There are so many things that authors need to do now as well as write, plus there are a lot more distractions. So how do we stay productive and creative in a crazy busy world? I discuss this with Mark McGuinness in today's show.
In the introduction, I talk about Amazon adding 5 languages to the Indian Kindle store, changes to EU VAT on ebooks, and my thoughts on the tweets coming out of the FutureBook conference in London. Here's a short video of my own thoughts on the future of book sales.
I talk about long-term thinking and will anyone miss what you're creating if you stop? These deep and meaningful thoughts came from the podcast discussion between Chase Jarvis and Seth Godin on what does it mean to matter. An important question for 2017.
I also mentioned that my audiobook boxset is now available for the London Psychic series, plus End of Days is coming back from my editor this week, I'm researching my next series, and if you want to write a novel, sell more books or plan for 2017, check out my free webinar series starting this coming weekend.
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Mark McGuinness is an award-winning poet, non-fiction author, creative coach and professional speaker. His latest book is Productivity for Creative People: How to get creative work done in an ‘always on' world.
- How validation plays into Mark's life as both a poet and a business person. Here's Mark's award-winning poem.
- Why creating assets matters so much for creative people. Here's Mark's article about how creatives should forget the career ladder and just start creating assets.
- The four areas one must spend time on when creating a business
- How little bits of time add up to achieving big goals
- Tools to aid productivity for creative people, including Dragon Naturally Speaking
- Why doing nothing matters
You can find Mark at www.LateralAction.com and on twitter @markmcguinness
Transcript of Interview with Mark McGuinness
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com. And today, I'm back with Mark McGuinness. Hi, Mark.
Mark: Hi, Jo. Nice to be back.
Joanna: Yes. Always good to have you on the show. Just a little introduction for those who might not know Mark.
Mark is an award-winning poet, nonfiction author, creative coach, and professional speaker. His latest book is “Productivity for Creative People: How to Get Creative Work Done in an ‘Always on' World,” which is so totally needed, especially as we move into the new year.
I wanted to start by asking you, Mark; you're a really smart businessman. You make a good living with your businesses but you're also a poet, which is just fascinating because, of course, we know poetry doesn't make any money, but you've had an exciting time with your poetry in the last few months.
Why don't you start by telling us a bit more about that side of you before we get into hard-core productivity.
Mark: You're asking me this at a good time. Last week, I went to London to read at the prize giving for the Stephen Spender Prize for 2016, which as far as I'm aware, is the biggest prize for poetry translation in the UK. I was awarded third prize, which I was very pleased with.
I went up and read my poem and met the other poets. And, you know, it's a nice, obviously, an encouraging boost to get an award like that, particularly on a long project like this, which I'm working on a translation of Geoffrey Chaucer's long poem, “Troilus and Criseyde.” And, you know, it's taking a while. So it's nice to get a little bit of encouragement and recognition for it.
Joanna: Yeah. I love that. And, and obviously, you do things for love, as well as money.
I wanted to ask, before we get into the productivity stuff, how does your validation as a poet differ to your validation as a business person?
Mark: Good question. I think this goes back to the previous book that we talked about, where I was talking about motivation and how to stay creative while gaining money, fame, and reputation. Whatever you write, I believe you should be doing it for love, first and foremost, because otherwise, it's a very long working day. But assuming that you're doing it for love, there are different kinds of reward and recognition that you can get.
Money is one. Fame, as in, you know, more people knowing about you, and reputation is another. I'm not expecting a huge amount of money and fame from this. It would be nice. I wouldn't say no but the sudden, you know, expectation of that. But I do want to contribute to the body of poetry that's been written in English and other languages, indeed.
And so the reputation: when I get a prize like this or if I get published in a prestigious magazine or journal, then it's just a little sense of okay, you're part of the conversation. And the audience who really love poetry, those are some of the signals they look for.
Every audience is different. I think it's really important, whatever you write to be aware of, as well as doing it for the joy of the act itself, think about who you're trying to reach and what are the signals that let you know you're reaching them. In some cases, it's money. Others, it would be fame. But with more literary work, you're likely to have to console yourself with reputation. And undying glory, of course.
