I have several things on the go, some paintings, a novel, an autobiography, but somehow time goes by and I find that I have done next to nothing on any of them. There isn't enough time, or I don't have a private space to lay out my glass palette with premixed oil colours, or I can't think what the next plot point is going to be. It leaves me feeling down-hearted and hopeless, to be honest. I work to keep my family housed and fed, but that in itself seems to leave life almost meaningless; it is necessary, but not sufficient. I am not saying I am walking around as a depressive, it is just that I have an urge to create something worthwhile, yet I never seem to do it.
Eric Maisel is the best antidote to this I have come across. He, more than any other writer, seems to understand what drives people like me, and what obstacles we put in our own way. He talks a lot about meaning, about having a meaningful, worthwhile life, and this meaning comes from creating things. He then gives a number of practical exercises to try, some of which will work for you, some won't, but there are enough ideas here for you to find some things that will. Since getting this book a week or so ago, I have restarted the autobiography (this is actually one of his exercises, as it happens) and finished the drawing of my current wildlife painting, which had been lying fallow for several months.
Eric Maisel is described as 'America's foremost creativity coach' and in this book he offers well-structured advice, illustrated with anecdotes and personal reflections on his many years of creativity coaching experience.
The book is divided into twelve sections - each one covering a skill that will help you along the path to becoming your own creativity coach. To give some examples, three of the skills he covers are: 'Passionately making meaning', 'Becoming an anxiety expert' and 'Creating in the middle of things'.
As with any self-coaching or personal development book, this is no quick fix, but the advice offered is full of common sense with a few artistic twists. All the books I've read so far on the creative process are unanimous in stating that, ultimately, it's a case of simply getting down to and getting on with the work. This book is no exception, but it includes an interesting extension to the theme by advocating positive forms of obsession. Maisel explores the fine line that divides emotional stability from instability when you're in the midst of a creative obsession. In those moments when you produce your most inspired work, how sane are you?
I found this book to be both practical and inspiring. So if you want to try a spot of creative self-coaching why not take a look?