rock band

Even stars get starstruck. I remember hearing David Bowie talk about the time John Lennon dropped in on the recording sessions for Young Americans. He was thrilled at meeting one of his heroes and suggested they write something together – ‘I wasn’t going to miss that!’ he said. The result was ‘Fame’, one of the best tracks on the album (as well as a cover of ‘Across the Universe’ that was easily the worst, but hey nothing’s perfect).

Yes, stars love the limelight and many of them qualify as egomaniacs, but a lot of the fun of being a star comes from the opportunities to work with other fascinating, talented, creative people. Like Samuel L. Jackson telling George Lucas he would play a stormtrooper if it meant he could be in the new Star Wars movie. Or Hugh Laurie enthusing about acting with Stephen Fry, saying it was better than having a front row seat.

Collaborating with others brings out the best in us. We spark off one another and build on shared ideas. Our different talents, backgrounds, knowledge and personalities complement each other. We challenge each other to raise the bar. Sometimes there are tensions, arguments and fights. But when you put a group of gifted, ambitious and fired-up stars to work together, the results are bound to be interesting. I gather the parties are pretty good too.

If you’re lucky you already work with people who have that star quality. Even so, you probably wouldn’t pass up the chance to meet a few more, share ideas and add them to your network of contacts and collaborators. If you’re just starting out or you’ve been stuck working on your own too long, then you’ll be hungry to meet creative partners who can help you take your work to the next level. But where can you find them?

Well, if you’re reading this, then you’ve probably noticed there’s something interesting happening on the internet right now. Call it the Age of Conversation, the Relationship Renaissance, whatever you like. Basically, more cool dudes are hanging out together than have ever hung out together in the history of the universe. Which means there are more opportunities for you to meet and connect and work and party with said cool dudes than you probably know what to do with – yet.

At the beginning of 2007 I was approached by the UK creative industries magazine Creative Review, to contribute to a feature about the web developers WeFail. The editor wanted my view on the psychological implications of the partnership, which was made up of two developers, one in the US and one in the UK, who had met via the internet. In four years of business they had only met in person three times and they made a point of never meeting their clients, as they thought meetings were a waste of time. This attitude, and the fact that they were just two guys working from home, hadn’t stopped them creating work for clients including Eminem, Dixie Chicks, Christian Aid and BBDO. At the time I thought it was an intriguing idea, but didn’t imagine I’d end up doing it myself.

Here at Lateral Action we’d hardly claim to be rock stars, but it may interest you to know that none of us have ever met face-to-face. With Brian in Texas, Tony in North Carolina and me in London, in the normal course of events we would probably never have heard of each other, let alone considered going into business together. But our blogs brought us into contact and over time our interests converged to the point where it seemed like a natural next step to set up Lateral Action. Since doing the Creative Review piece, I’ve also collaborated with Liz Strauss (in Chicago) and Sandy Renshaw (in Des Moines) on an e-book for Successful Blog, and with Cat Morley (in Bangkok) on an e-book for Business of Design Online. A few years ago this would have seemed outlandish to me. Now it feels perfectly normal.

And it’s not confined to the internet. All the usual haunts of creative types – the cafes, bars, galleries, studios, agencies, conferences and shows – are still open for business. Social media is really just the catalyst for the socialising that has always been the catalyst for creativity. Since I started blogging nearly three years ago, my network of business contacts has grown exponentially. I’ve met a huge variety of people doing all kinds of fascinating work. I’ve also made some really good friends. Every time I attend a social media get-together, it feels as though we’ve been somehow teleported down from the Starship Enterprise. I’m used to it now but there’s still something magical about it.

You don’t need a teleport machine or VIP pass to join in. On blogs, forums, social networks and countless ‘real life’ meetups, the doors are open for you to walk right in and join the conversation.


Who Brings Out the Best in You?

Who were the best people you ever worked with?

How did you meet?

What qualities did you bring out in each other?

Where do you go – online and offline – to hook up with other creative people?

About the Author: Mark McGuinness is a poet, creative coach and co-founder of Lateral Action. Subscribe today to get free updates by email or RSS.

