I sat down to chat with Mark McGuinness about his latest book, Motivation for Creative People. You can listen to the full audio below. The transcript of our conversation is after the audio. Make sure to check out Mark’s book if you want to get and stay motivated!
Jarie: This is Jarie Bolander and today I’m talking with Mark McGuinness who has written a fantastic book called Motivation for Creative People.
Hey, Mark. How are you?
Mark: Hey, Jarie. It’s nice to be back on Endurance Leader.
Jarie: Wonderful. I really appreciate it.
For those of you that don’t know Mark, he is a creative coach, poet, and author. This is actually his second book, his first book was called Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success.
This next book, Motivation for Creative People, came out a couple of weeks ago and I’ve had the opportunity to read through it. It’s just a fantastic book that really takes a great amount of knowledge and information that Mark has accumulated over a long time. (I won’t say how long, but a long time.) It’s the perfect companion to Resilience.
Mark, what I’d love to do is talk a little bit about how you came about to write this book and give us a little background of it before I dig into what I think is some of the great content.
Mark: Okay. I wrote the original version of this book back in 2008 as a blog series for managers and leaders of teams, it was called How to Motivate Creative People. It was really trying to explain to people in charge how to get the best out of creative professionals, say in a studio or an agency situation.
One thing I discovered when I did my Masters was looking into the research on creativity we think a lot about creative thinking and imagination and thinking outside the box, and all of that, but the thing that really stood out for me when I looked at the psychological research, what really makes a difference in terms of creative work, is the type of motivation. Creativity is highly correlated with what the psychologists call intrinsic motivation, that’s doing it for love to you and me.
Every time you bring in an extrinsic motivator such as money or a promotion, or fame, or opportunity, that’s actually proven to be a creativity killer because you’re focused on the result of rather than the work itself. They say consistently in a variety of different experimental context whenever people are focused on doing it for love or doing it for the hell of it then they’re more creative and more original than doing it in order to please the boss or get a pay raise or to please the client.
You can immediately see the problem with that in a business context, because business is driven by rewards and by controls and by consequences. I wrote the original book to help managers get their head around this and the fact that just offering more money, or alternatively more threats, was not likely to be effective at getting the best out of creative workers.
What I discovered was that the creatives themselves were more interested in the material than their managers, so when it came to running workshops on this I had a lot of creatives saying, “Can you run it to help us understand our own motive?”
Fast forward to a couple of years ago and I thought, “I keep saying I’ve really written this ebook for managers, but if you can imagine it from your perspective as a creative then you’ll get a lot out of it.” I thought that wasn’t good enough, I need to write this for the creatives. So I came up with Motivation for Creative People, I went back and looked at the material again afresh in order to turn it into a full length book.
That’s a slightly long answer, it’s been a long gestation for this book.
Jarie: Sometimes those things happen. You get an idea and you put some stuff out there on the blog and lo and behold people are like, “We really like what you’re doing, why don’t you write a book?” I’m sure that happens to a lot of people.
Some of the things that I think are really great about this, which is a lot different than the Resilience book, is that you go through all the different types of motivation, the intrinsic, extrinsic, the personal motivations and social motivations. What I think is the best analogy and for me the thing that pulls it all together was on the front cover there’s this pinwheel that has these different colors. Can you explain a little bit about what the pinwheel analogy means for what you’re doing?
Mark: Sure. There are basically two different axis, four different types of motivation. I’ve already talked about the intrinsic and extrinsic, that’s doing it for love and doing it for rewards. On the other axis you have your own personal values, your personal motivation of what drives you as an individual, versus social motivation, which is the influences from around you.
The short answer is to have a successful creative career you need to have all four. You need to be something you enjoy that is aligned with your own values, but also earns you sufficient rewards to keep going and you’re surrounded by people who give you enough encouragement, support, challenge, and competition to really help you take things through.
I went to my designer, Irene Hoffman, who is amazing and did the design for both of my books, and I said to, “I have this really complicated idea and I want you to express it in a single image. It’s about the relationship between these four different types of motivation. It could be a compass, but I’d rather it wasn’t because that’s a little bit boring.” She went away and she came back with the pinwheel. As soon as I saw it I said, “That’s it, you’ve nailed it.”
I guess I can take credit for the brief, but Irene actually came up with the concept. One of the things about a really nice concept like this is you can immediately start to see all of the implications of it.
When I thought about the pinwheel I thought it’s not just about aligning these four elements, but it’s about how they interact together. When the pinwheel spins then of course all of the colors blend together. That’s why we have a pinwheel, because we want it to spin because it looks nice.
Another aspect of it, the pinwheel spins when you blow on it so it’s your own breath, your own effort, or it could blow when it’s caught by the bigger breeze. I think that’s another nice metaphor for inspiration or any great project. Sometimes you feel like “I’m having to pull myself up by the bootstraps here,” but other times you really do feel like you’ve tapped into something bigger than yourself.
I think that’s one of the most exciting aspects of doing any kind of creative work when you’ve tapped into that. You can call it your own unconscious or the collective unconscious, the Ancient Greeks called it the Muse. Whatever it is, it’s really exciting and you really feel like you’ve gone beyond your original premise and ego.
Jarie: That’s a really powerful concept. It is one of those great things when everything comes together and the pinwheel is spinning, the blur of color just melds into one so it’s this wonderful rainbow of intrinsic, extrinsic, social motivation and reward. When it all hits in stride, even when you’re running a race or doing an endurance event and you feel that energy and all the hard work comes together, you feel outside of yourself, which is great.
Mark: Yes, right. I know you get that – I mean, you must get this to do what you do, because your endurance events are not easy by definition.
Mark: But there has to be that love. It’s the same whether it’s athletics or entrepreneurship or artistic work, it’s not easy. There are plenty of days when we wonder, “Why on earth am I doing this? What have I got myself into it?” It’s those days, or even those moments, where it all comes together that you go, “Oh yeah, that’s it. This is why I do this.”
Jarie: That’s wonderful, a great way to sum it up. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about it. It’s one of things I think everyone, whatever you’re doing in life you should get on reading this sort of stuff. If you’re an endurance athlete or in business, Motivation for Creative People is a wonderful read and has a lot of great ways to keep yourself motivated and it does dive into lots of different ways that you can apply your creativity to different aspects of things. It’s one of those books that I know I’ll be reading back and forth when I get blocked when I’m trying to do some sort of creative endeavor, which always happens (I don’t know why, you hit the wall).
Mark, I really appreciate your time. Good luck with the book.
Everyone out there in the blogosphere and the podcastsphere should go check it out and pick it up.
Mark: All right. Thank you, Jarie. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you.
Jarie: Take care.