Gail McMeekin on Creative Success








Author Gail McMeekin

This special post is part of a blog book tour series with creativity and success coach Gail McMeekin, author of the best selling book The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, as well as two new books: The 12 Secrets of  Highly Successful Women and The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women Journal.

Commenters on today’s post will be entered into a random drawing to win one of Gail’s books (2 winners will be selected).

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Gail professionally over the last 2 years and I’m thrilled to share our interview with you:


How would you define true creative success and how can we achieve it?

Creative success is about using our creative fascinations to produce a product or a service that is unique and useful, serves people, and brings us personal satisfaction in the process.

If it is our business, we want our creative work to bring us prosperity as well.

Creative success is also about creating a lifestyle and practices that enhance our creative potential, keep stress at a minimum, and allow for healthy relationships and life balance.

We also need other creative souls in our circle who can stimulate our creative ideas and cheer us on! The secret is to honor our creative gifts and design a lifestyle that supports our intentions, and to let go of inner and outer saboteurs who do not support us.

What would you say to someone wanting to “unleash their creativity” as much as possible?

First, keep an excitement list and explore what fascinates you in depth so that you can get clear on your unique spin on it.

To do this, you must do what I call “The Power of Subtraction” (from my book The Power of Positive Choices) and get rid of all of your “Serenity Stealers‘” people, things, beliefs, etc. that destroy your peace of mind.  Clear your creative channel so that you can use all that newfound energy to invest in your process/project.

As creators, we must filter out everything in our life that drains our creative energy and add in creative catalysts instead.

Then practice my “Focus Model”:

  • F for Fascinations,
  • O is for Originality,
  • C is for Courage,
  • U is for the Ultimate form, and
  • S is for Share.

Creative people need alone time to think and experiment but most of us also need collaboration and support as part of a model that fuels success.

When most people think of being creative they think of making art — are there other ways to be creative? How do you define creativity?

Creativity is not just for artists and writers. Creativity is about making new connections and making or inventing something new.

Remember Thomas Edison and Coco Channel? They were creative in their own industries.

Everyone has the ability to be creative, but we may have forgotten how to leverage it.

When we were all two years old (unless we were being abused or were mentally handicapped), we used our creativity every day in our play. When we scribbled a picture or built a tower of stuffed animals, we didn’t care what other people thought of our productions, we were just expressing ourselves freely. Unfortunately, for many children, that exuberant uninhibited creative bliss gets strangled by criticism and humiliation in school, in families, or at work, and we may shut down.

A lot of us, as adults, have to heal those wounds in order to step into our creative power. I am so fortunate to have been part of George Prince’s Mind Free Program, (he founded Synectics here in Boston and is a poineer in the field) and one of the most important lessons for me was that mistakes are useful and part of the creative process. Talk about getting your mind freed up, and the result was all my books and products!

We are moving into the Conceptual Age, according to Dan Pink, and our skills in design and story-telling, etc are being moved to the forefront, and being used across industries. The boom in entrepreneurs, especially with women, demands that we access our creativity and create new products and services in every field.

Do all creative endeavors require special training or materials?

Most people need special training and materials in their creative work. But there are stories about people who are naturally gifted creatively, like famous singers who never took voice lessons, or Steve Jobs who dropped out of school and went on to invent phenomenal devices that have changed our culture forever. But there were still techniques they had to learn to advance.

In today’s marketplace, we need to develop our creative abilities. As for other skills and materials/equipment, we need to master our “craft” whether it is financial planning, interior design, or fund-raising. With every profession, there is basic knowledge that we need to learn, as well as applying the accompanying technology changes, which are constant.

For example, there are new software programs for screenwriters, and most photographers have abandoned film and are learning digital and video formats. It is essential to keep up with your industry and develop your excellence. As a watercolor painter myself, I had to learn a variety of techniques for managing the flow of water on different types of paper and the necessity to buy only quality paper and paints to get the images that I want.

So, while some folks have natural abilities in a particular genre, it generally needs to be augmented with marketing skills, new technologies, and advanced techniques.

Ideally, we also need a network of people in our field to share information about new trends and challenges so that we are plugged in. What is very exciting is that with the revolution in online learning, we can access great information from all over the world as well as find consultants and people with technical skills to support our creative endeavors.

Is it really possible to be “trained to be more creative?”

Yes. The process of creativity can be learned and applied to any field. It is not just for artists and writers or people in the arts.

We all have the “software” to create — to make new connections between ideas, but many people have forgotten how to use it or they got shamed once or more when expressing themselves and they went numb and into a fear space.

It is interesting that our global competitors like Japan, China, and Europe are actually training children and adults to become more creative and innovative as they understand it is essential for building a strong economy.

