An Interview with Eric Maisel
Eric coaches individuals and trains creativity coaches through workshops and keynotes nationally and internationally. Visit him online at http://www.ericmaisel.com.
I’d like to know more about what you call the “freedom key.” What sort of freedom are you talking about?
Many different sorts—let’s look at just one, the freedom not be perfect; or, to put it slightly differently, the freedom to make big mistakes and messes. Not so long ago I got an email from a painter in Rhode Island.
She wrote, “I’m a perfectionist and I want my artwork to be perfect. Sometimes this prevents me from getting started on a new project or from finishing the one I’m currently working on. I think to myself: If it’s not going to be the best, why bother to do it? How do I move past these feelings?”
One way to get out of this trap is to move from a purely intellectual understanding that messes are part of the creative process to a genuine visceral understanding of that truth. You need to feel that freedom in your body. As an intellectual matter, every artist knows that some percentage of her work will prove less than stellar, especially if she is taking risks with subject matter or technique.
But accepting that obvious truth on a feeling level eludes far too many creative and would-be creative people. They want to “perfect” things in their head before turning to the canvas or the computer screen and a result they stay in their head and never get started. You have to feel free to show up and make a big mess—only then will good things start happening!
Another key that interested me is what you call the “relationship key.” What sorts of relationships did you have in mind and what can an artist do to improve his relationship skills?
All sorts of relationships! And relationships in the arts are frequently very complicated. You may be very friendly with a fellow painter and also quite envious of her. You may actively dislike a gallery owner or a collector but decide that he is too valuable to cast aside, maybe because he is your only advocate or your only customer. You may respect your editor’s opinions but despise the rudeness with which she delivers them.
There may be no such thing as a genuinely straightforward relationship anywhere in life but relationships in the arts are that much more complicated and shadowy. The main improvement an artist can make is to actually think about the matter!
You can decide how you want to be in relationships but only if you actively decide. You get to decide if you want to be honest and straightforward even if others aren’t, if you want to be polite and diplomatic even if others aren’t, if you want to be quiet and calm even if others are stirring the pot and making dramas.
It may not prove easy to be the person you want to be at all times and in all situations, especially since the marketplace has a way of throwing us off our game, but you can nevertheless hold the intention to try your darnedest to be the “you” you would most like to be. This takes thought and preparation!
Thanks, Eric, for sharing gems from your book with us!