Your Brain Will Thank You, Part 1

IdeaConnection Interview with Eric Maisel, Co-author of Brainstorm, and Creative Recovery, and Author of Coaching the Artist Within
By Vern Burkhardt
"A productive obsession is an idea that you choose for good reasons and pursue with all your brain's power….Productively obsessing is the mind-set of the creative person." Brainstorm, pages x and xi

Vern Burkhardt (VB): What is a 'brainstorm?'

photo of Dr. Eric MaiselDr. Eric Maisel: We have to start the other way around, and think about the phrase 'productive obsession' which, of course, is in the subtitle of the book. The argument we're making in the book is that small thoughts steal neurons. These aren't necessarily bad thoughts; they're just small thoughts such as I need to pick up the kids at 3 p.m. Because so many neurons are being stolen all the time, we don't have the experience of having our whole brain available to think bigger thoughts. One kind of bigger thought is a productive obsession.

When we have the experience of having our whole brain available, when we've managed to quiet our mind and loosen the grip of neurons around all of those small thoughts, a certain kind of pregnant quietness arises in us. It feels rather like emptiness. And in that emptiness our biggest thoughts can arise. We're calling those biggest thoughts 'brainstorms.'

VB: What is it about the nature of our brains that most of us use so little of its capacity for deep thinking?

Eric Maisel: It's probably less about the nature of our brains, and more about the nature of our species and personalities. It's hard to follow a strenuous argument from the beginning to the end, which is why people settle for quick opinions about things.

Since thinking provokes anxiety and since our number one response to budding anxiety is to flee the encounter, people don't like to think. Part of the difficulty in creating and nurturing deep thinking, or brainstorms, or productive obsessions is that the process provokes anxiety.

The second part is brain-based. While we're thinking about all of the necessities of life – all the things we need to be thinking about – we're withdrawing hundreds of millions of neurons each time from circulation, so to speak. While this is occurring we can't do our best thinking.

One way of thinking about it is that sleep is the only time of the day when we're not holding onto all of these small thoughts. When we sleep we both think and dream. We dream in REM sleep, and we think in non-REM sleep. How well edited and structured dreams are is one of the proofs that when we have our whole brain back we do much better thinking. Dreams are often like perfect little films. Much better than we can do when we're awake.

So the experience we have of smart thinking and smart dreaming can remind us that the problem is not that we don't have the ability for deep thinking. Rather all of our small thinking gets in the way.

VB: You said that thinking provokes anxiety. Is this fear or is it just the challenge of thinking?

Eric Maisel: It's not fear of an outcome if that's what you mean. It's not a fear of the answer. It's not fear that when you get to the end of an argument, you'll discover you have to enlist and go fight for your country or something.

It's the difficulty of maintaining connection to the argument or to the stream of ideas. It's the difference between being able to see one, two, three, four, or five moves ahead in a chess game. Let's say in a chess game instead of being able to see ahead one move which most can do, you ask of yourself to be able to see ahead five moves. The more moves you are asked to see ahead, the difficulty exponentially increases, and you're provoking anxiety partly because you know you probably are not going to be able to pull it off.

You're made anxious by the thought that you've set yourself up to do some work that you can't actually do. An awful lot of people are made anxious by this type of situation, even people in the sciences. They're made anxious by choosing a subject that interests them, but that is so large and difficult that they pretty much guess they're not going to be able to master it.

VB: So we all become somewhat neurotic?

Eric Maisel: Well, in one sense it's healthier to skip thinking. It's in the obvious sense that if you can keep a smiley face on and not think about things. There are tons of studies indicating that if you are functionally optimistic and not thinking too hard about anything, you probably feel happier than the next person. You're not getting real work done, but you may not have real work to do. You may not be a person who constructs the idea of real work for yourself.

VB: When you talk about using our brain in a brainstorm is it our conscious brain ordering our subconscious to get to work, or is it much more complex than this?

Eric Maisel: Our conscious brain ordering our subconscious to get to work is a useful idea, and it's certainly that. But it is more complex in the sense that most people don't understand how intellectual or any process works.

We're asking our brain not only to do something, not only to have our conscious brain order us about in a good sense. We're also demanding of ourselves that we surrender to process. This means that we accept not in an intellectual way, which is easy, but in a visceral way that we're going to make mistakes and messes in the thinking process. There are going to be ups and downs. We don't want to attach to outcomes but, rather, we need to just show up, and sit and think, so to speak.