Joanna: Yes. Absolutely. I met you online. I knew you online years before I actually met you in person. And I knew you in this productivity, internet marketing, internet business niche. And then I find out later that you're not really semi-famous but you're like…you have this big part of you that is into sort of Chaucer poetry, which most people haven't got a clue about.
I actually think it's a really good mix. One of the issues we have as creative business people is that we have to mix or balance these aspects that may never make us a pound or a dollar with the functional tasks of running a business and creating things that might actually pay the bills.
How do we balance asset creation, the things that put money in our pocket, with the things we love and then with the admin because…and then the family and everything else?
Mark: There're several things kind of bundled up together. So maybe if I start by unbundling them a little bit. I think there's one about doing stuff for money and doing it for love. And if you follow the money argument to its logical conclusion, neither of us would be doing this.
Mark: I mean, there are easier ways to make money. But, you know, as we both know, those ways are generally more unfulfilling. If you are creator, then you need to know where your sweet spot is, let alone your sour spot, about the balance of money work and artistic or creative or fulfilling work in your life.
For me, you know, poetry's one of the non-negotiables. And so what I've done is I've created business that's kind of complimentary to that in the sense that it pays the bills. And it also creates enough time for me to do…you know, to spend time doing something like translating medieval poetry on a Wednesday morning.
Now, one way I do that is, the fact that I write poetry is one of the reasons why clients want to work with me because I'm looking for a very particular kind of client who values the artistic side of writing, the creative side.
A lot of the business coaches out there that they look at, they're much more corporate or they're much more logical, you know, on the money side. So that's the money creativity part.
Next, we've got asset creation, which I know is really dear to your heart, Jo. And you're really super smart about this. And it's absolutely central to my work.
The advice I give my clients is if you're a creative, there is no career ladder. You don't get the normal rungs of promotion and social validation. And it can be a real challenge when you've got people around you giving you well-intentioned advice and asking, “Shouldn't you get a proper job,” and all of that stuff.
And, actually, what I say to clients is, “The alternative to your career ladder is creating assets because an asset is something that will create more value for you as time goes by.” And there are different types of assets. I would actually say that, you know, when I finish say the Chaucer translation, that becomes an asset for me. It probably won't make much money but it will be, you know, be part of the body of work that I want to be known for. And I'm sure opportunities will come to me because of that. And it's something that I can point to and say, “Yeah, I made that. I'm proud of it.”
Then there are assets like say a book or an online course or a product like that that is designed to generate money, as well as opportunities. Then you've got assets like say a website, or a mailing list, or a blog, or a podcast even that you could categorize as social assets.
You've also got the intellectual property in your work, which, as I know you keep telling your listeners, is not the same. You can have one work and many different assets in intellectual property assets. There's different types of right. There's foreign rights. There's movie rights. There's audio rights. There's print rights and so on.
So the big picture of your working life, you want to be spending as much time as possible creating these assets because you've been doing this podcast for goodness knows how many years. I'm sure it opens a lot of doors for you. And it creates a lot of value for your business but when you first started it, it probably felt like a time suck, a time drain.
I think the creators I see who are most fulfilled, and happy, and successful, and prosperous are the ones who prioritize creating assets. They'll typically have a mix of creative intellectual property, social assets, you know, a business model. A company would be another.
It's a bit like the Google rule. You can probably afford to spend 20% of your time at the beginning because you've got other things to do to pay the bills but over time, you want that balance to shift, so that more and more, your writing life, your business life is in that sweet spot where you're creating work that will be an ongoing asset for you.
Joanna: Lots in there. Probably one of the most interesting things I think, well, for me, that you said there was the podcast as a good example because I definitely am guilty of not considering things like the podcast or, you know, I forget almost that the podcast is an asset. Of course, an asset can be, you know, something that directly puts money in your pocket.
But as you said, when I first started the podcast in 2009 when podcasting wasn't really even called podcasting back then, it was just downloadable audio. But basically I started because I wanted to learn from other people. And it seemed like a good way to try and promote them and get almost free consulting, you know, talk to people on the phone and ask them questions.
