Eric Maisel, PhD is author of The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person’s Path Through Depression. In our interview, he addresses some of the meaning and mood issues facing creators, noting that when we consciously make meaning, we improve our lives and mental health.
Q: The kinds of anxiety we call stage fright, or fear of the blank canvas (or blank page) — can these be related to meaning issues?
Eric Maisel: “When we fear that we do not matter or that our efforts do not matter, we get depressed.
“Similarly, the places where we make large investments of meaning, for instance in our performances, paintings, or books, are places of great anxiety, because there is more than our ego on the line, there is our very sense of the meaningfulness of our life.
“If the world is not interested in our paintings, for instance, we will be hard-pressed to maintain meaning there; so, when we come to the blank canvas, we can already be a little (or a lot) frightened that a negative reaction to this as-yet-unborn painting will precipitate a meaning crisis.”
Continued in interview: Investing meaning in our art.
He also comments:
“Only a small percentage of creative people work as often or as deeply as, by all rights, they might be expected to work. What stops them? Anxiety or some face of anxiety like doubt, worry, or fear… anxiety is the great silencer of the creative person.”
From post: Eric Maisel on anxiety and developing creativity.
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Here is an excerpt from a news show (several years ago) in which he talks about the existential nature of depression for creative people.
Maisel notes in the video that creative people want to be cultural leaders – “the cultural witnesses, cultural actors” to “hold meaning afloat for the world.”
He cautions that the term depression “has virtually replaced unhappiness in our internal vocabularies.”
In an article of his, Dr. Maisel notes, “We feel sad but we call ourselves depressed. Having unconsciously made this linguistic switch, when we look for help we naturally turn to a ‘depression expert.’ We look to a pill, a therapist, a social worker, or a pastoral counselor – even if we’re sad because we’re having trouble paying the bills, because our career is not taking off, or because our relationship is on the skids.”
From my post Rethinking Depression and Creativity.
To create art, and live a fulfilling life, he says, we need to consciously choose to make meaning.
“When a value that means something to you is involved, you must make a choice—or fail yourself by not choosing. When work that means something to you is at stake, you must choose to do it — or fail yourself by not choosing to do it.”
From article: Making Meaning by Eric Maisel, PhD.
Also see my related site Depression and Creativity.
Here is another interview in which he talks about making meaning: