Creativity for Sale Podcast - Episode S1 E25

An athlete's guide to creative endurance - Mike Schnaidt

Mon, 29 Apr 2024

Send us a Text Message."I've learned really valuable skill from design, how to respond to feedback, how to think about an audience, because not everyone is going to like every design that I do."



Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

"I've learned really valuable skill from design, how to respond to feedback, how to think about an audience, because not everyone is going to like every design that I do."~

In this conversation, Mike Schnaidt, the creative director of Fast Company, discusses his journey in the publishing industry and the process of writing his book, Creative Endurance. He shares his early passion for comics and how it led him to a career in design and magazines. 

Mike talks about the inspiration behind his book and the interviews he conducted with various individuals, including an astronaut and a nine-year-old. He also discusses the challenges of finding his voice as a writer and the importance of editing and refining the book. In this conversation, Mike Schnaidt discusses his experience of writing and designing his book, 'Creative Endurance.' He shares insights on receiving feedback and dealing with reviews, emphasizing the importance of staying true to oneself while considering the target audience. 

Mike also talks about the process of writing and designing the book, highlighting the value of sharing and receiving feedback from others. He reflects on the challenges he faced in designing the book cover and the importance of finding the right balance between creativity and audience expectations. Finally, Mike expresses his desire to continue writing and exploring longer forms of storytelling in the future.

Takeaways

  • Passion for a creative field can start at a young age and evolve into a fulfilling career.
  • The publishing industry, particularly magazines, can be a source of inspiration and creativity.
  • Writing a book requires reaching out to diverse individuals and conducting interviews to gather valuable insights.
  • Finding your voice as a writer involves experimentation, self-reflection, and feedback from others.
  • The editing process is crucial in refining the book and ensuring a cohesive and engaging reading experience. Receiving feedback and reviews is an important part of the creative process. While it's natural to want to please everyone, it's essential to accept that not everyone will be happy with your work.
  • Sharing your work with others and getting their feedback can be a valuable social experiment that helps you understand different perspectives and improve your work.
  • Designing a book cover can be unexpectedly challenging, and it's important to find the right balance between creativity and audience expectations.
  • Endurance is key in the creative process. It takes time to find your rhythm and make sense of your work, but staying committed and continuing to learn and grow is essential.


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Mike Schnaidt:

it's a really valuable skill that I've learned from designing is just like how to respond to feedback, how to think about an audience, it's like, kind of goes to what you were saying about Amazon people and like, some people trash in the book, but it's not for them. And it's thinking about, okay, Who's my target audience, right? Because not everyone's going to like every design that I do either, but you have to think about your target audience. Otherwise, like you're just creating this like very vanilla piece of work.

Radim:

Hello and welcome to Creativity for Sale podcast, a show to help you start and grow your life changing creative career and business. My name is Radim Malinich and creativity changed my life. You see, I believe creativity can change your life too. I even wrote a book about it and it inspired this podcast. I've set out to interview the world's most brilliant creatives, designers, writers, musicians, makers and marketeers about their life changing experiences with creativity. If you ever wanted to know how people go from their humble beginnings to the pinnacle of their success, our conversation should provide you with an intimate look into triumphs, challenges and untold stories behind their creative endeavours. We also discuss the highs and lows of creative careers and creative life. So Thank you for joining me on this exploration of passion, creativity, innovation, and the boundless potential within us all. Let creativity change your life. Are you ready? My guest today is an author, educator, and creative director specializing in branding and editorial design. Currently, he's the creative director of Fast Company, a monthly magazine focused on technology, business, and design. He guides a team of art directors and photo editors who create visuals for all expressions of the Fast Company brand. his recent debut book title, Creative Endurance, is a practical guide for staying motivated and achieving your goals. It's my pleasure to introduce Mike Schneid.

Radim Malinic:

Hi, Mike. Welcome to the show. I want to congratulate you on your recent accomplishment of written or releasing your book called Creative Endurance. And I would like to use the word endurance as a topic of our conversation, because I want to talk about how we got into publishing, how we got into what you do for a living, all sorts of stuff. So if you were to take us back, tell us what you do now and what's your sort of story and how did you get to it?

Mike Schnaidt:

Sure. I'm the creative director of Fast Company. Uh, I've been there for about five and a half years. there I oversee the magazine, the website, we do a series of events, we do award programs, social media campaign, all sorts of other branding projects as well. So it's kind of a cross between editorial design and branding. I've worked in publishing for 20 years now. I'm actually coming up on my 20 year mark. worked everywhere from Men's Health to Esquire to Popular Science, Entertainment Weekly, and I think I found that like when I was coming close to my 20 year mark, I started to think a little bit more about what I wanted to do with design. think that, lot of us into this field because we like making things. I think, that's a commonality between most creative people. And I, like, as a kid, I loved making comics and that kind of transitioned me into liking to make magazines because it was like printed material and The closest thing to making comics, right? But, I would say 15, 16 years in to working in publishing, pandemic hit and we saw, like, creatives were thinking a little bit differently about work and we were all facing, we were a little bit more transparent and open about So I think from that I had the idea that I wanted to create some kind of book that could help people, right? you never thought of my, I always wanted to write a book. know, writing was always kind of a little bit of a side interest of mine. Never thought of myself as like a fiction writer. I always felt like I needed some kind of like function and purpose for writing. So thing led to another and I had this idea to, write a book and use what I've learned through editorial design to make a book that felt very servicey for the reader, book that felt like there was some kind of takeaway. on every single page, a book that felt like, creative coach sitting by your side and just giving you a pat on the back and reassuring you and just giving you a little bit of advice. and that's really what led me to write Creative Endurance.

Radim Malinic:

Amazing. written two things, one of them was comics, and I really want to go to that early stage. when did you discover, where did you live? What age? Because yeah, comics, they're never really cross my path, but I'm always fascinated when people say, comics where something that they, took up and, used it as a sort of starting block. So where did comics come from?

