"Anxiety is the number one problem that creative people face," declares Dr. Eric Maisel, "and yet few even realize it." His newest book to help creatives unleash their inner resources is Mastering Creative Anxiety: 24 Lessons for Writers, Painters, Musicians & Actors from America's Foremost Creativity Coach.
It may win a prize for the world's longest book title. Certainly it is the most comprehensive coverage of anxiety an artist of any sort would want to see. And I might wish I hadn't seen them all. Some of the 24 chapters name a few even I had not experienced or thought about. Now I'm anxious about developing fears of "mattering" and "thinking."
I've been a practicing agoraphobic most of my life and know what it is to feel frozen, panic-ridden, and unable to perform or make a choice. Fortunately, Maisel's latest creativity coaching efforts awards readers early with a list of 22 strategies to reduce anxiety. Most people can find at least a few that work well for them, but as Maisel warns, "you must learn and practice anxiety-management techniques if you are to master your anxiety!"
He even offers a self-training plan for implementing his warning. It comes as a checked box To Do paragraph at the end of "Chapter 1: The Anxiety of Creating and Not Creating." He suggests:
Explore this list and learn what works for you — and truly make use of the techniques that work. Start to own at least one or two anxiety-management strategies, practice them, and make real and regular use of them.
Some of the strategies may sound redundant, such as attitude change and reorienting or deep breathing and guided imagery and physical relaxation. But each is accompanied by a paragraph of additional explanation of the sometimes slight differences among them. Most of the tactics will be familiar to anyone who has had therapy for codependency issues, is a veteran of the Alcoholics Anonymous Al-Anon program, or perhaps took an adult education or enrichment class in self-esteem or assertiveness training.
The names Maisel uses for some of the ways of dealing with anxiety struck me as strange, such as the very first: Existential decisiveness. Personality upgrading and Disidentification were unfamiliar to me until I read the explanations and realized I knew the concepts under different terminologies. Except for Existential decisiveness. It is still as opaque as "existential" was when I first heard the term as an undergraduate in the 1960s.
The chapters cover mostly psychological anxiety sources such as fears about failing, identity, and procrastinating, but not rejection. He does mention it once, in the chapter on "ego bruising" and lumps it together with fearing criticism. Semantics.