But in the US, we are cutting arts programs, student activities like literary magazines and debating clubs, sports, and other activities that challenge students to use both divergent as well as convergent thinking skills. Our creativity scores in grades K-6 are dropping.

As Dan Pink says, we are moving into a conceptual age where our right brain skills such as design and story telling will increase in value and cannot be exported overseas. We need to be offering creativity to children and adults in this country as preparation for the new entrepreneurial marketplace.

What do you recommend when it feels like you are lost in a “creative desert” and looking for clues on where to begin or restart?

Whenever you are feeling parched creatively and starved for ideas, you need to figure out if you just need a rest or if you are truly depleted of inspiration.

Creativity comes in cycles of birth, death, and then rebirth.

When we are in the desert, we may be resting after completing a creative project, which is totally normal. In fact, in the research for all my books, taking a vacation, traveling, or engaging in leisurely activities, can be great catalysts for new ideas. And actually, the word “recreation” can be split up to mean “re-creation” So many times, taking a time out can recharge your creative batteries.

But, sometimes, we may get really lost in the desert and feel discouraged and clueless about what is next. That can be an unnerving and uncomfortable place to be. It usually means that we are in some kind of transition and closing a chapter, so that we can grow in a new direction. These transitions often require patience and persistence and the release of this crazy myth that we have in this culture that we have to have ourselves clear and together all the time.

Change can be a treacherous journey and is rarely a straight line.

Our first step is to turn inward, get quiet, and listen to our creative muse. Some people meditate, some people journal, some try different arts, etc., but you want to surrender to what is calling you. Like starting a fire, you want to get some sparks to ignite and produce some energy. Then you start following the clues and a path will emerge that feels right intuitively which will lead you out of the desert into a creative oasis.

What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to someone struggling with writer’s block or creative block?

First, send your inner critics and gremlins into outer space for now, so that they are silenced.

Then find a conducive place, set a timer for 30 minutes, and begin to paint, write, design or whatever, fearlessly and quickly.

It hardly matters what you do– but you need to shift from inertia to momentum of some kind.

You have to throw dynamite at your resistance and see what you can learn about yourself and what you are trying to create.

If you do this everyday, the block will disintegrate, or you will discover that your passion belongs elsewhere for now.

About Gail

Gail McMeekin is President of Creative Success, LLC which helps creative professionals and entrepreneurs to leverage their best ideas into heartfelt, prosperous businesses and fulfilling lives. She is the author of  best selling book The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, and has two new books out: The 12 Secrets of  Highly Successful Women and The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women Journal, both of which can be ordered and autographed at on her website at, where you can also find information about upcoming her events, Creative Success Focus Groups, and VIP Days.

Where to Find Gail’s Books Online

You can find Gail’s books online at Barnes & Noble or at, or you can order autographed copies on Gail’s website here:

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble


Win One of Gail’s Books

Two people who comment on today’s post before 5 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday, December 4th will be randomly selected to win a copy of Gail’s The 12 Secrets of  Highly Successful Women or a set of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women and The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women Journal. In order to be eligible to win, you must include your email address with your comment and you must comment about what you found most useful and/or insightful from Gail’s answers. Thanks for playing! Winners will be contacted via email and requested to provide a mailing address for shipping your book!

See More of Gail’s Blog Tour

Read the previous post in the blog tour here. And tomorrow’s blog post will be here.

Many thanks to Gail for her generous sharing and inspiring message!


  1. So much wisdom in this interview! Love the definition of creativity as making new connections between ideas and the terms “serenity stealers” and “creative catalysts.” And I completely agree with Gail about the power of taking action. I always say “Your inner demons can’t hit a moving target.” I’d love to read 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women!

  2. Terrific interview! I love what she said about cycles of creativity, and how sometimes when we feel we’re wandering in the desert, we’re really closing the chapter on one thing before moving on to something new. I think that’s so important to remember when we’re in that disconcerting “uncreative” space. Lots of great stuff here!

  3. Hi Jenna,

    I believe I met Gail in 2005 at a woman’s conference in Framingham, mass. We were both leading seminars. Mine was called The Power of Creative Play : Restoring Spontaneity To Your Life. Until I read this I’d forgotten how long I’d been promoting creative living.

    The China/Japan moving toward the way the US used to be and US moving toward the way they used to be continues to astound me. We used to have a lot of the good ideas and others copied us for less.

    At the moment, few have any ideas because we’ve “created” these ridiculous educational systems. And I’m being generous calling them education. They’re more like mind and behavioral control.

    Our economy cannot move forward without new creative ideas. You know how I feel about this disaster in the making. Unless the folks who sit in corner offices get out of their own corners, creativity will take a really far back seat to the obsessions of testing and the demi-gods of math and science. One of my next op-ed pieces.

