Artists often find themselves dissatisfied with their creativity. Sometimes this is caused by a failure to articulate a satisfactory vision in their work. At other times, it is due to psychological factors that somehow prevent them from creating. It is to this latter condition that this book is addressed.
The author is a psychologist who bills himself as a creativity coach, and has written well over a dozen books about the subject. He says that creativity coaches "help clients to make and sustain meaning. They help creators deal with blockage, self-doubt, anxiety, fear of failure, worries about mistakes, and other issues that deal with creating."
After urging each artist to become his own self-coach in creativity, Maisel urges artists to develop a number of skills, each in a separate chapter, including passionately making meaning, eliminating dualistic thinking, generating mental energy, and achieving a centered presence. After describing the skill, he suggests tools for developing and enforcing the skills. For example, in the chapter on achieving a centered presence, he suggests deep breathing, while uttering mantra-like affirmations. Maisel finishes each chapter with a self-congratulatory story that shows how he helped someone develop the skill he has discussed.
Although the tools may seem a little touchy-feely to some, there is little doubt that some of the tools he suggests work in many cases. For example, many cognitive therapists now recognize the importance of affirmations.
On the other hand, the author isn't always able to provide clear help for dealing with a problem. For example, one of the skills he urges is creating in the middle of things. Most therapists and artists agree that you have to continue at your art, even though there are crises continually occurring. But it's hard to drain the swamp when you are surrounded by alligators. Maisel essentially says, "Suck it up". But if we were able to persevere through difficulties, we wouldn't be looking at this book.
One of the problems with this book is that it makes it seem simple to overcome the psychological barriers to creativeness. It would be quite an accomplishment if that could be done with the help of a book of about 200 pages with plenty of white space and anecdotes. There probably are people out there who can read this little book and overcome the obstacles they face. It is more likely that the artist blocked by psychological factors may, if he or she is prepared to take the book to heart, uncover what his or her problems are. However, it seems to me, the task of solving those problems will probably require a lot more work and help than this book can provide on its own.
Finally, one should understand that nothing in this book will tell you how to develop your vision as an artist.