People, naturally enough, want the thing that they're about to embark upon to have some kind of guarantee come with it that it's going to turn out alright. They don't want to think that it's possible to spend two years on a novel and end up with a manuscript that doesn't work; yet that's the reality of process. Sometimes you will do things that don't work.

VB: The difficulty is in accepting it, when the reality of failure hits?

Eric Maisel: It's very hard. It's easy to accept it intellectually. There isn't a smart person around who won't nod in agreement with what I just said. But they hate the possibility and viscerally can't accept it.

They can't accept what might also be thought of as a certain kind of dance of attachment and detachment. They can't accept that they must both attach to the thing they want to think about, really bite into it and feel passionate about it, while at the same time keeping an eye open to the possibility that it's not working. It can't work, and it won't work.

Einstein couldn't have his unified field theory because string theory wasn't known yet. Tons of things were not known yet. He couldn't have it as much as he was superior at thinking and as much as he might have wanted it. That's perhaps an extreme example, but it's often the case that the intellectual thing we want isn't available to us. We come right up to the point of, for example, page 126 of our novel and we actually and seriously don't know what happens next. Most people don't chalk that up to process; rather, they engage in self-bashing. For example, 'I'm an idiot,' 'how could I not know what's next,' 'I have an MFA in writing,' or 'what kind of jerk am I?'

This type of self-bashing occurs rather than understanding that the answer isn't available at the split second it's wanted, and what's needed is a weekend by the sea or whatever else is needed. Worst of all, and this is what people hate to hear, the solution may never be available. The poet may never find the required word for the poem, and therefore is going to have to allow a lesser word to fit in the line.

VB: It may exist but we just can't find it?

Eric Maisel: That's right. It probably does exist. We probably have some intuitive understanding of the thing it is that we're wanting, but it's just not available.

VB: Some people might attribute this simplistically to things like writer's block, but it's much more complex than that.

Eric Maisel: It is. It's much more complex.

It's about having a starting place. Let's give it a concrete example. Joan Didion said she started her novel, Play It As It Lays, because she had a vision of a woman in a white dress crossing a Las Vegas casino floor. She had no idea what the novel was about but she felt she had to write a novel with that as a starting place.

It's pretty obvious that halfway through you may suddenly have no idea what you're doing. Why are you writing this novel? What's supposed to happen next to your character?

It's not about being blocked, because you could make your arm move and write a thousand words. It's about not knowing.

VB: How does a 'productive obsession' lead us to have a brainstorm?

Eric Maisel: It's probably valuable to circle back to some basics. The word 'obsession' got defined in clinical practice a century ago as an unwanted intrusive thought, and so in the clinical world there's been no way to talk about productive or positive obsessions because all obsessions have been defined as a negative thing. This way of looking at an obsession has bled into the general culture. As a result we have lots of talk about obsessive-compulsive disorder and what have you. There's a general feeling that obsessions are negative things.

However, artists, scientists, innovators, and smart thinkers have known for thousands of years that there are productive obsessions. There are ways of biting into things that are wonderful. Unproductive obsessions, the kinds of obsessions that clinicians talk about, are rooted in anxiety whereas productive obsessions are rooted in our meaning-making needs, in our desire to have a meaningful life.

Having that as backdrop, a productive obsession is our attempt to make meaning. It isn't our only attempt. We also like to make meaning in lots of other ways, whether it's through relationships, activism, service, or what have you.

We have lots of different meaning-making containers in life, and thinking hard about something is one meaning-making container. Because our whole being resonates with the idea of making meaning, and because we take pride in the idea of making meaning, once we understand the concept of meaning we take pride in doing it. A productive obsession leads to a brainstorm because our whole being is turning ourselves over to this meaning-making activity.

In a way, to use a certain kind of metaphor, we've decided to be the hero of our own story and make a certain choices in a certain direction. And when we do that our brain is activated, is happy to have been given these marching orders, and it wants to march in that direction.

VB: If our brain is given marching orders, isn't it also our brain that's giving those marching orders?

Eric Maisel: Absolutely and there's no way around this conundrum. It's why there are no guarantees that the marching orders are correct ones. It's a truth of that process.

You may have what you believe is a productive obsession arise from some lizard part of the brain and it's actually about wanting to steal sex from a neighbor or who knows what. It's not a good thing, but you don't quite know it because it fascinates you. Since it's something that you're really passionate about, all you can do is proceed. Give it a fair shot while keeping your ethical apparatus alert to see if you're doing a right thing.

