Sunday, December 06, 2009

Who Are My Clients?

You probably carry around a mental picture of a typical creativity coaching client or a typical meaning coaching client: maybe a mental picture of a forty-year-old writer, painter or musician stalled in his or her career. You might not picture someone like Ellen McGowan, one of the South’s best-known sculptors—and 85 years old.

As part of a promotion that one of my publishers ran, Ellen won some coaching sessions with me. We had a lovely and productive time together. Ellen was kind enough to recently write to me and say, “Those few hours helped me more than you know!!” She also told me a bit about her current creative life:

“At 85 years old I feel enormously fortunate to be in such good health and in such good spirits. I still work every day in my studio near Memphis. My work is in the collections of such notables as Bette Midler, Lee Trevino, and the late Alex Haley, author of Roots. Recently, Christian Brothers University in Memphis established the Ellen Fossey McGowan Collection, a permanent repository of my work. I am very much honored.

“My days are full. The studio is where I go to restore my acquaintance with self and to put into my figural clay work all of the infinitely variable features of the people, those close to me and total strangers as well, whom I observe living their lives in this fascinating and mysterious world. The artist's life is rewarding in unique ways, but it can also be fraught with bouts of self-doubt. That’s why your books—I believe I own all of them—have been so integral to my creative wellbeing. I turn to Affirmations for Artists almost every day for comfort and inspiration. I cherish my creative life and I look forward to many more years of work.”

If we start living to be 130, at the age of 129 we will still have to meet our meaning needs and our creative needs. We will still be obliged to face the challenges that thoughtful, mortal beings will always face. Those 129 years of living wisdom will not prevent us from having to deal with new creative challenges and new meaning crises as they arise.

Inhabitants of some parallel universe may achieve something like a permanent retirement from challenge, maybe by virtue of the lobotomy they receive as part of their retirement ceremony. In this universe, where we are obliged to think and to feel until we pass along, there can be no retirement from the demands of making meaning. I think I’d rather live here.


More about Ellen at her website:

And here’s a nice write-up of Ellen at one of the galleries representing her:


P.S. I am getting lots of nice feedback on my Overcoming Creative Anxiety class available at To refresh your memory, you can start it at any time and pay whatever you want. Take a look:

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.


Jonathan Herbert said...


As ever, I find your posts, writing and personal support invaluable. I especially enjoyed reading about Ellen McGowan, who proves my point that we creators never retire...other people retire to do what we do.

Jonathan Herbert

Brian McGovern said...


You are a constant source of inspiration to everyone with the creative urge. Thanks.