Thursday, February 28, 2008

"THE VAN GOGH BLUES, The Creative Person's Path through Depression"


Today I'm so pleased to talk to Eric Maisel, author, creativity coach and psychotherapist whose books, newsletters and podcasts have helped so many creative people succeed. I know his books have offered me advice, inspiration and guidance along the sometimes long and winding creative road. And this book comes from one creator to another. Eric Maisel, a writer himself, knows first-hand the struggle creative people experience and in this book, he address the problems and seeks to lead all of us out of the blues.

Why do creators experience depression? According to Eric Maisel, "Creators are not necessarily afflicted with some biological disease or psychological disorder that causes them to experience depression at the alarming rates that we see. They experience depression simply because they are caught up in a struggle to make life seem meaningful to them. People for whom meaning is no problem are less likely to experience depression. But for creators, losses of meaning and doubts about life's meaningfulness are presistent problems-even the root causes of their depression." Eric calls this a 'meaning crisis'.

Question: Eric, how do I restore meaning during a meaning crisis?

Eric: First, you need to have the kind of vocabulary of meaning in place that allows you to accurately name your current difficulty as a meaning crisis. Then, having correctly identified it, you need to remind yourself forcefully that you make the meaning in your life and so it is on your shoulders to either reinvest meaning where it just got lost or make a meaning investment in another direction. That is, you must decide if your current novel, which suddenly feels meaningless to write, is still worth your attention, in which case, you reinvest meaning in it, or whether your must abandon it and start another project. You restore meaning by actively and consciously either reinvesting meaning or make a new meaning investment.

Q: Facing that novel on the computer screen, a blank canvas or a lump of clay, how can I move through my fear or meaning crisis and keep creating?

Eric: The first step is to notice that fear or anxiety is at play, rather than mislabeling the situation (for instance, by suddenly deciding that you have no talent or that your paintings will never be wanted). The second step is to embrace this anxiety, rather than trying to fend it off. Anxiety is natural and, at modest levels, no particular problem - the problem is fighting like heck to avoid the experience of it. So you embrace it and say, "Gee, I am feeling a little anxious." Just saying that will help. Next, you use some anxiety management technique to reduce your experience of anxiety: just taking a few deep breaths can work wonders. Label it correctly, normalize it, and then reduce it.

Q: So I've recognized my anxiety and taken a few deep breaths, but I'm still not getting my studio work done. I say, I'm too busy or too tired. Or I'd love to sculpt a new clay figure but I don't have a kiln to fire it in. Am I sabotaging my own efforts? And why would I do that to myself?

Eric: Because creating is difficult, and because we want to keep that truth out of conscious awareness, we act as if we want to create but then find ways of avoiding it. The most characteristic ways we avoid it nowadays is to say to ourselves, "I'm too busy" and "I'm too tired, " both of which work to keep us from our art because they have enough of a grain of truth to them that we can comfortably buy them. The most classic way to avoid the hard work of creating is to use some 'yes, but' construction, which translates as, see, I really wanted to do it(sculpt), but, darn it all, something monumental is in the way(no kiln). If you point out that there is a kiln thirty miles away, what will you get in reply? - a new 'yes, but.'

Q: Working daily at my art, how do I measure success and feel more successful?

Eric: The typical way that a creative person measures success is according to how well his creation is received by the world. If he finds a publisher for his novel, he designates that a maker of success. If the novel sells well, he considers that another . But what marker will he use during the 600 days he is writing his first novel? It can't be publication or sales: it must be that he is showing up and honorably working. If he does not consider markers like those and if he doesn't celebrate those sorts of successes on the days that he shows up and works, he is likely to feel too little rewarded and too unsuccessful and give up on creating. We must decide to feel successful as we proceed, because external validation is not going to come often enough to meet the need we have to feel successful.

Thank you, Eric. And that's gets me right back to the core of creativity. I create because it is meaningful to me and important to me to do it. And by doing my creative work everyday, whether it's sculpting, writing or painting, I feel successful. I am a meaning maker.
For more about Eric Maisel and his books, workshops and consulting services, be sure to visit

Monday, February 25, 2008

Blogtour Stop Thursday:

An interview with Eric Maisel

"The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path through Depression"

I'm looking forward to talking with author, psychotherapist and creativity coach, Eric Maisel about his book and how artists can chart a new course through depression to a more meaningful creative path.

I know as an artist my work is an important source of meaning in my life. It is work I do because it is meaningful to me, but what happens when meaning gets de-railed by self-doubt or critism? According to Eric Maisel, this is a meaning crisis. And that our way out of this crisis and back to our job as a creative person, is to become our own meaning expert. I, you, we have to 'opt to matter'.

Sounds easy. But, this is where it gets tricky. Any artist facing a blank canvas wonders, "Do my efforts really matter?" The answer is really simple. You choose to matter. You choose to live, create and relate in ways that matter to you. And that's the way you stay on the meaningful, creative path.

