A Square-Peg People Book Review
by Eric Maisel, PhD
This book has been an example, in my life, of the saying: When the student is ready the teacher will appear.
Fearless Creating has been my mentor. I found it right when I was ready for it. Behind me was the meandering path of questioning: "Am I really an artist? Do I have talent?". I was ready to call myself a writer - had come to terms with my abilities - but I was not sure how to proceed. Ahead of me were so many choices - my new questions were: "How?" "Where?" and "When?"
Prior to reading this book I had the mistaken idea that my writing (I actually believed this about all my creative projects, not just writing) had to flow easily - by itself. Any difficulty, any work meant that I wasn't doing something right.
Fearless Creating - and a couple friends - showed me how inaccurate that thought was.
If I had read the book earlier I doubt I would have understood it. I'm sure I would not have recognized any of Eric Maisel's "anxieties" in my approach to working.
Eric Maisel normalizes anxiety - he writes about the anxiety connected with creating as if it were natural - which it IS. He also explains how to deal with different kinds of anxiety - depending on where you are in the creative process.
He not only normalizes anxiety, he champions it (if handled well!): "If you are to create you must invite anxiety in." He continues: "...But then you must manage it."
If I had read the book earlier, I also think I would have considered Fearless Creating too rule-oriented. It does have rules - of a sort. It's subtitle is: "A Step-By-Step Guide to Starting and Completing Your Work of Art" - a guide would, well - guide you! And like directions to a friend's house - you can choose to follow or not follow the "rules", the guide, the direction.
But following the guide might get you where you're going quicker. At least it's been that way for me.
In Fearless Creating, Eric Maisel really shows how to tackle each phase of creating. He's divided the creative process into 6 "stages": Wishing, Choosing, Starting, Working, Completing and Showing.
He explains which kind of anxiety occurs during which stage - and how to work with (not wish away) the challenge each presents.
In the Introduction, Eric Maisel writes about what he calls "Working Deeply". Working deeply, like thinking deeply and feeling deeply - are ideas that touch my heart. He does not minimize the struggles involved in doing work that goes beyond the superficial - but for anyone who strives to do work that has meaning this section will be very motivational.
Fearless Creating is practical. You can come back to it over and over. It is also universal. I have talked about it through the years with a number artists - the latest being my musician son - and all seem to be able to relate to the problems (and solutions) that Eric Maisel writes about.
Another exciting element of this book is the way the author writes to all artists - not just writers, not just painters, not only musicians or film-makers - but ALL artists. He proposes that (all types of) artists should be connected and that our isolation is not healthy: "...you will surely suffocate if you live in a vacuum." He says: "I would like you to feel part of the group, club, fraternity, sorority, or shared universe that in fact you are a part of."
Lastly, I've got to mention the quotes in the margins - they're the best! Loads that I'd never read before - very inspiring.
If you're at a crossroads - confronting the numerous paths you might take - not sure HOW TO do your creative work wisely - if you've noticed "blocks" or fears in your creative process - Fearless Creating could be the mentor you've been waiting for!
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