Mastering Creative Anxiety ~ A Book Discussion

It always seems like a hot second since the last time I decided to write something for this blog, doesn’t it? But I guess that’s why I’m lucky to have it to fall back on, because I find myself having mysterious streaks of inspiration here and there! Now the trick is getting it to stay, and to last. How do creative people do it?

anxiety2
Author Eric Maisel

I thought I’d get some leeway into this secret world when I picked up Eric Maisel’s book Mastering Creative Anxiety, which advertises twenty-four lessons “for writers, painters, musicians, and actors”. It covered a lot of topics that I really wanted to address within myself, like the procrastination of beginning the creation process and the fear and paranoia it creates when faced with these anxiety-riddled situations. Maisel did have some excellent points which I recorded for myself and will highlight for you, but otherwise I found his writing to be somewhat repetitive and a little hard to follow – especially with the short, elemental stories placed smack in the middle of chapters.

The book begins on opening a little bit on the techniques used in the book, which expands out to twenty-two (missing two techniques to match the twenty-four lessons, but I don’t think that’s supposed to matter that much…?). As helpful as it is to have introduction paragraphs in the first chapter, I was literally reading the same sentences reopening the individual argument later in each chapter. I read almost identical statements on both page 9 and 33. I understand reinforcing your arguments and using complete callbacks so that your reader is not lost, but I found myself thinking “this is redundant” quite often.

This book also included “Teaching Tales” which again, were great for reinforcement for evidence and background, but took up a lot of space and had imaginative morals to emphasize the chapters focus. The thematic element was there, but personally I didn’t get any extra help or support from the stories. It’s like when textbooks would include essays from professors to provided “extended research” … we all know we didn’t read that shit or take notes on it… if it was a two-page spread that was two pages less of notetaking to do for me.

Besides those little hiccups, I did pick up some great strategies and thoughts I want to remember when continuing my journey with my anxiety and as an artist. One of those things is reminders and having positive self-talk always. He brings up the word “incantations”, which is the act of coupling the benefits of breathing and cognitive techniques to ease whatever experience you are having. It’s a ritual recitation, and I had been doing something like this previously but never knew that there was an exact word for it. This book also helped me realize to become “existentially decisive”, which is accepting who you are and how you deal with situations. It’s already hard enough for me to make a single small decision like what I want to eat for lunch, so making a large decision about a school project can seem life-ending. If I understand that this pressure to make this school project is uncomfortable, I can choose to work with it and move past it. Otherwise, I’m not making any progress at all!

In the end, although there were more than a few elements I disliked about this book, it still encouraged me to do something creative – not including writing this blogpost! It got me to go to the library and read (and even take notes there, just a change of scenery can affect my mood and opinion on my work), and work on collages I’ve been piecing together in a new art journal I just invested in. They are small baby steps, but are steps nonetheless!

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