“For creative people, the opportunity to dance with the creative process is itself an experience of abundance. Abundance invites us to live the life we truly desire instead of settling for less. We are the choice-makers of our own priorities. We do indeed design our own lives.”
— Gail McMeekin; The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women Journal
My Journey Toward Creative Success
It was the year 2004, and I was miserable. I had taken a job with a company of crazymakers as a temporary measure, but sunk slowly into its quicksand with no vine in reach. I searched the internet for support in my makeshift cube in the back of the sample room. I found a web of like-minded creative souls via online “journals,” otherwise known as this new platform called “blogging.” With great haste I began my own blog. Aaaaaah, instant therapy.
I cultivated an audience of new friends—young women in similar creative struggles, bum jobs, new husbands, new homes, new puppy dogs. Some of these friends are now old friends whom I have met in person, talk to regularly, or keep tabs on through Facebook (you know who you are ;D). Most of these friends still have blogs of one kind or another, and/or tweet, and have made amazing strides over the past seven years. I am so proud.
So what does all this fluff have to do with this 12 Secrets blog tour, hmmm?
During my early years of blogging, I discovered the magic of creative self-help books. I started with the creativity bible, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (highly recommended). I learned new habits of self-care. I entertained my lost creative inner child with lunch breaks of frozen yogurt and trips to Borders, where I found more and more books. I scanned the bibliographies of the books I found, and bought the most highly recommended titles. Somewhere in this manic research I found The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor by Gail McMeekin (Conari Press, 2000). I loved everything about this book from the collage on the satin coated cover, to quick-reference quotes by famous women called out in the margins. Practically every other page is still lovingly dog-eared.
I inhaled Gail’s words and the stories of hundreds of women who had been in my circumstance at one point or another. Something about the women-only focus appealed to me more than books of similar ilk with a gender neutral focus. Knowing that some of my heroes overcame unimaginable obstacles gave me hope that I, too, could grow beyond my current situation. I began to dream bigger.
Fast forward to 2008. I had lived in Colorado for three years and was recently divorced. I lost 75% of my freelance design business from my bread-and-butter client, who had slashed their marketing budget. In my move from Winter Park to Denver I stumbled across a picture book manuscript I had written back in 2005, just before my move to Colorado. It was called, “Time to Fly.” When I read it, I cried. I had written it at a time of major transition, just before leaving everything I knew behind in Pennsylvania for what I hoped would be a better, more creatively stimulating and balanced life out West. Now mourning that loss, the words took on new meaning. Amazing. Something I wrote actually moved me. I had to do something with it.
I contacted Gail personally. We began one-on-one phone coaching sessions. She helped me break down my once abandoned goal of children’s book publication into baby steps. Her presence gave me courage to submit “Time to Fly” to a grant competition with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Six months later, I was shocked to receive a Letter of Commendation for an honorable mention. Wow, right? My first manuscript ever received critical recognition!
Just as I gained momentum, I found myself in transition yet again—this time, back to Pennsylvania. Gail remained in contact with me, even though I could not afford formal sessions. She remained a cheerleader for my progress, celebrating my small successes and offering alternate paths when I encountered roadblocks. Gail exhibited an infallible faith in me I did not completely comprehend. She invited me to join her Creative Catalyst Group—a teleconferencing support group comprised of other women in various stages of goal pursuit. This support helped me reach a major goal—I completed the production, design and illustration of a children’s album of lullabies called “Sing Me to Sleep, Indie Lullabies.” I organized and attended release parties in London and New York City. The album won two awards (NAPPA Gold and Creative Child Seal of Excellence) and was nominated for an Independent Music Award—once more, recognition and acclaim.
Start-stop, start-stop. My darling beagle, Maggie, began suffering from glaucoma and a luxated lens which required specialized veterinary care. As soon as that was over, I began visits to orthopedic doctors for my spine and hip. Everything but health went on hold. All the while, Gail remained in touch. When I received an invitation to be a host for her blog tour, I was flattered and honored, and I accepted graciously. I reserved my slot and received Gail’s books in the mail. Time to fly.
I have just begun to explore my new creative companions, and already I have dog-eared a page or two, and scribbled some sketches in the hand of my inner child. If it wasn’t a chronological impossibility, I might have asked Gail in her interview (below): “Any chance you wrote all of these books with me in mind?” I know the answer has something to do with like-minded creative spirits.
Kate: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and include me in your blog tour celebrating the release of your new book, The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women! I first came to know you through your prior book, The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, while going through a creative crisis some 10 years ago. How would you say your new title, The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women, essentially differs from the first?
