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My new book: Productivity for Creative People

Cover of Productivity for Creative PeopleThe most popular thing I ever published here on the Wishful Thinking blog was an ebook called Time Management for Creative People.

In it I adapted the principles of productivity to the very particular challenges faced by creative professionals in a hyper-connected world. I released the ebook as free pdf and lost count of the downloads after 100,000 copies.

That was back in 2007. A lot has happened since then, and I’ve written a lot more on the subject – here, at my Lateral Action blog, and in my column for 99U.com. So I decided it was time for a new edition, incorporating extensive revisions to the original ebook, the best of my articles in the intervening decade, and some brand new material reflecting my current practice.

The result is Productivity for Creative People – over three times longer than the original, and (hopefully) substantially more useful.

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

How to get creative work done in an “always on” world

The book starts from the realisation that 21st century life presents a double-edged sword to creatives:

We are living in an age of unprecedented creative stimulation-via the internet, social media, all-pervasive technology, and an “always on” working culture.

Which means we are living in an age of unprecedented distraction from focused creative work—from all the same sources.

The pace of change is exciting, overwhelming, and unstoppable.

And creators are increasingly discovering a downside to the brave new world:

  • countless distractions and interruptions
  • endless email
  • pressure to keep up
  • anxiety about falling behind
  • difficulty concentrating
  • aches and pains from too much time at the keyboard

Dig a little deeper, and the biggest concern for many creatives is a nagging sense that their most important work is being left undone.

The book is designed to help you take advantage of the benefits of our hyper-connected society, while staying true to your creative path. The three-part structure will help you redesign your working week for maximum creativity and minimum drudgery:

  1. Laying the Foundations – making big-picture decisions about your priorities and working practices
  2. Doing Creative Work – in spite of the demands and distractions of 21st century life
  3. Dealing with the Rest – in a timely and professional manner

All the ideas have been extensively road-tested – in my own life as a writer and coach, and in the lives of the hundreds of creative pros I’ve coached over the past 20 years.

Click here to pick up your copy of Productivity for Creative People.

Mark McGuinness is a poet and a coach for inspiring and ambitious creative professionals.

Motivation for Creative People – now a full length book (just $2.99 this week)

Cover of Motivation for Creative PeopleBack in 2008 I wrote a series here on the Wishful Thinking blog called How to Motivate Creative People, which became a short ebook by the same name.

The series was written to help managers and leaders get the best out of their creative teams, by explaining the mindset and motivations of creative professionals.

One thing I didn’t expect, when I started running training and coaching programmes on the subject, was how much demand there would be for the creative motivation material from the creatives themselves. But talking to them, it made perfect sense:

It’s not easy pursuing a creative path – you often feel yourself the ‘odd one out’ among your friends and family, and there are plenty of obstacles – internal and external – that test your staying power over and over.

There’s also the perennial tension between creativity and money – ‘doing it for love’ versus ‘earning a living’. 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.

If you don’t feel excited by the task in front of you, it’s impossible to do your best work, no matter what rewards it might bring. You may be determined not to sell out, but selling yourself short can be just as damaging. And when it comes to public recognition, comparisonitis and professional jealousy can consume far too much of your creative energy.

Working for love 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 delicate balance at play – get it wrong, and you could seriously damage your creativity and even your career.

All of which led me to develop workshops and coaching for creatives on Motivation for Creative People. Eventually, I realised I couldn’t keep giving people the old ebook and saying “It’s written for managers, but most of it applies to you if you imagine it from your perspective”.

So I’ve spent the past 18 months writing a full-length book called Motivation for Creative People. The subtitle gets to the heart of the challenge we face as creatives trying to build a successful career around our creative passions:

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

The book runs to just under 300 pages, with stories and examples from my own journey, plus famous creators including Stanley Kubrick, Dante, The Smiths, Shakespeare and Japanese kabuki actors. And it’s packed with practical solutions to the challenges of staying motivated and creative while achieving your professional ambitions, drawn from the 20 years I’ve spent coaching creative professionals.

I recently published three chapters from the book over on my Lateral Action blog – click the links below to read them:

Is Inspiration a Thing of the Past?

The Art of Emotional Pricing

Kabuki: Lessons from 400 Years of Creative Tradition

Get Motivation for Creative People for just $2.99

As I first published these ideas here on Wishful Thinking, I’d like to give you the chance to pick up the book for the proverbial ‘price of a coffee’.

So for the rest of this week, you can get the ebook edition of Motivation for Creative People for just $2.99 (or equivalent) at Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play and Smashwords.

