Saturday, September 8, 2007

Creative mania

Eric Maisel in his book Coaching the Artist Within describes creative mania:

"Imagine a painter. She has become very excited about her current project. She prefers to work on it than to pursue her other activities. To use the language of the preceding lesson she is positively obsessed. She recognizes that she is letting other things slip through the cracks as she worked feverishly on her painting, but nothing feels important enough to cause her to stop.

"She understands that she is operating in a self-absorbed, grandiose, arrogant way, as if that were anybody's business. Interruptions irritate her. She feels a constant, intense internal pressure to paint. Every so often she fantasizes about the glorious reception or painting will receive when it's finished and seen by others, offend sissy that exacerbates her high strung state. She sleeps fewer hours than usual as, driven to create, she works on or painting later tonight and returns to it early each morning.

"She feels both elation working so intensely and impatience that she can't work even faster. She experiences a heightened sexual energy that sends her impulsively on the prowl as well as bouts of anxiety when a thought strikes are that she may ruin her painting or complete it and hate it. Hovering nearby is a depression generated by the half conscious fear that painting is not nearly as meaningful as she is making it out to be.

Maisel has captured something important here.

Every artist and filmmaker that I've known has acted something like this when in the midst of a creative project.

Maybe everyone--generals, businessmen, lawyers, architects, professional athletes, and grade school teachers--displays similar symptoms when attacking a challenging project that requires total commitment and creative thinking.

The challenge for the artist is to to channel this energy and avoid sliding into obsessive, self-destructive behavior.

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