May 132013

Every few days I end up in a conversation with some musicians where the topic is, “Why we all hate marketing and business stuff surrounding our music.” Musicians hate marketing, hate cold-calling DJs, hate negotiating gigs, and hate asking to get paid to play.

In his new book, Making Your Creative Mark, Eric Maisel gives some great reframing or thought-substitution techniques to get through the discouraging stuff. The basic idea is to be attentive to your inner conversations, and eliminate thoughts that do not serve your interests.

Here’s an example:

“I have to call three or four people today to start setting up gigs for this winter.” OK, that’s a good, sensible, useful thing to have in your head.

Then along comes the next thought. “I hate calling people. I wish I didn’t have to do that stupid stuff.” OK, this is where you need some substituting. You hate making business calls, but it’s not useful to think too much about that. What could you substitute?

“I don’t like making biz calls, but it only takes about twenty minutes. Then I can get on with something more interesting. Besides, I haven’t talked to Carol in Colorado for a while, and she’s always great to talk to.”

That substitution will give you a much better chance of actually getting those calls done. Kind of obvious? Yes. But discouragement and procrastination are built on gloomy moods, not following what is obvious and logical. And as Maisel points out, it is often very useful to let go of a thought even though it may be true. You hate doing something, fine if that’s true. But let go of that thought if it doesn’t serve your creativity.

Of course artistic passion means more than simply finding ways to get tedious tasks done. Obsessed, devoted, impetuous, falling madly, lustily, foolishly, hopelessly in love with your creativity. Forget discipline–this isn’t military training. It’s your romance with that instrument, that moment of writing, that dance, applying tools to wood and stone, speaking to the canvas with your brushes.

In the same book, Maisel writes that passion is what separates artists from dabblers. Some people can create casually, occasionally working at something, but usually one must stay passionate and be in the work day after day to create well. The concept of “getting into flow” is often spoken of in terms of immersing into something for several hours. But flow can also be a way of life, where artistic passion is a driving and directing force behind everything you do day upon day.

A runner must have strong mental and emotional focus during a race. But she also trains day after day with that same competitive drive and intensity. The passion to succeed is not a switch she can turn on right before a race and then forget it afterward. Success comes from wanting it and living like she means it. That’s the same kind of passion needed to live a fulfilling artistic life.

This new book from Eric Maisel is one of the best things I’ve seen in a while for the creative personality. He covers the most common difficulties and struggles facing artistic people–your thoughts, confidence, passion, identity, freedom, and relationships. If you’re not on the bandwagon reading every new book that coms along for artists, writers, or musicians, that’s cool. But this is one book I’d recommend to everyone with the desire to create.

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