What do you want to be when you grow up? That’s the question Michelle Ward, the When I Grow Up Coach, helps her clients answer. Ward is certified by the International Coach Federation. She’s spent over 750 hours coaching hundreds of creative people to devise the career they think they can’t have — or discover it in the first place.
She’s also a musical theater actress with her BFA from NYU/Tisch. And she’s one of the most creative and passionate people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting online. Ward infuses everything she does with creativity and her enthusiastic one-of-a-kind approach.
Below, in our monthly series, Ward shares the behind-the-scenes of her creative process, how she overcomes the comparison trap, her powerful advice for readers and much more.
Ward also has served as an expert source and contributor for publications such as Newsweek and Forbes and websites such as Yahoo! and AOL Jobs. She’s spoken at SXSW, The World Domination Summit and Etsy Success Symposium.
She can be found coachin’, bloggin’ & givin’ away free stuff at whenigrowupcoach.com.
1. Do you incorporate creativity-boosting activities into your daily routine? If so, what activities do you do?
You might wanna slap me for saying this, but I feel like everything I do centers around doing it creatively. I’ve built my business on writing and making videos and speaking and playing my pink ukulele…so every time I decide to work on something, I think about what I want to express and how. I wrote/filmed/edited a music video for my communty site.
When I put my career change exercises into workbook form, I decided to make the whole freakin’ thing (yes, all 50+ pages) rhyme.
When I offered An Effective Escape: Leaving Your Day Job Without Living in Your Parents’ Basement for the first time, it was as a virtual workshop. I’m usually doing something around speaking, singing, or writing… but not in a do-a-creative-exercise-every-day way.
2. What are your inspirations for your work?
It depends on what I’m working on, but the things that are popping into my head… Dr. Seuss, Cee Lo Green, Garfunkel & Oates, Cee Lo Green, stuff from my childhood (I so wanna write a Choose Your Own Adventure Book!), Jessica Swift, Color Me Katie, Danielle LaPorte, Alexandra Franzen, my clients, Broadway….oh, I’ll stop there now.
3. There are many culprits that can crush creativity, such as distractions, self-doubt and fear of failure. What tends to stand in the way of your creativity?
The Comparison Vampire! Oh, I call the voices we have in our heads that suck the good stuff outta us Vampires, and The Comparison Vampire tends to be the worst of all.
Look at how professional her videos are. Look at how perfect his copy is. Blech. It makes you wanna just throw in the towel and never write another word or speak another sentence or pluck another tune ever again.
4. How do you overcome these obstacles?
I think a big part of it is being confident and authentic in what you’re doing. Sure, his copy might be “perfect” and her videos might be “professional,” but mine are 100 percent Michelle at all times, and I’m proud of what I produce.
I’m all there, singing or speaking or writing my heart out, and I’m confident that what I put out into the world represents my uniquity, my perspective, and my knowledge. Let’s face it: They’re not better than you, They’re different. Two separate things.
5. What are some of your favorite resources on creativity?
Anything that Keri Smith puts out is worth picking up and working through. It looks easy on the surface to follow her exercises (i.e. smear food on this page of the book, tie a string around the book and take it for a walk, etc.), but actually confronts our Vampires and can be a great (yet scary!) learning experience.
I also recommend the Right Brain Business Plan to any and all creative entrepreneurs (I have one!), aspiring or otherwise. The Artist in the Office is also a must for those of us barely surviving our day jobs, and nothing beats The Artist’s Way for tapping into your inner creative.
6. What is your favorite way to get your creative juices flowing?
For writing, I keep tons of images with inspiring sayings on a Pinterest board, and that’ll be my first stop if I need something to write about. For my songs, I tend to have an idea as to what I wanna sing about (it’s recently been about my boob cancer, oddly enough), and then rhymes come to me on the subway, when I’m about to fall asleep, or in the shower. I always have my iPhone handy to take notes.
7. What’s your advice for readers on cultivating creativity?
Don’t wait for lightening to strike or the perfect moment where inspiration knocks you over – because it often doesn’t happen that way. Instead, show up to do the work and start wherever feels easiest.
Sometimes I start a blog post in the middle because the beginning just won’t come to me. Sometimes I write a song with the chorus leading the way because the verses are elusive. Do something every day for a small bite of time (yes, you can get a lot accomplished in 15 minutes a day, thankyouverymuch) and you’ll be able to have a tangible product in no time.
Also, don’t be married to the format. Sometimes I know I need to write a blog post, but writing feels hard in that moment…so I make a video instead. Pay attention to what feels fun and easy at the time, and know if you move forward with that it’s not cheating.
8. Anything else you’d like readers to know about creativity?
Wanna know a secret? You’re creative. You might not believe me, but it’s true! We all have it in us…just start believing that I’m talking to you when I mention “creative people,” start exploring in a fun and easy way, and you’ll be able to own that title more than you think!