In his work as a psychotherapist and creativity coach, Maisel recognizes the common thread running through these symptoms as being a particular anxiety that, paradoxically, keeps creators from doing, completing or sharing the work to which they are driven, by having them avoid their work, invalidate their talent and fail to market themselves. Delineating strategies that can alleviate creativity-related anxiety, Maisel suggests practical, down-to-earth ways to deal with it and to free the artist within to experience a more direct state of self-expression.
With multiple books and projects to his credit, all focused on the creative process, the creative life, Maisel’s efforts often overlap. His other titles include Coaching the Artist Within, A Writer’s Space, Brainstorm, Deep Writing and Van Gogh Blues, to name a few. When asked how effective it might actually be to read a book in order to support results in one’s own endeavors, he says, “Most books that deal with anxiety tend to teach one thing: a relaxation response technique, a cognitive strategy, what-have-you. I have two dozen strategies, and for everybody there’s going to be at least one that they can adopt.
“It isn’t really about getting rid of anxiety. It’s more about embracing and managing it. It makes no sense to think that we could get rid of it. It’s a part of our warning system. We just don’t want to overdramatize our own sense of anxiety. Often just a little bit is enough to stop us in our tracks. But it can be embraced, acknowledged and then dealt with – that alone is a big help.”
Symptoms that others would label with stronger psychological diagnoses, Maisel nails with calm and accurate lucidity. “Because we’ve decided that our writing matters so much, we create more anxiety than is necessary in the situation. That sense of existential distress can be normalized. You can talk yourself into understanding, and you can do a better job of not overdramatizing.” People talk to themselves all day long, saying things like “There’s too much competition,” “I’m not talented,” “I should be making a living” – and if we do this constantly, we are stopping ourselves with utterances that don’t serve us. He explains that it’s a matter of becoming self-aware and responsible. “I think we’re in denial about how tricky we are. The number-one thing we do is to flee the encounter so as not to feel anxious. And we don’t quite realize the trick we just pulled.”
“Showing up, choosing a tactic or strategy is the only thing that allows the psychological experience of meaning to arise,” he says. “Showing up is so important. I don’t want clients to understand life better. That doesn’t lead to more work getting done. Insight is one thing; work is another. Existential decisiveness is important, but you can sit there and say ‘Yes, I matter’ and still not be working, because the anxiety is still present. So for me getting clients to show up seven days a week, no matter what they’re feeling, and to do the work is the most important thing they can do.”
Maisel addresses all aspects of managing a life filled with artistic, inventive endeavors in his many books. In Mastering Creative Anxiety he acknowledges that “A time never comes when life is settled and anxiety is banished. This is true for life in general, and triply true for the creative life.” So this is good news. You might not be hopelessly flawed, untalented, stagnant. You might not get a book contract or an art show out of his expert advice, but you will very possibly get real about your own work and your own willingness to do it.
Maisel will be at Mirabai of Woodstock for “Spoken Word” on Saturday, September 10 at 3 p.m. for a book talk and signing. He will also conduct a weeklong experiential workshop called “The Creativity Coaching Experience” at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck from Sunday, September 11 through Friday, September 16. Contact Omega for more information.
At Barnes & Noble in Kingston:
Saturday, September 17 at 2 p.m. – Children’s book author MacKenzie Cadenhead will read from her new title Sally’s Bones, a tale of a girl, a crime and a lovably lifeless, decidedly dead dog – one that will delight your pre-teens.
At the Golden Notebook in Woodstock:
Thursday, September 1 at 7 p.m. at Oriole-9 – Meet Priscilla Gilman, author of The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy.
Saturday, September 3 at 3 p.m. at the Kleinert/James Arts Center – Robert Levine will be on hand to talk about and sign copies of Weep, Shudder & Die: A Guide to Loving Opera.
Sunday, September 4 at 3 p.m. at the Kleinert/James Arts Center – Mayapple Press presents three of its poets: Christine Hamm, Judith McCombs and Lorraine Schein for a reading/signing.
Sunday, September 11 at 3 p.m. at the Kleinert/James Arts Center – Author Scott Spencer celebrates the paperback release of his book Man in the Woods.
Friday, September 16 at 7 p.m. at the Kleinert/James Arts Center – Another Mayapple Press presentation: Eleanor Lerman with Janet Planet.
Saturday, September 17 at 3 p.m. at the Kleinert/James Arts Center – Enjoy an afternoon of poetry with Susan Sindall’s What’s Left and Matthew Spireng’s What Focus Is.
Sunday, September 18 at 4 p.m. at the Kleinert/James Arts Center – Join Gail Godwin, Linda Guethe and Abigail Thomas for a reading and panel discussion, as contributors to In the Fullness of Time: 32 Women on Life After 50, edited by Emily W. Upham.
Saturday, September 24 at 6p.m. at Oriole-9 Restaurant – Rock City Readings; contact the store for details.
At Inquiring Minds in New Paltz:
Friday, September 9th at 7 p.m. – Join a women’s poetry reading with Jan Schmidt and other readers TBA
Saturday, September 10th at 7 p.m. – Jennifer Castle, author of the Young Adult novel, The Beginning of After, will read and sign copies.
Friday, September 16th at 7 p.m. – Come to a dual reading with Larry Carr, author of The Pancake Hollow Primer, and Barbara Adams, author of The Stone Man and the Poet.
Friday, September 23rd at 7 p.m. – Reading with June Pierce, author of Keeping Secrets.
At Inquiring Minds in Saugerties:
Sunday, September 11 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. – Author Tom Pine will read from his kids’ book Crystal, Guardian of Upsidedonia, and from the Cilla Stephenson mysteries: Pastor and the Private Eye and Season of the Vigilante.
Saturday, September 24 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. – Join in meeting Christopher Herz to talk about and sign copies of his book The Last Block in Harlem.
At Merritt Books:
Saturday, September 17 from 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon – K. L. Going, author of Writing and Selling the YA Novel, will conduct a workshop “The Art of Writing and Publishing,” offering a one-on-one critique for a five-page writing sample. Cost: Workshop fee $75, or $50 with purchase of Going’s book; critique fee is an additional $30. Please preregister by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (845) 677-5857.
At Oblong Books in Rhinebeck:
Friday, September 9 at 7:30 p.m. – Highland author Frank Bergon will read from his novel Jesse’s Ghost.
Sunday, September 11 from 12 noon to 2 p.m. at the Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market – Join Kate Messner, who will delight your preschoolers with her picture books Sea Monster’s First Day and Over & under the Snow.
Friday, September 16 at 7:30 p.m. – Binyavanga Wainaina, director of the Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists at Bard College, reads from his memoir of growing up in Kenya, One Day I Will Write about This Place.
Saturday, September 17 at 7:30 p.m. – Isabel Gillies, author of Happens Every Day, reads from her second memoir A Year and Six Seconds.
Sunday, September 18 at 4 p.m. – Neil Abramson, lawyer and animal advocate, reads from his debut novel Unsaid.
Friday, September 23 at 7:30 p.m. – My Reach: A Hudson River Memoir is Susan Fox Rogers’ account of her family living on the Hudson River.
At Village Square Bookstore & Literary Arts Center in Hunter:
Saturday, September 10 from 1 to 3 p.m. – Scott Ian Barry will be in-house to talk about compiling an architectural and historical tour of 29 of New York State’s finest castles in his stunning book Castles of New York.