Mike Schnaidt:

I mean, I'm an only child, so I spent a lot of time just sitting alone and just like, sounds sad, but it was really a lot of fun just to sit around and just draw. And I loved reading like Marvel comics, like X Men and Punisher. And I was like a typical like guy in the 1980s, like reading stuff like that. know, from when I was a young kid, I loved taking like. Eight and a half by eleven sheets of paper, folding them in half, cutting them, and stapling them into little mini comics. And I would like, draw the cover, and it was usually some kind of copy off of like, Wolverine, or Cyclops, or something like that. I'd draw the cover, and then I would just basically draw the inside of the cover was like, my way of me holding myself accountable to like, finish the comic. And but I wasn't like, the best at drawing, but I loved coming up with ideas. Like I was just like loved just the art of like, it was like non stop ideas. Like I wanted to like, as soon as I drew the cover, I'm like, I want to finish this comic so I can move on to the next comic. so I would kind of like just speed through. And a lot of what I learned was from like copying and my mom would give me 10 to go buy two comics at the store. And that was like my weekly allowance or whatever. And And I would just copy, copy, copy, copy comics. And then, know, it was funny because. Years and years later, when I was in college, it was like I found like I was doing it, the pattern was repeating again, but it was with magazines and I was just like going to the newsstands and like I would go to Tower Records, which is like a music store here in the US and like, early 2000s, it was like the magazine racks were just like, it wall to wall, tons and tons of magazines, and I would just go and just buy up all the magazines I could and bring them home and I kept magazines in milk crates. And I found myself then just like copying art directors instead of comics. so that was like my education or, when I was in college, it was like my second education from like whatever my professors taught me was like just emulating magazines and always just dreaming like. Hey, these magazines have like cool celebrities on them and magazines like Entertainment Weekly, like, they look like comics, As far as I was concerned, at that age when I was still learning, the typography and everything was just like It was so exciting and so energetic. I was like, Oh, this, this feels like the right thing for me.

Radim Malinic:

I love the parallel. And I think, what you named your book, Creative Endurance, it almost seems like you were always destined to write a book, Creative Endurance, because to hold yourself accountable at such a young age, like I'm going to finish this comic, maybe from experience, from mine, and I've seen my kids, like how they operate with, creativity and they kind of give it a start, but they're like, what's next? maybe they're like too much of a sort of multi dimensional absorbers, but I love that. you kind of, yeah. Decided that you're going to finish it and hold yourself accountable, which I think is fantastic.

Mike Schnaidt:

Yeah. It was a little, I was very focused as a kid.

Radim Malinic:

that's amazing. I think that's, where you are exactly where you are today, but I can only sort of echo your point about the magazines in the year 2000s and early 2000s. I don't think we'll ever experience this ever again. I mean, there's still tons and tons of magazines. Obviously you're working on one of them, but I think there was something in the air. Like I always say, like being a teenager in the nineties. It was the best thing on the planet ever, we'll never repeat that. And the publishing around the time, especially the early 2000s with the arrival of the internet and distribution, I think was really exciting.

Mike Schnaidt:

it was so exciting. And I like, remember back then, like seeing Fast Company cause Fast Company came out in 1995. And then this was like, 2001, 2002 when Patrick Mitchell was the creative director and They were one of the few business magazines out there that were doing like type covers and like they would do just these really bold type covers like some kind of crazy like neon orange Pantone color printed on top of like a gray background. And those caught my eye and I mean I can't say that back then I was like, Oh, I'm going to one day, be the creative director of Fez company like it's definitely not like any destiny happening there but it do remember that was an early moment where I was like, Oh, it kind of like made my heart sing a little bit and I think it kind of makes sense to why like, years and years later, like I've fallen in love with writing too, is like, typography, like seeing the visual part of it was like my gateway drug into it. And then, throughout my years of working in magazines, like as, art director, we work side by side with editors. So we're, collaborators and we, wear each other's hats sometimes. Cause in any kind of collaborative project, as a designer, you have to think a little bit like an editor and you have to allow the editor to think like you. So there's a little bit of like, okay, let me, I have to let go of my ego here and not think that like I'm fully in control of design. But like through that, there's a trade off where the editor will allow you to think a little bit like them too. because together we're creating stories, right? We're storytellers. so throughout those years of working with editors and writers, it's like, while I wasn't necessarily like, coming up with the stories. I was absorbing, I was like a sponge just like paying attention to how they, they came up with their stories. because like I I'm kind of a quiet person when I'm not babbling on like this. And when I'm not talking, I try to really listen and be present. sometimes it might look like I'm just drifting off like I'm fully there and I was always fully there just processing each draft that would come in of a piece of writing and thinking about, okay, how did it change? What is this editor thinking about? So, you when it came time to like produce this book and think about the structure of the book and think about how do I make this an entertaining read for my audience, it all felt like, oh yeah, okay, like, while it was, daunting, I was like, okay, I feel like I got this.

Radim Malinic:

It's incredible. Did did you pitch to project, or did you get approached to write a book? How did it come about? Cause it was, you mentioned that sort of the pandemic hit and we decided to sort of be looked into different ways of working and I like that you said that it was meant to be, the book's meant to be a sort of creative coach, like something that learned from it. How did the concept come about and how did the book come about itself?

Mike Schnaidt:

