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Van Gogh Blues (Rodale): The Creative Person's Path Through Depression Paperback – 6 Jun 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale (6 Jun. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405020989
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405020985
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.8 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 632,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Dr Maisel, an internationally-known expert on the creative process, is a creativity coach, psychotherapist and author.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Murray on 9 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although Maisel's book is primarily aimed at creatives who experience depression (and Maisel asserts that all people engaged in creative work are at risk of depression, because of the nature of what they do), the ideas it contains about what creative work is can help with all the crises that turn up, from the large (depression itself) to the small (wavering in your purpose after a rejection, wondering what project to start on next, the difficulty of dragging yourself to the desk if things aren't going well, and so on.)

Maisel's basic idea is that if you are creative, you are engaged in making meaning. Every creative thing that you do is a way of bringing meaning into this world, of asserting the value and meaning of human life. Making meaning through artistic expression is simply a need which creatives have, which is what makes us creative in the first place. Any break from creative work, or any difficulties that prevent you from doing it, is, then, a greater or lesser crisis of meaning. If you get a rejection and start to doubt what you're doing, you're doubting the meaning you're trying to bring into life. If you find yourself unable to write, or draw, or paint, or weave, or whatever, it's because you're out of touch with your own personal idea of meaning, and your life can seem, as a result, meaningless. This is the start of depression.

The solution, Maisel says, is to force your life mean. Get to know what is meaningful to you, and start thinking in those terms when you work and, more importantly, when you can't work, or when your work fails or falters. Decide that, no matter what, your life has meaning, and your creative work is important. To me, this made instant sense.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 April 2005
Format: Hardcover
When my wife left me I found it difficult to cling onto the meanings I had cherished so dearly - my Christian faith. What I didn't understand then that I understand now because of this book is that meanings is something we sometimes need to purposefully create "we need to force our life to mean" as the author says. In other words, in the face of the abyss of meaninglessness we must create a pathway across by saying: "This is what I hold true" and sticking to it. This is a scary prospect because depression comes from meaninglessness and then to be told you have to face that and MAKE meaning is the sort of information that makes you want to sit down and cry! However, it is the truth. This includes any religious faith you hold - if that is what you hold true to - you must force your mind and body to use it and acknowledge it. So I came to understand that it is not that my faith had failed me but more that I had failed to purposefully apply it - does that make sense?
This book will probably only be a comfort to those of an extremely creative bent who struggle everyday with the issues of meaning and doing meaningful work. It is strangly ethereal and multi-coloured in its message - it will not speak to everyone. If there were one way to improve it I would seperate the practical steps from the main text - at the moment they are mixed in with the anecdotes and life stories - a summary would be good.
I have never come across a book like it and any artist, actor or creative who not only feels misunderstood by the world but actually IS because they ARE different should read it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 15 reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Good start for ANYone seeking meaning 11 Dec. 2002
By Dr. Cathy Goodwin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book will be useful to just about anyone who seeks meaning while trying to create. Even if your creation is a business or a marketing plan, not a book or a painting, this book will offer rare and helpful insights.
Maisel argues that creatives become depressed when they lack meaning in their lives. Drugs? A review of the past? Possibly helpful but, for most creatives, depression will be alleviated when people learn to find meaning in what they do. Given the rejections and setbacks of the creative life, Maisel's message is, "Find meaning in what you create, regardless of whether you find a buyer....
And the book is realistic: some people have to come to terms with creating art as a sideline, not a main source of income. We could have learned much more about this difficult topic.
As other reviewers have noted, this book is considerably stronger on insight than on guidance. We get page after page of notes from other "creativity coaches," presumably trained by Maisel. I found myself skipping those accounts after awhile, which left a fairly thin book. After all, we buy a book to gain the author's expertise -- not a series of anecdotes by those who have not traveled as far on the knowledge highway.
The author urges us to come up with a mission statement for ourselves along with a series of "core operating principles." In practice, I have found this prescription difficult to follow for myself and my own clients. A life purpose tends to evolve out of one's own experience and I believe we gain purpose from serendipitous discovery, not from sitting down to set guidelines.
Despite these concerns, I recommend this book for the gems that can be found, especially in the first part of the book. Understanding the source of creative depression is a good first step. Unfortunately, it is only the first step, and we could use a lot more follow-up.
I also can't help noticing that Van Gogh Blues communicates nearly the same message as The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, just packaged differently. The message of "show up" and "it takes less energy to do the work than to resist" appears in both sources.
A blocked creative -- the target of Cameron's work -- seems to resemble the depressed creative that Maisel writes about. Some readers will undoubtedly prefer one approach to the other.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Hard going 30 Oct. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I am a big fan of Eric Maisel and have found all of his previous works both useful and accessible. But this book is rough going - it reads more like a professional presentation than a book aimed at laymen. In addition, he gets very circular with all the "meaning" references - he uses the word in every other sentence! So while I found the substance of the book insightful, I think the presentation will make this a difficult book for most people to absorb.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
In a Rut? Read this book!! 18 May 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I'm so ready to make it happen -- this is the feeling I had after reading "The Van Gogh Blues"
Your job as an artist is to live in a way that makes you proud of yourself. Tell the universe where you stand, then take action.
...Of course, there are so many other roadbumps, & Eric Maisel deals with them all -- the facts of existence, our ego & narcissism, our anxieties, our relationships -- and sorts them out.
You'll get depressed, because you've opted to matter. Read this book thoroughly & understand that you need to restore meaning each time it takes a blow. Creative troubles may be complicated, but the solutions here are simple. This one's a true treasure!!
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
a unique look at creativity and depression 5 Nov. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I really appreciated Maisel's effort to make sense of the depression that lots of creative people experience--maybe all creative people. Rather than look at creativity and depression through the lens of psychology or biology, Maisel looks at it through the lens of meaning, an approach I really appreciated. This book was a real help to me and I think it would be a help to many others.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This is ME!! 17 Sept. 2005
By Ralph Childs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I love this book! It addresses how depression differs for creative people who are trying to make meaning of life and their lives. I always had this kind of depression and remember trying to explain this concept to a therapist many years ago. He just didn't understand. I wish I'd had this book to show him then.
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