Last week, I attended a talk by creativity coach Eric Maisel at Book Passage to hear him discuss his new book The Van Gogh Blues. I have not gone to any book readings for a long time, not since college, where there had been a steady flow of world class poets like Seamus Heaney and authors like Ron Hansen at my door step.
Mr. Maisel, who has combined his experience as a counselor with his passion for nurturing creativity, was plugging his new book which focuses on the intersection between creativity and depression and provides tools for the artist and writer to manage the inevitable obstacles and challenges that make up the artist’s life.
Certain parts of his talk really hit home with me.
The three (paraphrased) keys to finding meaning in creativity:
- Taking the plunge by deciding to live a creative life (not just dreaming about and surrounding yourself with the material results of someone else’s creative life),
- Realizing meaning by working on a creative project that you intend to see through to its finish (it’s not just enough to call yourself a writer, you actually need to write), and
- Committing time to the project (making time every day to create without fail).
Reversing Negative Self Talk One of the points that he brought up was that too often we are self-defeating, chopping ourselves down before or in the middle of projects. This was something that I felt at critical points in creative projects, usually when the going got tough, such as in the middle act. But interestingly enough, after his talk, I began to listen a little more closely to that silent voice of the incessant mind. Just the other night while watching a movie on George Sands with my lovely wife, I had this sinking feeling that I will never be as successful as the authors and artists depicted in the movie. That soft whisper in my head, almost more a feeling that an actual articulation, nearly passed unnoticed, but I caught it. And I think catching it was enough, at least for a first step, to become aware of the tricks of my mind that happen not just at critical points in the creative process, but also as an incessant background noise.
Pushing the Creative Self Beyond the Comfort Zone A final piece of advice that I took from the talk was to really push myself in my work beyond my expectations. He pointed out that often folks would write for forty minutes, get caught in a tricky part, and then give up for the day. He urged us to push on, write for another two hours. Well, at this point, I am not sure that I can steal away enough time from my other work and family to do that, so what I did instead was rather than giving up after reaching 750 words in 40 minutes, I pushed through for another half hour to reach a thousand words.
Before I attended his talk, I suppose I was a bit skeptical about how a creativity coach might add something to my creative process (after all, I am the one who has to do all the writing), but now I see the value in having a guide who can help provide the tools to be more creative and to help me finish projects.
So I have thrown my name into the pool of “free clients” who have the opportunity to work with one of Mr. Maisel’s creativity coaches in training. If I get selected, I’ll provide updates on how that process works for me.
And if I don’t get selected, I’ll still be putting the time into my novel and finding and sharing the tools to overcome the inevitable bumps and road blocks on this journey.