I just discovered a new book called “Making Your Creative Mark” by Eric Maisel, which means I just discovered Eric Maisel. What a find. Maisel is the author of basically a million books dedicated to the work artists must take on inside themselves. I’m in love.
In the first chapter Maisel writes, “Many of us do a poor job of minding our minds, in choosing to think in ways that serve us. We present ourselves with self-sabotaging thoughts and refuse to dispute those thoughts once they arrive. If we all did a better job of noticing what we are thinking and making an effort to replace defensive and unproductive thoughts with more optimistic and more productive ones, we would live in less pain and give ourselves a much better chance of our dream life.”
I've been dealing with this a lot recently as I imagine many artists do, and I like the idea that one of the skills we have to learn to live creative lives is not just the tools of our craft. It's not just learning about Golden mediums or how to draw a nose. It is those things. It includes those things, but it is also how we use our minds in a positive or negative way. By taking on creative endeavors we are opening ourselves up to pretty risky areas emotionally. And the way that many of us deal with those things- because we're human- is to get really negative with ourselves. Negative thinking is just part of being an artist so if you want to do an artist at your job or just as part of a healthy creative life you have to learn how to manage that negative thinking.
Here are some of my go-to classics: I don't have enough time. My time is broken up too much. I stay up too late and can't wake up early enough. I should be focusing on a healthy life instead of an artistic life. I have too many different styles.
Maisel tells us we need to counter those thoughts and then work on replacing them with useful thoughts like, “I have enough time. I will stay focused in the time I do have.” Etc.
The trouble I have with positive versus negative thinking is that often my negative thoughts are based in truth. I do stay up too late. I do struggle with a healthy lifestyle. Maisel points out that just because a negative thought is true, doesn’t mean it’s helpful. That distinction was a breakthrough for me. Negative thinking whether based in truth or not doesn’t help us stay focused and motivated.
Maisel writes, ”Creating depends on having a quiet mind enough to allow ideas to bubble up. Living a successful, healthy life as an artist requires that your self-talk align with your goals and your aspirations. Your job is to quiet your mind and extinguish negative self-talk. These are your two most important tasks if you want a shot of your best life in the arts.”
So this week, I’m going to keep a watchful eye turned inward and try and catch the negative thoughts as they come through. Step one is seeing them come in. Step two is disagreeing with them. And the important third step is to replace them with a positive thought.