When I started it, there was no future view that it would become an income asset and something that would have tens of thousands of people listening. It's the same with your poetry. When you translated the first line of your Chaucer work, which many other people have translated before, right…that's the weird thing with translation. It's not even like…it's original. It's an original work but it's not new necessarily in the world and the same as a podcast. It's like, “Yeah, lots of other people are talking about productivity.”
It's having that foresight to think, “Okay. Well, in five years' time, do I want to have this thing in my body of work? And then do I want to spend the time working on it with no financial return? And even if it never returns anything financially, do I still want to do it for the love of it?”
It's really considering the time that you spend for good things that may or may not turn out to be money.
Mark: Absolutely. And the way I look at it in terms of what you could be spending your time on in your business, I think there are four basic categories.
One is the ongoing work. This is the email. This is the meetings. This is the admin. This is the accounts, all the stuff that you have to do to keep the lights on and the doors open.
Another thing is events. And so for an author, probably one of the biggest events would be a book launch. Another one might be a conference. So these are time limited. You know, you've got to do them by a certain date. And after that date, they're over. They're done with. They're history.
A third one is backlogs, which is all the stuff that you wish you'd done earlier. It could be filing. It could be website maintenance. It could be accounts, again, is a classic one for freelancers. And clearing a backlog makes you feel great, but all it will do is get you to zero.
The fourth category is asset creation. And at the beginning, it's slow. And it may be a very small or even nonexistent part of your income or your opportunity generation, but as time goes by, the more time you dedicate to it, the more value it creates. And the easier all the other stuff becomes.
Now, like say your podcast, the kind of asset I would describe it as is an opportunity magnet. If you look at it, I mean, on the one hand, you're doing it because you obviously enjoy doing it, you're giving a lot of value. And because of that, things come to you. You know, you're invited to speak. People want to be on your show. People know your name. And they say, “I wonder what Jo's books are like,” you know, all of that kind of thing.
The hard part of asset creation is it's never urgent. And it's risky. It might not pay off. And there's always plenty of other stuff in the ongoing and events category that is pushing for our attention.
I think one of the big challenges that we've got is to keep focused on that big picture. I mean, I love that, the episode of the podcast this week. You were saying you've got this great question pinned up on the wall where you say, “How does my work today contribute to my body of work,” something like that.
Joanna: Yeah. What can I create today that impacts my long-term wealth legacy body of work?
Mark: That's it, yes. That's a great question to bear in mind because that keeps you focused on the big picture and in terms of what we're talking about today, asset creation.
Joanna: Yeah. That's a really great bucket. And I might have to change it. I might have to say, “What can I create this week,” as opposed to today, because it's funny because while you're talking, this morning, I got up at 6:00. Because I've got all these big plans at the moment and for next year.
I thought, “Okay. I have enough to do just to do everything I was doing just to maintain what I've created, the monster that is having two brands and books and the podcast.” And to maintain the level I'm at, I have to work full…not have to work full-time but I love working full-time.
How am I gonna make extra time to create more? So it's like, “Okay, it has to be earlier.” I have to get up earlier because I now have these new projects. And I really want to do those but I need to make more time.
I wonder if you could talk a bit more about making time and, also, balancing those four areas in the time that people have, especially if they already have a day job.
Mark: Yeah. The first thing is, it's always a challenge because there's always something that feels more urgent. I mean, everyone says when you finish a book, “Oh, it's amazing that you wrote a book. Well done.” But when you sat there on, you know, the wet Wednesday morning trying to get up at 6:00 when you'd rather be in bed, there's nobody there to cheer you on.
That's the struggle that we've got but the thing I like about listening to you describe it there, you're coming from a place of enthusiasm. “I really want to do these new projects,” or, “I'm prepared to get up at 6:00.”
I did this 10 years ago, almost. No, it's getting off 11 now. When I wanted to start a blog and I already had too many things on my plate. I got up at 6:00. And I wrote it in the morning before all the bedlam started.
And I would have a few people that would make comments. Like when they saw the blog, they said, “Well, of course, I'm too busy to do something like that.” And there's always this kind of cult of business that you can't be doing anything important if you've got time to frit away on a blog or poetry or whatever it may be. So ignore that kind of talk.
And everybody's got the time. My first professional training was as a psychotherapist. I had a day job in publishing to pay the bills for that. And so I would get up early. I would study in the mornings. I would study in the evenings. I've travelled to London at weekends, stayed with friends.
When I was doing my training, my friends were all going out partying to the nightclubs. And I would hear them come in as I was sleeping on their sofa. Then I would get up, do my day's studying. But actually I loved doing it because this was creating my future.
I would say if you're struggling, even an hour a day or an hour a week, but connect with that enthusiasm to make it happen because potentially you're creating a whole different future for yourself.
Joanna: It's great to hear you talk about that 10, 11-year thing because it was 10…It was 2006 when I started writing that first nonfiction book. And I did that exactly the same way as you. Got up at 5:00. It's much easier to get up at 5:00 a.m. in Australia because the sun comes up earlier. But I would get up at 5:00. I would do an hour and a half before, then getting ready to go to work.
And when I came home, that's when I used time for blogging and meeting people online and starting to learn, and then weekends as well. I think you're totally right. I do think it's about what do you want. Like literally, what do you want to create in the next 5 years or 10 years?
Like you and I, you know, we've spent 10 years doing this. And that's why we're in the position we are now but we've just put time aside every single day for the thing that we want to create in our future. And it seems like magic in a way.
I sometimes look at my life now and go, “How the hell did this happen?” But it literally is just the little time every day. And it used to be an hour every day or two hours every day. And now it's, you know, probably 10 hours a day. And I still love it. So it was, obviously, the right thing.
Your comment on the 10-year overnight success, do you think that that is what it takes?
Mark: Yeah. I mean, let's not get too depressing. You don't have to wait 10 years before you see any results. But I think it was about a year before my first blog got any serious traction in terms of new business opportunities.
Having said that, I was pretty clueless about what I was doing. I went up quite a few blind alleys with it. I mean, it will take time. It takes several months to write a book or it certainly does for me but…and one book isn't going to change your whole life, probably. But the next book, and the next book, and the next book, they all compound over time. It's like saving. So by the time you get to 10 years, then you actually picked up a lot more momentum than maybe you ever suspected.
Joanna: And there's a book there “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy. That was one of his books that I read and I was like, “Oh, my goodness. I get it.” And the graph does get more exponential.
You're right, of course. I left my day job in 2011. It's been five years since I left my job to do this but the level…and I think, also, the level of success in any career, you know, I often say, “How valuable in any job are you after one year? Like, really?” You're not very valuable after one year. You're more valuable after five years. And after 10 years, you're running a department. You know, you're very valuable. And that's why people get hired when they have 10 years' experience.
I think there's definitely a parallel with any kind of career.
Mark: Definitely. W. H. Auden the poet used to say, “If I'd gone in…” In his old age, he used to say, “If I'd gone into the church, I'd be a bishop by now.” And, of course, he hadn't. And he didn't. And he wasn't. But you see, there was no official ranking for poets. With the body of work he created, he was kind of the equivalent of a bishop or maybe even an archbishop or a pontiff.
Joanna: That's very true. Okay. I still want to get more specific.
How do you manage your time? I've mentioned before on the show that I still have a physical Filofax, although I'm actually wondering about moving onto a digital calendar because I'm petrified about losing it. I'm like, “If I lose this, you know, I am totally screwed.” I don't want to duplicate loads of stuff.
That's one question. What's your recommended online calendar?
I also use Things app, which I love. And I'm now using Asana to work with my other freelancers.
What are the tools that you use and recommend?
Mark: Okay. I use Google Calendar because I can't lose it. And I can sync it across the Mac and the phone. And, if I'm out and about, I can put an appointment in and that it will be synced to the desktop. So that's nice and easy.
To-do list: I've got a stack of post-its that are about two and a half by two and a half inches. And I've finely calibrated this to the size of my handwriting for the amount of stuff that I can do in one day.
Every day I sit down and I've got a post-it in front of me. And top left is the big writing project for today. And then down the left-hand column is all my client commitments for the day, things I promised to do for clients. And then the right-hand column is everything else. I've got a chapter in the book called, “If it won't fit in a post-it, it won't fit in your day.”
