New Book Coaches Readers on Building Creative Endurance

Fast Company creative director Mike Schnaidt wrote and designed the volume

Stuck in a creative rut? Or maybe you're feeling burned out? You might consider picking up a copy of Creative Endurance: 56 Rules for Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Your Goals. Written and designed by Mike Schnaidt, this 160-page volume is packed with advice about how to build focus, brainstorm ideas, budget projects and more.

Schnaidt presents tips and tricks from interviews with the likes of Karin Fong, director of motion graphics studio Imaginary Forces; illustrator Michael Brandon Myers, an early adopter of AI; and Apple creative director Bobby C. Martin Jr. Others adding insights include ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes, racecar driver Hurley Haywood and ski mountaineer Caroline Gleich.

Here, Schnaidt talks about his decision to interview everyone from artists to athletes and explains his approach to designing the book.

It must have taken a lot of creative endurance to put this together. What was the process like? What elements posed a struggle?

It was really, really tough. I'm trained as a designer, not a writer. I wrote it in probably about six months, and that included interviewing people. I interviewed most people two times, some people three times.

As a designer, I love structure. Then I learned that as a writer, sometimes when you interview somebody, you don't get what you expected, but you still get a really good story. The whole time, it was me as a designer and me as a writer at odds.

I would wake up a lot of nights, or at 2 a.m., and I would write for three hours. I'd go back to sleep for an hour and then go for a run. It was totally a test of endurance.

I kept telling myself, this is only going to be a year from beginning to end, from writing, design, production, everything. It's going to be a year of my life, but the book is going to be permanent.

I looked at it as my one shot to write a book.

Most books that focus on the creative process rely on interviews with writers and artists. But you also tap into the wisdom of athletes as well as an astronaut. Why did you broaden your scope?

I thought a lot about how creativity is universal. I've learned through Fast Company that people in business can be creative. So, I thought that if on a broad scale, I can connect the dots between an astronaut and a racecar driver and a chef and show they're all creative, that would in itself inspire a reader. They'll feel like, there's so much creativity in the world, and there's so much creativity in what these other people do. They'll look at themselves and say, maybe I'm more creative than I think.

Also, I chased the stories that were the most interesting and exciting. And I felt like, okay, if I'm excited about this, I'm going to write about it in a way that's going to get the reader excited.

I've always wanted to interview an astronaut but haven't gotten a chance. What was it like to talk to Jeanette Epps and what did you learn from her?

I was nervous, because it's a big deal speaking to an astronaut. But Jeanette was so nice and normal.

The thing I was blown away by was she hasn't been into space yet—and she was so optimistic about the situation. She talked about how when she was initially grounded, if she took to social media and complained or trashed NASA, it might have ruined her opportunities. She said the way you react to a situation dictates the outcome.

I thought, there's such a universality in that. Anyone can think like that. As a writer, you get some bad feedback from your editor, and if you're like, "Screw you," it's not going to go well [as the project unfolds]... But if you take a minute, then you think about it, you can probably flip it into an opportunity. And Jeanette was a major case of that. If she can stay optimistic, then I can stay optimistic about some kind of design revision.

Creative Endurance is beautifully designed, and there's a smooth and easily digestible flow of information. What was the thinking behind your approach to how the book looks and reads?

I thought about the voice of it being kind of a creative coach, not talking down to you but by your side, reminding you that what you’re doing is good, do more of it.

That also informed the design. Because I wanted it to be like, you can flip through and whatever you see that resonates—or maybe speaks to something that happened to you the day before—you can stop and read that. I knew early on that I didn't want it to be linear, where you have to read from beginning to end.

I wanted to write longer, but as a designer, I believed the experience has to be snappy. So there's a lot of little quotes peppered throughout. I was thinking of the experience of reading the book almost like a run, where it's moving fast, and it just keeps going and going and going very quickly.

Christine Champagne
Muse contributor Christine Champagne is a writer based in NYC.

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