Creativity is about more than just being an artist. It’s the fuel that ignites and fires up the work you do wherever and whatever that might be. Whether it’s writing a book, teaching a workshop, raising a family, coaching and mentoring, owning a shop of your own, turning a field into a garden or orchard, or any number of the other things we turn our hands and hearts to as inspired women, they all involve the energy of creativity.
So I’ve really been enjoying – strike that – really been excited about Eric Maisel’s newest book “Making Your Creative Mark”. It’s a primer for artists, in the traditional sense, but universal in its appeal since as creative souls we are all artists of one sort or another. Click to Tweet
If you haven’t heard of Eric Maisel before, here’s a brief intro. He is considered America’s foremost creativity coach, working with creators in every conceivable set of circumstances. Over the years the challenges he has seen his clients face have remained the same. Not only do they “want to create or perform, but they also hope to do good work that is desired and respected,” writes Maisel. “So much stands in the way of their realizing their dreams, goals, and ambitions!”
He’s written over 40 books, trains creativity coaches, and still works with individuals even while writing, training and lecturing internationally. In this new book Maisel has distilled his knowledge and practical wisdom from 30-years of experience into nine keys — such as Passion, Confidence, Empathy, Stress, and Relationship — that show creators (that’s You) how to unlock their challenges and implement real and effective solutions.
You know how I love practicality, and Maisel’s book is chock full of practical exercises and processes for moving yourself through whatever challenges are tripping you up and separating you from fully engaging in the creative living you long for. It’s this take-this-knowledge-and-apply-it approach that’s one of the most appealing aspects of this book.
Maisel gives us nine keys to achieving our creative goals. Here are a couple of questions he responded to about the book. I also have permission to share an excerpt about the creative process from the book which I hope will peak your curiosity enough so you’ll want to read more. If so, you can find it here.
As you read along, feel free to replace the references to traditional artists with the creative work that calls you. Because remember, creativity is about more than just being an artist. Click to Tweet
You’ve organized the book around nine keys. Can you highlight one or two of them for us?
I start with the “mind key” because I believe that getting a grip on our thoughts and doing a better job of thinking thoughts that actually serve us are supremely important skills to master. Most people do a poor job of “minding their mind” and choosing to think in ways that serve them. It is a completely common practice for people to present themselves with thoughts that amount to self-sabotage and to refuse to dispute those thoughts once they arise. If people did a better job of “minding their mind” by noticing what they were thinking and by making an effort to replace defensive and unproductive thoughts with less defensive and more productive thoughts, they would live in less pain and they would give themselves a much better chance of living the life they dream of living. This is doubly true for artists who can doubt their talent, take criticism too seriously, find a hundred ways to avoid the hard working of creating, and more. There’s really nothing more important than getting a grip on your own thoughts!
Is there one habit or practice that really makes a difference between getting your creative work done and not getting it done?
Yes. The most important practice an artist can institute is a morning creativity practice where she carves out some time bright and early every day, five, six or seven days a week, to work on her novel, practice her instrument, or get right to her painting studio. There are three important reasons to institute a morning creativity practice. The first reason is the most obvious one—you’ll be getting a lot of creative work done! Even if only a percentage of what you do pleases you, by virtue of working regularly you’ll start to create a body of work. That’ll feel good! A second reason is that you get to make use of your “sleep thinking”—you get to make use of whatever your brain has been thinking about all night. Create first thing and capture those thoughts that have been percolating all night! The third reason is that, by creating first thing, you’ll have the experience of making some meaning on that day and the rest of the day can pass in a half-meaningless way and you won’t get depressed! Getting right to your creative work first thing each day provides you with a daily shot of meaningfulness. That’s a lot of goodness to get from one practice.
By Eric Maisel
If you want to live a creative life and make your mark in some competitive art field like writing, film-making, the visual arts, or music, and if at the same time you want to live an emotionally healthy life full of love and satisfaction, you need an intimate understanding of certain key ideas and how they relate to the creative process.
One key idea is that you must act confidently whether or not you feel confident. You need to manifest confidence in every stage of the creative process if you want to get your creative work accomplished. Here’s what confidence looks like throughout the creative process.
Stage 1. Wishing
‘Wishing’ is a pre-contemplation stage where you haven’t really decided that you intend to create. You dabble at making art, you don’t find your efforts very satisfying, and you don’t feel that you go deep all that often. The confidence that you need to manifest during this stage of the process is the confidence that you are equal to the rigors of creating. If you don’t confidently accept the reality of process and the reality of difficulty you may never really get started.