Table of Contents for Creative Rock Stars

  1. Creative Entrepreneurs Are the Rock Stars of the 21st Century

How to get creative work done in an "always on" world

Productivity for Creative People

Mark McGuinness' latest book Productivity for Creative People is a is a collection of insights, tips, and techniques to help you carve out time for your most important work – amid the demands and distractions of 21st century life.

“Of all the writers I know, I have learned the most about how to be a productive creative person from Mark. His tips are always realistic, accessible, and sticky. It’s not just talk, this is productivity advice that will change your life.”

Jocelyn Glei, author and Founding Editor, 99U

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Responses to this Post


  1. I can fully relate to the ‘meetings being a waste of time’ suggestion. With the vast majority of my clients coming from overseas, I’ve found my design process to become more and more steamlined, saving both parties time and money.

    Excellent reading, Mark.

  2. This is how Harry and I (and now Charlie) work. We live 3,000 miles apart and run a few full-fledged online businesses. We cater to clients, we market, we collaborate with other people… We’ve met, yes – that was back in 2006.

    We met online. We work online. We communicate online. And we’ve met some pretty damned cool people exactly the same way.

  3. Right now I’m actually working for a company based in Charlotte N.C., and I’m in Texas finishing up graduate school. This was made possible by social media, the Internet and web 2.0 tools.

    Additionally, I participated in a virtual internship this summer for Seth Godin and I got to do amazing work, learn from Seth during conference calls and essentially meet a handful of other interns (rockstars) that I have no doubt will impact this space in a big way one day.

    I think more than anything the Internet and social media closes the gap. I was a decent college baseball player, but I don’t get to talk to Derek Jeter, Lance Berkman, and Greg Maddux when I want to, I don’t have access to them.

    Well, right now I’m a decent social media marketer, yet I have access to the BEST in the world (i.e. Chris Brogan, Scott Monty, et al). It’s definitely a phenomenal time to be apart of this space. I try to connect and meet as many new rockstars as I can each day!

  4. Thanks guys, for making me feel normal. 🙂

    Ryan — the virtual internship sounds very cool. Yes we are indeed living in interesting times…

  5. @ Mark – Well, actually, I think what we did is prove that we’re just as abnormal as you are 😉

    Which, to be quite frank, is a great place to be. You get away with a lot more, y’know?

  6. James — very good point. Maybe we should call this place Deviant Action?

  7. @ Mark – Only if I can be in on creating the ensuing chaos 😉

  8. Heh, I like the idea of Deviant Action. You should use it as an alias of the URL. 😉

  9. Oh for god’s sake. It’s available. Please pat me on the head and tell me I’m a good boy for *not* buying it. I know that I’ll regret it later.

  10. The best people I’ve ever worked with are people who I felt I was in a sort of competition with. I didn’t want them to outperform me, so I pushed to make my work the best it could be. Even though there was no official competition in reality, I believed that I needed to work that much harder in order… and by doing that, it pushed me to create some of my best work to date. The hard part os finding that person (or people) who can really push you.

  11. Mark- I understand now what you meant in my comments yesterday – you just went a lot more in-depth.

    Just as Michael Jordan raised the game play of Scottie Pippen, I was told in school to select someone above your level on purpose. Humbling at first, you simply have no choice but to give more effort and push yourself. It’s blogs like this that challenge our thinking and encourage us at the same time.

    Plus combining my 2 favorite subjects in productivity and creativity, I’m excited to see where you and your team take us.

  12. James, Sonia — I can’t believe Brian hasn’t snapped it up yet. 🙂

    Darren, Jeff — I know exactly what you mean, although I wouldn’t necessarily use the word ‘competition’. I remember when I first went to the Poetry School in London, the standard in the class was much higher than I been used to from other writing groups, which was great because it pushed me to raise my own game and I learnt a huge amount from working with people who were more experienced and accomplished than me.

  13. Mark,

    A couple of the best people I’ve gotten to work with have been programmers who have PhD degrees in science. I guess the creativity and perseverance carries over to technology. They are great problem solvers. We were co-located in a casual office although I think today we could do essentially the same tasks remotely. The group brought out the best analytical and creative skills in each other and the standards of quality deliverables were extremely high as a result. I think working with peers that you respect leads you to do your best work.

    Now, I tend to find other creative, good people via social media (twitter, facebook, etc.). Offline, I have had the pleasure of meeting some superstars via meetups, technical user groups and social media gatherings.