Mastering Creative Anxiety
24 Lessons for Writers, Painters, Musicians and Actors from America's Foremost Creativity Coach
By Eric Maisel
“Anxiety is part of the human condition,” says Eric Maisel. And it’s “the number one problem that creative people face... [It] regularly stops creative people in their tracks and makes their experience of creating more painful than pleasurable.” It’s such an uncomfortable feeling that we’ll do almost anything to avoid it, often burying it deep within ourselves, or masking it with drugs, alcohol, or frenetic activity. But while these attempts may relieve our discomfort for a time, they also suffocate our creative spirit and can bring on a whole host of other problems.
Maisel reminds us that anxiety is hard-wired into our systems to alert us to possible threats in our environment, so we’ll never be able to eliminate it. It is, however, a highly inaccurate signal that doesn’t distinguish between real and imagined threats. Risk, which arouses feelings of anxiety, is an inherent part of the creative process, so anyone who wants to see his or her creativity soar must understand and learn to manage anxiety.
Essential to the process, says Maisel, is being willing to feel the discomfort that anxiety causes, stay with it long enough to determine its source, consciously decide whether or not a real threat exists, and learn to respond in skillful ways. “If you can get a grip on your mind, you will go a long way toward extinguishing much of the anxiety in your life,” he affirms.
Maisel’s advice, given in 24 lessons filled with powerful anxiety-management strategies and techniques, is eminently practical and deals with the realities of life for most twenty-first century creatives. In addition to the risk-based anxieties and the very real losses that accrue in the choice to live as a creative person in a materialistic society, the author deals with the continual need to balance the potent force of the creative spirit with the need to pay the rent — a reality that often leads to the need for a day job. Maisel’s book, at once playful and serious, unmasks the subtle ways that anxiety can hijack our creative work, and, while not diminishing the discomfort it causes, assures us that we can master it and set our creative spirit free.
Eric Maisel is an internationally known creativity coach, author, and columnist for Art Calendar magazine.