Interview with Prolific Author and Creativity Coach Eric Maisel
Author of more than 50 books, Eric Maisel offers insights into his work as a creativity coach and what it takes to be a successful artist.
Eric Maisel Bio
Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is the author of more than fifty books, among them Overcoming Your Difficult Family, The Future of Mental Health, Rethinking Depression, Life Purpose Boot Camp, The Van Gogh Blues, Mastering Creative Anxiety, Why Smart People Hurt and Coaching the Artist Within.
A retired family therapist, active life coach and creativity coach, and mental health advocate in the areas of critical psychology and critical psychiatry, Dr. Maisel writes the “Rethinking Mental Health” blog for Psychology Today, the “Coaching the Artist Within” print column for Professional Artist Magazine, and serves as editor for parent resources at Mad in America.
Dr. Maisel lectures nationally and internationally, facilitates deep writing workshops in locations like San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, and Rome and at workshop centers like the Esalen Institute, the Omega Institute, and the Kripalu Yoga Center, and presents keynote addresses for organizations like the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry and the International Association of Pastel Societies.
Please tell us what you do.
Many things interest me and I wear many hats. I’m in the critical psychology movement that expresses doubts about the current mental disorder paradigm—I’ve written several books about all that, including Rethinking Depression, The Future of Mental Health, and Humane Helping. I’m also interested in life purpose and meaning issues and challenges and have my particular take on “what meaning is” and “what our life purposes are” and have expressed those ideas in books like Life Purpose Boot Camp and The Life Purpose Diet. I’m also interested in every facet of the creative life and have done many books in that area: Coaching the Artist Within, The Van Gogh Blues, Mastering Creative Anxiety, Creative Recovery, The Creativity Book, Fearless Creating, A Writer’s Paris, A Writer’s San Francisco, and lots more. In a nutshell, those are the subject areas that interest me: mental health, meaning, life purpose, creativity, and the challenges of the creative life.
How did you get started with creativity coaching?
I was trained as a psychotherapist (technically, a licensed family therapist) but I didn’t much believe in the pseudo-medical model at the heart of the current mental disorder paradigm. So, I segued from psychotherapy to what I called (thirty-five years ago, before coaching was a “thing”) creativity consulting, then on to creativity coaching when coaching became a household idea. I’d been interested in the issues and challenges of the creative life from the outset and, as a therapist, had worked exclusively with creatives and with creative couples—then rather naturally I moved on to creativity coaching when therapy didn’t feel like the right place for me to be.
How can artists benefit from coaching?
Artists need support and coaches provide that support. Artists also need accountability and coaches can supply that accountability. Coaches help their creative and performing artist clients set goals, name the obstacles to achieving those goals (both internal obstacles and external obstacles), better understand the marketplace and better relate to the marketplace, and generally better understand the creative life and more effectively lead the creative life. One creativity coach may have a specialty and focus there (for example, on overcoming creative blocks) and another may be more of a generalist or more like a life coach for artists and help with whatever issues arise in a creative person’s life. I function in the latter way—I try to help my clients with whatever issues come up that get in the way of them creating regularly and effectively.
Are there many opportunities for artists that want
to become creativity coaches?
Creativity coaching does not provide a full-time income for most creativity coaches—few coaches of any sort make a full-time living from coaching. But it can be an attractive revue stream for an artist who is trying to cobble together an income from the various things she does. As a creativity coach, you might do one-on-one coaching, runs groups, classes, and/or workshops, create products, and so on— there are many opportunities to create a nice revenue stream from one’s creativity coaching efforts. But will it lead to a full-time income? Probably not, unless you have a great deal of entrepreneurial energy and pay your practice a lot of attention. Full time income, probably not, revenue stream, yes, certainly.
You’ve written over 50 books, how do you stay so
First of all, I enjoy it. Not every writer enjoys writing—I’m one of the lucky ones who do. Second, I don’t need a day job and so I don’t have forty or fifty hours of my week stolen by a day job. Third, for many years (thirty or more) my wife brought in a nice salary, so I was free to write books that didn’t have to make much money. That was a blessing. Fourth, I have a lot of activist energy and when I see something that seems false to me, I want to expose it. That activist energy has fueled me over the years. Fifth, I want to be of help and enjoy being of help and that desire to be of service is also motivational. Sixth, I believe in discipline, devotion, regularity, routine, and all sorts of other words and ideas that amount to me having a daily writing practice (I write pretty much every day). Seventh, I am just savvy enough about the marketplace to keep finding publishers for what I write, which is no easy feat considering that I write in niche areas that tend not to thrill publishers. I’m sure that there are eighth, ninth and tenth reasons— but this is at least a part-explanation as to how and why I get a lot of books written and published!
Do you have any general advice for creatives
struggling to develop their career?
Well, I have lots of advice—books full of them . Here are a few headlines. 1) Get a grip on your mind—think thoughts that serve you! 2) Be regular in your creating—a few skipped days can lead to years lost! 3) Believe that you and your efforts matter—if you don’t, you’ll fall into existential despair. 4) Advocate for your work—don’t take “marketing” and “promoting” to be dirty words! 5) Anxiety threads through the creative process and the creative life—acquire an effective anxiety management tool or two! 6) Complete things and use as a mantra “sooner rather than later”—that is, that your intention is to get your creative work done sooner rather than later! Well, I could name a zillion more top headlines … let me stop here. Good luck to you!