When I sit down, it really makes me focused, because if I'm struggling to fit everything on that post-it, I know I'm not going to get it done today, I'm just kidding myself.
I used to be the world's worst over-committing. I'd have these digital task list managers and it was just hundreds of items long. And it was so demotivating to look at it and realize I would probably never do all of it.
So every day after about 9:00, nothing else gets on that post-it, unless it's an emergency. Anything else that comes in, goes on the post-it underneath, which is the post-it for tomorrow. And that creates a buffer in my day. So it means that I can finish my day's work. If I do everything on that post-it, I have been a good boy, and I have done my work for today, and I can finish work. Anything else that comes in, I'll put it on tomorrow's list.
I'm never gonna have one of those lists that's bigger at the end of the day than it was at the beginning because I kept adding to it during the day. And this is a variation on a tip I got from a guy called Mark Forster who wrote a great book called “Do It Tomorrow,” which is based on this idea.
Anything that comes in today, you put it on the list for tomorrow. And you literally do it tomorrow. And what that means is you've had a bit of time to kind of percolate. And it gets your fat hamster wheel of just doing stuff. You know, you do stuff. And then you do one thing and then another two come in. And you're constantly in reactive mode. This gets you out of that. So that's the daily to-do list.
And then for big picture project management, I'm actually using Scrivener because I started using it to write books. I realized it's really good for managing a big writing project. I thought, “Well, actually, I could manage any project in it.”
I love the thing of having several different kind of sub-documents, but I can still see the big picture. Every time I've got a major project, I'll create a Scrivener file for it. And just throw everything in there.
Oh, and Evernote, as well. I'm a recent convert to Evernote, so particularly for poetry drafts. If I'm writing, writing at the desktop, I can upload it to an Evernote notebook.
And then I'm sitting in the café with my beret on, smoking Gitanes. And I'm writing in my notebook. And it's a shame we're not doing this as video. You could see all that for real. I'm writing in my notebook. And, you know, I write down a page or two of verse. And I can scan it and upload it to Evernote to the same notebook that I'm using for the poem in, you know, on the Mac.
That means all my drafts are collected in the same place. And I actually find I'm using my notebook a lot more because before it felt like a bit of a black hole. I'd write something in the notebook. And I might not see it for five years but now Evernote captures all of that stuff for me.
Joanna: I've tried Evernote a couple of times. And every time I'm like, “Oh, it just doesn't fit in my processes.” And you saying that now, because I have so many notebooks. And I keep looking at them all.
Just in that one trip away to America and then Israel, I filled a whole new Moleskine notebook with notes and thoughts and ideas. And I've got it on my desk. And I'm like, “Oh, my goodness. How do I get everything out of that and out of everything?” And that's what you're saying about Evernote, it's great.
I know now they have Moleskine journals that actually are synched with Evernote in some way, like are especially designed for Evernote. I think that people need to realize that the tech is changing all the time. I've failed on Evernote before but you saying that makes me wanna go back to it for that reason. If that's the only reason I use it, that will be a good reason because it does OCR, doesn't it, optical character recognition.
Does it work with your handwriting or is it just the picture?
Mark: No, I haven't even tried it, Jo. And, I'm sure it's like Scrivener. You know, there's all kinds of stuff I could do with Scrivener but the killer feature for me is I can have 20 chapters all with sub-documents within one document. I can see the big picture and the small picture. I can rearrange the chapters. I can zoom in and zoom out of my book.
That's pretty well all I use for the Scrivener, apart from the writing mode where you've got the nice white bar down the middle of the screen. I guess I could take a course and learn more but I'm a good believer in keeping things as simple as possible because I know I've got a tendency to over-complicate.
At the moment, I'm just being really basic with Evernote and just using it like that. But there are all kinds of things that it can do potentially as, indeed, Scrivener, which I know you know a lot more than I do.
Joanna: Yes. Well, and I use Scrivener for a lot too. And what you just said is really important. Don't go looking for a tool if you don't have a problem. Your problem and one of my problems is I like writing in my notebook but then I'm worried that I will lose that physical writing, and how can I integrate that into my creation process, or do I literally just have to type up what's in my notebook.