There's no way around the central conundrum that you've articulated. Even though we're announcing to ourselves what we want to do, we still don't know where that announcement is coming from.

VB: Is having endurance and the will to do hard work in support of our productive obsession a matter of training our brains, or are these mainly innate attributes?

Eric Maisel: It's an impossible nature/nurture question. There is a nature part. Some people are born stubborn. They pop out of the womb and look around and think 'I don't know why people are doing these things.' 'I have no idea why my parents are doing these things.' 'I have no idea why I'm being taught this silly small stuff in school.' These people are born stubbornly angled towards the kind of hard work of thinking that we're talking about. It doesn't necessarily mean they have the endurance to do it, but it does mean they're inclined to try. By the same token, training is absolutely a valuable component here and we can learn to work harder, stay put longer, try more, and be smarter.

I was reading the other day about some old Works Progress Administration studies done when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was throwing around money during the New Deal days during the Great Depression. He sanctioned some studies, which are among the most interesting ones about raising IQ. They were straightforward ones about pre- and post-test rating, giving people an interesting education and then re-testing and seeing if their IQ's increased. Of course, we can't get into all the difficulties with IQ tests and intelligence. A simple finding is worth considering. It looked like people could get dramatically smarter by thinking, by being educated.

It seems obvious and yet there's lots of debate about whether or not people do get smarter by being educated. The evidence is on the side of the belief that we can get smarter. We can build our endurance, and we can work harder. Part of this has to do with the realization that we must make our own meaning. It's a motivating factor.

And part of it has to do with the difference between discipline and devotion. There is a great quote of Luciano Pavarotti which is, "People say I'm disciplined but it's not discipline; it's devotion and there's a big difference." And there is.

So I think we find endurance for something that interests us for our productive obsessions, not by virtue of being disciplined, but by falling in love with the thing that interests us. By being devoted to it.

I'm not a disciplined person. If you try to make me do something that doesn't interest me you'll see how undisciplined I am. But if the thing interests me and I'm devoted to it I can stay with it as long as the next person.

VB: If I'm ambitious, perhaps I can stay with it longer?

Eric Maisel: Absolutely. Ambition ultimately is a word about making meaning. It's about our vision of what's going to satisfy us, and what we want to get accomplished. Ambition is an important word in a meaning-making vocabulary. We want to be ambitious. Being ambitious is a good thing.

VB: Most, but not all, want to be ambitious.

Eric Maisel: Well whether or not a given individual does, all I mean is that it's a good thing to be ambitious.

VB: How does having a productive obsession enhance our imagination and memory, and even our ability to think?

Eric Maisel: Think about the difference between the following two assignments that you might give a fifth grade class. One assignment might be to read two myths, and compare and contrast them. Such an assignment would certainly help students learn some critical thinking skills and perhaps a few other skills as well. But imagine a second assignment, which is now that the class has read two myths; each should create their own myth.

The second assignment involves the students in thinking, as opposed to merely critical thinking. They have to turn on their imagination and create a myth, create a world. They're going to be more excited than the kids on the other side of the room who are comparing and contrasting the two myths. They're going to have a bigger personal investment. They're going to bite into their subject matter more deeply. It is going to be transformative for them, or at least it has the chance of being transformative.

That's probably a roundabout and long-winded way of saying a productive obsession enhances our imagination, memory, and ability to think because it causes us to be genuinely creative and generative. And in order to be genuinely creative and generative we have to use everything that our brain has available, including imagination, memory, critical thinking skills, and all its other capabilities.

VB: Because we're engaged and focused, memory is easier?

Eric Maisel: And our brain is asking for memories. To use the example I just gave you, if you are creating your myth and have decided to set your myth in a tropical garden, either you're going to imagine that tropical garden out of whole cloth or you're going to go into your memory to some tropical garden you've been to and steal the plants from that garden to put into your myth. Your brain is going to know what it needs to do, whether it's about imagining or remembering. Because it has a task, because it now has a tropical garden to create, it's going to do whatever it needs to do to create that tropical garden, whether it's imagining it or remembering it.

VB: We often read advice that we should follow our passions if we want to be successful in business, a career, our contributions to society, or our personal lives. Does having a 'productive obsession' go beyond passion?

Eric Maisel: It does because from my point of view it's value-based. We need to decide not only if we're interested in our obsession but whether it's a worthy obsession. We can be interested in things that we also know aren't good things.