So, I started teaching in the beginning of the pandemic or in September 2020. So I think that, teaching design, that's when I, it started to kind of really spark this desire to, Want to find some kind of greater purpose. I really enjoyed teaching the students. And, helping them and, you enjoyed, like, learning about a totally new generation, and seeing, what they were going through. And that started to make me think more and more about, okay, I feel like people need some kind of coach, need some kind of guide. a few years into teaching, when we were finally, back in person, started teaching at this school, Kean University. it's in Jersey. It's about 20 minutes away from where I live in Jersey city. And it was my first semester teaching there. they asked me to give a presentation on myself and, know, they were just kind of like, as many people do when they say, give a presentation, they're just like, yeah, show us some of your work. And like, I don't love just showing some of my work. Like I like, telling the story and I thought let me challenge myself and Tell a story that, talks about the parallels of my career as a designer to the parallels of my hobby as a runner and how the two have fueled each other because, I'm a daily runner. So every morning I get up and I run 3 to 6 miles and, I think maybe in my 20s, it was like, I want to run so I could just eat a burger every day and have a beer, but like, then it became much more of a mental thing and just provided clarity throughout my day. And I thought there's something to this. And also throughout my career as a designer, and a runner, like I've grown as a runner. So I've grown from like a guy who like just runs a couple of miles a day to somebody who's run three marathons. and that worked on the same track as me growing as a, from a designer to a creative director. So anyway. Anyway, I gave this presentation and then afterwards professor I'd never met before came up to me she said, Mike, you've got a book idea in your hands. she said, there's like the whole like Nike just do it crowd and, I think. You should try to pitch a book. so with her help, name was Robin Land. I owe her a lot of credit because she saw something in me that I didn't see in myself. but when somebody says like, Hey, write a book or you should write a book, like you can't ignore that, especially when the thought's been kicking around in your head. and I was like so excited that she saw some potential in me. I didn't even think about Oh, this is going to be really. Frickin hard to do. I'm just gonna go for it. so yeah, I just put together a proposal with her help I pitched it to like probably 20 something publishers I got a lot of rejection letters because the initial idea was this book called the Runner's Guide to Design. So it's very specific and because I thought it would be funny like I thought nobody's written a book like this before and If you like running or design, it'll appeal to you. And I, did pull up a lot of stats about runners in the world and, but people didn't buy it. But then my publisher, Rockport, long story short, they saw the proposal, we talked about it and they said, it's a good idea, but it's not your first book, this feels like it could be your second book. And that was like, okay, now they really see something in me. they'd feel like this could be my second book. And I shaped it into something that felt. more universal and that's what became Creative Endurance. And, through that, I became, you know, it was really a satisfying process because it helped me kind of grow out of like, okay, let me write this book for myself and let me write this book for everybody else. So it started as maybe a little bit of like a memoir and then like it grew into much more than that.

Radim Malinic:

That's an amazing story, Mike. talks, I've got a section where I'll talk about three superheroes. And, three superheroes that used to run past my old house that, were running every day. Mud, winter, snow, everything. And I always ask in the audience, which is mainly designers, Who's a runner? And you know what? I think out of about 500, 600 people so far, About five hands going up and you're thinking, it's like, how is it that I know so many runners? so many of my friends are runners, designers are runners there, you know, um, a friend, Mark McKee from, from New York, from Creative Factor, like he's amazing runner. Like I know so many designers who are endurance athletes, but we are older because when I was in my early twenties, I didn't bother, you know, I used to be almost professional ice hockey player. And I only got into ice hockey because, because I hated running at that time. I didn't have that patience. You know, that, I'm in my mid forties now and the patience is plentiful. You know, I'm a daily cyclist, and I do these sort of hundred mile cycles. No problem now, it's just, you have to, be more Prepared to ache, to hurt, to, to actually put endurance in, you know, actually, have to be ready for the fact that it's not going to be easy. And I think that's a testament for, mid career points where you realize, you know what, it was hard work to get to this point, to put on your shoes every day and to run, just because of that burger and that beer that you want to burn off. that's pretty much half of the reason, but you can never outrun a bad diet or out cycle a bad diet. And I'm very much, I've tried that, it doesn't work, And I like that, what I'm still getting from this conversation is this endurance that, you're grateful for someone to finding that little nugget and you want to do that same thing with your teaching, which obviously you want to, give something back. I very much agree with the fact that you're writing a book for yourself at first. And obviously you want to remind yourself almost of the checkpoints that you've got to, like how far you got there, because I never understood that when musicians said look, we made the record for ourselves. I'm thinking. But you want to sell it, right? You want to get it to other people, then you realize what there's always there'll be people who will connect with it, people who will hate it, you might convert them later. And sometimes some people who actually liked it might go, you know what, actually, there was nothing in it for me, actually, I had time to spend with it. And, What always confuses me with the book pitch is that you try to get someone like a full experience through just a few pages of paper. Like, I mean, I've never had to pitch because, you know, my story is different, but it's just like, how do you break into it? And I kind of almost seems like a link with the magazines, where, you give people as much information as you can, as you give, page allowances and that kind of stuff. Live The Runner's philosophy. Is it, is that going to be a second book?

Mike Schnaidt:

I'm thinking a little bit, I would love to write a book more about like careers and demystify, creative success because, think since I've started teaching, I think a lot about the younger generation and how they like, know, when we have guest speakers come to the class and like, they're like, their first question is just like, how did you get here? Right. And they have no idea how they got there. Right. So I think that a book on creative success, like speaks to a younger generation, but also nobody like works the same industry for their entire career now. Like we want to constantly like evolve and grow. And, think even as me as an example, like I'm morphing into a, designer of design. I already am a writer, but you know, like we're all want to grow to, to some degree and think about how can we continue to change. So I think that a book on the kind of demystifies a creative career could be valuable for people. And, I really loved, part of writing Creative Endurance, one thing I loved was like, talking to so many types of people. And I, I didn't think that going into it, and certainly not when it was a book about running, that I would talk to an astronaut, or that I would talk to a Nordic combined skier, or a race car driver. but that those are just different directions that Endurance took me to. So, would love to write a book where I talk to an even broader group of individuals too, because I just I love learning about other people's jobs. I loved, I love the interview process. I love just sitting down and just following my curiosity and like asking people questions and then finding ways to turn their answers into serviceable tips for the reader.

Radim Malinic:

I love that part about your book that you flip the content on its head because you've got creative endurance, which is okay, I'll be talking just to creative people, but your interviews, like felt a really interesting addition to the whole topic and the structure of the book. Let's talk about interviews. how did you get to reach out? How did you write even a short list of who you're going to speak to? And how are we going to reach them? how'd you get in contact? did your editorial contacts help? And how did you do it? And how do you connect interviews? Because obviously when I sat on the panel, on the book panel last year at the conference, and I was fascinated. It was like, your first answer was like, I want to turn this into documentary. And I'm like, Fuck, that's a good idea. I should have thought of that, but obviously your interview is because we have a different style, we do different things. And I was really fascinated by that. So if you can tell us more about. The interviews and, how did that come about? And what did you learn from it? And, I know a little bit, but I want to know more.

