I’m a poet, coach and creative entrepreneur, living in Bristol, UK and coaching creatives worldwide via the magic of the internet.
I’ve always loved creating. As a child, I was constantly making marks on paper, consuming gallons of paint and forests of pencil, charcoal and paper.
Even at that early age, I was interested in the psychology of creative process. I remember noticing that when a ‘drawing mood’ came over me, I had the seemingly-magical ability paint and draw whatever I wanted. But when I was in everyday state of mind, the picture never came out right, however hard I tried.
These days, I spend my time writing and helping creatives unlock the creativity in their psyche, and apply it to their art, their careers and their businesses. The great thing about working with creative professionals is their sheer enthusiasm for their work – I wake up in the morning and pinch myself that I get to work with such inspiring people.
As a teenager I fell under the spell of poetry. Guided by two wonderful English teachers, Sue Dove and Geoff Reilly, I was amazed to discover that I could spend an entire lesson looking at a single poem, and keep finding new things in it the longer I looked. It probably helped that I was growing up in the beautiful landscape of North Devon, described by one of the poets we studied – Ted Hughes.
My love of poetry led me to study English at Oxford, where I read poetry in English from Anglo-Saxon and Medieval times up to the present. I still read widely in classic and contemporary poetry.
My own poems have been published in leading UK poetry magazines, and in anthologies edited by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
I’m currently working on a verse translation of Geoffrey Chaucer’s long poem Troilus and Criseyde. A passage from my translation was awarded Third Prize in the 2016 Stephen Spender Prize.
I share my thoughts on the poetry I’m reading, as well as news of my readings and publications, at: www.markmcguinness.com
I’m the author of the Amazon Creativity best seller Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success, which does what it says on the tin for creative people pursuing their dreams.
And a co-author, alongside Steven Pressfield, Seth Godin, Stefan Sagmeister and others, of the best-selling books for creative professionals Manage Your Day-to-Day and Maximize Your Potential, both published by 99U.com where I’m a columnist.
I’ve been blogging about creativity, productivity, entrepreneurship and poetry since 2006; my three blogs have an average of 40,000 readers each month.
I also wrote The Creative Pathfinder, a free creative careers course that has been taken by over 9,000 enthusiastic students worldwide.
After Oxford, when most of my contemporaries embarked on careers as lawyers, doctors, bankers and captains of industry, I took a different path: I followed up my interest in the psychology of creativity by training as a hypnotherapist and psychotherapist.
And when I started practising therapy in 1996, I discovered something unexpected for an introverted bookworm: I liked working with people. I also made another interesting discovery – as well as the people who consulted me for therapy, I noticed another type of client, who would tell me things like this:
“I’m the star of a West End play, but terrified to go on stage every night. Can you help me?”
“I’ve been paid a large advance by my publisher for my next novel. I’ve spent the advance, but haven’t written the novel yet. I’m totally blocked and it’s due in three months’ time. Can you help me?”
“I’m a creative director struggling to keep up with the pressures of my work. I love the job (at least I did in the beginning) but between demanding clients, difficult colleagues and an avalanche of work, I’ve lost my creative mojo. Can you help me?”
As a writer myself, I found I had natural affinity with these clients; not only could I help them, we had a lot of fun together. And they were the clients who went away and recommended me the most.
I realised most of them didn’t have a mental health problem: they were just creative, and creativity involves a lot of what Seth Godin calls ‘emotional labor’. So I set up a specialist coaching service for creative professionals.
Over the years, as well as hundreds of private clients, I’ve coached and/or trained staff at organisations including Al Jazeera, The BBC, The British Film Institute (BFI), Channel 4, Econsultancy, The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, McCann Erickson, Magnum Photos and The Royal College of Art.
My work as an agent of change has been featured in media outlets including Creative Review, Vogue (US Edition), The Wall Street Journal and the Discovery Health Channel.
I’ve been self-employed for almost all of my adult life. I’ve always liked to take things in hand and do them my way. Originally, I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur, but I gradually came to realise an entrepreneur is simply someone who makes things happen.
My first venture was designing tattoos, which taught me that selling creative work is at least as hard as creating it.
Later, as well as running my own psychotherapy practice, I spent several years as a partner in a coaching consultancy, delivering coaching and training to organisations including BT, Vodafone and Transport for London. The experience eventually confirmed my feeling that I’m not at home in a corporate environment, but it also taught me a lot about running a business and helping clients’ businesses succeed.
I then decided to refocus on creativity and went to the University of Warwick and took the MA in Creative and Media Enterprises. I studied business strategy, marketing, organisational structure alongside theories of creativity, intellectual property law and the creative economy.
One day, in the marketing module, I came across an ebook by Seth Godin that introduced me to the idea of blogging to spread ideas and attract opportunities…
On Valentine’s Day 2006, I published first blog post at www.wishfulthinking.co.uk. Like so many things in my career, it felt exciting and scary – I saw a big opportunity but well-meaning friends and colleagues warned me against “giving away too much of your valuable knowledge for free”. I trusted my gut and went for it.
It took a while for the blog to gain traction, but a few months in, I started attracting new business enquiries from companies that wouldn’t have returned my phone calls before. After that, my online presence developed into my main source of clients, as well as all kinds of business opportunities I never expected when I started out.
We spent 2 years in partnership, which was a terrific opportunity to learn first-hand from some of the leading authorities on online marketing and entrepreneurship. Together, we created The Creative Entrepreneur Roadmap, an in-depth e-learning course to help creatives develop their talent into unique and thriving businesses.
My blogging also attracted offers of book deals from major publishers on both sides of the Atlantic. In the end, I decided to publish my first book myself, hiring an editor and proofreader to help me polish the text, and engaging the brilliant Irene Hoffman to design the book.
Over 5,000 copies later, the book is still selling every day, and the Russian edition will be published shortly by Moscow publisher Mann, Ivanov & Ferber. I’m in discussion with other overseas publishers about further foreign-language editions. So I’m happy I made the right choice to self-publish.
Now, I’m writing the sequel to Resilience…
Over the years, there have been plenty of days when I wondered whether working for myself was worth the stress, but I’ve been constantly stimulated, learned every day, and met lots of wonderful people along the way. And I have the satisfaction of creating something original that has made a difference to thousands of creative people over the years and across the globe.
Family and friends
“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,
And say my glory was I had such friends.”
I’ll be the first to admit I’m obsessed with my work. I love creating things and helping clients. But Yeats was right: nothing trumps friendship.
I’m fortunate to share my life with my wife Mami McGuinness and our two adorable and mischievous children. And a bunch of friends stretching back to my teens.
And thanks to the wonders of 21st century life, I now have a more recent network of friends all over the world – many of whom started as readers, clients, business partners, or familiar faces from the digital street.
I thank my lucky stars for these people every week, and look forward to getting to know you too.