Gail: This new book is the advanced version of my 12 Secrets program. It assumes that you already know that you are creative and are actively ready to take your creativity and your life to a new level. It also directs you to discover your own definition of personal heart-felt creative success and to figure out how to leverage your success by using your creative edge in today’s marketplace. It tackles major issues for women like low self-confidence, burnout, perfectionism, inaccurate societal myths about women, and fear of rejection and gives you insights and strategies on how to deal with them. While I interview fewer women in this book and use more of my own business/creativity knowledge, the 31 successful women I interviewed are all passionate about their work and actively using their creativity daily, they are great role models too. There are Creative Challenges for each chapter so that you get to design a dynamite action plan.
Kate: Have any particular life experiences inspired this second book? And the first?
Gail: The first book, The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, came about after my own recovery from CFS which led to a creative renaissance for me and a fascination about women and creativity. In my research, I noticed that much of the literature and programming on creativity only mentioned a few token creative women like Martha Graham or Georgia O’Keefe. Frankly, that ticked me off. So I set about to write a book profiling modern-day, sane, happy, creative women, like many of the women I had as clients, and to create a roadmap for women so that they could get their creative work out into the world. In this new book, The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women, I took all the mentoring and training that I had experienced and wanted to share the journey with the reader so that they could take their creativity to a higher level and be well-compensated and fulfilled by it. I should mention here that at the request of my readers, RedWheelConari just released a companion Journal book to the first book which is called simply The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women Journal and is another program for deepening your creative exploration and writing out your dreams and goals. Writing that Journal book has been a 10 year dream of mine and I am thrilled that it is finally out there to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first book.
Kate: You speak of yourself as intimately familiar with “ideaphoria.” How did you come to discover your own ideaphoria? How did you personally learn to harness it?
Gail: I always knew that I had lots of ideas. In fact, my husband used to have a request that he have two cups of coffee in the AM before I started talking about all the things that were on my mind, as he initially found them overwhelming, and he is great listener. Now I write in my Journal in the AM so we have shifted the pattern and we talk when we are both fully present. But about 15 years ago, I got invited to take a battery of Aptitude tests at the well-known Johnson O-Conner Research Center in Boston (they are in several U.S. locations) and I scored in the 99th per centile in Ideaphoria, which is rapid flow of ideas. What a revelation for me! It is my greatest gift. But often our greatest gifts have a down-side and when you have too many ideas for your lifetime, you have to learn to manage it. I talk alot about how to do that in The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women as you have to be focused in order to choose the right projects and complete them and not be scattered. So you need sorting strategies, filtering strategies, and I have developed an original FOCUS model that I use in my groups and workshops.I now use post it notes for ideas and then organize them from there.
Kate: One “secret” I have found most challenging in the past and present is delegation. Is this something that you have struggled with in your career? How so?
Gail: For many years I taught a program I developed called Positive Management Strategies to entrepreneurs and managers in large businesses and delegation was a key component. I also coach business owners currently in what I call the “art of delegation.” Some of that material is in The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women, as learning to do it well is a huge challenge for many women. Women business owners often try to hold onto way too much responsibility for too long, while men hire a book-keeper and an assistant very early on. Delegation is not dumping—it requires careful training and coaching until the person you have delegated to is up to speed. But most importantly, you have to delegate to people who have the willingness and the ability to do the job. Without those two elements, the delegation will fail. I have had virtual assistants and web designers on my team since 2000 and I feel very comfortable delegating to the right people. But there are always challenges and both parties have to keep the channels of communication wide open.
Kate: The 12 Secrets, when read quickly may seem like no-brainers upon first glance. What is the difference between knowing a Secret, and living that Secret? Can you cite an example in your own creative journey?
Gail: You know that you have mastered a Secret when you are getting the results you want and we often cycle through all 24 of them at different times. In the Success book, Secret #7 which is called “Crafting a Business Plan that Helps You to Grow Personally, Generates Prosperity, and Enhances Your Lifestyle” has been a challenge for me as my Life Purpose is Passionate Mentor, so I am wired up to help people, above all. But I have had to learn more advanced business management techniques the past few years in order to streamline and grow my business. I have the lifestyle I want and I love my work, so those parts are in good shape. But this is my year of metrics and ROI monitoring and businesses development and I was in an intensive training program last year to give me the best skills which I share in the book. Creative people are always learning and mastering new things.
Kate: Knowing what you know now having interviewed some of the most successful, creative women in our lifetime, what advice would you give yourself as a young newcomer to the work force in this economy?
Gail: Invest in a comprehensive career/life assessment with an experienced coach and choose a career path that you really are excited about where there is a need in the marketplace. I work with lots of young women and help them to find their Life Purpose, their best skills and talents, and help them to make their passions and dreams a reality. Also, stop listening to people who give you advice who have no idea what they are talking about. Women are not just supposed to be nurses, secretaries, and teachers, unless they choose to be. There is a whole world out there for us with new kinds of jobs being invented every day. Know thyself, as Socrates said, is your best guide.
Special thanks to my coach and mentor, Gail McMeekin, for including me in your blog tour of successful and creative women. You have been a huge part of all my successes in this ongoing journey. I look forward to forging the next path with you soon.