Mike Schnaidt:

Sure. 100%. you know, like I interviewed Molly Baas and I interviewed Dean Karnasas, who were, two people that I literally just emailed out of the clear blue. And I said, Hey, I'm writing a book on creativity. Can I interview you? Whereas, I interviewed Jeanette Epps, who's astronaut, and one of my editorial contacts gave me a contact for NASA's PR, which was like a very surreal moment, you know, in my career, just like emailing with NASA and explaining to them, hey, I'm writing a book on creativity, and I want to talk to one of your astronauts, and they're like, how, what? And I'm like, I promise I'm not trying to get any kinds of like trade secrets. I'm not a spy or anything like that. because I was like, listen, being an astronaut is like a dream job, like for all of us when we were kids, and I interviewed a nine year old and it was just like somebody around the block for me who just draws a lot. And I was like, it would be really fun to interview a nine year old and then. At the very end of the process, I met this really cool 76 year old at a coffee shop, and that felt like the bookend moment, because I'm like, okay, well, now I'm speaking to the concept of endurance by showing just like a whole spectrum of time, right? I think part of it was just like, I was just Firehose creativity moment where I want to talk to a race car driver, right? I want to you know, I've okay I've got a runner. I've got a skier. I want a cyclist in the book now Oh, I want a story about somebody who swims So I was just like I wanted to get a little bit of everything in the book a skill that I think from creating packages in the editorial world and you know we always try to create like these well rounded packages that can speak to a A wide variety of audiences, that I started to think in that mode where okay, let me just like I need all these different types of people because that was like when I was really thinking about creating a book that was more universal, right? And like giving a little bit of something to everybody. So not just giving something to like my students, but what about, somebody out there who's, 55 years old and is an insurance sales agent or something like that? Like, how can I give them just like one little story? that would fascinate them. so it basically it's just like, I was following my curiosity, emailing people nonstop. I think for. I have 39 different interviews in the book. I probably emailed and pitched to twice that many people. some people didn't get back to me. Some people are just like, no, thank you. but yeah, it was a really fun journey just to like search for people. And just, you start to learn how you can be creative in different ways. And just internet's an amazing place and you can find a lot of people and a lot of types of people.

Radim Malinic:

I think what was the most, surprising thing you've learned for the interviews? What was like, cause I was, I love the diversity and, to even think about, I'm going to interview an astronaut, it's fantastic, but have you learned, what was the most surprising thing that like, it seems so obvious

Mike Schnaidt:

I think that, the thing I learned, and I think the thing that changed me fundamentally was like, I would go into an interview thinking, Okay, this is what I want to get out of the person, this is the information I need, I want to get, I want to talk to this person about how to deal with, revisions or whatever. And ten minutes into the conversation, I'd be like, oh, we are, we're not talking about revisions. What they're talking about is just so much more interesting, right? So as an example, I talked to Billy DeMong, who is a Olympic gold medalist. His event was Nordic Combined Skiing, and when we first got on the call, he was like, flush, like he, and I was like, what's, you look flush, what's going on? He's like, oh, I just finished a three hour workout, and he explained to me how he was on the treadmill, and he was just running on the treadmill, and I was like, how do you run on the treadmill for three hours? that just sounds ridiculous, and he said, I just put a post it note with a, dot drawn in the middle of the post it note, and I put it on the wall, And I stare at the dot and I just clear my mind. And that became this whole bit that I wrote in the book about focus. And I didn't even, I can't remember what I went in there with the plan for, but I was like, this story is just so out there that I have to write about this. And it was like a liberating moment where I was like, okay, I'm interested in this. And if I'm going to write about this in a way that. reflects my interest and my enthusiasm for the topic. Ideally, I'd get the reader interested in it. And it was also just a lot of fun to, these connections and say, okay, how do I turn this story about this guy running on the treadmill for three hours, right? And he had so many other great stories that I tried to work into the book, but I was like, This one story that was totally unplanned, like it has to go in there. So it was like, you're a musician, it's like jazz, I guess it's I can't play music, but it's like, you're, improvising. Whereas, and something that like, I may not have been as good at years ago as a designer, because as a designer, it's like, know, we're kind of obsessed with like structure and designing, editorial. It's like. create the look for these packages and be like, okay, it has to fit into this grid and, it has to be this word count and it was like, okay, well, if I want a really good, satisfying book, I have to know, like, when to zig and when to zag and just, go with the flow of things. So, I just learned that, if somebody has a good story for you, when you interview them, you just, you go with that.

Radim Malinic:

I'm fascinated by the dot on the posting note, I'm absolutely fascinated. reminds me of the book, by Flea from Chilli Peppers. he was describing someone who was literally playing the same note, same strum for hours. And we're thinking he's a bit, he's a bit mad, right? It's and then they realized. like a master of Zen, like if you can do that for hours and still like just focus on that, it's like a master meditation. It's just like, how do you do that? Like because we think that's, that's just seems wrong because when you think about it, we wake up every morning and we just sort of it feels like we just jump on a highway and just go because everything's so sensory. Like you're going to have so many. Like by nature, we've got so many like different thoughts and different sensations that we explore and, and it just feel like, where do we stop? Because now we have to tell ourselves like how to do this stuff, because you described as you learning and sort you taking bit by bit, because When we started in the industry, when we started, when something smells and tastes good, you're like, I want to learn everything now. I want to do most of it now. And you don't necessarily think about how am I doing it? It's just, you're just doing it. because you're like, it incredible. Whereas, you think that you need all eight hours a day or 10 hours a day. Whereas when you grow older, you go like, I'm happy with two hours because I'm spending six hours thinking about this, because it's just like we learn through the edits, like the funnel of output and you sprinkle everything inside, and just, you thinking, okay, what am I going to do? How am I going to do it? What's the concept? I'm going to make first, second, third, you're going to try it. Whereas when you've tried it already in your, past. You know that you don't have to do seven different concepts because you know that one, you can finesse it. You can actually spend more time on it. And I think that's again, the endurance thinking that you can actually, I can push back because it's going to work. It's going to be fine. And we can then focus on just that one thing alone. So you mentioned adding your second skill, it's your second title as an author. how did you find your sort of written word next to your, design skills, because, I've been mentioning it pretty much on every episode of this podcast that I could never understand people who went from design into writing when I was at the beginning of my career, 10 hours a day in Photoshop. I was like. Why do people write books? they were great, but you need to be almost like a completely different person. Whereas what you said earlier, like you can change your career as often as you want, I'm a firm believer that you don't have to have a linear career. You don't have to be like, Start at the bottom and be the CEO and then retire and just, drop dead because we can do these, amazing things, you know, pretty much how, ancestors, you know, our predecessors pretty much like work, they're like, you know, you work in a factory, you, die in a factory, you know, pretty much. so I think it's, liberating because we can actually learn. so much more from one another and they democratization of information. It's just we can do amazing things every day if you're willing to do it. So you and written word, how did your environment inspire you? How did you find it? And did it start at the comics time? Did you know when you write and already then, or did you think about concepts? Is this something that you have to learn?

