Creativity Coaching–What Is It, Anyway?

Of all the questions I get asked when I’m running a training session on communications, the one I hear the most interest in is “What is creativity coaching anyway?”  There is always a bit of doubt, a fear that maybe creativity coaching might be inaccessible to the business worker. After all, day-to-day creativity is suspicious to American corporate culture.

"Beginning" ink and watercolor pencil on paper, Quinn McDonald © 2010

Read more about the fear of creativity in leadership in “A Bias Against Quirky,” in the Feb. 16, 2011 issue of the Wharton School of Business’s online journal, Knowledge@Wharton.

Answering questions about creativity coaching is fascinating to me, because it doesn’t take long to discover the hunger for answers behind the questions. There is a curiosity about creative problem solving, creative thinking, and the possibility of living a daily creative life. Creativity coaching focuses on the stumbling blocks experienced by anyone involved in creative endeavors. Clients cover a wide range, including creative business leaders, performing or visual artists, parents, and students.

Here are the answers to questions I’m frequently asked:
Q  Do you teach people how to be creative?

A. No, you are already creative. I just make you less afraid of your own creativity, or how to re-discover your existing creativity when it has been buried and unused for a long time.

Q. Why do your clients come to you?

A. Generally because they are stuck. They might be confused about their talent, they might not have enough time to create, or have too many ideas at once. Sometimes they are conflicted between their creative work and day job. Some people want to create but are afraid to sell their work. Or they get confused between selling their work and satisfying their own creative calling. It’s easy to make creativity a full-time money-making job, with job-like demands and that can be confusing.

Q. Can you make money being creative?
A. Yes, but not always in the way you think. If you don’t have an existing following or marketing skills, it’s hard to put the burden of money-making on a creative project. The main purpose of creativity is to make meaning. Once you have mastered meaning-making, you can think about money-making.

Q: What’s a coaching session like?

A. My coaching is done on the phone, so it starts with a phone call. In the first or second session, when we are defining the relationship, I ask the client what his or her goals are, what their dreams are, what they wish they could make of their lives, how they want to show up in the world, what values they want to display and honor. Often creative people want to show up in the world in a certain way, but behave in a very different way, and are surprised when they get unexpected results. Once we uncover basic goals and the values that support them, we see what the obstacles and gifts are on the path. I create a big space for the client to express their fears, their hopes, and, eventually, their desire to work on a goal. My role is to ask questions to clarify and to toss out ideas that the client is free to follow, discard or change.

Q: Are you a creative person?

A. Yes, I’m a writer who teaches business writing and communication, a book artist who works at the intersection of words and images, and a life- and creativity coach. I’m really an every-day creative person–a problem solver and seeker. I believe that you have to be involved in creative work to be a good creativity coach.

Q: Did you go to school for creativity coaching?

A. I did. After I went to school for life coaching, 180 hours worth. When I graduated, in 2003, I opened my practice. At that time, I was already a writer and business trainer. Most of my clients were creative, so I took the certification path of creativity coaching became the first creativity coach certified in the U.S.

Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. Her crossover book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art will be published by North Light Books in July of 2011.

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