How to Manage Creative People: Part One

As writers, we have a unique perspective into creativity because we have to filter our inspiration through a funnel to write and organize words in order to convey a message. Because of the nature of writing, many writers run the gamut between “out there” creative or scientifically rational. The difference, of course, is not necessarily in the output or written work, but in how the writer “thinks.”

Whether you’re a creative writer or have a comfort zone writing computer manuals, different types of writers require different types of management – both on the job or through leadership on any project. I’d like to share with you some of the techniques I’ve experienced in my career that work, as well as some of the ways I’ve shaped projects with other creative writers to achieve great goals.

    Funnel creative energy instead of trying to stop or control it Creative professionals can continue working, shaping, and brainstorming on projects for hours or days at a time. Instead of stopping the creative flow of energy, allow for bursts of group creativity within a controlled setting like a meeting or an online group discussion. To get more out of these meetings, mention what the topic of discussion is and request that people bring their brainstorming ideas with them. This way, creatives and non-creatives alike will have a chance to do a little bit of brainstorming off-line in the way that is the most comfortable for them and will allow and encourage your team members to keep producing.

    Know what you want before you set expectations and goals There is nothing more confusing than not understanding when a project ends or what the goal of the project is. From deadlines to color schemes, by knowing what you want you will prevent the angst and heartache that will turn any employee or freelancer “off” from working with you. If you aren’t sure about the “end goal,” or if there will be last-minute changes due to licensing, budget, or third parties, try to communicate that up front as much as possible to your team. It is much easier to give leeway to a manager, to support them, if information like this is shared – provided it doesn’t interfere with company policy. Remember that anything that may interfere with payment, rights, or other things that can potentially damage a writer’s reputation and career should be disclosed up front. If not, you are literally courting disaster.

    Only have one person responsible for one piece at one time If you think about what writing is, it’s actually one of the last “true” crafts. Writers write to “produce” a project like many other artisans, and editors help to shape those projects. In order to effectively manage multiple persons on a creative project, assign mini-projects to your team in order to create a sense of ownership for that phase. Then, when that part is completed, you can then keep the flow of work moving to other folk. In this way, you can easily identify who is running behind, who can handle more work, etc. Otherwise, it’s just one big massive mess of work that will be hell for an editor to figure out and “fix.”

In part two of this article, I will cover more tips for managers and team leaders so you can read about some other ways to manage creative professionals.



Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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