Mike Schnaidt:

I think that, earliest memory I have of actually enjoying writing was in college. I liked art history classes, believe it or not. I always loved compare and contrast essays that we would have to do, because, It was like, oh, okay, like this could be a really boring assignment or this could be a fun assignment if I just try to compare and contrast like two paintings that like totally don't feel like they're similar, right? And it convinced my teacher that they are similar. I wouldn't say I was the best writer back then, but I do remember like moments when teachers would say, Hey, you're good at writing. So like, as if you can't tell already, like I do really well with encouragement. And when people like say, pay me a compliment, it's something also like, I'm trying to like give other people compliments. Cause it's my way of paying it forward because, those little compliments, as you can see, go a long way. And, you you may not realize that like, younger me. So when a teacher says, Hey, you're pretty good at writing, like that's going to stick with me for decades and decades. So it you know, it started there and I think that throughout the years I've had to write little bits, you know, maybe like for award submissions and share with like my editor in chiefs at my jobs. And it's funny because they would be like, oh, you're pretty good at writing, right? And it was like, it was always kind of like, oh, like it was, they were surprised, like, hey, designer could write. so I think that like building on that confidence, it was just like, okay, let me. try to write this book. my style of writing for Creative Endurance evolved a lot over the course of time. I really don't feel like I got it until the very end because I must have rewritten it like seven or eight times because I was like I designed it so I could like just go back in the text and like I would rewrite it over and over and over and over until I felt like okay, this now sounds like a friendly creative coach. I eventually was like, okay, I know that the tone that I want this book to take, and I was reading a lot while working on the book too, and I remember reading like Stephen King's book on writing, and he would talk about like the ideal reader. And then like, I started to think more and more about somebody who's in their mid twenties, some young designers that I know and thinking, okay, if I'm speaking directly to them, How do I keep them engaged? the very early version of the book, like it was like, I wrote it in like second person, and it was like Tony Robb. I was like, I want to write a book. a wacky Tony Robbins kind of book where like, sounds like the narrator's like yelling at you, but then like my editor was like, we'll give you a lot of creative freedom, but not this.

Radim Malinic:

Did you, with the tone of voice, like how you project yourself, because obviously you said rewrote it quite a few times, did you ever feel like you didn't know how it should sound? Like, I don't know if that happens with a creative process, with a visual creative process, you never know, am I creative chameleon? Am I borrowing from a style, from a trend? Am I borrowing from set ideas? because personally I had a massive crisis about Year and something ago when I was writing my two books, I didn't know what I wanted to do because I wanted to do, I wanted to write my book on creativity for sale. Like a comedy like, Hey, this is fun, this happens, this is gonna be this. And I, the more and more unknowns I wrote was like, this is depressing. Literally like, no, there's so much stuff that you try to tell people to avoid and how like, okay, this was a battle. This shouldn't happen. I shouldn't worked on this. Client shouldn't have said yes to this. you're kind of like, okay, we are learning from this. This will be try and tell people, let's make upbeat. And, every book I touched when I was writing threw me completely off, course. I started reading the, um, Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, which is like brash and happy. And I was like, Oh, let's write it really funny. And then I read Jimmy Carr's book, which is, I think one of the best books on creativity is if you know, the English comedian, Jimmy Carr. And I was so like thrown, confused and unrealized. you've written four books before. Why don't you just write them in the same way? Because they worked. What are you trying to do? And you're thinking, I think there's a reminder, it doesn't matter how far you've gone and what you've done and like, just be yourself. It feels so hard to accept it and to do it because you, I remember opening a paperback by Geoffrey Shaw, which is like a self employed life. It's a beefy, beefy paperback with words and words. And I'm like, I'll never do that. Like I can't, can't, cause I was like, and then we had too many words that we could have written three paperbacks, you know, it's just like, Oh shit, because to borrow a quote from another chili pepper, it just, the drama chats me and it says the most interesting shit happens at the end. once you oil your wheels, once you get going, then you get started. That was the reason why I did two books, because it was like, we're going to get going. It wasn't as, it wasn't as easy, but how with your self editing. Let's talk about, again, there's an invariance, like if you say you've rewritten things seven times, how much of an input of an editor did you have and how much of work, how much did you do on your own and how did you do it?

Mike Schnaidt:

I did not really know what I wanted the voice to be in the beginning. Like I'd be lying if I said I did. the thing I knew that was like, I would eventually get it. know, the feeling chasing was like, when I get it, I'll know it. And it was kind of like, it was a gut reaction. Like I know when this is right, when it's right. So I just rewrote it over and over. and I knew like. towards the end, I was like, I don't know if this is going to be good or not. And, but then when it surfaced, I was like, okay, here it is. my editor gave me a lot of creative freedom, which was really nice, but it was also like, a little scary, especially for my first one. So one thing that I found that worked for me was like, I shared it in different iterations, or different stages with people like, designers that I know, creatives that I know. And it was funny because a lot of times. As soon as I shared it with them, I was like, okay, I know what's wrong with the book and it's too late for me to pull it back from them. But it was like, cause there was something for me about once it goes out there, like it's now a product and I start to think about it more of a product and I kind of get out of my head and think, okay, I know what needs to be right. the other thing that I found that worked for me was like, I would force myself to just put it aside and not look at it, not read it for two weeks. And I think, part of the benefit of designing and writing the book was like, I could just turn my eye towards designing for a bit. Cause like I, You mentioned like, all these like books that are like long and verbose, and I love books like that. I can't write a book like that either, and I actually designed like a version of this book before I wrote it, because that's what got me excited for it. And I was like, oh, I like, I can see it, it was like a bit of like positive visualization. Like I could see this book, now I want to fill those pages with words. So I had like my design on one side, and then I had a Google Doc that I would work the other side. because I couldn't, both. I just write in the Google doc and then pour it into my layouts and then see that the text was like three times longer than it should be. And, one of the goals for me was like, I just wanted it to be really good, fast paced experience because I thought like, okay, well, idea is endurance, the book should move quickly. And I want it to kind of function like, like Aesop's fables, where it's you get a little bit of a story, but you get to the moral of the story quickly. So I was thinking a lot about like. density of information. And I really wanted the book to be dense with tips and, you know, to give stories that would make the tips memorable, because I think tips on their own are just, whatever. but just to give like good stories along with it too. and I think that once I got it into layout and once I started to cut it down and see it shorter. And I started to see it come together and I, mentioned like finding your voice or, leaning into your voice. I would think a lot about my parallel. I would draw parallels between me as a writer and me as a designer. And one thing that I've experienced, like with every Fast Company cover is like, you know, because try to design every cover. So it looks totally different. And like I said earlier, like as a designer, my earlier years, I was obsessed with structure. And now at Fast Company, I try to make a look of the covers by not having to look. but that's really hard because, I can't lean on a template or anything like that. a lot of times, I'll pull a design reference and I'll think, Oh, I want a design like this, or I want a design like that. And my head starts spinning when I just say, like, Screw it, and I don't look at any of that stuff, and I just sit, down and design the way I want to design. that's when it comes together, there's a parallel there between what you're saying about writing, and I felt the same thing where it was just like, okay, let me stop trying to write whoever I just read last week or whatever, me just try to be myself. And that's when I just felt like it all flowed and came together.

Radim Malinic:

I think you're a brave man for designing it first and then writing it and then doing two things at the same time because your book It's beautifully designed. it's very much a nod to obviously editorial work and it, feels like for me looking at it from England, it seems like it was very American. It just feels like, how it's done. and that's great because, It's nice to see something that's not the number one off, you know, I think when I see the paperbacks, I'm always scared of like just the sheer volume of words, it's just like, how'd you make it palatable? How'd you make it digestible? How'd you actually get, because I have spoken in my publishing career so far, spoken to lots of designers and surprisingly, not many of them are fast readers or even heavy readers. You just. it's a nugget of wisdom. Okay. What can I get? How little, no, do I need to read to actually get this and how can I move on? And it's just it's getting that research and getting that information from people. Like, how do you create products that are more engaging than regular paperbacks? But how do you not make them over design, like a heavy magazine story. So I love that you've got. turn the concept on his head and we're like, you know what, we're going to have sort of a hybrid, which I'm a big fan of hybrid, like everything that sort of makes me think differently, like, music, which is a fusion of jazz and death metal or whatever. And it's always Oh, you made me surprised. You made me feel something because that's ultimately what we're trying to get from people. You know, we want to make some people feel so. I salute you for the design and that because yes, start where it makes sense because if you feel like you've hit a dead end. There's nothing worse than carrying on. You're not going to do it whilst you're on the run. like you're running a dead end. I'm like, well, that's it. Let's go back out and see what, what other perspective we can get. And with the wording, honestly, trimming it down. that's masterfulness of its own. Like going, what can we do to not overload people? with the rewrites, did you? Did it go through edit afterwards? Like did you send it off and did you get something different back or did you produce the final version?

Mike Schnaidt:

I mean, I did all the rewriting. the editor, in an early draft, he told me to not curse so much.

Radim Malinic:

play.

Mike Schnaidt:

he said, don't curse if you don't have to curse. and I think I remember when I showed my dad an early version of it, he told me the same thing. He said, don't curse. So I

Radim Malinic:

What were you cursing?

Mike Schnaidt:

I like to throw an occasional fuck or shit or, whatever, just like for emphasis. I think a well placed curse is like really powerful because, one of my goals for this was like to be honest. was something that I had discovered when I gave that presentation was like, I didn't want to just talk about a bunch of work and say, Oh, this is great. Because that's not relatable. So to be relatable, like you got to talk about the hardship that somebody went through to accomplish something. Right. so, you yes, I took out the cursing, but I kept all the honesty in, and that was really important to me. so yeah, shared with friends, you know, I shared with friends that are editors. I shared with friends that were not editors. people gave me really valuable feedback. It's, was so interesting to me to see, like, different people take away from writing. And, I think now, even though, like, they say you're not supposed to read, the reviews or whatever, like, I've been reading the Amazon reviews and it's just, fascinating to see, like, what people like. some people say, hey, the layout's really annoying. Some people say, hey, the layout's really good. Some people say the tips are good. Some people say the tips are fine. whatever. It's you realize, not everyone is going to be happy. And when you accept the fact that, like, not everyone's going to be happy, like, It's a lot, hell of a lot easier, right? And that's not to say that you should only make it for yourself. Like we were talking about, like musicians, some musicians earlier, like you should think about it as a product for other people. But if you put yourself in the mode of I have to make everybody happy, you're going to drive yourself to the drink. So like, had to step away from that mindset, but I found that I really enjoyed the process of sharing it with a lot of other people and getting their take on it. And it be kind of became this social experiment for me where like, I was, Just connecting with people I hadn't talked to for years, whether it was like, Hey, can you read this? Or Hey, do you have a contact at NASA? like that part was really fun for me. I enjoyed the whole process. I mean, there were nights when I was like, ticked off. And especially when I was like, I don't know what the hell this should sound like. or when I had to cut my own copy down by like, 33%. But, for the most part, it was, a fun process.

