Fearless Creativity: Thank you, Eric Maisel!

I found this Eric Maisel video last night, and boy did I need it!

Thanks to Creativity Coach Eric Maisel, for this wonderful video on HOW TO CREATE FEARLESSLY. 

After years of experiencing an easy flow of creative ideas from my mind to my fingers and thus into my book’s Scrivener file, I’ve sunk into a mode where I want to write, but just when the writing starts to flow, I find myself avoiding writing. I started my current novel–writing in a new area, in what seems to be evolving into a genre called boomer-lit, focusing on characters born during the post-WW II Baby Boom generation. These characters are between fifty and seventy now, moving into the final phase of their lives as seniors, elders, parents of children and grandchildren, and–occasionally–living parents of these Baby Boom characters.

I was excited by the idea of writing this book. The span of my characters’ lives gave me a wealth of possible skills, accomplishments, and emotional baggage. And, WOW, and complexity of the family trees and their networks of friends, enemies, and colleagues was dizzying.

I started at the beginning of NaNoWriMo, last November 1, almost 3 months ago. It started with a bang, writing sometimes up to a couple of thousand words a day, but progress soon slowed. It seemed  I would get a couple of good writing days, then the third day, get up almost dreading the computer.

I had 30,000 words written by the end of November when I’d targeted 50,000. During December and January my progress slowed amost to a crawl. I was actively sabotaging my writing, grasping for anything to avoid writing. I did laundry, washed my dishes, checking my email, and had the tidiest house I’ve ever achieved. I didn’t know why I was sabotaging myself, but I was definitely doing a tremendous job of it.

Then, a few weeks ago, I shared my frustration with a writer friend, who told me she was having a similar problem, and had decided to deal with it by committing open her book’s computer file every day, six days a week. She called this process OTFing (open the file-ing). She gave herself a star on her calendar every day she opened the file, whether she wrote a little or a lot. It turned out she usually did do some writing, and opening the file and looking at where she left off kept her in touch with the story, and her book kept moving along.

I adopted her strategy about 3 weeks ago and my novel began to move again. But it’s been moving painfully S L O W L Y

I would OTF every day, but often not until the evening and if I did write, it was often only a few lines. Still, my story was keeping fresh in my mind, although some days I didn’t even know if I liked the story anymore.

I needed help.

So I went online to YouTube and typed in Eric Maisel’s name, looking for this famous creativity coach’s wisdom to solve my problem. Years ago an Eric Maisel book called The Van Gogh Blues had helped me understand the relationship between depression and creativity.

Almost immediately, my YouTube search revealed a 1-hour Eric Maisel video titled HOW TO CREATE FEARLESSLY, in which Dr. Eric Maisel would outline 10 strategies for fearless creating.

It sounded like a perfect fit. After all, I was a writer whose creativity was crippled by fear produced by my supercharged inner critic.

The video turned out to be exactly what I needed. Eric Maisel outlined his ten strategies, explaining them clearly as he went. Listening to Maisel, I learned WHY I so often dreaded writing, while also loving it.

The strategies are

  1. Honor the creative process
  2. Get really easy with mistakes and messes
  3. Create in the middle of things
  4. Crack through everyday resistance
  5. Get a grip on your mind
  6. Get to my own work first thing each day
  7. Expect risks to feel risky (choices provoke anxiety for the human brain, and creative work is filled with choices)
  8. Err on the side of completing projects
  9. Let meaning trump mood
  10. Get smart about the marketplace

Creativity is Hard

Writing, painting, dancing. Every creative process involves making constant choices. What if it’s the wrong choice? The human brain, designed to keep primitive mankind alive, is stressed by choices. For the human mind, every choice is dealt with as if it were a matter of life and death.

Thanks to my curiosity about the human brain, and a lot of research into how it works, I really got it when Maisel described the fear engendered by constantly having to make choices. He was talking about me.

Yes, I was avoiding my book because I had to choose how my characters would respond to situations that threatened, if not their life, their happiness, and their future. I was writing a book complicated in different ways than my previous novels. My inner critic responded this complexity by running wild, sabotaging me by invoking and magnifying every fear my creative self could dream up.   

My creativity, that magical force I’d fallen in love with while playing my grandmother’s piano at the age of seven, imagining the playmate across the street running home in the rain as I created amateur, and very loud, music. That creative spark had blossomed for me for forty books, thirty-five of which had been published. Now it was sabotaging me, but finally, I understood why. 

Last night after watching the video, I honored my creative process (Strategy 1), signed up for Eric Maisel’s Your Best Mind Ever course on Maisel’s website, and went to sleep saying, “I wonder what will happen in my next scene?” 

I woke up having had hardly any sleep, but I wasn’t about to wimp out on Maisel’s expert advice without trying. No matter what, I would get to my own creative work right away (Strategy 6).

I opened my file, started writing, made myself a coffee to keep me going, went back and wrote more. The scene that I’d been skirting around for days suddenly started moving on its own, creating a very tricky situation for my characters!

I told myself I would spend just an hour with that file. What happened in reality? I started at 9 am and didn’t stop until 3 pm.

Word count achieved: 2,000 words, much of it straight out of my subconscious in answer to the question I asked myself before going to sleep.

If anything in my experience resonates with you, check out the video above, and if you want more, check out Maisel’s course on developuing Your Best Mind Ever.

Thank you, Eric Maisel!

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