It may be that we are suddenly and intensely curious about creating a new, terrible weapon. We nevertheless have to think about whether it's a good idea to create that weapon. It's probably an apocryphal example, but it's an interesting one. Nikola Tesla, the inventor who died in 1943, created what by all reports was the first laser decades before lasers were re-invented. He gathered the news reporters of the day to a field and gave them a demonstration of what he called the teleforce weapon – the death ray. Then he destroyed it said, "We're not ready for this. We can't handle it." Tesla was clearly productively obsessed about the creation of the laser, but then some other thought process or value system came into play. It was a moral question, where he made a decision about whether he would continue on that road.

VB: Alfred Nobel similarly was concerned with the use of dynamite for warfare rather than for peaceful purposes – hence the Nobel Peace Prize.

Eric Maisel: Yes. Nobel and Tesla are examples of sequential matters where you obsess and then decide that it's a bad idea. I think I would advise people to do it more simultaneously rather than sequentially. It would be nice to stop doing the work earlier if you have an intimation that it's going to be work you're going to repudiate later on.

VB: The difficulty is that being value-based is subjective and society specific.

Eric Maisel: You bet. That's exactly right. It's very difficult.

It's not just societal-driven; it's also contextual and the slightest change in circumstances changes the context. It's one thing to decide not to create a weapon if it's peacetime. It's a very different matter to decide not to create a weapon if your country is being overrun. They're different contexts.

Ethics are situational and contextual.

VB: You say, "Productively obsessing is the mind-set of the creative person." Can those who don't consider themselves to be a creative person benefit from having a productive obsession?

Eric Maisel: Certainly, and in lots of different ways.

Maybe the most straightforward way is by understanding that you can be productively obsessed about solving your personal problems. You don't have to be creative to want to solve your personal problems. It's one thing to be unproductively obsessed about your personal problems. This sounds like worry and brooding and the kind of clinical obsessions that we know of. To be productively obsessed about solving a problem means to actively do those things that will actually solve the problem.

Let's say that your dad is aging, you're in the sandwich generation, and it's on your shoulders to help him make a decision about moving to a retirement home, nursing home, or another place. You could just worry about this matter and unproductively obsess about it. Or you could decide it's going to be your productive obsession for whatever time period – perhaps the next month – and start to look into the plusses and minuses of the various options spending some amount of time, such as an hour each day, actually obsessing a solution into being.

VB: Are entrepreneurs by the nature of the risks they often take by definition pursuing their productive obsession?

Eric Maisel: It's a really interesting question. 'Entrepreneur' probably has built into it by definition some sense that there is a productive obsession going on. Because a productive obsession needs to be personally defined, it isn't the case that someone sitting outside could call some entrepreneurs' obsessions negative because they don't like the product, service, or the corporation. Since this is a subjective matter, I would say that every entrepreneur does go to that place of productive obsession, and maybe the better way to say it is that every successful entrepreneur does.

I could imagine being a would-be entrepreneur in the same sense that the late Otto Rank, psychologist and psychoanalyst, described would-be artists who flee the encounter of freedom and don't get their work done. I think there are tons of would-be or unsuccessful entrepreneurs who don't quite do the hard work and risk taking, and maybe for them their business never does rise to the level of being a productive obsession. But anyone who has a successful business has moved into this place of productive obsession.

VB: Is avoiding constant distractions that prevent us from having effective brainstorms, from deep thinking, mainly a matter of becoming really committed to our productive obsession?

Eric Maisel: This is certainly a big part of it.

cover of BrainstormingAnother part is re-framing the very word 'distraction'. People allow themselves to be distracted because they call the things that happen distractions. They name them as distractions. If a truck rumbles by, authors can either keep writing their novels or they can take that as a golden opportunity to have scotch. They get to call it a distraction or not a distraction.

I do a lot of work about this topic in workshops where I point out to the group how they're being distracted by something, such as the dancing in the next room, the uncomfortable room temperature, or this or that. And I point out they need not be distracted. It's a cognitive decision to call the thing that they are experiencing, such as too high a room temperature, a distraction.

When people discover that they get to name things as distractions or not distractions they realize that they can be much less distracted in life.

VB: "The productive obsession…should be rooted in love, interest, and a desire to better our shared circumstances." Should our readers be concerned if they don't have any ideas or feelings about what could be their productive obsession, or they don't understand their current self well enough to know?

Eric Maisel: No, they shouldn't be concerned.

Most people don't know what interests them. They knew when they were aged 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 perfectly well what interested them, whether it was going into a darkened theater, going out in nature, playing catch, or what have you. Then life intervenes and over the decades it becomes much less clear to us what actually interests us.