Radim Malinic:

I have to say that unfortunately you've, you've entered a world of reviews and, oh my word, from personal experience, it's, bewildering sometimes because you feel Like the more you try to help people only to get like a really nonsensical review, you're like, you've not read the title, you've clearly read the book, you've read a few chapters, it doesn't make sense. And then you say okay, well, how do you make yourself feel believe better? And I looked up actually today on Goodreads before we spoke, I was looking at some books, which are very successful, sold, a lot of copies, like still like an artist and on Goodreads, people are like more cutthroat than anywhere else. And they're like, Goodreads has got about 32, 001 and two star reviews. Of course it's got like 270, 000 reviews, but it's 30, 000 reviews. Imagine if you're like, when you're not ready or when you're like, when you think about I might take everything personally that's a lot of people who think that your book is shit. But the book is not shit. It's just not for them. Because if you want to speak to everyone, you're talking to no one. And it's just like double niching to people because ultimately, if you get one person to say, you know what, Mike, you've changed my life. Like I have actually taken something from this. That's what it is. for your personal experiences, I'm sure when you go back and think about the Marvel comics, you know, they used to buy, like a 10 note, they changed you, how you felt and what you did, you know, of of course there were people who thought, oh, these comics are shit. This is garbage. Like, why do people make it? like this, what's this about? And it's just that realization that, That's what we need to learn because ultimately we're looking for gratification from our creative process because we feel it should work all the time for everyone. Like, look, this is great, but not everyone buys Nike trainers. Not everyone buys Adidas. Not everyone likes Kanye. people still listen to Kanye and we tell ourselves like, we, we don't want that creativity in conflict. We want this to be a smooth path. Whereas we learn from the stuff, you know, we learn. And, find yourself, like the more you try to help people. The more you will annoy people who will be annoyed by anything, but you will find that we will hit the people that actually need to speak to, then we'll take your advice and that will be more worthwhile. So, yeah, think Seth Godin said that he hasn't read Amazon Review. for the last 12 years or something, because it's got nothing to learn from it. Like, fuck it. I don't care. You know, like it's out there, whatever. And with medium of books, you can sneakily change and edit, you know, you can, improve layout. and you can see that which designers, printed their first book because they got type against the gutter. And it's just you learn from the process, but that's what makes it more enjoyable. Then, always say one bad review is not going to derail a good product. And, one. Good reviews never going to make a bad product a good thing, so it's just it's like yin and yang. but yeah, if there's one thing, don't worry about the reviews because every book on the planet, every book on the planet is littered with absolute idiots going, what's this? Tolkien, I don't believe now what he's doing. fascinating. Thank you for the insights. how long did it take you from start to finish from that sort of encouragement to the finished product?

Mike Schnaidt:

I would say it was about like 14 months. Yeah, it was a pretty, like, all things considered, it was a pretty quick process. I would say I got a, book deal within three months. I had, another three, four months to write the full thing. And then, but then, you know, I continued to write it or rewrite it as I designed it. and I really have to like give my publisher a high five because like they allowed me to continue to rewrite it and tweak it. And I'm sure I drove them mad, but I was like, the ideas are hitting me, going with it. And I also just made it. So I'm like, if you give me any changes, I will turn the changes around. Like I just made it. So I'm like, I'm. Ideally the easiest person to work with because you asked me to change something or tweak something, they really were very reasonable with their changes. It was more like, shifting it and making sure it was like broad enough for a wide range of consumers. And I think like I work best with that too is like where you, if somebody gives me some feedback on a design or a piece of writing and they keep it broad enough where like, okay, I can tell me the base problem. And I'll solve it. And I think that it's, being a designer turned writer, it's that's, it's a really valuable skill that I've learned from designing is just like how to respond to feedback, how to think about an audience, it's like, kind of goes to what you were saying about Amazon people and like, some people trash in the book, but it's not for them. And it's thinking about, okay, Who's my target audience, right? Because not everyone's going to like every design that I do either, but you have to think about your target audience. Otherwise, like you're just creating this like very vanilla piece of work. so yeah, like I, found that like responding to feedback from my editors was what helped propel me to actually like create something that was usable for an audience.

Radim Malinic:

before I let you go, I need to know about a cover design because obviously you've produced these most amazing covers Fast Company and it was nice to meet you a few months ago because I'm a fan of Fast Company, I've been linking articles in my newsletters for forever and it was nice to meet you because obviously I really appreciate the work that you've put into it. When you talk about the covers, when you talked about the magazines just earlier, you said you tried to make them different. And, the recent cover with Marcus was one of the, another amazing ones. when it comes to book covers, how many book covers did you go for? Because. From my experience, I say, especially working with musicians on their album covers, unless you've got 27 options, you haven't tried hard enough. And obviously you need, you haven't explored, like, you haven't tried hard. And with my personal experience working on my covers, even though we had the idea, it still took, it year to finalize what we wanted to do. How was it for you, for someone who makes covers on a monthly basis, to do a cover for your book? What was that? Was there a fight? That was, it was easy.

Mike Schnaidt:

It wasn't easy. There wasn't a, there wasn't a fight, but I think it was like, it was an unexpected challenge because I was like, Oh, like the cover is going to be the easiest part. I think maybe I went into it, like patting myself on the back thinking like, Oh, I've done a bunch of magazine covers, like book covers are, they're like the cousin of magazines. So I'm like, this will be easy. It was not easy. Yeah. Because, I had a lot of versions with like illustrations on the cover at first and like, very kind of conceptual illustrations, like, somebody running inside of somebody's head and stuff like that. And I think it it was just like too much. was really, really trying to like. not do a type cover. Like as much as I love type, but I think it was like part of me was like trying to like buck what I thought maybe some people would expect me to do because I love type so much. People just say, Oh, Mike's going to do a type cover. so part of it was just like me making it hard for myself. Cause I was just like fighting, fighting, fighting. I want illustration on the cover. at the same time, we were playing around with the name of the book. While I was fighting that, I was like, I do not want to change the name of the book. It was one thing that I was like very, I would dig my heels about because I was like, I, it has to be creative endurance. Cause I was like, I wrapped the whole conceit. around it. And if the name of the book was creative resilience, right? Like having an astronaut and a race car driver in an ultra marathoner doesn't quite click, right? So it's funny how we can just hang our hat on like one little idea. it was like, at the same time, designed probably about a hundred different versions of the cover. And then also designing versions with different names too, because I was just like, you want more? You want more? I'll give you more. I'll give you more. I'll give you more. And then, I did find that once we came to the final cover, when I saw it and printed it out and trimmed it, cause of course I would print out every single cover that I made. I was like, Oh, that's it. That's the cover.

