Creativity coach, therapist and psychologist Eric Maisel, PhD is author of more than 30 books including Fearless Creating, The Van Gogh Blues, Coaching the Artist Within and many other titles on developing creativity and a creative life.
In his course Your Best Life in the Arts, he provides “real answers to the challenges that confront you” – whether you are “just beginning to write, paint or play an instrument” or have “logged in thousands of hours at your craft.”
Below are excerpts from summaries of the first seven topics of the course, and a link to a new page with the other seven topics.
The class was presented as a live tele-conference and is now available as an online course.
Each topic – listed on the course website Your Best Life in the Arts – refers to key issues in creative expression, and I have added some related comments and references such as articles.
[See link to Part 2 of this article at bottom.]
video: Eric Maisel: The Creative Approach
Week 1. Your Life in the Arts
Get a clear picture of what it takes to deal with the emotional ups and downs and practical realities of a life in the arts. Learn how to make solid sense of the challenges of your own personality, the challenges inherent in the work of creating, and the challenges of culture and marketplace.
This brings to mind the subject of identity, how we think of ourselves, and the idea that many people claim (to themselves or others) that they “aren’t creative.”
My advice: Stop laboring under that self-limiting delusion. Yes, maybe you don’t have the specific talents or motivations to be a novelist or film director, rock star or whatever – but that doesn’t mean you lack creativity.
Week 2. The Meaning Key
If you can’t convince yourself that your creative efforts matter—if you aren’t “existentially decisive”—you’ll lose motivation, block, and avoid your creative work and your performance tasks.
A related topic Maisel addresses is toxic criticism: “Until you decide that your path in life matters, that it is ultimately your responsibility to live by your cherished principles, and that you and only you can create a life worth living, you will have insufficient motivation to put criticism in its place.”
From his article The Existential Key.
Another article of his: Meaningful Life, Meaningful Work, Meaningful Days.
Week 3. The Mind Key
Creating depends on having a mind quiet enough to allow ideas to bubble up…Learn the important skills of quieting your mind and extinguishing negative self-talk.
Writer Dean Koontz has commented about “ceaseless self-doubt that sits like a demonic imp on my shoulder from the moment I begin the first sentence until long after I finish the last…”
From my post Managing Creative Anxiety: Change Your Thinking.
Quieting this negative self-talk is one of the values of meditation.
Week 4. The Confidence Key
You may feel quite confident in some areas of your life—and then find yourself weaker than you would like when you get to the canvas or computer screen or when you need to talk to a gallery owner, literary agent or booking agent…you need to feel confident as an artist in order to succeed as an artist.
Creating can take courage and confidence even if you aren’t (yet) a professional. One of the key ways we can undermine our confidence is self-talk based on limiting beliefs.
Morty Lefkoe has developed programs to deal with self-limiting beliefs. In his article How to build confidence, he notes, “Confidence actually exists on a continuum, ranging from a very low to a very high belief in our own abilities, a sense we can handle whatever life throws at us. Very few people are totally lacking in confidence and very few feel confident that they can handle almost anything.”
Week 5. The Stress Key
Life produces stress, the artistic personality produces additional stress, creating produces even more stress, and living the artist’s life is the topper! Learn how to identify the stressors in your life and how to implement stress management techniques…
Dr. Maisel notes, “For someone who’s self-identified as a writer, painter, composer, scientist, inventor, and so on, his identity and ego are wrapped up in how well he creates—and when what we do matters that much, we naturally get anxious.” From my post Creative Anxiety – So Much On The Line.
Week 6. The Freedom Key
Most people are unaware of how self-censorship and other self-imposed constraints hamper their ability to flourish as an artist. They’re also unaware of how cultural constraints add to that felt lack of freedom…
In my post How Much Do You Censor Your Creative Expression?, I noted that just labeling or categorizing ideas is a kind of censorship – especially if we do it too early on, before allowing them to percolate both consciously and unconsciously. The attitudes we have about our creative ideas and projects can have a huge impact on what we actually invest energy in – or how much.
Week 7. The Passion Key
Passion—and synonyms like love, curiosity, enthusiasm, excitement and energy—is vital to the creative process. It is possible to create without passion but your art will suffer and the likelihood of you continuing over the long haul is greatly reduced…
This is another central issue for enjoying a creative and meaningful life.
Director Julie Taymor made a comment about her work: “Whatever it is, I have to really love it…When you approach it that way, you come at it with all your soul and intelligence.”
Her director for their film “The Holiday,” Nancy Meyers, commented about Kate Winslet, ”People do love her. The only other person I’ve ever seen love acting that much is Jack Nicholson.”
From my post Passion Fuels Creative Expression.
Part of the online course description:
“Are you a novelist, painter, dancer, singer, filmmaker, weaver, performance artist, poet or some other creative or performing artist? If you are, you know exactly how many challenges confront you on a daily basis. … Taught by America’s leading expert on the challenges of the creative life, Dr. Maisel has worked with thousands of artists in a multitude of settings. Take this opportunity to learn real answers to the challenges that confront you.”
Here are a couple of testimonials:
“Without Eric Maisel’s guidance I would never have successfully negotiated the publishing process. With his help, I completed a substantial proposal, landed a good agent, and just signed my first book contract!”
— Nancy Pine, author and educator
“It’s been an unexpected joy to find someone as creatively supportive and encouraging as Eric. I didn’t know what to expect out of our sessions and each one is fresh and interesting. Eric’s inspirational!”
— Christine Collister, international recording artist
“Eric’s insights have helped me with every aspect of my painting career, from the evolution of my market vision to strategies for self-promotion. I also found his help invaluable in feeding my creator’s soul!”
— Jonathan Herbert, painter and photographer
Learn more and buy the online course: Your Best Life in the Arts.
More books and classes by Eric Maisel, PhD:
Creativity for Life: Practical Advice on the Artist’s Personality, and Career from America’s Foremost Creativity Coach.
Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative.
> Related online course by Eric Maisel: Why Smart People Hurt
My related article: Brainpower and The Smart Gap.
[Photo at top from post: Ginny Ruffner: “That bad time made me more creative.”]
Read more about the course in Your Life in the Arts – Part 2.