But how do you overcome the anxiety that keeps your brush in mid-air? How do you bravely make your own meaning everyday? How do you recognize self-sabotage and walk through it and beyond it?

Join me here on Thursday, when Eric answers these questions and more.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

One-handed no more!
Hear the sound of two hands clapping....
Thanks to the healing help from many caring people.

It’s been a long two months. The biggest challenge was keeping my spirits up when I couldn’t do my art. Working with metal, as I do, whether it’s copper repousse’ or the aluminum mesh takes the coordination of two hands. I couldn’t do it one handed.

I needed help. And I got help from many talented, caring healers. I had delicate surgery to straighten my wrist bone done by a talented orthopedic surgeon, Darin Friess. The physician’s assistant, Tannia, sculpted my cast to help me heal and be as comfortable as possible. Janice Weitzer, a caring herbalist and massage therapist worked with me to release pain and open up my circulation so I would heal faster. And Ruth Ann, my occupational therapist, manipulated my fingers, hand and wrist each session and taught me stretching and strengthening exercises.

All their wonderful, caring, professional help has given me my hand back. I’m healed!

I applaud them all. And now, thanks to them, I can use BOTH hands!!!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A romantic tale.

A Valentine's Gift.

A new, old ring on my finger.

About a month ago, I told my husband that all I really wanted for Valentine's Day was my wedding ring back on the third finger of my left hand. When I broke my wrist, they had to cut and twist my ring off my finger, mangling it badly. The only consolation they could give me was that I could get a 'new ring'.

But, you see, I don't want a new ring because I love my wedding ring even after 20 years. I had it made for me by a custom jewelry artist when my other 'store-bought' ring fell apart. The artist, Deborah Spencer, created a one of a kind ring for me that fit my finger perfectly.

So when they mangled it, I went in search of her on the internet. I found her and she told me not to worry, she could probably fix it. Just bring it in to her when my hand had healed a bit. So, early in February, I brought it to her shop. Deborah took a look at it and said, she could fix it, no problem. I left it with her.

On Valentine's Day, my husband and I went to her shop to pick it up. Deborah fixed it, and then some. Not only was it sized up to fit my finger a little better, but all the old scratches had been polished off, and the diamonds were sparkling clean. Guess how much she charged me? Nothing. It was all part of her service to her customers. It's a Valentine's Day gift I will never forget.

If anyone wants to see more of Deborah Spencer's beautiful, artistic jewelry, here's her website...

A wrist that can twist.

And necessity is the mother of creativity.

In the photo to the left, you see my recovered hand. Adorned on Valentine's Day with my beautifully, artfully created and repaired wedding ring. As well as a fingerless glove that I created in crochet to give my wrist some cozy warmth while typing on the cold keyboard of my computer. Why did I need a fingerless glove? Because, you see, I don't need my wrist brace anymore...Hoorah!!

I even get to play with clay. Well, not clay exactly, it's more like the silly putty I played with as a kid. It even bounces. And, in addition to doing my rolling, pinching and squeezing therapy, I can make funny faces, gumby-like people, bird beaks and crazy heads.

Who said physical therapy can't be fun?

Friday, February 08, 2008



After six sessions of physical therapy, I am humbled by my hands. I took them for granted for way too long. Oh, I've had my odd finger and thumb injuries that have forced me to think about them or the lack of them for a while. But with two hands, it's easy to let the other hand take up the slack during a minor or soft tissue injury and forget about it.

Since breaking my wrist, I've thought about nothing else but my wrist. The damage, the pain, the surgery, the pins were all centered around my wrist. What I didn't think about was my hand and my fingers and the intricate dance they perform on a daily basis. Now I think about them 2-3 times a day as I exercise them one joint at a time, slowly.

A few fun facts about the hand. The hand is the most complex bone structure in your entire body with an amazing 27 bones in that one small area. The wrist has 8 bones in two rows. The hand has 5 bones and the fingers 14 smaller bones with each finger having 3 bones and 2 in the thumb.

But what's even more amazing is what you can do with all those bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles. Think of it. Gripping a gallon of milk or a delicate earring. The intricate coordination needed to type these words with each finger moving independently and swiftly over the tiny keys. The beautiful, delicate dance between wrist and fingers that is an artform in itself. Think ballet or belly dancers, skilled surgeons, artists sculpting, and musicians playing piano, violin or guitar.

Last weekend I was watching Alfred Hitchcock's 'North by Northwest' and the scene that amazed me like never before was the one with Eva Maria Saint and Cary Grant nuzzling in the train compartment. There's a whole sequence of shots of the back of Grant's head and Saint's hands. As I watched Eva's hands, I was amazed by the beauty, delicacy and acrobatics involved in a lover's caress. I think Hitchcock must have seen their beauty, too. I thank him for opening my eyes to the beauty of my hands, something I mostly thought of as a tool and lately, a broken tool at that.

Now, I see and appreciate my hands as a whole...wrist, hand and fingers...and marvel at the beauty, power and delicate gymnastic moves that they perform everyday.