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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good for all creative problems, 9 Feb 2010
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This review is from: Van Gogh Blues (Rodale): The Creative Person's Path Through Depression (Paperback)
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. It fit in perfectly with my own creative ups and downs; it was as if Maisel was pointing out the luscious, leafy woodland I wasn't seeing because of all those dark, gloomy trees. If your creative work isn't working, you tend to focus on the technicalities of the work itself; but the source of the problem should be looked for in the source of its inspiration, and this is the meaning of what you're doing.

I'd recommend this book for all people who do creative work and have ever experienced difficulties. Perhaps if you're of the more instinctive creative type, it may not be so helpful, but if you're used to thinking your way through creative problems, and thinking about creativity and life in general, it gives a whole new way of looking at, and thinking about, this important area of your life.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging read - not for the faint hearted, 7 April 2005
By A Customer
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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Van Gogh Blues (Rodale): The Creative Person's Path Through Depression
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