    I think we’ve got too much “education.” Too much schooling. Too much training. Too much sitting in chairs and not enough running through the woods for children of all ages. The forests hold the keys to creativity. They are magical places where the mind can wander any which way. Want good ideas, look at the sky, look at the stars, look at the moon, stare into a flower.

    Great post!


  4. Fredrica Parlett says:

    I particularly liked the material about the creative desert, because I often feel I am there. Also the main character in my book imagines the desert as his place of freedom, where other people cannot hurt him. I also like the idea of getting rid of “serenity stealers.” I’ve done a lot of that but new ones keep creeping in — they want my energy. I will try the fascination journal, what excites me. I have resistance to that, but whenever I follow what excites me, the result is good.

  5. I liked this quote: “First, keep an excitement list and explore what fascinates you in depth so that you can get clear on your unique spin on it. To do this, you must do what I call “The Power of Subtraction” (from my book The Power of Positive Choices) and get rid of all of your “Serenity Stealers‘” people, things, beliefs, etc. that destroy your peace of mind.  Clear your creative channel so that you can use all that newfound energy to invest in your process/project”.
    I love the idea of keeping and excitement list and digging into it to know more specifically why it intrigues you. I like the term “serenity stealers” and appreciate the warning to guard against them! Also liked Gail’s spin on focus. I’m interested in looking into Gail’s “Power of Positive Choices” as well as the creativity books and the “mind free” concept.

  6. I loved this entire post. I am so excited to read about Gail and would love to read her book! Developing creative abilities is the stage where I am and would love to move into using my abilities in a career restart from being a stay at home mom.

    Thanks so much for all of your posts Jenna! I love to read them and if my budget wasn’t impossible, I might be exploring more of your services.

  7. This interview is packed with great ideas to get and stay creative. I appreciate the reminder that creativity includes more than art – that Edison and Chanel were creative in their fields. Reminds me that even lawyers can be creative in how they practice law!

    I’m also intrigued by the idea that we are entering a “conceptual age” and as the US is cutting creative programs in education, other countries are moving toward creative education. Seems like law makers need a shot of creativity – think outside the box of merely cutting funding and come up with new strategies that will give American children a chance at success in the future.

    When talking about transitions, I love this phrase: “release of this crazy myth that we have in this culture that we have to have ourselves clear and together all the time.” I love how Gail uses the term myth – it really captures the essence of our cultural dilema.

    Super inspiring!

  8. Great interview ~ I wholeheartedly agree that everyone is creative; that the creative expression is as unique as each of us and that many have forgotten how to leaverage it ( or even access it).
    I am intrigued, confirmed, and inspired by Gail’s comment on change:
    “Change can be a treacherous journey and is rarely a straight line.” So very true.
    She has earmarked and named particular patterns and thought forms most, if not all, of us artists wrangle and wrestle with in the creative process; re: “serenity stealers” ~ once again, I am going to identify what those saboteurs and, dare I say, vampires, are in the present time after I finish this post! As one who was born an artist and trained a psychologist (Ph.D) I also fully and completely stand with Giulietta’s earlier comment-post about education ~ What we really need now is a whole lot LESS formal education in manmade buildings and a lot more running in the woods, along the beach, dangling our feet in flowing, cool waters of a mountain stream, listening to the music of and between bird songs and dolphin trills.
    Finally, i love the connection between creativity, lifestyle, and practices that Gail articulates: “Creative success is also about creating a lifestyle and practices that enhance our creative potential, keep stress at a minimum, and allow for healthy relationships and life balance.” Thank you for the connection between stress level and flow of creativity; recent high level stress needles at me and ruffles my feathers in a most irksome way! After writing out (of my life) the serenity stealers (* vampires) I am excited to reconnect with items on excitement list (what opens my heart and fires up my spirit). Thanks for great inspiration! Namaste, Roxanna

  9. I have not heard of this author until now. I find this interview to be a refreshing elixir of ideas for a thirsty soul like myself. I have so many ideas that float around in my little noggin and yet, I do not let them out into the world I share with others. It is very sad that I do not do what my heart yearns for me to do. It is hard for even me to understand. I perplex myself sometimes…sort of…
    One of the ideas expressed in this interview which grabbed me the most was “throw dynamite at your resistance” and set a timer for 30 minutes and just plain paint, “fearlessly and quickly” because it does “not matter what you do but you need to shift from inertia to momentum of some kind”. Just plain reading the interview gave me a teensy feeling relief from some of my inner turmoil over expressing my creativity instead of just keeping it all bottled up….
    I am going to visit the author’s website and bookmark it for myself 8)

  10. I’m excited to announce that the winners of Gail’s books are Jen Chisel and Sean Johnson based on our random selection. We’ll be in touch with you soon with details about claiming your prize. :)

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