So there is a problem there. And Evernote might fix that problem. I've been happy using the Filofax for years but now, my number of appointments in the business is growing. And now I'm like my problem is, “What if I lose this?”
Then it's like, “Okay, I finally might need to embrace a calendar app,” which, you know, makes me go, “Oh.” When Jonathan, my husband, joined the company, I never used Asana before. And he said, “You can't just email me stuff. We need a tool where we can put tasks.” And I'm like, “Oh, like a co-working tool. Oh, like Asana.” Now I use that also with Alexandra, my VA. I think the point to everyone listening is don't go and buy loads of random tools. Wait until you have a problem. And then find a tool to fix it.
Like Vellum. You've heard me mention Vellum. Those of us who've gone to Vellum are now just loving e-book formatting. And it solved the problem of e-book formatting. So I'm like, “I'm an evangelist for it.” There's another good example.
I wondered if you tried Vellum yet.
Mark: I haven't. I'm using Polgarus Studio. I just send it to him. And he does it all for me. I had a horrendous experience formatting my very first e-book. And now I'm very happy just to have somebody to send it to and say, “Please make it so.”
Joanna: And that's a great example of something that you've decided, “That's not on my list. That is on someone else's list.” So that was great, outsourcing these other things. At the moment, I'm going through the process of outsourcing a lot of the audio stuff for the podcast. You're going to be one of the first people who'll be in the new system. This audio should sound better because we actually have a professional audio person doing it.
Mark: Wow. I feel special.
Joanna: I know, exactly. Okay. So you also use dictation.
Joanna: Many authors, in fact, in general, are really interested in dictation.
How do you use dictation specifically for your books? And do you have any tips?
Mark: I got into it years ago when I had absolutely horrendous RSI and could hardly touch a keyboard for six months. And as a writer, using the internet for my business, you can imagine that this was a bit of an inconvenience.
I discovered Dragon Naturally Speaking, which was so good that I installed Windows Vista on my beloved Mac. I partitioned the Mac because the Mac version wasn't that good then. And the Windows version was just amazing. I could literally just talk at the speed I'm talking to you now. And it will get it 90% accurate.
These days, I'm pleased to say the Mac version is better. So I'm using the Mac one. It's still not quite as good as the Windows but it's usable. And what I use it for is generating that first draft of prose.
I don't use it for poetry. I write poetry far too slowly to need speech recognition. But I might have a rough outline of a chapter sketched out. And I will print that off or have that open on one window. And then I'll just get a really basic text editor and speak to the computer to just, you know, it's like speaking from the notes. A bit like bullet points for presentation. I'll have my notes in front of me and I will speak to the screen.
And the thing I really like is I've used the Bluetooth wireless headset, which means I can walk away from the computer. And I set the font to something ridiculous like size 30. And I stick some techno on the sound system. And I walk up and down and I dictate to my electronic secretary.
I see the words magically appearing on the screen. And it's a wonderful way to write because I get to walk and talk. My wife always thinks it's hilarious that I walk up and down when I'm on the phone but there's something about moving that helps it, makes it easier to speak.
When I do that I can generate a lot of text quite quickly. I'm fairly thoughtful, I like to think about the writing as I go but even so, even allowing for that. And I think that the best thing it gets, it does, is you know when you're typing, and
I'm a pretty fast typist, but you're typing one sentence and but you've thought of the next two sentences in your mind. And you're trying to hold them in your short-term memory while you're typing this one. And then, you know, it's like your mind wants to keep bounding ahead, you know. I hadn't quite realized what an issue that was until I using the speech recognition. And, again, as soon as I speak the sentence, it's out. It's on the screen. It's captured.
And then I will copy and paste that into Scrivener. And the next day or, you know, a few days later, not the same day, I'll go through and I'll edit that text. Occasionally it will get the wrong word in. It will never spell a word wrong but sometimes it might put in the wrong word entirely. So you've got to learn a different kind of proofreading. But generally, in terms of the speed and the fluency and the ease of writing, I wouldn't go back to typing.
Joanna: That's great. I got into dictation earlier this year when I did have RSI. And then my RSI went away and I went back to typing.
Mark: Oh, did you? All right. I didn't go back. I mean, I will type emails and stuff but for actual writing writing, I just like the dictation so much I stayed with it.
