When I heart that creative coach Mark McGuinness (who I have worked with for 3 years now) was writing a book on motivation for creative people I was a bit puzzled to be honest.
I thought that most creatives don’t really have an issue with motivation …
We love what we do, don’t we?
Isn’t it more the other way round?
We often work many hours for very little finances.
We always strive to be better (some call it ‘being obsessive’), as it’s never good enough.
And it’s more likely we have too many ideas then too few!
But from the start of his book Motivation for Creative People: How to Stay Creative While Gaining Money, Fame, and Reputation Mark tackles some of our conflicting motivations: how the quality of our creative work depends on the quality of our intension.
If we are in it for the money, the fame, the awards then according to Mark ‘the muse will wrinkle her nose and pass us by. Only when we are truly dedicated to the art itself, for its own sake, will she bestow the gift of inspiration.’
But as a creative professional you can’t ignore money. You need to be paid. And if you do high quality work, creating a lot of value, then why shouldn’t you reap the rewards? You will need to find a way somehow to resolve the ‘creativity versus money’ dilemma.
But, many creatives try to ignore money, fail to promote their work, undersell themselves and accept low fees. But selling yourself short, working very long hours, and getting less than the minimum wage as a well-educated graduate, often leads to resentment. Towards yourself, as well as your audience and clients.
Even worse – achieving that much sought-after fame and reputation can be major creativity killers: The weight of expectation and jealousy can cause major creative blocks if you feel inadequate and intimidated.
As Mark says: ‘It’s impossible to achieve your professional ambitions without pursuing rewards. But focusing on rewards can kill your creativity.’
So, why do YOU create?
Why do YOU do what you do?
What motivates YOU as a creative professional?
What gets YOU out of bed in the morning?
What is it that gets YOU moving?
Firstly, it’s a book about motivation for creative people – a guide to different types of motivation (intrinsic, extrinsic, personal and social) and how they affect your creativity and career.
Secondly, it’s also created as a source of motivation to give creatives practical tools and new perspectives to face the challenges ahead. From how to stay creative and love your work, even if you are under pressure, to how to stop selling yourself short. How to attract the right kind of audience for your work and cultivate your artistic reputation, whilst avoiding to destroy your creativity by becoming too attached to money, fame, reputation and other rewards.
The core of the book covers the 4 basic types of motivation that Mark has identified:
- Intrinsic motivation: the joy of work, including freedom, challenging, purpose, inspiration and learning
- Extrinsic motivation: rewards for your work, such as money, fame and reputation
- Personal motivation: What are your values? How do you stay true to yourself? What kind of situations appeal to you?
- Social motivation: influences from other people – How to find your tribe? How to get great feedback. How to use comparisons effectively.
When you are reading Motivation for Creative People: How to Stay Creative While Gaining Money, Fame, and Reputation it becomes quickly apparent that motivation for creative people and creative work is complex and paradoxical.
Different types of motivation interlock and support each other. Playing different roles at different stages of the creative process.
Sometimes it feels like motivation springs from your own desire or discipline; yet at other times, it is if you are inspired by something bigger than yourself. A sense of purpose, that your work matters and makes a difference in the world, is one of the most powerful motivators you can have. When your different motivations connect and blur, you get ‘in to the zone’.
But they can also work against each other. We often feel that we have to choose between working for love or for money. Or between following our own direction and heart, or giving in to the pressure from others.
Successful creatives manage to strike a creative balance between these different types of motivations.
Mark suggests that before starting any new creative project you should ask yourself (and ideally also ask others who you collaborate with) the following incredibly thought-provoking and useful set of questions:
- Around intrinsic motivation: What’s the attraction of the work itself? What difference with it make if I/we succeed? Does it provide me/us with a meaningful challenge? Does it fulfill an important purpose (beyond making a profit)? What are the opportunities for learning?