We know how to relax, so to speak. We know how to turn on the TV but that's different from knowing what interests us. I think not knowing what interests us is the usual state; it's not unusual by any means.

The solution is to sit down and generate a list of interests, to open up to as large a list of interests as you can. Then, if this language isn't too funny, to rank order the list of interests, try to make decisions about what interests you more than what, come to a conclusion, and decide that X is the thing that appears to interest you the most at this moment. Once you have decided, give it a try by committing to it as your productive obsession for the next period of time.

I suggest that people let the amount of time for their productive obsession to be a month, because if you allow it to be only an hour or a day the difficulties inherent in thinking are going to cause you to say, "Wow, this is too hard; I better quit." If you give it a month, you give yourself a much better chance of knowing if this thing, which maybe only seemed like a mere interest to begin with, wants to rise to the level of obsession.

VB: Not knowing what interests us may lead us to do the mindless thing of turning on the TV in the evening, rather than pursuing our productive obsession.

Eric Maisel: Absolutely. I think just saying yes to what you said is enough, but in my vocabulary of meaning I sometimes call those activities 'meaning substitutes.' The challenge is to ensure we spend time actually making some meaning, or feel equal to making some meaning.

If we don't know what interests us those periods of meaning making may be few and far between. We may experience life as if we are just going through the motions and never doing anything really solid or interesting.

VB: Ten years goes by and we've not accomplished much, if anything at all.

Eric Maisel: That's right.

VB: In deciding what will be our productive obsession you advise us to pause and think. "It's a craftier kind of thinking, in which you go to that remarkable place in yourself where you keep track of your reasons for being. Take the temperature of your interest in that room." How do we enter that room?

Eric Maisel: By reminding ourselves that meaning doesn't exist until we make it exist, and that the language about manifesting our human potential, which we may not be actively using, still has meaning for us. And knowing the difference between when we're manifesting our potential and when we're not.

When we're not manifesting our potential, we're disappointing ourselves. We need to keep in mind that we have potential and that we don't like it when we don't manifest it. When we realize we disappoint ourselves when we don't manifest our potential, then we discover that we're obliged to enter that room whether or not we really want to. It's on our shoulders to make meaning.

VB: When people say that somebody is driven by their work and can never relax, is it the case that it's not necessarily a bad thing if they're pursuing their productive obsession?

Eric Maisel: No. This is a bad thing because you threw in there never relax, and that is an important added component.

You want to be able to turn your productive obsessions off. You don't want to experience life as something where you can never relax. It doesn't feel good, plus it also doesn't allow you to tend to your other responsibilities in life.

What I'm arguing for in the book is a very mindful kind of productive obsessing where you bind it, where you say I'm going to obsess about my novel or my home business or whatever from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and then I'm shutting it down for the day. I'm going to ceremonially and mindfully stop obsessing, knowing full well I get to do it again tomorrow. And now I can do whatever I darn well please whether it's play with my kids or go to my day job or relax.

VB: Time management is an important component of it?

Eric Maisel: Time management and understanding that we're not talking about turning yourself over to a productive obsession. You're not handing over the reins of this thing to some force outside of yourself – to the universe so to speak. It's not the universe now driving you to get your symphony done or to accomplish your next breakthrough innovation. It's still you in control of yourself, making decisions about how intensely you want to work on things, and then how you want to relax thereafter.

Vern's Note: We will continue our interview with Eric Maisel in next week's IdeaConnection newsletter. We will discuss the miracle of our brains, the value of achieving a quiet undistracted mind, avoiding unproductive obsessions, Eric Maisel's productive obsession, the contents of his next two books that will be published in 2011, and much more.

Dr. Eric Maisel's Bio:
Dr. Eric Maisel is an author, cultural observer and is widely regarded as America's foremost creativity coach. He trains creativity coaches and meaning coaches, provides core trainings for the Creativity Coaching Association, and works with individual clients on issues of creativity and meaning.

Eric Maisel holds a B.S. in philosophy, B.A. in psychology, M.A. in creative writing, M.S. in counseling, and PhD in counseling psychology. He has served as adjunct faculty at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California.

He hosts two shows on the Personal Life Media Network, and writes a monthly "Coaching the Artist Within" column for Art Calendar Magazine. Eric Maisel founded and wrote Callboard Magazine's "Staying Sane in the Theater" column. Eric Maisel is currently one of the featured correspondents in the Huffington Post focusing on the debate about educational reform in U.S. schools.