There’s also a paperback edition, beautifully designed and illustrated by the wonderful Irene Hoffman. If you buy the paperback from Amazon US during the launch week, you’ll get the Kindle edition included for free.

(If, like me, you live outside the US, I’m afraid Amazon doesn’t let me gift you the ebook, but I’m confident you’ll find the paperback good value on its own.)

A special thank you to all the Wishful Thinking readers who left comments and gave me feedback on the original series. And to all of you, if you do read Motivation for Creative People I hope you find it a helpful guide on your creative journey.

Video: Dealing with Rejection and Criticism (My New Book)

Is it possible to succeed as a creative professional without having to deal with rejection and criticism?

Is it normal to be afraid of being judged by others? If you experience this fear, how can you deal with it?

How can you tell whether a given piece of criticism is valid or not?

What’s the best way to handle criticism?

How can you build resilience and bounce back from multiple rejections and biting criticism?

These are some of the questions I answer in this video interview recorded with Joanna Penn.

(If you’re reading via email, you may need to click through to the original post to watch the video.)

We recorded the video to mark the publication of my first full-length book – Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success.

I wrote the book to help creative people deal with two of the biggest obstacles they face:

  • Rejection – by editors, agents, producers, interviewers and other gatekeepers of opportunity
  • Criticism – by gatekeepers, critics, audiences and anyone else who feels entitled to express an opinion

Jo is a successful novelist and independent publishing expert, so in this video I focus particularly on the challenges faced by writers in relation to rejection and criticism – but most of these are relevant whatever creative field you work in.

(If you are a writer you should definitely check out Jo’s blog, it’s one of my favourites.)

You can read the first five chapters of Resilience in the preview window below. (Again, you may need to click through to the original post.)

And if you want to read the whole book, it’s available on Amazon UK, Amazon US and elsewhere.

Finally, a personal note: my journey as a professional writer started nearly seven years ago on this blog.

Publishing a book feels like a significant milestone, so I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has read my writings in various places since then – your feedback and encouragement been incredibly helpful in getting to this point, and have definitely made Resilience a better book.

Two Types of Creative Manager – and the Different Challenges They Face

Later this month I’ll be speaking to design leaders at the HOW Design Live conference in Boston, about getting the best performance out of creative teams. Preparing for my sessions has got me thinking about the different challenges managers face, depending on their own professional background.

In this post I’m going to look at two different types of creative manager, based on their professional specialisms, and the advantages they have and the pitfalls they need to watch out for.

1. The senior creative

A senior designer, copywriter or other creative professional, who has been promoted to team leader or creative director.


You understand the creative process and mindset from the inside out. You know what makes creatives tick, and what excellent work looks like. So you are very confident and capable at critiquing the work produced by your team.


All outstanding performers who are promoted to a leadership position face the same basic challenge: getting things done through other people is very different to getting them done yourself. I’ve seen this in many different industries, and it’s practically a universal issue. [Read more…]

Video: Time Management for Creative People

Here’s a time management training video I recorded at the Royal College of Art (just before I gave a talk to the students) in which I explain how time management can help you become more creative.

Now, many creative people resist the idea of time management, because they like doing things their own way, and because they (rightly) think creativity isn’t something you can fit into a neat system.

But if you take this attitude too far – especially in our hyper-connected world of digital communications – you can end up feeling stressed because of losing track of important commitments and falling behind on them. You can end up in a state of constant anxiety, wondering whether you have forgotten something critical. Which isn’t exactly conducive to creativity!

In these circumstances, a little time management training can go a long way to reclaiming your piece of mind – giving you the time and mental space to focus on your big creative challenges.

Watch the video to learn:

  • Why time management matters to creative people (even if they don’t like to admit it!)
  • How to manage a portfolio creative career, juggling multiple projects at at time
  • Why I use a post-it note for my daily to-do list
  • How to avoid constantly checking email on your phone (without relying on willpower)
  • How to prioritize between exciting new ideas, deadlines and things that pay the bills
  • Where time management shades into big picture career decisions

The lighting wasn’t ideal, so I’m looking a little more sepulchral than usual, but I hope you find the ideas useful.

Time Management Training for Creative People

My course on Time Management for Creative People – based on my ebook of the same name, downloaded over 100,000 times – is one of my most popular workshops. Click here to learn about booking a workshop to help the people in your organisation become more creative and productive.

Thanks to the team at FuelRCA for inviting me to speak – they are doing a great job of providing CPD tailored to the needs of the arts and design students at the college. And they have a cool blog, click here for their notes on my talk.

How to Write a Blog that Actually Brings in Business

Mark McGuinness speaking at FreshBusinessThinkingLIVE!

Photo by AAB Engage

How do you write a successful blog?