Radim Malinic:

I wanted to ask you how we validate it because I normally just make us literally thumbnail and make a screenshot of Amazon and just try to move it around and obviously I'll always look in a category because it's always going to be seen as small now. And you're like, what gets big type, small type illustration. What would you do? And I was like, you look at that sort of philosophy and I'm thinking for me, like, from a serious perspective, like you never finished with just one book and either series will go on. Like I never thought about it that way from the beginning because I thought I was one and done at the beginning and people say another one. I'm like maybe. Uh, and my first couple of two, literally 10 minutes, because it was a piece of existing work. And it just worked. It just clicked. Job was done. Whereas, I think with the latest two books, we tried five different illustrators. We tried different things and sometimes I feel like you have an idea today. You set on the idea, you work on it and the universe will catch up. You're like, Hey, we've done 500 other options with similar stuff, you know, like, illustration, especially with characters is very popular right now. And, we had, digital illustrator doing other things before. So like things are moving fast and they grow in a volume until they just stop. And then something new is coming. Let me just grow a different trend. so did you actually print every of those hundred covers?

Mike Schnaidt:

Yeah, would say I trim them all. I think like I trim the ones where I was like, oh, this one's like good. I'll trim this. did I share all of a hundred covers like with the publisher? No, like it was like, I don't want to share something that I think isn't going to, isn't good. know, when you're designing, you got to just like get out the bad pancakes, right? Like you just make, making crappy pancakes until you make the good golden brown ones that you're going to share with your, publisher or your client or whoever. so I didn't share them all, but, use Miro, which is like a whiteboarding app. and I just would put all of my covers and all my page designs on Miro. speak in lieu of having a bunch of printouts all around my office and everywhere because like my wife would kill me if like I had the book all over the house. but like, yeah, I would use Miro and just dump everything I had on there. And, it's the same with like writing. I found there was a lot of value in like designing it quickly, putting it there and then just not looking at it. Stepping away from it. And then coming back to it a couple days, and I'm able to look at it objectively and say, oh, like, that's good, or that's shit, or whatever. So, the cover was unexpectedly tricky, but, looking back, I'm like, it's fine. It is what it is.

Radim Malinic:

I like that you said it was unexpectedly tricky. Now I just, I think when we tell ourselves issues is meant to be easy, it's going to be okay, we always fall on our face. Like, no, what were you expecting? Because I think, don't be pre assured. because when it makes presenting client work, like, Hey, I think this is going to slap, this is going to be good. And they go like, what are you doing? This doesn't work at all. So I think. I never print, I never put stuff around the house, but, I normally get, when we sort of settle on the cover, I get a printer to make a dummy, which is like a book with blank pages. So you see like the weight and the size and the feel, and we sit with it and we start to use this early promo. And yeah, I just, when wife says. What's that? Oh, that's good. You know, it's like when you've got that sort of, that outside, outside perspective. And sometimes when she says you shouldn't do that, I'm like, okay, I still do that. But, yeah, I think everything you described, I think you couldn't have named a book better because everything you're doing and the process you've described, it's all about endurance. It's actually sticking with the idea, seeing it through. So it's amazing to see the link between your comics and, holding yourself accountable to doing it through all that way. And it's, fantastic. and I'm so happy for you that you've made a book. It's out there. it looks fantastic. Everyone should get it. And it's, as I said, it's, kind of like an outlier in the category because it, Does the same thing, which wants you to be better, do better, you know, grow and learn and work on yourself, but you've shaken it up and you've done a fantastic job. So, I'll be the first person to say, what's the second book, I guess it's not a running, running philosophy, but it's, I think something on that. got something there and Mike, this is the encouragement. So you've got to make it

Mike Schnaidt:

yeah, I know. No, I know. I feel the encouragement happening. no, I, again, I would love to write something that's about creating, designing your most creative life, something like that. demystifying creative success. I would love to now challenge myself to write. in longer form, not like I'm gonna, write a novel or anything like that, but, write with a mix of lengths. Like, Creative Endurance is very much about, short, digestible bits, and I want to have that, but I also would love to write, longer pieces, too. write, longer profiles about creatives. I've been taking writing classes too. So I've like in my break in between books because I feel like a second book is inevitable because I feel like now that I know the process I want to try it again. I'm taking writing classes and just like little. Six week classes. I've taken a class in like non fiction writing and dialogue and character and plot and I'm kind of like this is like my time now to be a student and to learn more about writing and getting charged up to jump into the second one at some point.

Radim Malinic:

I can tell you from the perspective of endurance, I think it took me like seven and a half years before it all started making sense. It was like, Oh, now we all make sense and, you know, do longer, But I think that's just the key of life. the longer we do it, the more it makes sense. You might not be as sometimes as excited or as energetic about it, you do make the right moves. you just basically, you pound once and you do it right. And as I'm always full of quotes, I think it's Obama's quote who said, you know what? I'm not as fast as I used to be. I'm not as, a rehash of a quote, but it's I know what I'm doing. I'm not going to maybe as fast, but I know exactly where I'm going. And that's the key, you know, like you don't have to muck about and, be silly about things. So. Mike, thanks for coming on. So nice to talk. Nice to see you again and talk to you. And as I said, I'm looking forward to what you're going to do next because this is the beginning. This is only, first one is the beginning and yeah, thanks for coming on.

Mike Schnaidt:

Thank you. for having me.

Radim Malinic:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Creativity for Sale podcast. The show was produced and presented by me, Radim Malinic. Editing and audio production was masterfully done by Neil mackay,. from 7 million Bikes Podcasts, Theme music was written and produced by Robert Summerfield. If you enjoyed this episode and would like to support the podcast, please subscribe and leave a rating or review. To get your own action plan on how to start and grow a life changing creative business. You can get a copy of the Creativity for Sale book via the links in show notes. burning, and until next time, I'm Radim Malinich, your guide through this exploration of passion, creativity, innovation, and the boundless potential within us all.






Radim Malinic

If you have a question or just want to say hello, drop me a line here.

If you have read a book of mine and have a question, or if you just need advice about work or an industry-related query, get in touch and let me see if I can help you. You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter. Contact +44 (0)207 193 7572 or inbox@radimmalinic.co.uk

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