He lectures and provides workshops nationally and internationally at venues like the Design Your Creative Life Conference in London, the New Shoes Creativity Day Conference in Antwerp, and the Paris Writers Workshop.

Eric Maisel has presented on creativity issues and creativity coaching at venues such as the American Psychological Association annual conference, the Romance Writers of America annual conference, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the American Conservatory Theater, the Writer's Digest Writers Conference, the North Carolina School of the Arts, and the Savannah College of Arts and Crafts. He has given the keynote address at the Arizona State University Arts & Letters Faculty Convocation, the Oklahoma Writers Federation Annual Conference, the Win-Win Writers Conference, the 25th Annual International Lettering Arts Conference, the Jack London Writers Conference, the 2005 Indiana Community Arts Conference, and many other venues.

Dr. Maisel has written on a wide variety of subjects, from handling toxic criticism and performance anxiety to living the writing life in Paris and San Francisco, and his special interests are the classical existential themes of making meaning and taking personal responsibility.

He has written more than 30 nonfiction books including:
Brainstorm: Harnessing the Power of Productive Obsessions (2010)
Coaching the Artist Within: Advice for Writers, Actors, Visual Artists, and Musicians from America's Foremost Creativity Coach (2005),
The Atheist's Way: Living Well Without Gods (2009),
Creative Recovery: A Complete Addiction Treatment Program That Uses Your Natural Creativity (2008),
A Writer's Space: Make Room to Dream, to Work, to Write (2008),
Creativity for Life: Practical Advice on the Artist's Personality, and Career from America's Foremost Creativity Coach (2007),
The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression (2007),
Everyday You: Create Your Day with Joy and Mindfulness (2007),
Ten Zen Seconds: Twelve Incantations for Purpose, Power and Calm (2007),
A Writer's San Francisco: A Guided Journey for the Creative Soul (2006),
What Would Your Character Do? Personality Quizzes for Analyzing Your Characters (2006),
Ten Second Pause: Transform Stress, Tension, and Anxiety with One Breath, Anywhere, Anytime (2006),
Toxic Criticism: Break the Cycle with Friends, Family, Coworkers and Yourself (2006),
A Writer's Paris: A Guided Journey for the Creative Soul (2005),
Performance Anxiety: A workbook for Actors, Singers, Dancers and Anyone Who Performs in Public (2005),
The Art of the Book Proposal: From Focused Idea to Finished Proposal (2004),
The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression (2003),
Write Mind PA: 299 Things Writer Should Never Say Themselves (2002),
Sleep Thinking: The Revolutionary Program That Helps You Solve Problems, Reduce Stress, and Increase Creativity While You Sleep (2001),
20 Communication Tips at Work: A Quick and Easy Guide to Successful Business Relationships (2001),
20 Communication Tips for Families: A 30-Minute Guide to a Better Family Relationship (2000),
The Creativity Book: A Year's Worth of Inspiration and Guidance (2000),
Deep Writing: 7 Principles That Bring Ideas to Life (1999),
Living the Writer's Life: A Complete Self-Help Guide (1999),
Fearless Presenting: "A Self-Help Guide for Anyone Who Speaks, Sells, or Performs in Public (1997),
Affirmations for Artists (1996), Fearless Creating: A Step-by-Step Guide To Starting and Completing Your Work of Art (1995),
A Life in the Arts (An Expanded Workbook Edition of Staying Sane in the Arts) (1994),
Staying Sane in the Arts: A Guide for Creative & Performing Artists (1992),
El camino del ateo (Coleccion Espiritualidad, Metafisica y Vida Interior (Spanish Edition) (2010), and
Coaching para el creativo que hay dentro de ti (Spanish Edition) (2010).

He has written two e-Books: Becoming a Creativity Coach and The Power of Sleep Thinking.

Mastering Creative Anxiety: 24 Lessons for Writers, Painters, Musicians, and Actors from America's Foremost Creativity Coachwill be published in 2011, as will Is it Really Depression?

Eric Maisel has produced three meditation decks. They are Everyday Creative: 30 Ways to Wake Up Your Inner Artist [Cards] (2004), Everyday Smart: 30 Ways to Spark Your Inner Genius (Little Everyday Deck) [Cards] (2004), and Everyday Calm: 30 Ways to Soothe Your Inner Beast (Little Everyday Deck) (2004).

He has also written fiction books, including The Fretful Dancer (1988), Blackbirds of Mulhouse (1984), and Dismay (1982).


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