Can blogging really bring in business, and if so, how?

What should you write about to attract potential customers?

These are some of the questions I addressed earlier this week when I spoke about business blogging at Fresh Business Thinking LIVE! (as you can see from this rare aerial photo of me presenting).

As usual when I speak to an audience, I created a written version of the presentation for the audience – and you can download it here.

Read it to learn:

  • Why nobody reads most blogs
  • How a blog can bring you new business – even if your customers don’t read blogs
  • The critical element most business blogs are missing
  • How a blog can establish you as an authority in your industry
  • How to attract new readers – and keep them coming back
  • Deepening the relationship with your audience – from readers to customers
  • Using blogging to complement other forms of social media

Feel free to share the document with anyone who could do with a little help creating a popular and effective business blog.

Free Ebook: 20 Creative Blocks (and How to Break Through Them)

Ebook cover: 20 Creative BlocksCreative blocks are among the most frustrating obstacles encountered by creative people.

Our creativity is so tied up with our sense of fulfilment and identity that we are just not ourselves when we are unable to create.

And if we rely on our creative work to pay the bills, this only adds to the frustration – and the pressure to find a solution.

This is why, over on my Lateral Action blog, I invited my readers to tell me about their creative blocks – and I wrote a series of articles offering solutions to help them. Marelisa Fábrega helped me out by writing an article which is included in the ebook.

I’ve now collected the entire series into an ebook: 20 Creative Blocks (and How to Break Through Them) which you can download for free here.

Creative blocks covered in the ebook include:

  • procrastination
  • creativity v cash
  • lack of time
  • fear of getting it wrong
  • disorganisation
  • kids
  • information overload
  • taboo
  • sex, drugs and rock’n’roll

The ebook is published under a Creative Commons licence, which means you are welcome to copy and share it as long as you keep it intact in its original form, credit me as author and don’t exploit it commercially.

I hope you find it useful in tackling your own creative challenges – get your copy here and please pass it on to anyone who you think may find it helpful.


10 Ways the Workplace Crushes Creativity (and How to Fix Them)

I’m starting to think the word ‘workplace’ is a contradiction in terms.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me they do their best work in the early mornings and evenings, “because it’s impossible to get any real work done during working hours”.

This is particularly common among creative employees, many of whom bitterly lament being charged with delivering outstanding creative work – and then expected to work in conditions that crush their creativity.

In other words, these are people who really want to work hard and deliver amazing results for their employer. But they are being prevented from doing so by the very people whose business depends on their creativity.

[Read more…]

Sign up for My FREE Course in How to Succeed as a Creative Professional

Detail of two ships and compass from antique map

If you’d like to inject some inspiration and momentum into your creative career, feel free to enrol on my new course: The Creative Pathfinder.

It’s a 25-week programme designed to equip you with the creative and professional skills you need to succeed in your chosen career path – whether you’re an employee, freelancer or creative entrepreneur.

Things you’ll learn include:

  • why following your heart makes sound business sense
  • the four most powerful types of creative thinking
  • how to handle a creative block – when you’re supposed to be the creative pro
  • why opportunities just land in some people’s lap (and how you can be one of them)
  • the most effective ways to make a living from your creativity
  • why having a resume could handicap your career
  • how to turn your website into a magnet for new business and career opportunities
  • the weird and profitable properties of intellectual property
  • how to sell without selling out
  • what to do with all the money you earn
  • why other people seem so weird – and what to do about it
  • how to succeed in the face of overwhelming odds

Every week, you’ll receive a new lesson via e-mail, containing:

  • An article explaining the what, why and how of the topic
  • A practical worksheet for you to download and complete
  • Links to additional resources (articles, books, e-books etc — most of which are free)

And it won’t cost you a penny. Sign-up on the enrolment page and you will receive the entire course of 25 lessons for free.

Since I launched The Creative Pathfinder on Lateral Action last week, over 1,200 students have signed up. It would be great if you could join us on the journey

The Future of Wishful Thinking

Highway in desert, Arizona

Photo by PhillipC

If you’ve seen the latest news from Lateral Action, then you’ll know I’ve just taken over the running of that site from my partners Brian Clark, Tony D. Clark and Sonia Simone. It’s been great working with them over the last two years, and I’m now excited at the prospect of running Lateral Action as a one-man show.

It does however leave me with a very nice problem. I now have two popular websites for creative people, so I’ve been thinking about how to make the best use of both of them, so that they don’t overlap too much and get in each other’s way.

So here’s what I’ve decided. Both sites will continue to focus on creativity and creative business, but with a slightly different emphasis. [Read more…]