Stage 2. Incubation/Contemplation
During this second stage of the process you need to be able to remain open to what wants to come rather than defensively settling on a first idea or an easy idea. The task is remaining open and not settling for something that relieves your anxiety and your discomfort. The confidence needed here is the confidence to stay open.
Stage 3. Choosing Your Next Subject
Choosing is a crucial part of the creative process. At some point you need the confidence to say, “I am ready to work on this.” You need the confidence to name a project clearly (even if that naming is “Now I go to the blank canvas without a pre-conceived idea and just start”), to commit to it, and to make sure that you aren’t leaking confidence even as you choose this project.
Stage 4. Starting Your Work
When you start a new creative work you start with certain ideas for the work, certain hopes and enthusiasms, certain doubts and fears – that is, you start with an array of thoughts and feelings, some positive and some negative. The confidence you need at that moment is the confidence that you can weather all those thoughts and feelings and the confidence to go into the unknown.
Stage 5. Working
Once you are actually working on your creative project, you enter into the long process of fits and starts, ups and downs, excellent moments and terrible moments – the gamut of human experiences that attach to real work. For this stage you need the confidence that you can deal with your own doubts and resistances and the confidence that you can handle whatever the work throws at you.
Stage 6. Completing
At some point you will be near completing the work. It is often hard to complete what we start because then we are obliged to appraise it, learn if it is good or bad, deal with the rigors of showing and selling, and so on. The confidence required during this stage is the confidence to weather the very ideas of appraisal, criticism, rejection, disappointment and everything else that we fear may be coming once we announce that the work is done.
Stage 7. Showing
A time comes when we are obliged to show our work. The confidence needed here is not only the confidence to weather the ideas of appraisal, criticism, and rejection but the confidence to weather the reality of appraisal, criticism, and rejection. Like so many other manifestations of confidence, the basic confidence here sounds like “Bring it on!” You are agreeing to let the world do its thing and announcing that you can survive any blows that the world delivers.
Stage 8. Selling
A confident seller can negotiate, think on her feet, make pitches and presentations, advocate for her work, explain why her work is wanted, and so on. You don’t have to be over-confident, exuberant, over the top – you simply need to get yourself to the place of being a calmly confident seller, someone who first makes a thing and then sells it in a business-like manner.
Stage 9: New Incubation and Contemplation
While you are showing and selling your completed works you are also incubating and contemplating new projects and starting the process all over again. The confidence required here is the confident belief that you have more good ideas in you. You want to confidently assert that you have plenty more to say and plenty more to do – even if you don’t know what that “something” is quite yet.
Stage 10: Simultaneous and Shifting States and Stages
I’ve made the creative process sound rather neat and linear and usually it is anything but. Often we are stalled on one thing, contemplating another thing, trying to sell a third thing, and so on. The confidence needed throughout the process is the quiet, confident belief that you can stay organized, successfully handle all of the thoughts and feelings going on inside of you, get your work done, and manage everything. This is a juggler’s confidence—it is you announcing, “You bet that I can keep all of these balls in the air!”
Manifest confidence throughout the creative process. Failing to manifest confidence at any stage will stall the process. It isn’t easy living the artist’s life: the work is taxing, the shadows of your personality interfere, and the art marketplace if fiercely competitive. If you learn some key ideas, for instance that you must act confidently whether or not you feel confident, you give yourself the best chance possible for a productive and rewarding life in the arts.
Eric Maisel is the author of Making Your Creative Mark and twenty other creativity titles including Mastering Creative Anxiety, Brainstorm, Creativity for Life, and Coaching the Artist Within. America’s foremost creativity coach, he is widely known as a creativity expert who coaches individuals and trains creativity coaches through workshops and keynotes nationally and internationally. He has blogs on the Huffington Post and Psychology Today and writes a column for Professional Artist Magazine. Visit him online at http://www.ericmaisel.com.
Adapted from the new book Making Your Creative Mark ©2013 by Eric Maisel. Published with permission of New World Library http://www.newworldlibrary.com
If you like it so far, I invite you to pick up a copy of your own. It’s available at Amazon. http://bit.ly/creativemark
What are your thoughts? Did you find Eric Maisel’s steps to confident creating helpful?
Where do you feel you hold yourself back when it comes to living and working creatively? Confidence? Freedom? Passion? Stress?
I’d love to hear what you think! Please share your comments below.