Joanna: I'm definitely gonna have another go because I think it's a good way to get that first draft written because, often, that first draft is really painful. Well, it is for me. It is for many people. And if I can get a whole load of words down at the editing process…I actually love editing more than first. I love all the idea stuff. And then I love editing.
Probably the first draft bashing it out is the least fun bit for me, which is funny because a lot of people love that bit.
Mark: Yeah. I enjoy rewriting more than initial…I guess for…well, for poetry, I do. I'm not sure about prose. I do enjoy the rewriting part. I'm a bit of a perfectionist so I like try to, you know, constantly improving it and tweaking it.
Joanna: Yeah. That's one of the problems of being a poet probably. And there's never the final word is that there's always another word that could have been.
Mark: Well, that's the joy of it, Jo.
Joanna: Oh, sorry. The joy of it, of course. Finally, last question. You also mentioned do more nothing, which I think is so important. And one of the reasons I came back from America with like a new direction for the business is because I had time to walk and think. I actually just put everything on hold, you know. I'd scheduled all the podcasts. I'd done a whole load of stuff to make sure I had time to think.
What do you mean by do more nothing? And how can we actually make that time when we've just filled everyone's time with everything else?
Mark: Essentially, it's time when we're not working. And you're relaxing, you're playing sports, spending time with friends, family, watching a movie, traveling, or meditating, which is how I discovered it.
Years ago, I was going to silent retreats at a Buddhist monastery. And it was a really amazing experience because what you do all day is, you know, you're in silence, and you alternative sitting and walking meditation. And you basically observe your mind, and you observe your body, and you observe your emotions and your state throughout the day.
I discovered several things about the natural rhythm of energy. For instance in the morning, after a few days, I had this weird experience. About 10:00 in the morning, I would have an insight that would just come out of nowhere. And it would be about some problem or some issue or even some creative project I was working on. And it would be really clear and sharp and powerful and something I took away and applied in my life afterwards.
This came with no effort. All I was doing was I was deliberately not getting caught up in thinking. And typically, it would come into my mind. And it would be about something that I wasn't consciously thinking about before. And I noticed this happened in the morning. I could almost set my watch by it every day. It was a little uncanny.
And then in the afternoon, I've noticed my energy dipped. I got a bit sleepy after lunch. It was like walking through treacle. And one of the things I took back into my life afterwards was A, create space for nothing. So I have a regular morning meditation practice that just helps…I'm sure it just helps things trickle through and work themselves out and keep hold of the big picture and not get so caught up in the day today.
And the other thing is really it made me very aware of when I'm at my best as a writer, which was clearly in the mornings. That's when my mind is clearest. So it's really hard to get an appointment with me these days in the morning. We're only talking this morning because, you know, we're both busy. And we couldn't find any other time. But it's actually quite rare that I would do this at this time of day because my mind is clearer. It's much easier. The words will flow much more quickly.
Typically, these days, I just write in the mornings. I have a coaching practice. And a lot of my clients are in the states. So with the time zones, it's quite good because when it gets to the afternoon, then they're awake. I write in the morning, coach in the afternoon.
And then I take nearly every evening off and just about every weekend. The only times I would work evenings all weekends is
if there's a big launch on, or I was doing it out of enthusiasm because I know I just couldn't wait until the morning.
Joanna: Yeah. And we should say that you're married and you have two kids, right? So it's not like you're just on your own.
Mark: Well, that's a big factor, as well, yeah. You know, obviously, I wanna create time for them.
Joanna: I think that's really important for people to realize. You managed to fit this stuff into a life, which, your life is about your family and your poetry, which are bigger things. And then the coaching business and the nonfiction and everything work into that. But yeah, I think that's awesome.
Where can people find you and your books online?
Mark: Well, if you're interested in the poetry, that's at markmcguinness.com. And for the creativity coaching and related books, it's lateralaction.com. So the “Productivity for Creative People” book is lateralaction.com/productivity.
Joanna: And it's on all available book stores.
Mark: That's right. Yes.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Mark. That was brilliant.
Mark: Thanks, Jo. Always a pleasure.