- Extrinsic motivation: What’s in it for me/us? Is everyone clear about their share of the rewards? Is everyone happy with their share? Who will own the intellectual property created? Who will be credited? Where and how will they be credited? Does anyone want/expect a testimonial? Will we be entering any contests? Under whose name? Is anyone doing this in the hope of future opportunities? How definite/explicit are these?
- Personal motivation: Is the project aligned with my/our personal values? Will anyone be working inside or outside their comfort zone?
- Social motivation: Have we worked together before? If so, how did it go? What commitments are we making to each other? What will happen if anyone fails to deliver on their commitment? Will any of us be competing with each other? How can we facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing? What kind of encouragement and support do we need to provide for each other? What feedback loops do we need? If I/you have any concerns, what’s the best way to raise them? What information will be confidential?
Seeing this list of questions made me realise where some of my collaborations or partnerships in the past have gone ‘wrong’ and that with a bit of more ‘digging’ at the start with questions like this, some of these issues might have been avoided.
At the end of the book Mark brings all the different motivations together again, and introduces 5 creative career models or ‘solutions’ that combine the various types of motivations in different ways, and resolving the tensions between the various motivations:
- Lucrative art: getting paid to produce works of art or entertainment
- Commercial creativity: getting paid to produce creative work that solves practical problems
- Day job and night flights: taking a job to pay the bills and using it to fund your creative work
- Symbiotic creativity: working in two complimentary creative fields. One to bring in the money, the other to create work you love.
- Creative entrepreneurship: using your creativity to grow a thriving business
Mark admits that these might not be perfect, and that we might be working in different combinations of these, or that at different stages in our lives we are working in different business models, but to me they also showed the potential strategic opportunities to make your creative work really work for you as a creative professional.
In this book Mark shares lots of stories about his own work as a poet and creative coach, and from many creatives he has worked with or very well-known successful artists, actors, authors and musicians. He analysis each type of motivation in great detail, and shares lots of examples and even interviews with creatives. But it’s not just full of theory!
What I especially love about Motivation for Creative People: How to Stay Creative While Gaining Money, Fame, and Reputation is that Mark clearly has done a lot of research (both from his practice as a successful creative coach and as a researcher into the subject of motivation), shares his analysis, but also gives real-life practical advice.
This book is full of practical tips and advice, with steps to encourage your inspiration and motivation, what to do if you feel pulled in lots of different creative directions, how to deal with the pressure to be original, how to become your own best critic, how to raise your profile (online, in the media and with your peer group and critics), how to identify your values, how to stop selling yourself short or envying competitors who are earning far more than you, but also how to overcome your fears and reasons why you aren’t taking action to a more successful creative career.
Mark is compassionate, but won’t believe your ‘excuses’ and he won’t make it easy for you, as he often really hits exactly the right point that you will need to work on. And you somehow probably already knew that (if you dare to admit it to yourself!), but Mark simplifies it through his analysis and step-by-step approach, and shines a big light on the things that you have been shying away from.
Mark asks some big thought-provoking questions, and shares some fabulous coaching exercises to change your mindset or reframe your thinking. One of my favourites in the book is ‘The Art of Emotional Pricing’, where he starts out with suggesting an incredibly low price for your unique art work and slowly suggest higher and higher prices. What is the price point that you start to get excited? What is the point you start to get a bit sick in the stomach?
Some of my favourite quotes from the book are:
‘Forget about ‘earning money’, it sounds too much like drudgery. Instead, focus on creating value.’ [..]
‘One of the many wonderful things about being creative is that there is virtually no limit to the value we can create for others, and therefore potentially no limit on the money we can generate.’ […]
‘The irony is that those who are honest with themselves about their financial ambitions and bold enough to promote their work and charge healthy fees, are the ones who spend most time thinking about their art.’
Motivation for Creative People: How to Stay Creative While Gaining Money, Fame, and Reputation is not always a comfortable read. But it is very recognisable, and as you gain more self-knowledge and insights into your own motivators, worries and fears you start to realise that this is perfectly normal human behaviour.
There is still hope for all of us creatives.
Now it’s just a case of putting this new found self-knowledge into action!